Publication - 21st September 2017
Rating - 5*
Synopsis - After a young woman is brutally attacked on her way home from the local supermarket, checkout girl Bea is determined to find out who’s responsible. She enlists the help of Ant, the seemingly gormless new trainee – but can she really trust him? Customers and colleagues become suspects, secrets are uncovered, and while fear stalks the town, Bea risks losing the people she loves most.I've been invited to post an extract from Rachel Ward's brilliant new cosy-crime novel The Cost of Living, published by Sandstone Press, and I've chosen a brilliant scene set in the supermarket our heroes Ant and Bea work in. Rachel Ward brings her characters to life with humour and a brilliant eye for detail. My favourite crime novel of the year!!! Hope you guys enjoy it as much!
By half past eight the store was well past the ‘What’s for tea?’ evening rush. There were a few stragglers late home from work and a couple of frazzled parents pushing their sleepless baby around in a car seat perched on a trolley. It was a younger crowd than during the day.
Bea didn’t know if her mind was playing tricks on her tonight but everyone seemed to be buying bananas. Not one basket or trolley was bananaless. She so wished that Dot was there to share the joke instead of being tucked up at home watching the telly.
But she wasn’t at home. Because surely that was her, glimpsed nipping into the store grabbing a basket on the move and disappearing into the fresh fruit and veg. Can’t have been, thought Bea. Dot never shopped in the evening. Like her, she just picked up what she needed at the end of a shift. No need to come back for anything. The shelves were blocking her view. It can’t be, she thought, then, Sod it, I’m going to look.
She signed off from her screen. ‘I just need a wee. Can’t wait,’ she said to Kirsty.
‘All right, love. You okay?’
‘Yeah, just bursting.’
Keeping one eye on Neville at his service desk, Bea hurried along the end of the aisles and round the furthest set of shelves. As she did so, she caught a glimpse of someone disappearing around the opposite end; a well-turned-out woman, hair beautifully coiffed, belted mac, immaculate.
Bea scurried along the aisle. On her way past the bananas she noticed a man carefully selecting a bunch of large, organic fruit. He looked familiar but she couldn’t place him. Just another customer, she thought. After all, she saw hundreds of people every day.
She didn’t want to run and draw attention to herself so she walked as fast as she could. She grabbed the edge of the shelf to steady herself on the corner and peered round. The woman had gone. Damn! Cautiously, Bea moved walked past the aisles, checking each one. She ducked from shelf to shelf, stopping to look along each aisle like a cartoon spy. And then she saw her. It was quite clearly Dot, lingering by the freezers, pretending to read the description on one of the ‘Best of’ meals for one. She was carrying a wire basket which contained only one item – a bunch of bright yellow bananas.
‘Oh, Dot, you’re a sly one,’ Bea muttered under her breath.
‘Talking to yourself? First sign of madness.’
She wheeled round to find Ant standing behind her, uncomfortably close. She straightened up and took a step away from him, trying to reclaim her personal space. He, too, was carrying a basket with one banana in it.
‘Oh God,’ Bea groaned, ‘not you too.’
‘Why? Who else is here?’
Involuntarily, Bea looked down the aisle. It was empty. Dot had moved on.
‘No one. No one you know anyway,’ she said. ‘What are you doing here? I thought you had girls queuing up for you?’
He pulled a face. ‘I do. No harm in looking for fresh meat if it’s there on a plate, is there?’
‘Fresh meat? That’s charming. Anyway, you’re in the wrong place, mate.’ Bea looked pointedly at the shelf next to them. ‘You’ve got yoghurt and rice pudding here.’
He looked her up and down and seemed disappointed to see her empty-handed. ‘Where’s your basket?’
Bea sniffed hard. ‘I’m not here for that. I’m working, remember? Just on my way to the staffroom actually.’
She started walking away from him. He walked alongside her.
‘I don’t need a minder,’ she said. ‘I know where it is.’
‘I know. Just going to try my luck in the chocolate and snacks aisle. Perhaps I’ll do a bit better with a box of Thorntons in my basket.’
‘And a bag over your head.’ Bea thought she’d said it under her breath but apparently it had been loud enough to hear.
‘Wow. That’s harsh. Are you always such a bitch?’
She looked at his face. He was angry and hurt. She hadn’t meant to sting him that hard. ‘No. I’m sorry, Ant. It was just banter, I didn’t mean…’
‘Fuck off, Bea.’
He peeled away from her down the nearest aisle, ‘Toilet Tissue and Cleaning Products’. I’d be a bit worried about anyone I picked up there, thought Bea, but Ant wasn’t looking. He dumped his basket on the floor, and, head down, walked straight towards the door.
I’ve really hurt him, Bea thought. Damn. Typical Ant though, he could at least have put his basket back on the way out.
She walked along to the basket and picked it up. On her way to the fruit and veg section to put the bananas back a man caught her eye. It was the guy with the organic fruit she’d seen earlier, the one she couldn’t quite place. He smiled and looked from basket to basket.
‘Snap,’ he said and Bea felt her stomach lurch a little, but not in a bad way – a flutter, a tiny thrill. Blimey.
He was in his late twenties, well dressed in a nice suit, white shirt and tie. His dark hair was short at the sides, with a bit of a quiff at the front, held there by some sort of product. He was someone who looked after himself and Bea couldn’t help noticing that he smelt delicious.
‘Perhaps we’re looking for the same thing,’ he said. He wasn’t smiling, but there was a softness around his mouth that said a smile wasn’t far away. Bea found herself wondering what it would feel like if that face, that mouth, was closer to her. Closer. Touching…
‘This is a staff announcement. All available staff to checkouts please. Staff to checkouts.’
The spell was broken.
‘Ah, that’s me,’ she said. ‘And I was just putting these back. For a friend.’
Now he did smile. ‘Shame,’ he said. ‘Maybe another time.’
‘Well,’ said Bea, unable to stop herself, ‘you know where to find me.’
She hurried away before he could see the full-on beetroot blush in her face. What the hell was going on? She flirted with the pensioners for a laugh, both men and women, but this was different.
She put Ant’s bananas back and walked quickly back to her checkout, putting the basket in the heap by the end of the conveyor belt. As she scuttled round to her seat she saw Neville approaching.
‘Come and see me at the end of the shift, please, Bea. You’ve crossed the line this time.’
‘I wasn’t…I was just…’
‘Not now,’ he said testily, noting something down on his clipboard. ‘At the end of the shift.’
He strode away.
‘I didn’t say anything,’ said Kirsty. ‘He spotted you himself. I’m sorry.’
Bea sighed. ‘It looks bad, but it’s not what he thinks. The thing is, I thought I saw – oh.’
The man in the suit was heading towards her checkout. They made eye contact and a little charge of electricity crackled up and down Bea’s spine. He was only a few metres away when a woman in gym clothes nipped in front of him, plonked her basket onto the end and started unloading her stir-fry kit and packet of tofu.
‘I’m free over here,’ Kirsty called to him.
He smiled at Bea, shrugged regretfully and went over to Kirsty’s checkout.
Author Bio -
Rachel Ward is a best-selling writer for young adults. Her first book, , was published in 2009 and shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. An avid reader of detective fiction, is her first book for adults. Rachel lives in Bath with her husband, and has two grown-up children.
Available from Waterstones and Amazon from today
Available from Waterstones and Amazon from today