Published by Head of Zeus
Ebook and Hardback (9 August 2018) | Paperback (7 March 2019)
| About the Book |
A time travel murder mystery from a brilliantly original new voice. Perfect for readers of Naomi Alderman’s The Power and Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven.
Four female scientists invent a time travel machine. They are on the cusp of fame: the pioneers who opened the world to new possibilities. But then one of them suffers a breakdown and puts the whole project in peril…
Ruby knows her beloved Granny Bee was a pioneer, but they never talk about the past. Though time travel is now big business, Bee has never been part of it. Then they receive a message from the future – a newspaper clipping reporting the mysterious death of an elderly lady…
When Odette discovered the body she went into shock. Blood everywhere, bullet wounds, that strong reek of sulphur. But when the inquest fails to find any answers, she is frustrated. Who is this dead woman that haunts her dreams? And why is everyone determined to cover up her murder?
In waking hours the others were as diligent as Barbara. She concentrated on minimising the amount of fuel they would require; Lucille perfected the warping of wormholes to maximise the speed of travel; and Grace carefully tested the composition of objects that passed through the time machine for any changes that might pose a safety risk. Their endurance paid off. The time machine was completed by the first week of December. Rather than switching it on, the pioneers announced the machine would be activated in the New Year. Margaret told the engineers this was because most journalists were already thinking about their holidays and it would be easier to get their attention in January. Barbara wondered whether they believed her. The invention of time travel, surely, would be a big story for any journalist, however demob happy they were. Privately, Margaret had said that they should proceed with a December date for their inaugural trip, but she didn’t want an audience. If anything went wrong she wanted full control over who knew.
All the engineers accepted Margaret’s instruction to take leave. They were eager to see their families, and loath to spend more time in poorly heated caravans, no matter how cheerfully adorned with tinsel and red baubles. Barbara knew that her parents would expect her in Cornwall – that Margaret would be expected in Windermere by her aunt, and that Lucille would be expected in Liverpool by her mother. Grace would have been welcome at any of the pioneers’ homes. But by consensus the pioneers stayed in the lab instead; now that their work was nearly complete, none of them wished to leave. They were going to change the world.
On Christmas morning the pioneers donned their boiler suits and trod the brittle white grass to the time machine. Barbara set it to transport them one hour into the future. The women held hands. They stepped, in unison, through the machine entrance, and heard the doors slide shut on the present. Barbara’s eyes did not adjust to the darkness. She smelt ozone and heard steel parts screech against each other. Her ears rang as the machine fell quiet. Behind her the doors slid open again – she could feel winter sunshine on her neck, and see her own shadow on the smooth grey floor. The pioneers dropped each other’s hands and turned to face the light.
At the entrance to the time machine, the women’s future selves stood on the grass. They looked as gleeful as the hosts of a surprise party. The future Grace hopped on the spot in excitement.
Barbara’s gaze was drawn to her own twin.
Your face is the wrong way round, Barbara thought. You’ve been burning the midnight oil – that’s why you’re pale. You are trembling – you are blinking over and over. Has the hard work been worth it? You can remember my feelings. But I don’t know what you’re feeling at all.
Barbara tentatively extended a hand in greeting.
Her older self laughed and crushed her in a hug.
‘Isn’t it funny?’ the elder Barbara whispered. ‘I feel protective of you.’
Barbara laughed too then. What could she do but laugh? It was absurd, to embrace one’s self. She was still laughing when the pioneers stepped back into the machine to go home. She was still laughing when they arrived in their own time. The world she returned to seemed brighter and more deeply coloured than before. Wasn’t it wonderful, she thought, that time travel had granted her a new joy in her surroundings?
‘Are you hearing things differently?’ she asked the other pioneers. ‘Your voices sound musical to me.’ Her friends exchanged puzzled glances.
‘Someone’s had too much excitement,’ Grace told Barbara fondly. ‘What’s for Christmas dinner?’
‘Tinned turkey,’ Barbara said. ‘And baked beans. Lovingly decanted.’
On Boxing Day they made their second trip into the future – in fact, they made numerous trips, returning to Boxing Day in between each one without stopping to rest. The effect was dizzying. If the pioneers left their home timeline at noon, they might arrive in the next late at night, and the transition felt instant. Their daylight hours shortened and lengthened drastically. ‘Enough,’ Lucille said when they returned home for the fifteenth time. ‘I need sleep.’ ‘I don’t,’ Barbara sang. ‘I don’t. I don’t.’
‘You oddball,’ Grace said. ‘We always have to wrangle you like a toddler at bedtime.’
Margaret appraised Barbara. ‘I think we should all get some rest.’
Barbara obliged by getting into her camp bed but as soon as the others slept, she intended to use the time machine again on her own. Once the others were breathing deeply she extricated herself from Lucille’s embrace. Clean boiler suits, ready for the next day, hung on the wardrobe door. Barbara stepped into one of them, taking care to be quiet. As she left the bedroom, Barbara thought Margaret’s eyes opened and fixed on her, but she turned over without comment.
* * *
My thanks to Florence of Head of Zeus for the tour invite and for providing the extract.
| Author Bio |
Kate Mascarenhas is a writer.
Born in 1980, she is of mixed heritage (white Irish father, brown British mother) and has family in Ireland and the Republic of Seychelles.
She studied English at Oxford and Applied Psychology at Derby. Her PhD, in literary studies and psychology, was completed at Worcester.
Since 2017 Kate has been a chartered psychologist. Previously she has been an advertising copywriter, bookbinder, and doll’s house maker. She lives in the English midlands with her partner.
Her new novel, The Psychology of Time Travel, will be published by Head of Zeus in August 2018.