Over the last two weeks I have been sharing excerpts from my novels about Thomas Radwinter; he starts by tracing his own family history, and then later investigates other people’s stories, and not just genealogical ones, but mysteries in their everyday lives.
Each of the four novels starts with an introduction from Thomas which is amended in each novel as his personal life changes.
His story started in the autumn of 2013 but two years later his world had changed completely, for the better. However, in his search for his family roots Thomas has discovered some uncomfortable truths, and now wants to share them with his brothers:
Actually it was a bad idea… I decided I really ought to tell my brothers about what happened to Raddy and Sylvia… They had a right to know, and it was a burden on me to have that knowledge alone… also Kylie, who is never wrong, kept nagging me… not nagging me in a nagging way I don’t mean but… well… anyway…
I don’t think it would have happened the way it did, except Marcus sort of precipitated it… and somehow or another, I agreed to meet him on the anniversary of Sylvia’s birthday at the cemetery where her ashes are scattered.
It was the first time I’d been there since her funeral… um… seventeen years ago. I can’t really remember it, for many reasons. I guess the main one is that she was a spectacularly useless mother, a drunk, and one by one, us four boys left her – I was rescued by Marcus when I was in my teens and lived with him until I married for the first time.
I don’t remember John or Paul at her funeral, but I guess they must have been there… anyway, I’d agreed to meet Marcus at the cemetery, ‘…and you can tell me the story about her and Dad, the true story… it will be rather fitting, don’t you think?’ he said.
Fitting… maybe not, but I agreed, reverting in a way to how I was BK, Before Kylie, when I was childish and submissive…
I shouldn’t have been surprised, but Paul and John were there too. None of us knew there was a particular spot where her ashes had been put, but Marcus led us to it, a small plaque with her name on beneath an azalea full of blooms despite the vile weather. He was quite snappy with Paul that he’d never been here.
We hadn’t said anything very much apart from greetings and bro-hugs, but I thought how serious we all looked, not at all like our usual selves.
I don’t mean we’re always grinning like Cheshire cats or laughing our heads off, but Marcus these days always looks calmly benign, Paul looks positively smug, and John has a gentle, contented expression, reflecting his new found happiness. Like me he has recently married, his lovely Polish wife is Justyna, and he has a baby daughter, Julia.
Today, Marcus looked distant and severe as I remember him from my childhood, Paul looked grim and ready for anything, as if flexing his muscles under his black leather jacket, and John looked distracted and almost gloomy.
I guess it’s the memories of our different childhoods with Sylvia Mae Radwinter, née Magick… And today I have the horrible task of telling my boys the truth about her, the dreadful truth… It’s been a great burden, shared only with Kylie, and she reckons telling them will lift it from my mental shoulders… I deviate and try and be amused by ‘mental shoulders’.
“Thomas, I know you have something to tell us about Mum and Dad,” Marcus looked like a disapproving headmaster.
“I do,” I replied somewhat more forcefully than I meant to. I was nervous, I guess, and felt awkward holding an umbrella. Marcus had one too, Paul had a beany hat which must be soaked by now, and John had a hoody, darkened by the downpour. It would have been better to be indoors somewhere, sitting round a table with a cup of coffee or a pint of beer. “And I have to say that I’m not sure I should tell you… some things are better unsaid, unknown…”
Paul made a little impatient noise, John was staring at the ground and Marcus was looking at me with his icy blue eyes.
I took a deep breath and told them a story, a story of a young woman with a brutal husband who had three children, and then a beautiful daughter by another man. The other man was a distant cousin, and they had loved each other as long as they’d known each other.
The husband, a monster, not only abused his wife, but, I believed, abused the little girl… I don’t think he knew that another man was her father, I think he was just a vile rapist…
My brothers were staring at me now, staring as if they didn’t know me, had never seen me before… They had never seen me like this; this was my lawyer persona… cool, cold almost…
That little girl was Sylvia, Sylvia Mae…
“You can’t know that Thomas… it would have been before the war… eighty years ago…” Marcus protested. He had adored Sylvia as the three of us hadn’t… and he had always been her favourite. “You have no way of knowing that,” Marcus was icily disapproving and suddenly very, very angry. In the past I would have made a blustering, embarrassed and ashamed apology and immediately backed down.
“I do know it, Marcus, and I have evidence to support it.”
Paul glanced at me and moved his shoulders slightly, encouraging me to continue. John was staring fixedly at the rose bush, but I felt that his thoughts were elsewhere, and wherever they were it was not a happy place.
I didn’t rush to answer Marcus, how I have changed!
“On a December evening in 1956,” I began at last, “Sylvia was alone at the lodgings where she lived in Castair. She had somehow managed to leave home, leave the man who had abused her. I think the person who saved and liberated her was Raddy, your father Edward. He was an amazing young man and we should be very proud of him.”
Paul made a little noise, a little emotional coughing sound.
“Earlier that year Sylvia had been attacked in the street and when Raddy went to her defences he ended up with the head wound which left that scar across his forehead… he nearly died, and the brain damage he suffered affected his life… the headaches, the hangovers that weren’t hangovers…”
“No… God, no!” Paul exclaimed. He snatched the sodden beanie hat from his head and rubbed his hand over his short spiky silver hair. “No… Poor Dad…”
I continued; one evening the vile man who had brought Sylvia up went to her lodgings and forced his way in… I didn’t know exactly what happened but there was an incident… he was hit over the head with an iron umbrella stand and killed.
Fucking hell, Paul murmured, John was staring at me now, his blue Radwinter eyes like icy sapphires. Marcus was pale and his eyes were burning into me. I had a mental gulp but straightened my mental shoulders and continued.
Sylvia had run to her mother, Grace who had called Raddy. Leaving Sylvia safe, Grace and Raddy had gone back to the lodging house and arranged the body so it looked as if he had drunkenly fallen downstairs… the inquest’s verdict was exactly that.
Sylvia’s true father had taken her mother away to the Isle of Wight, the four of them agreeing to stay apart…
I looked at Marcus; he’d told me several months ago that he’d overheard a conversation between Sylvia and her mother brokenheartedly agreeing that they should keep away from each other… Marcus was only a child at the time but had been very disturbed by it…
Now he looked as if he’d seen a ghost….
“You mean mum killed her own father?” John spoke for the first time, staring at the azalea again.
“Yes, I do mean that.”
Apart for the sound of the rain pattering on the umbrellas and leaves of the plants, there was silence.
“I don’t believe it,” Marcus said at last.
“I do,” said Paul, and seemed to mean something else. He’d told me he hated her, he’d told me she used to hit John… not smack, not slap, but hit he’d said.
I looked at John now and he was staring at me. Suddenly he turned away and stood with his back to us.
“Fuck!” exclaimed Paul, too loudly for this place. I think Marcus would have reprimanded him except he looked in shock.
I suddenly felt really, really angry… I don’t know why… or maybe I did deep down…
If you would like to find out what happens to Thomas, here is a link to my book:
… and here is a link to my other e-books: