Here is a snippet from Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James #16. It's called To Dwell in Darkness, and will be out in late March. This is the last scene in Chapter 1.
(The photos are all of St. Pancras International Railway Station in London, where this scene takes place.)
Melody took the Victoria Line straight from Brixton Tube Station to King’s Cross/St. Pancras. Therewas no way she could have crossed London at rush hour in her car and got to the station in time for Andy and Poppy’s concert. Even so, when “Person under a train,” came over the tannoy as the train pulled into Oxford Circus, she felt a moment of panic. When a second announcement advised all passengers on the Central Line to reroute, she breathed a sigh of relief, then felt a bit disgusted with herself.
Someone had fallen—or had jumped—under a train, and she was more concerned with her own inconvenience than the tragedy. Still, there was nothing she could do, and she couldn’t help feeling relieved as well that the mess wasn’t on her watch. She’d dealt with a jumper once, when she was still in uniform, and there weren’t many things worse.
She shivered at the memory, in spite of the bodies packed against her in the back of the train car. But she was determined not to let work interfere with her enjoyment of Andy’s moment in the limelight—the first of many, she felt sure. And she couldn’t wait to see if he had actually worn the blue cardigan.
Seeing her smile, the middle-aged woman squashed beside her smiled back. Nodding, Melody took the small contact as a good omen. Most Londoners weren’t too bad, given half a chance. And bless London Transport—they did their best to keep things running.
But when the train idled far longer than normal at Warren Street, then again at Euston, Melody’s anxiety rose. Andy would be crushed if she didn’t make it. She’d almost decided to get out at Euston and walk the rest of the way when the train doors closed and the train moved out of the station.
When the train pulled into King’s Cross Tube Station, Melody was first out the doors. She sprinted for the ticket barrier, then started for the St. Pancras concourse at a jog. Good thing she’d worn boots that day because of the cold, she thought, rather than her work heels and one of the suits Andy loved to tease her about. Warm and red-cheeked by the time she entered the south end of the station, she stopped a moment to catch her breath.
The music came to her faintly, in intermittent bursts, but she recognized it instantly. Before she met Andy, she’d have been hard pressed to tell a guitar from a banjo, but now she would know the distinctive sound of Andy’s guitar anywhere. And there, on another wave of sound, was Poppy’s unique vocal, with Andy singing back-up.
Melody hurried on. At least she hadn’t missed the whole concert, and if she stood at the back, perhaps Andy wouldn’t notice how late she’d been.
As she came into the concourse proper, she glimpsed, beyond the glass elevator, the crowd gathered round the small temporary stage. Moving closer, she saw the duo clearly—Poppy, in a floaty white top over a short flowered skirt and her usual tights and boots; Andy, resplendent in the sky blue cardigan, the light glinting from his fair hair and his brilliant red guitar. Much to their relief, they had been able to salvage Andy’s treasured Fiesta Red Stratocaster from the fire in Crystal Palace. After a little attention from a luthier friend of Andy’s in Denmark Street, the guitar looked—and sounded—good as new.
Andy hadn’t seen her. He and Poppy were into the new song now, both of them playing and singing, their focus intense. Melody felt the same thrill of excitement she’d had the very first time she’d heard them perform together, in the studio in Crystal Palace, before she knew Andy as more than the name of a witness in a case. They had something electric together, Andy and Poppy, the whole bigger than the parts, and Melody could feel the energy move through the gathered crowd.
Under the edge of the cafe arcade to her left, she saw Tam and Caleb, Andy and Poppy’s respective managers. They were watching the stage intently, grinning from ear to ear.
Then something else caught her eye. On her right, near the Mark’s and Spencer’s food shop, a half dozen protesters raised placards in unison. As they were facing away from her, she couldn’t read the signs, but the group looked harmless enough. Still, she didn’t want anything spoiling Andy and Poppy’s moment. Looking round, she saw a female uniformed British Transport Police officer walking towards them, radio in hand.
Good. The last thing she wanted was to have to act in an official capacity here. She turned back to the stage as Andy and Poppy’s voices rose to a crescendo in the last verse of the new song.
She’d raised her hands, ready to applaud, when she heard a whoosh, then a high, keening wail. Voices rose in frantic screams as Melody whirled round.
She jerked back instinctively, gasping. There, in the open space where the arcade led out to the western taxi rank, burned a ball of fire as bright as a flaring match. And in its center was a human form.
Don't worry, Duncan and Gemma fans, they will be on the case. But to say more would be a bit of a spoiler, which brings me to my question for you Reds and readers.
One of the things about writing a long-running series is dealing with story-line continuity. In most of the previous books, it's been a matter of presenting just the right amount of the story arc of the series characters. You don't want to bore readers who are familiar with the series, but you need to give enough information about the characters' history so that the story--and the relationships--will make sense to new readers. And the story itself will inevitably be a spoiler to some extent for those who have NOT read the previous books. (Just the jacket copy gives away the fact that Duncan and Gemma are now married, for instance...)
But in To Dwell in Darkness, I'm dealing with a larger crime story arc that goes back to the book before last and will likely NOT be resolved in this one. There is always a mystery specific to each novel that IS solved--I think it's very unfair to take a reader all the way through a novel and not resolve the "front" story.
But I'm worried that the eventual resolution of this longer-running story arc will lessen the enjoyment of the previous books for new readers.
So, how do you feel about this, fellow REDS? All of us except Hallie write series novels. (And right now I'm envying Hallie!) Do you struggle with this?
And readers? Does it bother you when everything is not wrapped up neatly in one book? Or if you plunge into an unfamiliar series, will you go back to the previous books to unravel the story thread?
PS I can't offer a galley of To Dwell in Darkness yet, but I'll send a hardcover copy of The Sound of Broken Glass to a lucky commenter!