A dark and exotic literary war thriller.
“The Paper Crane boasts an intriguing plot. Its opening chapter drew me straight into a fascinating story.” Crooked Cat Publishing, Flash500 Novel Opening and Synopsis Competition. Awarded joint runner-up in 2016.
A decade after her husband Edward’s death, veteran war correspondent Bel McQueen begins to erase a past that she can no longer live with. The secrets of her crimes are written in her journal, and kept under lock and key.
In self-imposed exile at Lucky Guest House in Bangkok, Bel is drawn into covering the capital’s deadly protests, and meets restless war photographer Stefan Koops. Together, they report from an increasingly dangerous frontline: bombs, snipers, a ruthless army and a merciless, radical youth faction see journalists killed or disappeared with terrifying regularity.
The danger in Bangkok grows comes home as Bel’s greatest fear becomes a reality. Someone knows the truth about her life, someone with almost as much to lose as she has. How far will Bel go to protect her past?
Spanning four decades, The Paper Crane is an intimate study of love, war, sex, obsession and death in Thailand. It is an unflinching portrait of the ravages of betrayal on an unstable older female protagonist, and her wait for revenge.
Extract from The Paper Crane
“I don’t know how you sleep at night. Just look at what you’ve become,” you said to me when you were dying.
Oh, Edward, I remember.
What you did and what you said. What you never told me. I remember the first time you left me in 1975 and the clutch of my silk kimono around me in the lamplight as I watched you fade into the night. “I’ll be back soon,” you promised, before the gecko snapped the moth in its jaws, and the crickets and my own sobs were all I could hear. This was the first of all of your lies. Only you and I know the truth, and you are dead.
Memories bloom inside me like cancer now. The tentative: my first letter home from Bangkok at twenty-three, your first, scant postcard from Baan Nam Khem, my feature for Time that changed my life. The merciless: your death certificate, your bloody testament. I will burn these papers. Tonight, on the balcony after everyone else is in bed, I shall light them until they flame and smoulder. The evidence will be gone, our only witnesses. But my journal, where our truth unfurls on old, gilt-edged pages, I shall keep under lock and key and close to my heart. No-one will ever see.
My hands are shaking. I clasp them together and I see the sliver of pale skin on my ring finger. Thirty years of marriage leave traces that are impossible to ignore. I slide your wedding bands back over my knuckle for appearances, and they glint like knives. Long-held secrets are best hidden in plain sight, after all.
You died ten years ago today. Happy fucking anniversary, darling.
My phone pings and I start: a Twitter notification. I recognise the photojournalist from a Tweet yesterday that I forgot to answer. I read the text: ‘Din Daeng now. Several dead.’ There are photos attached. I open the link. The entire frontage of a four-storey apartment building is torn away. There is a sickening montage of ashen and bloodied residents, piles of rubble and a drinks vendor’s cart. The cart lies on its side, its Wall’s umbrella buckled. Lurid orange rivulets stream down the street, pooling around the fallen bricks and concrete. I scan the images but there is no drinks vendor in sight. The message is signed Stefan and contains a phone number.
The taxi driver is unable to stop closer than the junction at Thanon Mit Maitri, two streets away; it is the pre-curfew rush hour and army roadblocks limit any other routes. I jump out and dart between the buses and cars. As I near the site, the smoke and the screams are deafening, and crowds surge onto the pavement in front of a housing estate. A police helicopter hangs above us, thundering. It is relentless and disorientating.