Something new; a blend of a delightful account of how children relate to animals, an ongoing war between bands of cats, an enormous Pike, who lurks in the lake, a giant black dog and a nondescript man, leading a double life, who turns into a merciless killer.
Cutterbrook Estate, 8000 Residential properties, built in five phases, the last of which, only recently completed, is already ninety five percent occupied; such is the demand for housing in the county. This new addition is at the north end of the estate, on the far side of the Broadway, the estates circular ring road.
The brook, which gives the estate its name, bisects it from west to east which, except when there is very heavy rain, is very shallow.
On the west side of the estate is a modern shopping centre with most amenities available, while to the east is a large grassy area for children, a football pitch and an equipment shed; now empty since there have been numerous break-ins and subsequent theft of equipment stored there.
Eight miles to the north is the town of Bedderton, with a thriving Sunday market, a well-supported non-league football team and direct rail lines to London and the south. Fourteen miles to the west is Glasson valley shopping centre, with two hundred and forty three retail outlets, covering over 145 square miles, and parking for twenty thousand cars. The shopping centre itself is surrounded by Glasson industrial park, a vast, sprawling mass of industrial units and factories. Both the centre and the park provide employment for many of the estate’s residents.
To the south of the estate is mainly farmland, with small villages and hamlets joined by winding country lanes.
To the east, on the far side of the Broadway, a tall, imposing line of trees stretches north and south, as far as the eye can see. These are the western most ramparts of Skaddydoon forest, covering an area of nearly 195 square miles.
Opposite the brook, a wide dirt road enters the forest, winding its way through the trees for over half a mile before coming to the shores of a large lake.
Here it forks right and left, the right fork following the south shore of the lake, along the tree line some thirty feet from the lake. Along this shore are numerous places for fishermen. Tickets are £5.00 a day from the civic centre. Fishing hours are from 8.30 a.m. until 8.00p.m. with night fishing strictly prohibited.
The left fork circles round the narrow end of the lake and finishes alongside a house, set in a large clearing cut well back into the trees, and with a long lawn sloping down to the lakefront. The lake itself is just over a mile long and about half of that at its widest point. The deepest part is at the western end where it shelves down to nearly thirty feet in places. Here is a large patch of long reeds, waving slowly to and from. If you could see clearly in the murky light, you might think that your eyes were playing tricks on you; because something seems to be hovering amongst the reeds, virtually motionless, yet somehow giving off an air of danger. Then you see a small fish approaching. The reeds are always a good place to find some tasty morsels to eat.
There is a sudden explosion in the water, a glimpse of a powerful shape, a flash of razor sharp teeth, and the small fish has vanished. This is Khan, just over four feet of voracious pike, and these long reeds are his domain.
There used to be other Pike in the lake. Khan carries the battle scars to prove it, but, after an alarming number of small waterfowl started to disappear, the local fishermen made a concerted effort to remove them to other waters and now only Khan and one other Pike remained. They wisely operated at opposite ends of the lake, neither of them appearing to see the other, as otherwise, there would probably be a bloody fight, especially as there was more than enough prey for both of them to feed on.
It was a lovely, warm, sunny afternoon and Clancy was stretched out full length, the sun warming his fur, when he heard a noise behind him. A low, chuffing sound followed by a deep, guttural growl. Only one animal he knew of made those noises, Dogs!
He leapt to his feet in an instant, spinning round in mid-air to face the threat, front claws extended. And he froze! Coming through the door, hungry eyes fixed on him, was a dog with a massive, black mouth open to reveal long, blood red teeth, drooling in its desire to get at him.
He looked up at the ceiling, as if, just maybe, a solution would appear. “Oh, please,” he whispered. “Don’t tell me I’ve used up all nine already!”
The massive head dipped down, and Clancy squeezed his eyes shut; of all the ways he’d imagined going, this certainly wasn’t one of them!
A warm tongue licked him from the back of his head to his tail.
“Listen Pal,” he said, “If you’re gonna eat me then eat me, okay, but there’s no need for a tasting session first!”
The powerful jaws closed around him. ‘This is it,’ he thought.
Suddenly, his eyes opened, and he sat up in his bed with a jolt. It was a dream. It was that dream again. And he had no idea what it could mean, because, for sure, there were no dogs like that on this estate. He knew that if he’d seen one he’d have remembered it. Maybe one day he should go and visit Gilda, the mystic, she might be able to help.
“Clancy, old son,” he said to himself. “You need to lay off the cheese late at night, you really do!”
He’d been out very late the previous night, so he curled back up in his bed and slept for the rest of the morning, with no repeat of the dream.
After a bite to eat, he used the cat flap and walked down the back garden path. Behind him, he was aware of the woman watching him from an upstairs bedroom window, so he crossed the lawn to a newly dug and planted vegetable patch. And started sniffing at it. The upstairs window slammed open.
“Clancy, don’t you dare!” she yelled. “You get away from there right now, you hear?”
Clancy grinned and walked back to the path, there were lots of ways for a cat to have fun, but people baiting had to be near the top of the list. As he strolled down the street, he ticked off in his head some of the other things a cat could do to annoy a person. Ignoring them was a good one. Turning and walking away when called; walking as slowly as possible when it was food time, no matter how hungry you were. Tramping muddy paw prints across a newly cleaned floor was another good one,
and leaving the bodies of dead mice around the place always got results.
From across the road, he was spotted by Wingnut who came scampering over, with an ‘Oh Boy, have I got news for you look’ plastered across his face.
“Hey, Clancy, have you heard the news yet?” He asked excitedly, obviously hoping for a no.
“News? News about what?”
“The news about Genji, haven’t you heard it yet?”
Clancy thought for a second or two. Genji, yes, he could place her; a kitten, six months old, waiting for her first birthday to become a full member of the clan.
“Sorry, Wingnut, but I’ve only just woken up. What’s she gone and done?”
“Done, she’s gotten herself beaten up, that’s what she’s gone and done!”
“Whoa,” said Clancy. “Beaten up? She’s only a kitten, who on earth would beat up a kitten?”
“Listen, I can only tell you what I know. It seems that, early this morning, she was playing by the brook, close to the footbridge.”
Clancy nodded; he knew the spot. “Go on,” he said.
“Well, the water is very low at the moment. It’s almost dry, she scrambled across, up the bank and into the long grass on the other side.”
“Oh, oh,” said Clancy, an empty feeling in the pit of his stomach. The other side of the brook was crow territory. He had a horrible feeling of where this was going.
“Oh, oh is right,” said Wingnut. “After that, the details are very sketchy, but I do know that the Generals called a full meeting of the clan, tonight, at eight thirty. I’ll see you there,” and he raced off, eager to find someone else to share his news with.
Clancy knew the unwritten rule, they all did, or were supposed to. Cross the brook and you were in crow territory, get caught there on your own and you could expect a good hiding. The crows did not appreciate visitors! But, still, a six month old kitten? that seemed over the top, even for the crows.
That evening, before going to the meeting, Clancy visited the spot, by the footbridge, where the attack had taken place. Wingnut was right. There was barely a trickle of water in the brook, even a small kitten would have crossed over easily. Just then, he realised that he was being watched. He looked up and, sitting in the long grass on the other side of the brook, were three crows, watching him intently.
They looked no different from him, why did they always want to start trouble? Maybe both sides misunderstood each other. Maybe this was a chance for him to cross over, try and make peace and make new friends!
“Hey there clan cat, what you looking at?” shouted one.
“Yeah,” followed another. “Ya want some, do yah?”
“You come over here, son, and we’ll give you such a hiding that you’ll not be able to sit down for a week!” added the third, causing all the other crows to howl with laughter.
Then they chanted together. “E’s in the clan, E’s made of Lard!”
“We’re the crows, we’re tough and ard!”
Clancy turned away sadly as they jeered at him; any hopes of making peace dashed. ‘Ah, well,’ he said to himself. ‘It was a good idea!’
He arrived just as the meeting was about to start and sat next to his friends Padre and Stir Fry. Padre was so called because of a distinctive white patch under his chin on his otherwise black fur. Stir Fry was a Chinese dragon li, with the sharpest claws Clancy had ever seen. They nodded to each other as the General, a large Persian, stepped up to the tapstone and cleared his throat.
“Ahem. Good evening my friends. First of all, let me thank you for turning out at such short notice. I will try to be brief. And to the point no, as I’m sure most of you probably already know.”
“Excuse me please, excuse me!”
The General turned his head to see who it was. “Yea, Hoisin, what is it?”
Hoisin was a feisty, short tempered Siamese, who like his two brothers sitting with him, was rather fond of a good scrap.
“Well, sorry for the interruption, General, but do we actually need a meeting? I mean, I’m sure everyone here knows what’s happened, and more to the point, we know who’s responsible. So, why not forget the meeting, march over there, and kick some crow butt!”
Clancy, startled, looked around, hoping that not too many were in agreement with Hoisin. That sort of action, unplanned, would be very foolish.
“Hoisin,” replied the General. “I completely understand your anger, and your desire to take revenge, but, before anyone does anything hasty, will you please hear what I have to say first?”
Hoisin nodded his agreement. “Yes General, we will hear you out.”
“Thank you. Well, as I’m sure everyone knows by now Genji somehow ventured onto crow territory this morning, crossing the brook and got herself beaten up. What I’m sure you don’t know is that I too crossed into crow territory, this afternoon, and, under the protection of the parlay sign I spoke to Tsang himself!”
Clancy could see that this was news, very few had ever seen the leader of the crows, let alone spoken to him.
“He confirmed that Genji did manage to cross the brook, under the footbridge. If she’d gone over it instead, she would quickly have been spotted and turned back. But she didn’t, and there’s nothing to be done about that now.
“She found her way around the football pitch, to the old equipment shed, which, of course, is always open now. It was her bad luck, however, that it wasn’t empty this morning. Three of Tsang’s border patrol guards were inside, experimenting with some, shall we say, rather exotic substances. I believe the saying is ‘getting as high as a bird in the sky’. When Genji suddenly walked in on them they panicked and set about her before running for it.
“Another guard spotted them and, curious, went to investigate. Finding Genji inside, he summoned help and she was carried to our side of the brook where she was quickly found and taken to the V-E-Ts. The good news is that it’s nothing serious; just a few cuts and bruises and, after a few days’ rest, she’ll be up and about, back on her paws, as good as new.”
This brought cheers from the listeners.
“Now, as for her attackers, they didn’t get very far before they were caught, all still high! One of them was doing odd impressions, one of them insisted he was actually a human and was trying to walk around on his hind legs to prove it, and the third was lying down in front of an old tree trump, swearing his undying love for it and wondering if it wanted to have kittens!
“They were marched before a furious Tsang where the seriousness of the situation quickly sunk home. ‘You have brought shame on the crows.’ Tsang declared. ‘Yes, we fight, crows are warriors, but we do not fight with helpless kittens!’”
The General continued. “Tsang’s tongue lashed them, he had them marched to the edge of the estate and declared them ‘Pariahs’, banished from the estate, with no right to appeal!”
“Wow!” murmured Clancy. “Pariahs.” That was strict; still, you do the crime then you do the time – no less than they deserved!
“Now,” continued the General. “In view of the fact that Genji will make a full recovery, and the strict punishment meted out to her attackers, are we, the clan, now satisfied, or does anyone feel the need for revenge?”
And he looked at Hoisin and his brothers.
Hoisin stood up. “General, you have our word; for us, this matter is now closed.”
This book has had me hooked right from the start, the storyline was well thought out and had wonderful content! The author makes the characters come to life and keeps you enthralled from start to finish. I would highly recommend this book and will certainly keep an eye out for any further books in the future! Five stars are not enough.