It’s just over a year since I stayed in with lovely Fiona Cane to chat about A Song Unsung in a post you can read here. Today I’m delighted that Fiona has allowed me to share the prologue from her latest book Angel Town which was inspired her mother’s comments to Fiona about cults.
Fiona has also appeared on Linda’s Book Bag here, writing about the impact of Haiti for her book The Other Side of the Mountain.
Published by Caracol on 16th June 2022, Angel Town is available for purchase here.
A doomsday cult. A stolen innocence. A reckoning.
What if you were born into a doomsday cult and knew nothing of the outside world?
What if everything you’d been told was a lie?
The clock is ticking …
Wayward teenager, Lola, is stunned when, out of the blue, she is summoned by her leader. Oblivious to the resentment her promotion has whipped up and determined to shine, she enters Michael’s inner sanctum.
Single mother and activist, Donna’s search for her son takes her from Brighton to Edenville, a once-peaceful commune in the Colorado desert. Trouble is brewing. The guards on the gate are armed. No one can leave; no visitors allowed.
But who is Michael? And what exactly is his agenda? As the line between what’s true and what is not grows increasingly blurred, time is fast running out …
An Extract from Angel Town
Three years earlier
The door slams with a bang, and my teeth start their chitter-chattering again. Why, I don’t know because he does that, Elijah. Slams doors. Every single day. No word of a lie. It’s a wonder ours is still hanging on its hinges. Bang. I’m leaving. Bang. I’m home. Bang. I’m headed for the yard.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
As if we give a damn.
All the same, the breath I didn’t know I was holding leaves my lungs in a satisfying sigh, and my limbs seem to melt like butter in the sun. I wriggle and writhe and shake my arms and legs. Boy, does that feel good. And smile because it’s Saturday, which means no more mean-faced Elijah and no more banging doors today. No school, chores, nor meetings neither.
I pull on my bib overalls and tear down the stairs. I can’t see my shoes so I dash into the street in case Mom has me searching for them. I’ve got places to go, people to see, to borrow one of her favourite sayings.
I twirl around and look at Mom in such a way I know she’ll believe what I’m about to say. ‘They’re at Abi’s. Headed there right now.’
And before she can say another word, I’m sprinting down the road, my clean white feet kicking up the dust.
David is sitting in his usual place on the jetty, legs swinging, waiting for Fisherman Cain. Never seems to tire of those ugly, whiskery catfish, does David. Spends all his free time trying to catch ’em.
‘Hey, Lois. Fancy joining us?’
I stop to think about it. I’m sore tempted cos they fish on the ginormous river outsidda Edenville, and I like reeling in those monsters with the chicken-liver bait, too. But I like David even more. I mean, who wouldn’t? Even I can see he’s what Mom would call real handsome. Golden hair. The cutest smile. He’s a year older but a whole lot wiser, so I’m thankful he even notices me, let alone wants to hang out. Once he showed me a nest of fluffy grey cygnets he’d found hidden in the reeds. Our secret, he said. You mustn’t tell a soul. Boy oh boy. He could’ve shown any kid, but he chose me. Yessiree. He’s about the bestest boy in the whole of Edenville.
I screw up my nose. ‘I promised Abi.’
‘Next time, then.’
I nod so hard it hurts.
David laughs. ‘It’s a deal. Have fun. And Lois?’
‘Stay out of trouble.’
I grin and wave and set off again, slower now, more ladylike. Sometimes it’s important to create the right impression.
The fields around Farmer Samuel’s barn seem to be deserted, but I check the area, just in case. It’s not that we aren’t allowed to play here. It’s … well … I guess … better if no one knows we do. It’s kinda hard to get any privacy in a town like ours, see.
A couple of swans are swimming on the canal, but nothing and nobody else is about, so I dart inside. It’s dark after the white brightness of the sunshine. I blink rapidly, but there’s no rushing my eyes.
I squint and look up to the rafters where Abi’s white-blonde hair shines like a halo.
‘What you waiting for? C’mon.’
I clamber to the top and dive over the hay bales into the den the three of ’em have built already.
‘What kept you, Lois?’ Ben and Gideon ask.
I scrunch up my cheeks until their bug-eyes blur. Right away, Abi puts her arm around me, and I know I don’t have to say any more. She knows all right. No need to waste any words.
Next thing, Ben is stuffing hay down the back of my T-shirt, and pretty soon we’re tumbling about, squealing.
Later, Abi hands us all some lemonade she’s thought to bring along, and a loaf of bread which she tears into chunks. She’s like that, Abi. What Mom would call real practical. I cram mine into my mouth cos I skipped breakfast, what with avoiding Elijah and all.
‘I wish it could be like this always,’ I say when I’m done eating.
Ben clicks his tongue. ‘Three more years is all we’ve got.’
Those words seem to suck all the joy from the air. No one speaks for thinking things through. What lies in store? No more free time, that’s for sure. I guess I’ll be sent to work in The Mill and The Bakery, like Mom. I’m not clever like Abi. I swear she’s destined for something special. One of the chosen few. David will be a fisherman, no question. Ben a carpenter, perhaps.
‘I’m gonna run away,’ Gideon says.
Ben digs him in the ribs. ‘Don’t joke, Giddy.’
‘But it’s dangerous, you know …’ I tilt my head, ‘… out there.’
‘Yeah, but I ain’t gonna spend the rest of my life being told what to do.’
He’s got a point, but running away?
Abi sniffs. ‘It’s not that bad, and anyway, where will you go?’
‘Anywhere but here.’
I have a hundred questions I want to ask, but my thoughts are all tangled, and I don’t know where to begin. Not that it matters because the unmistakable thud of footsteps brings our chatter to an end.
Ben puts a finger to his lips, and I peep through a hole expecting to see Farmer Samuel or, at worst, Elijah’s mean face. But it isn’t. It’s half a dozen men dressed all in black. Black shirts, black jeans, shiny black boots, and black scarves wound around their heads covering all but their eyes. Hell, I know what they are even though I’ve never seen them before. Nobody has, at least none I’ve met. Us kids think they’re fiends made up by our parents to frighten us into behaving. But here they are. The Powers. The faceless, nameless men. Jet-black and menacing with guns in black holsters strapped around their waists.
I gulp down my fear, a solid, prickly ball, and turn to Abi. But that doesn’t help me one little bit. Silent tears stream down her cheeks, and from beneath her shorts, a trickle of pee dribbles past her knees.
‘It’s okay,’ I whisper, reaching for her hand. ‘They won’t find us.’
It’s what I’m hoping, but I’m thinking, what will happen if they do.
And now, of course, we’re all desperate to find out!
About Fiona Cane
Fiona Cane is ‘a natural storyteller, with a vivid writing style that is eminently readable.’ Best selling author Peter James.
Fiona was born and educated in Sussex. After graduating from Exeter University with a degree in Philosophy, she worked in London in film, tv and entertainment PR, before moving back to Sussex with her husband and young family. When she wasn’t coaching tennis or looking after her two children, she was scratching away at her latest novel.
Her books cover several genres: cosy mystery, psychological thriller, literary thriller and coming of age. The one thing all her books have in common is they will keep you turning the page.