EXCERPT from Searching for Sylvia by Joanna Stephen-Ward: ‘Right, this is it then. . . The end.’

Ravenscroft was Tordorrach’s nearest neighbour. Hoping the owners, Matthew and Coral Fulham, would be more civil than Shamus had been Paul drove out to see them. After witnessing the dire poverty of Shamus and Mary he wore no tie, and a shirt that didn’t need cuff links. Their house was freshly painted and had solar panels, so he assumed they had survived the hard times. Given the state of the two homesteads he was perplexed that Noël had chosen to buy Tordorrach rather than Ravenscroft.

A woman came onto the veranda carrying a basket full of washing. His spirits flagged when he saw her expression.

He smiled. ‘Hello, I’m Paul Knight, a solicitor from – ’

‘Matt! Matt!’ she shouted. Her voice was panic-stricken.

Before he could attempt to reassure her, a man came round from the back of the house holding a spade. His hands were dirty and his face and arms were powdered with red dust.

‘It’s a solicitor – ’

Before Paul could apologise for interrupting his gardening Matthew threw down his spade and rushed into the house. Paul’s bemusement turned to fear when he came out holding a revolver.

He looked straight at Paul. ‘Right, this is it then,’ he said quietly. ‘The end.’ ‘First I’m going to shoot my wife. Then I’m going to shoot myself. Do you like animals?’

Paul was too stunned to do anything other than nod.

‘Good. Because we have two cows, three horses and some hens. I don’t want them to suffer. You can shoot them yourself or call a vet. Or give them to the neighbours.’

Paul dropped his briefcase and held out his hands. ‘Mr Fulham, why – ’

‘You ask me why? You know why. It’s because of your type – you greedy lawyers and bankers, that we’re losing the lot.’

‘I’m not here to get money – it’s – ’

Coral’s eyes shone with tears. ‘Why then? More threats from the banks?’

‘No. I’ve got good news – please will you listen?’

Matthew lowered the revolver. ‘What good news? You’re sure not here to give us money.’

‘In a way I am.’

Coral’s expression was dubious. ‘What?’

‘Tordorrach has been sold – ’

The hope that had wavered in Matthew’s eyes, dimmed. ‘Well that’s good for Shamus – can’t see that it’s good for us.’

‘How come he can sell that tip?’ Coral burst out bitterly.

‘I don’t know – your house is much better, but it’s still good news for you.’ The wind blew a cloud of dry earth in his face. ‘Can I come inside and explain?’

‘No. Tell us what the good news is,’ demanded Matthew.

‘I don’t think there is any good news,’ said Coral. ‘He’s stalling. He’s come to evict us and once he’s inside – ’

His eyes were gritty with dust, but worried that Matthew would raise his revolver again Paul got to the point. ‘The buyers of Tordorrach want to employ a manager. Shamus turned it down so they asked me to offer it to you – or another near neighbour.’

They looked incredulous.

Paul picked up his briefcase. ‘I’ve got all the papers in here. Are you interested in the proposal?’
Coral put down the washing basket and wiped away her tears. ‘Come inside. Would you like some tea?’ Her tone was more friendly, but they both looked wary.

Because of their hardship Paul was about to decline, but knew if they accepted Noël Carlyle’s offer they would no longer be poor. He picked up his briefcase. ‘Thank you,’ he said. He took out his handkerchief and wiped his face. He wished he could splash water on his eyes, but owing to the scarcity of water, he didn’t ask, just blinked.

The inside of the house showed no sign of poverty, which given their desperation, confused Paul. Even Shamus hadn’t been suicidal. On their way to the kitchen he saw a study with a flat screen computer that looked new, the furniture in the rooms he passed looked comfortable, the units in the kitchen were in good condition, everything was clean and tidy, and neither Coral or Matt’s clothing was threadbare, although it was faded.

Read the rest in Searching for Sylvia by Joanna Stephen-Ward .


My thanks to Bloodhound Books for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Searching for Sylvia by Joanna Stephen-Ward

Today I’m pleased to welcome the Book Tour for Searching for Sylvia by Joanna Stephen-Ward. Along with this spotlight post, I’ve got a nice little excerpt from the novel here in a bit (I didn’t have enough time to read the book, but it looked good enough I wanted to do something for the tour).

Book Details:

Book Title: Searching for Sylvia by Joanna Stephen-Ward
Publisher: Bloodhound Books
Release date: April 30, 2019
Format: Paperback/ebook
Length: 417 pages

Book Blurb:

Sylvia has been missing for thirty years. Will her daughters ever find her?

Tordorrach is 70,000 acres of drought-stricken land in the Australian outback. Why do a group of wealthy people from London want to buy it?

Seamus, the owner of Tordorrach, lives in poverty. His homestead is derelict and he is heavily in debt. The new owners run Outback Experience holidays on Tordorrach. Seamus becomes one of the gardeners, and he and his wife Mary move to a comfortable cabin on the property. Why does he hate the new owners so much that he plans to murder one of them?

The idyllic life of the new owners is shattered when the body of a woman is found buried on Tordorrach. Forensics find a bullet in her body. Who was she? And who murdered her?

About Joanna Stephen-Ward:

Joanna Stephen-WardJoanna Stephen-Ward was born in the Australian outback, and grew up in Melbourne. Her school days were spent dreaming about being an opera singer or a writer. To the exasperation of her parents and teachers she spent her final year sitting at the back of the classroom writing a novel set in WW2.

When she left school she went to an opera school where she was taught drama, movement and language pronunciation and had small roles in the workshop productions. She was not good enough to become a professional opera singer, but the seeds of her novel Vissi d’arte were sown.

She left Australia and spent a year travelling around Europe and the UK. While working in outpatients for the NHS she met Peter and they married in 1985. They lived in Richmond Surrey and she worked at The National Archives, an enthralling place for anyone interested in history or crime.

Having been brought up as a lonely only child, she was astonished to discover in 2010 that she was one of eight children. She and her sister had last been together on a verandah in the outback when they were babies. They had a joyous reunion in Cornwall in 2012.

Joanna has written seven novels and is working on her eighth.


My thanks to Bloodhound Books for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.