Candy Canes and Buckets of Blood
By Heide Goody and Iain M. Grant
Thanks to Love Books for inviting me to the blog tour of Candy Canes and Buckets of Blood by Heide Goody and Iain Grant. It certainly seems to be a very different sort of book for Christmas, so I am pleased to be hosting an extract from it today, especially since it is freezing and all wintry where I live and is the 1st December today.
About the Authors
Heide lives in North Warwickshire with her husband and a fluctuating mix of offspring and animals. Iain lives in South Birmingham with his wife and a fluctuating mix of offspring and animals. They aren’t sure how many novels they’ve written together since 2011 but it’s a surprisingly large number.
Christmas is a time for families to come together.
Guin Roberts can’t think of anything worse than visiting a Christmas market with her new family. Guin is perfectly happy with own company and doesn’t want that disrupted by her wisecracking stepbrother and his touchy-feel mum.
Their Christmas celebrations are invaded by a sleigh full of murderous elves. And it doesn’t matter if they’ve been naughty or nice —these elves are out for blood.
Can the family band together to survive the night? Or will Santa’s little helpers make mincemeat of them all?
“Cuckoo clocks!” said Esther, arms spread.
“So, I see,” said Dave.
They pressed forward under the shallow eaves of the stall to avoid the briskly falling snow. The side walls and back of the stall were crowded with intricately carved clocks — chalet house shapes, covered with carved trees and fruits and animals, pine cone weights dangling on long chains beneath. On tiny balconies and in tiny doorways, varnished figures stood, some fixed, some poised to spring out at the chiming of the hour.
“I don’t like them,” said Dave.
“Why not?” said Esther.
“I don’t know. They always look … sinister to me.”
She looked up at him and smiled.
He kissed her on the forehead. “I look at them and all that super detailed carving and I think ‘that’s what happens when you’re cooped up all winter with snow piled outside your door and nowhere to go.’”
“Cabin fever as an art form.”
She shrugged. “I guess people did need something to keep them occupied through the winter months.”
He looked back the way they’d come. “They’ll be all right together?”
“Newton will keep an eye on her.”
“I’m more concerned about him,” said Dave. “No, I meant long term. Them. Us. A new life.”
Esther gave him a reassuring hug. “Taking it slow. Let’s see how Christmas goes, all four of us at your place. And if that works out…”
She pulled away. “You don’t want it to work out?”
Dave patted his coat pockets before putting a hand in each.
“What?” said Esther.
“Keys. Car keys.”
He took out his wallet to check the inside pocket. He looked inside the carrier bag of mulled wine.
“When did you last have them?” asked Esther.
“Definitely in the car.”
He shot her a tetchy took. “I had them at the car. I went into that pocket to buy pretzels and mulled wine. I might have…” He mimed a hand out of pocket action and then looked round as though the keys might magically be on the ground somewhere nearby.
“Maybe fallen out near one of those stalls,” she said. “Let’s go look.”
He held out his hands. “You stay here. The kids will come to you. I’ll go check.” He sighed. “Buggeration,” he said and hurried off.
Esther leaned close to the cuckoo clock stall as the snow came down in thick, tangled clumps. There was still virtually no wind but there had to be a point at which heavy snowfall automatically became a blizzard. Wherever that point was, surely they were close to it. She pulled her collar about her neck and continued to look at the range of clocks.
“So, are all these clocks hand-carved?” she asked the old man behind the stall.
The old man grunted ambiguously. He was packing clocks away in wooden crates lined with straw. It was late; the fairground rides still turned and there were still people drinking and eating but this man had probably sold his last cuckoo clock of the year. And it was the last day of the Christmas market. Esther supposed the clocks that went unsold would resurface in this market or another next year.
“I just wondered,” she said. “They are very beautiful. Does someone carve them all?”
“Yes, yes,” he said and waved to the unseen space behind the stall. “All carved.”
He continued to pack clocks, spooling the weight chains in his hands before laying them flat. He moved sluggishly, failing to co-ordinate left hand and right.
“You make them back here?” said Esther. There was a narrow space between this stall and the next, little more than a crawlspace but, looking round, Esther could see a dim light and hear the sounds of industry.
“Yes, yes,” said the old man, waving. “All carved.”
“I mean, if you don’t mind me looking—”
The old man didn’t seem to care. She took a step towards the little cut-through. “I’ll just—” She slipped down the space. There was a surprising amount of room: the stalls weren’t arranged precisely back to back. A wide alley was laid out between them, covered over with sheltering canvas, in parts lit by an inferior sort of fairy light.
The sounds of construction came from the dim shanty town. There was almost no light here and Esther stepped carefully, waiting for her eyes to adjust. There were low tables — roughly made things — little more than split logs laid across trestles. Worn hand tools, too dark to make out clearly were strewn around.
Workers sat at the benches. She could not make them out properly, although they seemed happy enough in the near darkness. She guessed, purely from the sounds they made, there were three or four or them; no more than five. They must have been cramped: there couldn’t be room for more than two people to sit comfortably in that space. Suggestions of hands moved across their materials. A chisel glinted here, a saw there.
“Hello?” she said. “I didn’t mean to interrupt but the man said it was okay.”
The work stopped instantly.
“If you don’t mind,” said Esther.
Five pairs of eyes turned to regard her. Eyes set widely in round faces, far lower down than she expected.
The craftsmen — no, they were too small to be craftsmen — the individuals in the makeshift space behind the stalls watched Esther.
“Stinga henni með hníf”
They were no bigger than children; small children at that.
“Do you work here?” she asked in her most gentle, mumsiest voice.
*And thus concludes the extract. I hope it whet your appetite to want to discover more.*