Paperback

Published: Lightning Books (August 2022)

ISBN: 9781785633317

Huxley Sparks and the Book of Secrets

Suzy K. Quinn

£9.99

A magical mystery from the Black Forest, where fairy tales come to life…

When Huxley Sparks moves to Germany, he hopes to meet some nice, sensible children who enjoy science as much as he does, and to eat iced gingerbread and Frankfurter sausages.

He doesn’t expect to see fairies – least of all brutal, war-hungry ones – nor goblins, witches and giant wolves lurking in the freezing underworld. But why can’t his Nana, mum and sister see them too?

An ancient book which Huxley alone can read may provide some of the answers, but there’s no time to lose. As a creepy red-hooded figure kills deer in the woods, an evil king is trying to rise from the depths and turn the sun to shadow.

Can Huxley and his new friends solve the mystery before it’s too late?

OUT AUGUST 2022. AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER NOW

Extracts

No sensible person believes in fairies. Or witches, goblins, moss people (whatever they are) or trolls. So Germany can’t be a sensible place, because we just drove past a sign that said:

Welcome to the Black Forest – where we believe in fairies, witches, goblins, moss people and trolls.

‘Did anyone see that sign?’ I ask.

‘I can’t look at signs and concentrate on driving,’ says Mum. ‘All these twists and turns. This mountain road is treacherous.’

‘I didn’t see any sign, Huxley.’ Nana grips the passenger seat. ‘I had my eyes tight shut on that last corner.’

My little sister, Poppy, puts her face to the window. ‘What sign?’

Spruce trees and grey mountain rush past.

‘There was a sign about fairies and trolls and witches,’ I say.

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Extracts

No sensible person believes in fairies. Or witches, goblins, moss people (whatever they are) or trolls. So Germany can’t be a sensible place, because we just drove past a sign that said:

Welcome to the Black Forest – where we believe in fairies, witches, goblins, moss people and trolls.

‘Did anyone see that sign?’ I ask.

‘I can’t look at signs and concentrate on driving,’ says Mum. ‘All these twists and turns. This mountain road is treacherous.’

‘I didn’t see any sign, Huxley.’ Nana grips the passenger seat. ‘I had my eyes tight shut on that last corner.’

My little sister, Poppy, puts her face to the window. ‘What sign?’

Spruce trees and grey mountain rush past.

‘There was a sign about fairies and trolls and witches,’ I say.

‘No more talking now, Huxley,’ says Mum. ‘I need to… Arg!’ She slams on the brakes as a large truck comes towards us. ‘There’s no room,’ she shrieks at the truck. ‘No room!’

‘That’s because you’re in the middle of the road,’ I say. ‘They drive on the right here.’

‘Just move to the right, Teresa,’ says Nana, ‘and he can get past.’

‘Will everyone stop talking!’ Mum clutches the steering wheel. ‘I need to concentrate.’

‘Your mother is a little stressed.’ Nana turns to Poppy and me. ‘She’s driven over three hundred miles today.’

‘We know,’ says Poppy. ‘Mum has told us. A lot.’

‘Let’s give her a break,’ says Nana. ‘And enjoy the lovely scenery. It looks like a painting, doesn’t it? Spring is my favourite time of year.’

My nana is always so calm. Well, most of the time. Except when she’s trying to use technology. Then she really loses her temper.

Nana’s face is warm and brown, like a piece of cinnamon toast. She has dimples when she smiles, and she smiles a lot. No one ever believes that Nana is Mum’s mother because Mum is skinny, wears serious glasses and bosses everyone around.

I’m tall and skinny, like Mum, but I have Nana’s hair. Not exactly Nana’s hair, of course. I don’t use lots of hairspray to make it look like a helmet. My hair is more wild and free – like a black lion’s mane, with a weird blond patch above my left ear. The blond patch is a medical thing called poliosis. It’s annoying, because teachers often think I’ve dyed my hair when I haven’t.

The truck slows down and honks its horn.

Mum winds down the window. ‘Sorry!’ she calls to the truck driver. ‘We’re English. English!’ She turns to me. ‘Huxley? What’s “sorry” in German? I’ve forgotten.’

I flick pages in my English-German dictionary. ‘Entschuldigung.’

Entschuldigung!’ calls Mum.

The truck driver stops and waves us past.

We drive on, around a winding, mountain road. Dark-green trees cover the mountain and clear streams trickle over blue-grey rock. Below us sits the pretty town of Merchenheft, orange roofs sparkling in the sunshine.

I’ll say one thing about the Black Forest – it’s very beautiful. And very different to East London. There was only one tree on our street back home and it was covered in graffiti. But then again, our street wasn’t very nice. It was all tower blocks, chewing gum and lost shopping trolleys.

‘How long until we get there?’ asks Poppy. ‘I need the toilet.’

‘You’ll have to hold it in,’ says Mum. ‘We’re fifteen minutes away.’

‘I can’t hold it in that long,’ Poppy insists.

‘You can,’ says Mum. ‘The human bladder is very stretchy. It can hold about half a litre of urine.’

Mum is a nurse, but she’s not the sympathetic kind who fluffs pillows and makes a fuss of people. If my finger fell off, Mum would say, ‘Just get on with it, Huxley. You have nine more.’

‘Why don’t you try counting in German, Poppy?’ I suggest. ‘To take your mind off things? Eins, zwei…’

‘I don’t know my German numbers yet,’ says Poppy.

‘But I made you those flashcards,’ I say. ‘We start school next week. How are you going to get by if you don’t speak any German?’

‘I do speak German,’ says Poppy. ‘I can ask for cola bottle sweets. What else do I need?’

‘You need the toilet,’ says Nana. ‘Will the new house have a toilet, Teresa?’

‘Of course it will have a toilet,’ says Mum.

We drive on in silence for a few minutes, watching the town below us get nearer and nearer.

‘What about a roof?’ asks Nana. ‘Will the new house have a roof?’

‘Why wouldn’t it have a roof?’ Mum snaps. ‘What kind of house doesn’t have a roof?’

‘Well, you said the house might be a little rustic,’ says Nana.

‘Yes,’ says Mum. ‘It might be a little rustic. But it will have a roof and a toilet. I wouldn’t take you to an absolute wreck.’

‘What does rustic mean?’ asks Poppy.

‘Falling down,’ I whisper.

‘I have a good feeling about this move,’ says Mum, in a bright voice. ‘Finding out about this house… Well, it’s a fairy tale, isn’t it? Do you know, the Brothers Grimm grew up around here? They collected fairy tales from towns like Merchenheft.’

‘How come we never visited Merchenheft when Dad was alive?’ I ask.

Mum sighs. ‘I don’t know. Wilhelm never talked about Germany. I don’t think he was very happy, growing up. But that doesn’t mean we won’t be happy

here. We’ll have our own house. Imagine that!’

‘A rustic, falling-down house,’ I mutter.

Mum squints at the road. ‘Nearly there. Can you see Merchenheft up ahead?’

The car starts to judder.

‘Uh oh,’ says Mum.

‘What’s happening, Teresa?’ Nana clutches her sparkly hand bag.

‘I’m not sure.’ Mum’s hands tighten on the shaking wheel.

‘It’s okay, everyone,’ I announce. ‘Just a few bumps on the road. Mum had the car checked at the garage before our trip. Right, Mum?’

‘How could I forget?’ Mum grips the steering wheel tighter. ‘You left me three reminder notes.’

‘Well, of course.’ I lean forward, skinny elbows resting on skinny legs. ‘After you forgot to pack my underpants on that school trip, I could hardly trust you to—’

‘Huxley, that was one time,’ Mum snaps. ‘I work twelve-hour days. Why didn’t you pack your own underpants?’ Her knuckles turn white on the shaking steering wheel.

BOOM!

White light explodes around the car.

Mum gasps and slams on the brakes.

Nana shrieks.

Then the engine falls silent and the car trundles to a stop.

‘Is everyone okay?’ I ask. ‘Poppy?’

My little sister nods.

‘Everyone out of the car,’ I say.

‘Yes, good idea,’ says Mum. ‘What was that?’

We all climb out onto the mountain road.

‘Was it a storm?’ Nana looks up at the blue sky.

‘It can’t have been,’ I say. ‘Storms need clouds.’

‘I suppose there could have been a fault with the car.’ Mum frowns at the dashboard. ‘But I had everything checked.’ She turns to the mountain. ‘You know, I read about a weird electricity around Merchenheft. Something to do with the mountains. There are four of them around the town. Like guards.’ She points straight ahead. ‘The most famous being the Erlhorn. Over there. See?’

We all look at the tall, shadowy mountain up ahead. Something orange sparkles at the top, then it’s gone.

‘Did anyone see that?’ I ask.

‘What?’ asks Poppy.

‘I thought I saw something light on the mountain,’ I say.

‘Probably just sunshine on the snow,’ says Nana. ‘Why don’t we walk into town and find a nice, handsome car mechanic?’

We all look down the road at the small, orange-roofed town ahead.

‘Walk?’ Mum looks Nana up and down. ‘You’re not dressed for it, Mama.’

Nana is wearing a blue, sparkly dress and sports shoes with OMG written on them in gold glitter. She always likes to be ready for a party, because ‘you never know’.

Mum, on the other hand, wears walking boots, sensible blue jeans and a plain t-shirt. She’s always dressed for home repairs or a long walk. Or work, in her nurse’s uniform.

‘So this is where Dad grew up.’ I look down at the orange roof tops. ‘I hope it’s nicer than he was.’

‘Huxley,’ says Nana. ‘You shouldn’t speak ill of the dead.’

‘What am I supposed to say?’ I ask. ‘That Dad wasn’t angry or difficult? That he didn’t walk out on us and leave Mum working twelve-hour days? Lying is wrong too.’

‘Your dad was a human being.’ Nana crosses herself.

‘He made mistakes. May he rest in peace.’

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ABOUT

Suzy K. Quinn

Suzy K. Quinn writes in three different genres: psychological thriller, comedy and romance.

She was first published by Hachette in 2010 with her debut novel Glass Geishas (now Night Girls), then self-published a romance series, The Ivy Lessons, which became #1 Kindle romance bestsellers in the US and UK. After her second daughter was born in 2013, she self-published the Bad Mother's Diary series, which also became Kindle bestsellers. Her novels have now been translated into seven languages and her books have sold over 750,000 copies worldwide.

She lives in Wivenhoe, Essex, with her husband Demi and two daughters, and travels to Mexico every year to write and study Mayan story-telling.

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