With one week to go to the launch of my new series, I thought I'd give you a little information about the main character.
Marsha is modelled on some of my female detectives. She has a bit of Allie Shenton in her when she is feisty, a bit of Grace Allendale when she is caring, a bit of grit like Eden Berrisford, and a lot of, well, Marsha.
Marsha is a mum to Suzanne, 18, and Cassie, 16, and is often called Mum at work too. That's why she's good to head up her team.
Chapter one introduces her so much better than I can. But if you want to read the prologue, which will tell you what Marsha has in store for her, you can find out more here.
*** (sorry, I can't set it out like a book as I can't indent the paragraphs on here.)
Marsha Clay pounded through the heather on her way up towards the rocks. If it wasn’t so warm, she might not have been out of breath but, despite it only being seven-thirty in the morning, the sun was bright in a clear-blue sky.
Marsha wanted to be there before the crowds descended. The Roaches was a popular tourist spot, with walks ranging from one mile to nearly seven. Yet, coming now, she could almost guarantee that she would share the space with no more than a handful of people.
Ahead, her dog, Larry, charged about as if he hadn’t a care in the world. Oh, to be as happy as him, she mused, although as a chocolate Labrador, he looked more like a calf than a march hare prancing up and down.
She reached the top of the rocks and took in a deep breath of fresh air, sighing contentedly afterwards. This was her Happy Valley. At its highest point, on clear days, there were views over Staffordshire, Cheshire, and even into Lancashire and Wales.
She sat down on the grass, stretching her legs out in front. Larry came to sit next to her, and she ruffled the dog’s fur under his chin. It was so peaceful, the road below quiet for the moment. Definitely somewhere she could clear her head.
She and her husband, Phil, had been arguing again last night. It had started over something simple, and escalated into a mountain of blame, dissatisfaction, and hurt. That morning, she’d left him in bed, needing time on her own to lick her wounds.
How had they come to be living almost separate lives? Nineteen years they’d been married, and at this rate she wasn’t sure they would make it to their twentieth anniversary.
Then she scolded herself. At least they had lives, which was more than she could say about Dave Harris.
Dave had been sixty-two, and a detective sergeant for the past twenty-seven years. He was five months from retirement when he’d suffered a massive heart attack in the office. Marsha and her team had been there to witness it, all trying desperately to save the man who they’d lovingly called granddad. Devastated when they hadn’t been able to.
Dave had never wanted to be anything more than a sergeant. He loved his job and was good at it, teaching Marsha all he knew along the way. It meant for a time, Marsha had gone to a different station to move from detective constable to detective sergeant, but as soon as a vacancy had arrived, she’d returned as a DI.
She and Dave had been a great team. They used to sit in The Old Jug, across from the station after a shift, putting the world to rights. The younger members of the team would rib them about being ancient, even though Marsha was less than a decade older than them all. Still, she knew she wouldn’t be the police officer she was today without his guidance.
Tomorrow, though, Nathan Clark, who had been acting DS, would be taking over the role permanently, and there would be a new officer in his place. Jess Baxter was transferring from Manchester, where she’d been a DC for over a year. Her story for moving sideways was to be nearer to her mum who lived alone, after the death of her father.
Marsha wasn’t ready to welcome a new face, even one as pretty as Jess’s. She couldn’t contemplate anyone replacing Dave. Every morning, she waited for him to walk in through the door, say something crass, and sit down to stuff his face with his favourite ginger biscuits.
She wiped away a few tears that spilled for her colleague. And then she brushed herself down and stood up. It wasn’t often Marsha got a Sunday to do whatever she wanted, and she was going to enjoy every minute of it. Perhaps take the girls out for breakfast if they didn’t have anything planned.
She might even ask Phil to join them, if he wasn’t working. Phil was a gym instructor, on shifts most weekends, which meant when things were quiet for Marsha, and she wasn’t working flat out solving a murder or violent crime, that he was mostly away from the house when she was home. It made for a better atmosphere, she supposed.
‘Come on, Larry.’ She clipped on his lead. ‘Let’s go home.’
Ten minutes later, when she arrived back in Leek, all fresh and invigorated from her trip, she found one of her daughters in the kitchen, sitting at the table, one foot up on the seat. She was staring at the screen on her phone.
Larry went straight in for a fuss.
‘Hey.’ Marsha kissed the top of Cassie’s head as she walked past. ‘Is your sister home?’
‘In the shower,’ she replied, not even looking up.
‘Do you fancy breakfast out?’
‘I have to be back for twelve as I’m meeting April.’
Marsha laughed inwardly, remembering the times when her girls fitted around what she and Phil were doing rather than the other way round. She glanced at her watch: half past nine.
‘I was thinking about going in half an hour. I can drop you off at April’s house afterwards, if you like?’
Cassie nodded. ‘Okay.’
‘Ask Sue if she wants to come with us.’
‘Come where?’ Sue walked into the kitchen, smiling at the sound of loud thumps coming from Larry as he wagged his tail. She bent down to fuss him, and then he settled in his basket.
‘Breakfast out,’ Cassie told her. ‘Mum’s treat.’
‘Can you come?’ Marsha asked Sue.
‘I have a double shift at the pub. I start at twelve.’
‘I can get you back in time.’ Marsha beamed. ‘I’ll see if your dad is around.’
‘He’s working, too. Shift starts at ten.’
Marsha rolled her eyes discreetly. At least Phil had told someone of his plans. She couldn’t remember when they’d all gone out together in a long while. What with work, school, and sixth form to fit in around each other, who had time?
She groaned inwardly. She was doing it again, feeling like a work-life balance was impossible, when actually, everyone was doing fine. Weren’t they?
‘Why don’t you message your gran, see if she wants to come, too?’ Marsha’s mum, Gina, lived in a house further along the road on the opposite side. She’d moved there when Suzanne had been born and had been a godsend, stepping in whenever urgent childcare was needed. Marsha wasn’t certain they would have coped without her.
She went upstairs to change, bumping into Phil as he came out of the bathroom. He was dressed in sports gear, dark hair wet from a shower and smelling of something delicious. It almost made her nostalgic. Almost. No matter what, he had a great pair of legs, even better in shorts.
‘What time does your shift start?’ she asked, although knowing the answer.
‘Can you go in later? I thought you might join us. We’re going out for breakfast.’
‘Can’t, sorry. We’re already staff down. I shouldn’t even be on the rota.’ He avoided her eyes. ‘Maybe next weekend?’
Marsha couldn’t help feeling deflated, but neither could she complain. Due to the nature of her job, being on call and working long hours when required, she was never able to commit to everything.
Still, a full English breakfast would go a long way towards cheering her up. With at least two mugs of tea.