As part of the 12 Days of Clink Street Christmas I am delighted to feature On Track for Murder which is set in the 1800's. Author Stephen Childs has written an exclusive and wonderful post on how Christmas was celebrated in 1889 Australia.
Travelling from England to Australia in the late nineteenth century, Abigail Sergeant and her brother, Bertrand, are looking forward to their new life. Leaving behind the prejudices that would likely have seen Bertrand committed to an institution before he reached adulthood, Abigail hopes their new life will offer freedom and security.
But what awaits them on the shores of the Swan River dashes any prospects of a blissful life. A murder is committed and Abigail's family is thrown into turmoil. The evidence is damning. Only the guilty would be found standing over the body clutching the bloodied murder weapon. But something is not right. Police are convinced they have their killer. Abigail is certain they are wrong. As their one potential witness is missing, Abigail persuades the detective to allow time for a search. But that time is limited.
Chasing across Western Australia with a reluctant Constable Dunning as her chaperone, Abigail is determined to uncover the truth. If only she had an inkling of what that may be. Through deception, kidnap, sabotage and arson, Abigail finds a resolve she didn't know she possessed. Her understanding of mechanical principles surprises everyone, as does her tenacity. She turns out to be a capable young woman. But is that enough to save an innocent from injustice?
Published on 1 Sept 2015 by Clink St Publishing
Purchase from Amazon UK - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Track-Murder-Stephen-Childs-ebook/dp/B013K4Q2HW/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1478774078&sr=1-2&keywords=on+track+for+murder
Purchase from Barnes & Noble - http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/on-track-for-murder-stephen-childs/1122391161?ean=9781910782095
Dec 26 1889, Guildford, West Australia.
My dearest friend,
I write to tell of our first Christmas in the Swan colony. This truly is a strange land, yet one with which I am growing most fond.
Christmas day found the weather extremely hot. Our neighbours Mr and Mrs Wallace had invited us to supper in the evening. My brother, Bertrand and I were greatly looking forward to this. It also gave us the day to enjoy beforehand. The Wallaces sailed from England merely six years past so very much understand the love we have of the festive season. Much reminiscing was anticipated.
Well, let me tell you. Before breakfast had even begun we received a visit from Mr Ridley Dunning. He’s my fiancee, as you know, but wasn’t expected until luncheon. He came with a covered carriage and the largest picnic hamper you have ever seen. We exchanged gifts over breakfast, then Ridley insisted we embark on his surprise journey. Bertrand was beside himself with excitement. I was just glad of the company, this being our first Christmas since Father died.
We travelled along the river a short while then turned in to the most delightful open grassed area. There, on a spot beside the water under a large willow tree, we set up our picnic.
Ridley had prepared cold chicken sandwiches and potted pork in aspic with two side salads all followed with a delicious strawberry tart. All his own work, he told me. I was most impressed.
Across the river we could see grape vines growing on taught wires stretched across grassy paddocks. Ridley informed us that the owners were making wine. Very good wine apparently. Then, like magic, he produced a bottle. How delightful it was, and so refreshing as the sun beat down.
Bertrand proceeded to regale him with tales of our Christmases at home. The tree set about with glass baubles and ribbons. Candles flickering gayly. Carols beside the fire. I told him of Christmas eve last year when the snow lay deep outside and we invited the carol singers in to warm beside the fire. Oh, how I miss those times.
We had a gorgeous day, nonetheless. A further surprise was the appearance of a group of kangaroos. They came out of the bushes not fifty yards from where we sat. The oddest animals you have ever seen, they have large hind legs and hop along at terrific speeds. And their babies ride in pouches on the mother’s front. A far cry from the usual Christmas image of reindeer in the snow!
My dear friend, this may seem to top off a most unusual Christmas day, but there is more. We returned as the sun began to lower, yet the heat remained in the air. Ridley drove us directly to our neighbours. The strange grin Ridley wore should have warned me of secrets to be revealed, but I was so hot I just needed to get out of the sun.
Well, when the front door was opened I was quite taken aback. We were treated to the most amazing sight. A huge fir tree bedecked with candles, ribbons and baubles. A table ornately set with colourful decorations and a huge Yule log sporting palm tree fronds in place of holly.
And as I wiped my brow with a rather sodden handkerchief I noticed their most faithful reconstruction from home. The grate was blazing with the largest fire it could handle! All the windows needed to be opened to cope with the excess heat. But it looked beautiful.
Such a strange land.
All the authors taking part in the Christmas themed event
About Stephen Childs
Born in Ealing, West London, Stephen Childs emigrated with his family to New Zealand in the 1970s. He has enjoyed a long career in the film and television industry. After a serious health scare in 2005, Childs’ view of life changed. He briefly went into politics as a parliamentary candidate in the national elections, standing against the now New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key. The drive to pursue new challenges prompted Childs to relocate to Western Australia, where he now lives in Joondalup, north of Perth, with his family and two cats. In his spare time, Childs enjoys exploring the great Australian outdoors and studying genealogy.
Check out the advent calendar of all the other blogs taking part in the 12 Days of Clink St Christmas