‘From Cape Cod to London, New York to South of France, The End of Summer is a bold, nuanced literary thriller dripping with secrets and deadly glamour’.
So say my publishers.
Erin Kelly described it as, ‘A family drama, an international mystery and a slick thriller that starts with a bang and keeps the surprises coming until the last page.’
It will be published by The Borough Press on 20th June 2024. I hope you enjoy this early excerpt!


Tuesday 17 September 2024

It is the beginning of one of those end-of-summer days that the Hérault does so well, when it finally comes, the air so still it is as if time itself has stopped in respect for this moment. Everything about the scene is so perfect that Judy could almost have written it: the clear morning heat so dry and dazzling that it causes her to pause awhile over the patch of garden she is tending.

Behind her, the old abbey stands back from the road, a pale sandstone building set against a blue sky.

Standing in its shadow, her weight tilts forward on to the handle of her pitchfork as something inside her shifts. Her eyes linger over a spray of late pink and white blooms that will soon be gone, their petals stretching out wide as if already in surrender.

Lifting a hand to her forehead, she adjusts the straw hat she and Rory found at the market in Bédarieux not long after their first ever visit together, a foolish smile forming on her lips at the memory of those lazy Saturday morning excursions to the nearest town.

As if peering back into another world, she pictures them as they were, without a care.

It was never about the money, though she accepts this might be hard to believe. They were happy – of course they were. What wasn’t there to be delighted about? They were young and they were free. Yet, even then, as they made their way through the market, two lovers idling between stalls selling lavender bags and jars of duck confit, she had found herself occasionally glancing over her shoulder, out of habit, the slightest breeze causing her to shiver as they walked hand in hand through the crowd.

Standing here now under the bright early-morning sun, a single strand of straw coming away between her fingers, which she uses to work away the soil from under her nails, Judy blinks away the threat of a tear, focusing on the view beyond the garden, an impression of the Pyrenees just visible on the horizon.

She is not yet sixty – still a couple of years away from it – but she knows how quickly things can change. It’s like that old coin trick her mother taught her on the long train jour- neys to school, when she was a child. One moment the coin was there; the next it was gone. The secret, of course, is for the watcher to be looking in the wrong direction when the magic happens.

But life is full of distractions.

The familiar rumble of London traffic on the other end of the line makes her yearn, briefly, for the city. For another life.

These are the thoughts passing through Judy’s mind in those perfect few moments before what follows. And then the phone rings inside the house, the shrillness of its cry reverberating against the cool hallway, shattering whatever it is that is holding her there; signalling the house of cards’ final, inevitable collapse.

She pauses, instinctively. There’s no rush, she thinks, kicking the clump of dry dirt from the nose of her tennis shoes as she makes her way past the chicken coop, towards the back door. She has waited for this moment for almost forty years; it’s no more than she deserves. Besides, she is no slave to technology, not like the local boys – the poor will- less creatures who gather in the tabac with their moped helmets tucked under their arms, their intense young faces fixed to their screens.

Judy Harrington is no slave to anyone, nor anything. Not at her age, not ever.

Inside, the old rotary phone continues to rattle on its cradle.

‘Coming, coming,’ she calls out, playing along – for whose benefit?


At the sound of her daughter’s voice Judy’s throat swells, her body intuitively understanding what comes next.

Her gaze wanders to the window, settling on a cluster of white flowers that have long since gone over. The sight of them evokes a memory – herself and Rory planting asphodels on one of those first lazy weekends away from London after their daughter was born. Judy recoiling as her new husband enlightened her on the Asphodel Meadows in stories of the Underworld of ancient Greece: A place where ordinary souls are sent to live. Laughing, she had pleaded, Ordinary? Christ, anything but that.

‘Mum, is it true?’

It is one of the hardest things imaginable, hearing one’s only child in clear distress and being incapable of doing a thing to help. At least nothing more than she has already done.

‘There are journalists on our doorstep. Tell me it’s not true.’

Before Judy can reply, she spots it – the police car curving around the road at the end of the garden – and despite herself she is met with the strangest sense of relief.

‘Darling, I can’t talk now. I’ll have to call you back. I’m so sorry.’


Replacing the phone on its cradle, Judy slips back into her shoes and turns towards the main hall, hearing the thud of boots as the gendarme climbs the steps.

Closing her eyes, Judy inhales as she adjusts her cardigan and opens the door. ‘Bonjour, Patrice.’

In the hall, the phone rings again but they both ignore it. The officer nods, unsure where to put himself. There is no other way to do this, they both understand.

Judy Harrington is no slave to anyone, nor anything. Not at her age, not ever

‘J’arrive,’ Judy says, smiling reassuringly. She will not make this more difficult for either of them than it has to be. Patrice deserves this much, at the very least.

Anyone passing from the road will be able to see what is unfolding here on the steps of the old abbey. But the officer has not come in all guns blazing; he will have volunteered to his colleagues to come alone – a single man, willing to take the fall should anything go wrong.

But what could go wrong? Judy is old now. She is no threat. It’s OK – I know Judy, Patrice will have said, vouching for her. She’s lived in the house up there for years.

He hasn’t used his siren. She is grateful for this. Whatever follows, the name ‘Judy Harrington’ is known and still largely respected in the village, and she appreciates the courtesy that she is being shown; she will not do her old friend the disser- vice of making this more complicated than it needs to be. My God, she will miss this place. But she has had a decent run; the story had to come out at some point.

My truth. Christ, she hates that expression. Sometimes she feels as if she doesn’t understand the world any more – people wanting to tell their stories to anyone who will listen; people demanding trigger warnings on books and television programmes. Life doesn’t come with a warning – things just happen, and it’s up to us how we respond.

‘Je vais juste mettre les poules à l’abri, et fermer l’autre porte, si vous le permettez, Patrice,’ Judy says, nodding towards the chickens that must be locked up in their coop, and the back door which must be closed, before she accompanies the policeman to the station.

Moving slowly, she makes her way back through the hallway and down a set of internal stairs towards the garden as the officer follows, her mind drifting back to one of the first times

she and Patrice had met, more than three decades earlier. A newly appointed policeman then, Patrice had been driving along the road that follows the edge of the village when he’d spotted five-year-old Francesca wandering close to the river, apparently having made her way out of the back door. Judy and Rory had just arrived from London for the summer, as usual, and they had each been too distracted to notice their only child slipping out of the back gate, taking the path at the end of the lane that led to the house and tiptoeing along the ledge that took her to the footbridge, where Patrice had found the girl throwing sticks into the current. Judy had been airing sheets on the front veranda overlooking the driveway, and had blinked in disbelief when she’d spotted the car pull up and the policeman lead Francesca, her dark fringe shad- owing her face, from the back seat.

Taking the dusty stone steps two at a time, Judy had felt time speed up and slow down again as she ran down to meet them on the sun-drenched street, scooping her child up in her arms, covering Francesca’s face in kisses while Patrice explained where she had been found. The realisation of how easily she could slip away had sent a shiver though her body that had caused the blonde hairs on Judy’s forearms to spike.

An image forms: my father’s body splayed out on the black and white chequered hallway; unfamiliar voices rising up around me.

Over thirty years later, the vision of them all retreats in her mind, and is replaced by an almost numb acceptance of what must follow.

Opening the back door into the garden, she makes gentle clucking noises as she moves forward along the path, shooing the birds towards the makeshift hut she constructed not long after she relocated here permanently.

Breathing in, she takes a moment. This is it.

‘I’ve always loved this view. On a good day, you can see all the way to the Pyrenees,’ she calls over to Patrice for want of anything else to say, stepping inside the shed and reaching under a small shelf to the left of the door, where the key is kept.

Pulling out the rifle, she tucks the butt under her arm. Holding the barrel steady with her left hand, with the right she places a finger on the trigger, and turns to Patrice.

‘I’m so sorry.’

‘Fran, what did she say?’ Hugo’s voice cuts through the silence. For a moment I am so stunned I can’t speak. The phone in my hand seems to be suspended between two worlds as I hold it out in front of me, looking up at my husband in disbelief.

‘She hung up.’

‘Try again.’

‘I did, Hugo – she’s not bloody answering.’

In the silence that follows, my mind adjusts to the scuffle of reporters vying for space on the pavement outside the picturesque Kensington townhouse that still officially belongs to my parents, one of them dead, the other—

A pain in my temple cuts through my thoughts.

Not now, I tell myself. For now I need to stay calm; to try to work through what is happening. But before I can stop it, an image forms: my father’s body splayed out on the black and white chequered hallway; unfamiliar voices rising up around me.

Shaking my head, pushing back against the rising tide of memory, I clear the mental image of the officers trailing their muddy footsteps through our family home.

And still the journalists are just there, waiting outside the door, sharks circling in excitement at the first taste of blood. The second taste, actually. Not that it’s in any way satiated their thirst.

From here in the study, I can see the photographers in the front garden training their lenses, sniper-like, on the final flourishes of the wisteria that hang above the first-floor veranda, zooming in as they roll left towards a steep flight of steps leading to the recessed doorway.

When Hugo reaches out a hand to reassure me, I flinch. ‘Fran, what did Judy say?’

‘I told you – she hung up on me. Fuck! ’ Slamming my hand against the three-pedestal desk that had been my father’s, I notice the green leather top slightly curling at one of the edges. My mother hung up and now I am left here, dealing with this. Whatever the hell this is.

‘But she didn’t deny it?’

‘Deny what? I didn’t get—’

I touch my phone so that the screen comes back to life, and my eyes linger briefly on the image that greets me. It was taken the night before my daughter, Lily – now legally an adult; how is that even possible? – flew out to southeast Asia on the trip of a lifetime. Lily, whose phone is simply an extension of her fingers, had directed the group shot outside the Churchill Arms on Kensington Church Street.

‘It’s a self-portrait. Please don’t say selfie,’ she had corrected Hugo as she adjusted the lens so that the three of us each appeared to be carrying one of the pub’s overflowing hanging baskets on our heads.

‘Self-portrait? Pretentious much, Lils?’ Hugo had laughed in response, holding open the door, the familiar roar of the bar greeting us as Lily and I stepped inside.

I had been so touched when my daughter had suggested it – a Thai meal, just the three of us in the back room of our favourite pub, ahead of all those she would have without us. But, when the night came, the walls of the conservatory lined with butterflies of all shapes and sizes, framed in glass boxes, I’d found myself ambushed by a flood of emotion I hadn’t been prepared for.

The child I had given birth to when I was almost exactly the same age as she is now is drifting away from me, towards a world that I can no longer control or protect her against

As we sat there in our usual spot, tears of love and pride and selfish regret had glistened in my eyes, the wine we drank going straight to my head. By the time we left I’d felt giddy with nausea, though I’d managed to hide it behind a too-wide smile. There had been no reason to feel like this; the anxiety expanding in my chest was completely out of sync with the celebration we were having, the excitement I should have been feeling for what lay ahead. And yet the sensation was visceral, part of me breaking away: the child I had given birth to when I was almost exactly the same age as her – and spent the following years sheltering with all the paddings of love and money and privilege – drifting away from me, towards a world that I could no longer control or protect her against.

Pushing the thought aside, now, I sit straight.

‘I’m booking a flight to France,’ I tell Hugo, opening Google on my phone with shaking fingers and scanning routes to Montpellier and Toulouse; then, when that fails, to the next nearest airport. ‘Dammit. There’s nothing until tomorrow.’

‘Have you tried Carcassonne as well?’

When I look up, I find myself almost incredulous at seeing him still standing there. ‘There’s nothing until tomorrow – I just said.’

The hardness in my voice isn’t aimed at him, not really. Our eyes meet and I feel a sting of guilt. When I look away, my attention glides towards the rows of books that line one wall – my father’s tomes on old- and new-world wines along- side volumes on the English legal system; my mother’s favourite novels, the special edition of Lady Audley’s Secret in pride of place.

My family’s past and present closing in on us like pincers. ‘This is a nightmare,’ I think aloud.

‘I’m sure it’s a mistake. Everything will be fine.’

‘They’re saying she did it, Hugo. They’re saying my mother killed my father—’

I almost laugh at that. ‘Oh, come on, Hugo, don’t be so fucking dim.’ It’s relentless, his inability to recognise the possibility of any eventuality other than the one he wants – even when the truth of it is staring him in the face. Though it’s also what makes him such a good lawyer; far better than me. We are different beasts: Hugo born to wave the flag of righteousness in front of a captive audience; me – a family law solicitor – to quietly get the job done.

I’m not being fair. I’m making Hugo sound weak and passive and self-aggrandising when he is no such thing. He’s not perfect – who is? – but he is essentially good. Which is why he some- times fails to see what’s staring him in the face. This might sound like a trait that is at odds with being one of the country’s most successful barristers, but the truth is to the contrary. Hugo’s job is to build a narrative and manufacture everything else, however seemingly contradictory, so that it fits around that. He is so good at it that I imagine when he wants to he can even fool himself that what he’s saying is true.

It is, presumably, why we have lasted as long as we have. ‘There’s a seat first thing tomorrow morning,’ I say.

‘I’ll come with you.’


‘In the meantime, we’ll get the best representation for Judy, I’ll make some calls. Everything will—’

‘They’re saying she did it, Hugo. They’re saying my mother killed my father—’

From outside there is a bang on the lion-headed brass knocker that leads down on to the street, and I cry out without moving, ‘Will you fuck off!’

‘Try to stay calm.’

‘They’re on our doorstep! They aren’t allowed—’

‘I’ll tell them to leave.’

‘No,’ I snap, before continuing more calmly, forcing my mind to slow. ‘That’s what they want. I just need to think.’

My attention catches on the doll’s house in the corner of the room, which my father commissioned for my tenth birthday from the specialist shop in Covent Garden. The same shop where, when I was a child, Judy and I would go to choose new additions from shelves of miniatures, picking out tiny bunches of grapes and intricate decorations no bigger than a baby’s fingernail.

Today, the doll’s house remains a perfect replica of our family home as it was in the mid-nineties, with tiny potted poplars standing either side of the recessed front door. Inside, the rooms are painted and papered in the same in-vogue colours and textures my mother had picked out from the catalogues at Peter Jones.

I had made myself look away when the police officer pulled open the front of the doll’s house in the days that followed that awful, unforgettable event, as if expecting to see the aftermath playing out within its walls: blood splashed along the black and white floor tiles in the hallway where my father had fallen. But when I looked it was of course untainted, and the sight of the spot just as it had been before had been enough to make me run and throw up.

When Lily was young, I had briefly considered updating the model house in keeping with the changes that had been made over the years – but, when it came to it, I found it impossible to alter a thing. I could no more move a chair in the doll’s house than I could pull my own teeth.

Through the stained glass front door to my left, I spot the shadows of the reporters, calling out my name. Their silhouettes in the doorway remind me of a time, years before, and I shudder

And so it remains, untouched, a mausoleum commemo- rating life as it was – the same stamp-sized Picasso line-drawing on the stairs; the miniature vase in the hall, still intact.

Standing, I feel lightheaded as Hugo’s fingers brush against my arm. Barely acknowledging him, I walk out of the study and into the tiled hallway. Through the stained glass front door to my left, I spot the shadows of the reporters, calling out my name. Their silhouettes in the doorway remind me of a time, years before, and I shudder, pushing the memory away.

Is your mother in there, Francesca? Is Judy home?

Turning away from the voices, I move towards the stairs that run through the centre of the house. Forcing myself to breathe, I glance between the gallery of framed portraits of myself, Lily, Hugo and my parents in various configurations over the years. And there, glaring in its emptiness, the blank space where another picture once hung.

‘Fran, where are you going?’

Hugo follows me into the hallway but I don’t turn around. ‘I’m going to get changed.’


‘I need to go to the police station.’ My voice is monotone. ‘I need to know what she’s done.’

There is a faint knock on the bedroom door before Hugo enters, pausing as our eyes meet.

Pulling the turtleneck sweater over my shirt, I sit at the edge of the bed, allowing the reality of what is happening to settle over us.

‘Sorry. I shouldn’t be taking this out on you,’ I say without moving, hoping my voice conveys the contrition I feel. This is not his fault.

Straightening my back, I rub my eyes with my left hand, the phone still clutched in the other, the tab for the flight scanner I used to search for flights from London to the south of France still open on the web page. Only when I pull my left hand away from my face and see the black streaks on my fingers do I remember the mascara I applied in the bathroom after my morning run less than an hour earlier, clearing the mist from the mirror and watching my own reflection emerge through the haze of steam.

‘You don’t need to apologise,’ Hugo says as he steps inside the master bedroom that once belonged to my parents. ‘I’ll come with you to the police station.’

Watching him there beside the walnut dresser that has stood on this spot for as long as I can remember, I wish I could say yes.

‘Hugo, please – this is something I need to do alone,’ I reply.


Letting myself tip into his arms, I take the cleansing pad and run it over each of my eyes in turn. My voice cracks. ‘I don’t know what’s happening. Why won’t she answer the phone?’

‘Fran, whatever it is, we can—’

‘Please don’t.’ I can’t bear his blind optimism. In the silence that follows, I stand. ‘I’ll call you once I know more.’

Preorder THE END OF SUMMER now.

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