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29 September 2023

A Long Time Burning by JA Higgins Blog Tour! @rararesources


A Long Time Burning

Nell has had a terrible year, so she travels to North Chase to find some true Christmas magic. But the town has its own problems; its solstice festival is tainted by the disappearance of two teenage boys and a witch’s curse is blamed.

Then, nine-month-old Ava is threatened. Has a medieval killer been awoken or does something else haunt the woods?

Nell must battle through horrific nightmares and face her own demons to expose the truth before another child is spirited away. There is magic in the air this Christmas, but behind the tinsel and baubles glitters a terrifying secret that one family has hidden for centuries, and only Nell can uncover it.

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J A Higgins was born and raised at Porton Down in Wiltshire, and currently works for the NHS in Salisbury. She has always been fascinated by history, crime and the unexplained.

A Long Time Burning is the second book in the Nell Montague Mystery series which explores how horrors from the past are still very relevant today. The first book, Finding Ruby, was a

Page Turner Book Award winner in 2021.

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An extract from A LONG TIME BURNING by J A Higgins

Introduction for context

Nell has travelled to North Chase to find some true Christmas magic. The town is celebrating its mid-winter festival, but some of the myths and legends it is famous for seem to have woken up, and are now targeting Nell.

A few flakes were managing to break through the canopy of empty branches above her, so she took a deep breath and let the freshness spice her blood. The smile was just building when a twig snapped behind her.

She span around. No one there. Fear slammed into her chest; she was alone in the middle of nowhere at the mercy of any weirdo, thug or creep who could have followed her in here. The birds had stopped singing now. All except for one. A crow, or maybe it was a rook, it was something large and black. It cawed insistently, like a fingernail slowly tapping on a window. Nell’s breathing was deeper as she jogged along the path, her mobile in her hand. No signal. Of course there was no signal. The crow cawed again, but now it sounded more like a slow cackle, a rumble of mirth.

She ran into an opening. It was as if the circle had always been there, long before the trees had grown. As if they had known not to violate the ground here. A perfect circle where the grass was short and the setting sun reflected in the pool of water at its centre. Fiery red, it looked like a puddle of lava and for a moment the brightness stung her eyes. By the pool stood a pile of stones. No, not stones, rocks. Carefully arranged in another circle, and at its centre were placed a jumble of objects. Coins, strips of cloth, a posy of dead flowers, and what could once have been perhaps a letter, now reduced to grey mush. Her breath caught again against her ribs, so she quickly pulled out her inhaler. In her haste, she did not notice something else had also been pulled out. Fumbling through her gloves to remove the lid, she took a long slow breath in. The normally sharp click as she sucked in the medicine seemed muted somehow, as if the eerie atmosphere was hushing it.

‘I should not be here.’ She had said the words out loud and she realised just how quiet it had become as the clearing filled with birdsong again. It got louder as she backed away from the fiery pool and the altar of offerings.

A pheasant roared close by, making her jump. And then she heard it. A whimper; a cry. Coming from somewhere close but out of sight. Many things could sound like a child, she reasoned. A fox, or the wind moving through a broken branch. Then movement caught her eye, and between the slender trees she saw a figure. Another lone walker, just like herself. As if aware of being watched, the figure stopped and turned. Nell froze; ready to run, but they took one look at her, turned, ran, and then disappeared. The feeling of wrongness was back, of having strayed into the wrong garden, so she retraced her steps, back past the pond, and didn’t slow until she was on the main path again.

What was that strange clearing? The jumble of items left by the stones looked like offerings. Much like she had seen by that dead tree in the field. Ric and Seb had called it the hanging tree. What a cheerful thought. Then she realised the items were not unlike those that had turned up in the rectory.

Back at the clearing lay the folded square of sketching paper that had fallen from Nell’s pocket. A slight breeze nudged it, and now it lay within the stone circle, along with the jumble of other wishes, prayers, and spells.

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