Paperback:

Published: Lightning Books (September 2021)

ISBN: 9781785632655

Stone Heart Deep

Paul Bassett Davies

£8.99

A compelling and claustrophobic thriller

‘Once I’d started reading I could not put it down’ – Iain Maitland

When burned-out investigative journalist Adam Budd’s estranged mother dies, he inherits her estate. This includes Stone Heart House, a huge, ramshackle mansion on a remote Scottish island. He visits the island to sort out her tangled affairs, and at first it seems like a charming haven of tranquillity. But after he witnesses a strange accident, he begins to develop suspicions about the inhabitants.

Why does everyone seem so eerily calm, even under stress? What is stopping Harriet, the lawyer helping him with his affairs, from leaving the island when she so clearly wants to? Is he making a big mistake by falling for her? And why have so many children gone missing?

Stone Heart Deep is a compelling and claustrophobic thriller with a remarkable twist, as if Iain Banks had rewritten The Wicker Man.

Extracts

I gazed down into the swirling grey sea, keeping a firm grip on the railing as the tiny ferry bucked and plunged through the waves. The conditions had been described to me as bracing, rather than rough. If they were rough, I’d been told, I wouldn’t have been allowed on the deck.

Another burst of spray hit my face. I raised my head to shake it off, and for a moment I visualised Maria standing beside me at the rail, her dark hair being whipped by the wind, chin raised defiantly. Would she have enjoyed being out here? I had to admit I didn’t know, even after almost three years together. And now it didn’t matter.

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Extracts

I gazed down into the swirling grey sea, keeping a firm grip on the railing as the tiny ferry bucked and plunged through the waves. The conditions had been described to me as bracing, rather than rough. If they were rough, I’d been told, I wouldn’t have been allowed on the deck.

Another burst of spray hit my face. I raised my head to shake it off, and for a moment I visualised Maria standing beside me at the rail, her dark hair being whipped by the wind, chin raised defiantly. Would she have enjoyed being out here? I had to admit I didn’t know, even after almost three years together. And now it didn’t matter.


We’d gone back to her place from the awards ceremony. She’d insisted that I shouldn’t be alone, and I didn’t want to tell her I would have preferred to go back to my own flat by myself. She sensed it, though. She was getting good at that.

We sat on Maria’s couch and she asked if I’d like to talk about my mother, and assured me she completely understood if I didn’t want to. All in good time, she said, and we could go straight to bed if I wanted to, and we could make love, or she would just hold me. Or not. Whatever worked for me.

‘Thanks,’ I said, and gazed at the floor.

She waited a moment, then stood up and left the room. Five minutes later she reappeared with a bottle of wine, poured two glasses, and sat down beside me again.

‘Did you expect it?’

‘No,’ I said. ‘I hadn’t seen her for a while. We spoke on the phone about four months ago, but she didn’t say anything.’

‘Only seventy. That’s so young. And she didn’t tell you she was ill?’

‘She never told me anything. Nothing important, anyway.’

Maria took my hand. ‘I’m so sorry, darling.’

‘My mother liked to surprise people.’

She glanced at me with a frown, but relaxed when she saw I was smiling. I knew she found it hard to read my mood sometimes. That wasn’t her fault, especially at a moment like this, when I wasn’t sure of it myself. I wasn’t really feeling anything at all, to tell the truth, except a vague sense that something was over, like the end of a film or a concert. ‘It’s all right,’ I said, patting her knee, ‘don’t worry. We weren’t close.’

‘As you’ve mentioned before,’ Maria said, and refilled our glasses.

We went to bed not long afterwards, mostly because I couldn’t think of anything else to do. In the morning we had coffee together, then I left.


Four days later, I was sitting up in her bed, watching the patterns cast on the wall by the morning sunlight as the slender trees outside her window, dusted with green, swayed in a light breeze. I’d started to tell her about the inheritance, but now I was gazing at the play of shadows dappling the plasterwork.

Maria nudged me. ‘Go on.’

‘Sorry, I was miles away. Yes, it’s a huge house, apparently. Totally derelict.’

‘How much is it worth?’

‘It’s not clear. Like everything else about this whole fucking legacy. For one thing, it depends on whether anyone would want to buy it in its current condition. If not, is it worth restoring? I haven’t even seen pictures of it yet. Another thing that’s not entirely clear is whether or not I actually own the place.’

‘What do you mean? She left it to you! That what the lawyers said, isn’t it?’

‘Yes, but there are complications. Deeds, documents, god knows what. Stipulations and conditions. All kinds of paperwork that has to be verified. If it can even be found.’

‘What a pain.’

‘Tell me about it. But if I can get all that stuff straightened out, maybe someone will want to buy it from me. I mean, certain people might find it an attractive proposition, don’t you think? Romantic, even. A huge mansion on a remote Scottish island with a small population. All very quiet, and out of the way. There’s even a lake next to the house. It all sounds like Brigadoon, or something.’

‘Like what?’

‘That film. Brigadoon. The musical. About a magical place that comes out of the mist every hundred years.’

‘Oh, I remember! We saw it one night when we were stoned.’

‘That’s right. It was funny.’

Maria was silent for a moment, then she said, ‘Maybe you should go there.’

quotes

‘A rattling good thriller. Shades of The Wicker Man. Once I’d started reading I could not put it down’

Iain Maitland, author of Mr Todd’s Reckoning

reviews

‘The eerie setting was so perfect, the writing atmospheric and so well paced, with Stepford Wives vibes. I liked how the ending played out and the possibility of more. I really enjoyed it’

Read Books All Day

‘A twisty, unsettling novel. This is a really enjoyable read, one to sink into on a dark night when you’re in the mood for small town secrets and big problems’

Spooks Books

‘A captivating read from start to finish – I devoured it in one sitting. Hugely entertaining’

Books by Bindu

‘A thriller with a creepy vibe. The characters are eccentric, flawed and incredibly interesting. I really enjoyed Stone Heart Deep and read it within a few hours as I could not put it down’

The Book Webb

‘I enjoyed this very atmospheric fast-paced book. I couldn’t wait to find out out what was behind everyone’s peculiar behaviour. It was very spooky and quite disturbing, a good fall read for sure’

We Break for Books

‘This book was so exciting! I'm not going to give anything away. I loved it!’

Curly Granny Loves to Read *****

‘The plot is twisty and reflects the murky atmosphere perfectly. The twist caught me completely off guard. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed The Sanatorium or Tall Bones this year’

Lazy Buchanan

‘Compelling, disturbing and suspenseful. Well written, totally original, creepy plotline with some great characters. The first book I’ve read by this author and certainly not my last’

Stacey Hammond

‘I felt on edge and creeped out the whole time. really eerie and disturbing. I couldn't put it down!’

Kimberly’s Little Library

‘If this was written back in those days of the really good movies, this would be a movie that I would watch over and over’

Spooky’s Maze of Books

‘I loved Stone Heart Deep. I was hooked from the start. Full of intriguing and suspense, it was impossible to put down. Brilliantly written, drawing the reader in from the get go, it delves deep into the human psyche’

Kat Books Teas Cake

‘Vibes of And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. Darkly twisted too which makes for a good thriller. I struggled to put it down’

Bookworm Stephanie *****

‘Recommended to anyone who likes a good mystery thriller. I won’t say any more because this book is too good to ruin’

John’s Bookshelf *****

‘Perfect for all the thriller lovers out there, and getting appraisals from readers across the globe’

Bookish Café

‘I loved this book from the very first page; the style of writing; the language used; it was as if you were there. There is a touch of romance, a smattering of humour and some good old mystery. Recommended’

DDS Book Reviews

‘A disturbing but addictive story that you just can't stop reading. Believable characters, a setting so well described and a fast paced story make for a immersive and definitely tense read. I recommend this to any psychological thriller lovers’

Shazzie Rimmelzwaan

‘Had me hooked from the start. Bassett Davies does an amazing job at creating an intense atmosphere throughout, his character development is so good and I’m so excited to read more by him’

What Chelsea Reads

‘Really well written, kept me in suspense the whole way through’

Bianca Reads Books

‘Haunting, unpredictable and full of suspense. I got action movie vibes, and I’m HERE for that. A very memorable story. The cover is also great’

Amy Lou Reads

‘Creepy, dark and somewhat disturbing, Stone Heart Deep is a novel that had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. Nothing turned out how I thought it would, not even the ending. For me to be hooked to the last page shows the author’s genius’

Lisa’s Reads

extras

ABOUT

Paul Bassett Davies

Paul Bassett Davies worked in experimental theatre before moving to television and radio, where he wrote for some of the biggest names in British comedy. He also wrote his own radio sitcom, and scripted several radio plays.

He wrote the screenplay for the 2005 feature animation The Magic Roundabout and has written and produced music videos with Kate Bush and Ken Russell. He is a former creative director of the London Comedy Writers Festival.

His first novel, Utter Folly, topped the Amazon humorous fiction chart in 2012, and his second, Dead Writers in Rehab, was published by Unbound in 2017.

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