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If there are memories for him to weather this year, regrets to process, I’m sure he’d rather do it far from home. I understand, but I wonder if it’d be better for him to mourn here among people he’s known all his life. That seems to me to be the very purpose of this odd ritual, after all, remembering all the Lute islanders who’ve passed, generation after generation, from Neolithic times to now. Dreamy, moody, mysterious, and haunting... [ Lute] will capture your imagination as bodies drop to the floor." It’s the same damn fuel we’ve always used,” Hugh is saying. I reach for his shoulder, a calming touch, but he barely seems to notice. The mechanic gives me a respectful nod, wincing as if with a sudden headache as Hugh launches in again. “I don’t understand—” Hang on.” Hugh whirls around, pointing past the man to his small speedboat, tied up next to the launch. “You’ve got your boat.”

We rumble past the school and down to the island’s landing bay. I scan every inch of horizon along the way but can’t spot Charlie or anyone else of his size, probably because all the other children are already on their way off the island.

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I seethe through my smile. Because he’s your son? “I thought he came down here with you. He’s not at the house.” Oh, good grief. “I told you, we’re not going home, Charlie. Our bags are already down at the launch. We’re going to head straight—”

Jennifer Thorne’s prose is elegant in its simplicity, embracing a quiet minimalism that only enhances its sense of horror. Lute is a stunning achievement for an author new to the genre. This is the type of novel that will haunt you for years to come. My voice dwindles, sensing no one’s listening to it. Hugh stares past me at the village, his brown eyes utterly dulled. Then he starts walking, off the road, into the heath, away from home. The gorgeous, remote villa in tiny Monteperso seems like a perfect place to endure so much family togetherness–including Benny’s demanding new boyfriend (it’s Christopher, not Chris). That is, until things start going off the rails–the strange noises at night, the unsettling warnings from the local villagers, and, oh, the dark, violent past of the villa itself. It was so lively up at the barrow when I moved to Lute and all those archaeologists and cheerful young students were here digging, cataloging, publishing, but they left when the war began, and now, apart from the grazing goats that have turned wild and overrun the place, it’s just the ancient grave it always was, silent and half-exposed. It looks like an open wound now. Desecrated. Jesus, that’s a strong word, but it does feel like the right one. The coast looks calm today, thank God, so at least our boat won’t be battered by waves all the way across the Bristol Channel like the last time we traveled to the mainland, almost a year ago. They say these waters are safer than ever now, patrolled and well out of the action, which does make sense. It’s not just for our little archipelago’s sake that the warships are placed where they are. An undefended Bristol Channel would allow the enemy deep into the belly of Britain.We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from Lute by Jennifer Thorne, out from Nightfire on October 4th. He’s still in shirtsleeves despite the chill, muddy boots pulled up over worn-out trousers, stubble framing a wind-worn face. Gray eyes shining with kindness, sadness, resentment, who knows. John Ashford,” not just “John.” Sally uses his full name because on an island with a population of less than two hundred, there are somehow seven Johns to differentiate between. Five of them have been off fighting for the past four years, but John Ashford remains John Ashford, and ancient John Jones is still John Jones. You’d think new parents would get it together among themselves to vary the names they give their babies, but that’s not the way of things here, and if I’ve learned anything in the past seven years on Lute, it’s that “the way of things” likes to stay put. Even in wartime. Everywhere around us, life’s been upended, but here, it’s only seemed to shift. God, how many people are left here? I scan the horizon, and it feels more than ever like a desert isle, like we’ve been marooned. I like that feeling most of the time, the sense of having escaped the chaos and cruelty of the rest of the world, but today, it makes me cold down to my bones, like I’m swimming in a dark current of water.

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