Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Palm Trees in the Pyrenees by Elly Grant: Guest Post & Excerpt

Take one rooky female cop
Add a dash or two of mysterious death
And a heap of prejudice and suspicion
Place all in a small French spa town
And stir well
Turn up the heat
And simmer until thoroughly cooked
The result will be surprising

Palm Trees in the Pyrenees gives you an insight into the workings and atmosphere of small town France against a background of gender, sexual, racial and religious prejudice.
The story unfolds, told by Danielle a single, downtrodden , thirty year old, who is the only cop in the small Pyrenean town. She feels unappreciated and unnoticed, having been passed over for promotion in favour of her male colleagues working in the region. But everything is about to change. The sudden and mysterious death of a much hated locally based Englishman will have far reaching affects.


His death occurred quickly and almost silently.  It took only seconds of tumbling and clawing at air before the inevitable thud as he hit the ground.  He landed in the space in front of the bedroom window of the basement apartment.  As no-one was home at the time, and as the flat was actually below ground level, he may have gone unnoticed but for the insistent yapping of the scrawny, aged poodle belonging to the equally scrawny and aged Madame Laurent.
Indeed, everything in the town continued as normal for a few moments.  The husbands who’d been sent to collect the baguettes for breakfast had stopped, as usual, at the bar to enjoy a customary glass of pastis and a chat with the patrone and other customers.  Women gathered in the little square beside the river, where the daily produce market took place, to haggle for fruit, vegetables and honey before moving the queue to the boucherie to choose the meat for their evening meals.
Yes, that day began like any other.  It was a cold, crisp February morning and the sky was a bright, clear blue just as it had been every morning since the start of the year.  The yellow Mimosa shone out luminously in the morning sunshine from the dark green of the Pyrenees.
Gradually, word filtered out of the boucherie and down the line of waiting women that the first spring lamb of the season had made its way onto the butcher’s counter and everyone wanted some.  Conversation switched from whether Madame Portes actually grew the Brussels sprouts she sold on her stall, or simply bought them at the supermarket in Perpignan then resold them at a higher price, to speculating whether or not there would be sufficient lamb to go round.  A notable panic rippled down the queue at the very thought of there not being enough as none of the women wanted to disappoint her family.  That would be unacceptable in this small Pyrenean spa town, as in this small town, like many others in the region a woman’s place as housewife and mother was esteemed and revered.  Even though many held jobs outside the home, their responsibility to their family was paramount.
Yes, everyone followed their usual routine until the siren blared out – twice.  The siren was a wartime relic that had never been decommissioned even though the war had ended over half a century before.  It was retained as a means of summoning the pompiers, who were not only the local firemen but also paramedics.  One blast of the siren was used when there was a minor road accident or if someone took unwell at the spa but two blasts was for something extremely serious.
The last time there were two blasts was when a very drunken Jean-Claude accidentally shot Monsieur Reynard while mistaking him for a boar.  Fortunately Monsieur Reynard recovered but he still had a piece of shot lodged in his head which caused his eye to squint when he was tired.  This served as a constant reminder to Jean-Claude of what he’d done as he had to see Monsieur Reynard every day in the cherry orchard where they both worked.
On hearing two blasts of the siren everyone stopped in their tracks and everything seemed to stand still.  A hush fell over the town as people strained to listen for the shrill sounds of the approaching emergency vehicles.  Some craned their necks skyward hoping to see the police helicopter arrive from Perpignan and, whilst all were shocked that something serious had occurred, they were also thrilled by the prospect of exciting, breaking news.  Gradually, the chattering restarted.  Shopping was forgotten and the market abandoned. The boucherie was left unattended as its patrone followed the crowd of women making their way to the main street.  In the bar the glasses of pastis were hastily swallowed instead of being leisurely sipped as everyone rushed to see what had happened.
As well as police and pompiers, a large and rather confused group of onlookers arrived outside an apartment building owned by an English couple called Carter.  They arrived on foot and on bicycles.  They brought ageing relatives, pre-school children, prams and shopping.   Some even brought their dogs. Everyone peered and stared and chatted to each other.  It was like a party without the balloons or streamers.
There was a buzz of nervous excitement as the police from the neighbouring larger town began to cordon off the area around the apartment block with tape.  Monsieur Brune was told in no uncertain terms to restrain his dog, as it kept running over to where the body lay, and was contaminating the area in more ways than one.
A slim woman wearing a crumpled linen dress was sitting on a chair in the paved garden of the apartment block, just inside the police line.  Her elbows rested on her knees and she held her head in her hands.  Her limp, brown hair hung over her face.  Every so often she lifted her chin, opened her eyes and took in great, gasping breaths of air as if she was in danger of suffocating.  Her whole body shook.   Madame Carter, Belinda, hadn’t actually fainted but she was close to it.  Her skin was clammy and her pallor grey.   Her eyes threatened at any moment to roll back in their sockets and blot out the horror of what she’d just seen. 
She was being supported by her husband, David, who was visibly shocked.  His tall frame sagged as if his thin legs could no longer support his weight and he kept swiping away tears from his face with the backs of his hands.  He looked dazed and, from time to time, he covered his mouth with his hand as if trying to hold in his emotions but he was completely overcome.
The noise from the crowd became louder and more excitable and words like accident, suicide and even murder abounded.  Claudette, the owner of the bar that stood across the street from the incident, supplied the chair on which Belinda now sat.  She realized that she was in a very privileged position, being inside the police line, so Claudette stayed close to the chair and Belinda.  She patted the back of Belinda’s hand distractedly, while endeavouring to overhear tasty morsels of conversation to pass on to her rapt audience. The day was turning into a circus and everyone wanted to be part of the show.
Finally, a specialist team arrived.  There were detectives, uniformed officers, secretaries, people who dealt with forensics and even a dog handler.  The tiny police office was not big enough to hold them all so they commandeered a room at the Mairie, which is our town hall.
It took the detectives three days to take statements and talk to the people who were present in the building when the man, named Steven Gold, fell.  Three days of eating in local restaurants and drinking in the bars much to the delight of the proprietors.  I presumed these privileged few had expense accounts, a facility we local police did not enjoy.  I assumed that my hard earned taxes paid for these expense accounts yet none of my so called colleagues asked me to join them. 
They were constantly being accosted by members of the public and pumped for information.  Indeed everyone in the town wanted to be their friend and be a party to a secret they could pass on to someone else.  There was a buzz of excitement about the place that I hadn’t experienced for a very long time.  People who hadn’t attended church for years suddenly wanted to speak to the priest.  The doctor who’d attended the corpse had a full appointment book.  And everyone wanted to buy me a drink so they could ask me questions.  I thought it would never end.  But it did.  As quickly as it had started, everybody packed up, and then they were gone.

Hi, my name is Elly Grant and I like to kill people.  I use a variety of methods.  Some I drop from a great height, others I drown, but I’ve nothing against suffocation, poisoning or simply battering a person to death.  As long as it grabs my reader’s attention, I’m satisfied.

I’ve written several novels and short stories.  My first novel, ‘Palm Trees in the Pyrenees’ is set in a small town in France.  It is published by Author Way Limited.  Author Way has already published the next two novels in the series, ‘Grass Grows in the Pyrenees’ and ‘Red Light in the Pyrenees’ as well as a collaboration of short stories called ‘Twists and Turns’. 

As I live in a small French town in the Eastern Pyrenees, I get inspiration from the way of life and the colourful characters I come across.  I don’t have to search very hard to find things to write about and living in the most prolific wine producing region in France makes the task so much more delightful. 

When I first arrived in this region I was lulled by the gentle pace of life, the friendliness of the people and the simple charm of the place.  But dig below the surface and, like people and places the world over, the truth begins to emerge.  Petty squabbles, prejudice, jealousy and greed are all there waiting to be discovered.  Oh, and what joy in that discovery.  So, as I sit in a café, or stroll by the riverside, or walk high into the mountains in the sunshine I greet everyone I meet with a smile and a ‘Bonjour’ and, being a friendly place, they return the greeting.  I people watch as I sip my wine or when I go to buy my baguette.  I discover quirkiness and quaintness around every corner.  I try to imagine whether the subjects of my scrutiny are nice or nasty and, once I’ve decided, some of those unsuspecting people, a very select few, I kill.

Perhaps you will visit my town one day.  Perhaps you will sit near me in a café or return my smile as I walk past you in the street.  Perhaps you will hold my interest for a while, and maybe, just maybe, you will be my next victim.  But don’t concern yourself too much, because, at least for the time being, I always manage to confine my murderous ways to paper.

I am delighted to offer you a sample of ‘Palm Trees in the Pyrenees’.  Please read the opening chapter.  Enter my small French town.  Meet some of the people who live there ----- and die there.

You can buy ‘Palm Trees in the Pyrenees’ for only $1.49 (£1 in the UK) at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords and other outlets.  But for a limited period (up to 31st October 2012) it will be available for free,  using the code WH72W at Smashwords.

Elly Grant lives in a small French town in the eastern Pyrenees. She enjoys being part of the community and takes an active role in local events. As well as writing fiction, she is currently working on a cookery book of traditional French recipes.

Elly is the author of the 'Death in the Pyrenees' series of books which follow the adventures of Danielle, a lady police officer in small town France. It consists of 'Palm Trees in the Pyrenees', Grass Grows in the Pyrenees', and 'Red Light in the Pyrenees'. Her gritty detective novel 'The Unravelling of Thomas Malone' is set in Glasgow and will be published soon.

Elly has collaborated with Zach Abrams to produce 'Twists and turns' their varied and interesting book of short stories.

Enter for a chance to win a digital copy in the format of your choice of
Palm Trees in the Pyrenees.
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Giveaway ends August 18th 11:59PM Central Time.

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