As part of the birthday celebrations for Tessa Buckley’s middle grade detective story, Lady in Red, I am delighted to be able to share an extract from the book with you all. Many thanks to Tessa for allowing me to do this, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the festivities.
Pursuing the truth can be a dangerous game…
School’s out for the summer, and Eye Spy Investigations have a new case – looking for Lady in Red, a lost masterpiece by Victorian painter, Gabriel Pascoe.
The clock is ticking for Alex and Donna, because the artist’s house, Acacia Villa, where their friend Jake lives, is due to be demolished, and vital clues may be destroyed. And Alex has an additional problem: he is terrified of snakes, and Jake has a pet snake called Queenie…
As the twins pursue their enquiries, they come up against the man who wants to demolish Acacia Villa. But Mr Mortimer is the godfather of their baby half-sister, Sophie, and criticising him could open up family rifts, which have only just healed.
Then Queenie goes missing, setting in motion a disastrous train of events that will turn the search for Lady in Red into the twins’ most dangerous case yet.
Jake’s snake, Queenie, has been accidentally left behind in his old home, which is scheduled for demolition. The children find a way into the house to try and find the snake before the demolition men arrive, but will they be too late?
Just then, I heard a faint rumble from the road at the front, followed by silence. Was it the sound of a vehicle stopping outside the house? Leaving the other three to try and capture Queenie, I slipped out of the door and into the room opposite, which had a small window overlooking the street.
Sure enough, there were Mortimer’s two thugs in the front garden, but at least there was no sign of Mortimer himself. Baldie was locking the gates behind them, while Mr Muscle was walking purposefully towards the front door of No 3. He was struggling with a large piece of equipment, which was a bit like the drills that workmen use to dig up the road. It looked as if it could do a great deal of damage, and we needed to get out of the house before they started using it.
I dashed back into the bedroom. “Mortimer’s men have just entered the house next door with some sort of power drill. We need to leave now!”
Everyone ignored me. They were all focused on trying to reach the snake. Donna was frantically pulling bits of plasterboard off the pile of debris, so the snake wouldn’t be hidden from view, while Miles opened up the carrying box and Jake knelt nearby, ready to pounce when Queenie became visible. Then I started to hear noises from next door. I put my ear to the wall to try and work out what was going on. The sound of footsteps got gradually nearer, until eventually it sounded as if the men were on the other side of the bedroom wall, on the same level as us.
I was starting to get really worried. “Hurry up, Jake!” I begged. Then, just as a very noisy power tool started up next door, the snake shot out from underneath the pile of debris and started to slither over my foot. I had never seen her move so fast before – she must have been spooked by the sudden noise – and I only had a split second to make a decision: grab the snake, so we could all get out of the house before anything awful happened, or let her escape and risk wasting precious minutes trying to recapture her. Instinct took over, and I grabbed Queenie firmly with both hands.
As the others helped me bundle her into the snake box and snap the lid shut, the walls and ceiling of the room began to shake, and the floor started to reverberate.
“Come on, let’s go!” I shouted. I didn’t care if the men heard me, I just wanted to get out of there. Then, as Donna and I ran out of the room, followed by Jake carrying the box with the snake, there was an ear-splitting noise from overhead, and the ceiling caved in on top of us.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tessa Buckley was an inveterate scribbler as a child, and spent much of her time writing and illustrating stories. After studying Interior Design, she spent fifteen years working for architects and designers. She took up writing again after her young daughter complained that she couldn’t find enough adventure stories to read. This led, in 2016, to the publication of Eye Spy, the first in a series for 9-12 year olds about two teen detectives. There are now two more books in the series: Haunted, which was a finalist in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards 2017, and Lady in Red. She lives by the sea in Essex and recently completed an Open University arts degree.