About the book
About the author
Alison Preston was born and raised in Winnipeg. After trying on a number of other Canadian cities, she returned to her hometown, where she currently resides. All of her books are set in the Norwood Flats area of Winnipeg, including The Rain Barrel Baby, The Geranium Girls, Cherry Bites, Sunny Dreams, and The Girl in the Wall.
A graduate of the University of Winnipeg, and a letter carrier for twenty-eight years, Alison won the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction for The Girl in the Wall and has been twice nominated for the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer, following the publications of The Rain Barrel Baby (Signature Editions) and her first novel, A Blue and Golden Year (Turnstone Press). She was also shortlisted for the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award and the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award for Cherry Bites and the Mary Scorer Award for Best Book by a Manitoba Publisher for Sunny Dreams.
Visit Alison’s website at: http://www.alisonpreston.com
It was a wet spring. The ground didn't get a chance to dry out between rainfalls. Beryl tramped through the bushes in St. Vital Park, away from the well-trodden paths. She slogged through long grass and thistles, poison ivy and mushrooms. Mushrooms in June! That's how wet it was. Her sneakers were soaked through.
Something long, solid and rounded, like a thin baseball bat, caught her hard in the arch of her foot. She lost her balance and toppled to a sitting position in the drenched forest. With one hand sunk in the boggy soil she boosted herself onto a fallen log where it wasn't quite so wet. Beryl removed her shoe and massaged the sore area. I should have stuck to the regular trail, she thought. I should be home drinking coffee.
"What the hell was that?" she muttered. Something stunk; she smelled her hand. And then her gaze drifted to the ground.
Her chest clenched. It squeezed and let go, squeezed again. A female form lay next to Beryl in the woods; she had touched it. It was the shin bone that had caused her to tumble to the ground. Bone on bone. No wonder it hurt so much.
Her breath didn't return for so long she thought she would die. She forced it. Manually—like turning off the toaster before it popped up the toast on its own—it could be done.
With her eyes she followed the long length of the girl—she was tall and very slender. Beryl hoped she was dead. Dealing with a live thing so close to death seemed beyond what she was capable of doing. She needn't have worried. This person was gone. Beryl knew this when she forced her gaze to rest upon the face. She had no experience with long-dead bodies, but no experience was necessary.
The dead girl's mouth was open wide. Mushrooms were growing there. Someone must have filled her mouth with dirt. How else could this be? Beryl closed her eyes for a long minute to give the face a chance to disappear. It didn't. A colony of mushrooms was using the head of a girl as a planter. It rained softly at first, then hard, like a punishment.
She held out her hand and the rain washed it clean.
Pain in her foot. Pain from the shin bone of a dead girl. She could still feel the hard roundness pressing into her.
She wished she hadn't seen the face. The mushroom face. But she had; it was hers to keep. Like a birthmark, like a tattoo. Let me go back, she prayed, so I don't have to carry this forever.
“Winnipeg-born Alison Preston's latest literary mystery—the follow-up to The Rain Barrel Baby—is the story of Beryl Kyte, a 29-year-old postal worker who lives in Winnipeg's Norwood Flats. While out for a walk in St. Vital Park, she literally stumbles over…” >>
— Uptown Magazine
“This book is for people like me who like the idea of a murder mystery but prefer for the bloody action to take place off stage. I'm not keen on being dragged into the lair of deranged murderers or having…” >>
— Independently Reviewed
“Name five murder mystery writers from western Canada. I have to admit I can't do it. I'm more inclined to read American authors like James Lee Burke, who bases his Dave Robieheaux series in the exotic locale of Louisiana or…” >>
— Amy Steele Straight
“With The Geranium Girls, Winnipeg writer Alison Preston has penned a deeply creepy book. It's creepier than the vicious serial killer stories now dominating the thriller genre, in part because it takes place in Winnipeg's happy familiar spots—Norwood flats, St.…” >>
— The Winnipeg Free Press
“Alison Preston's first mystery, The Rain Barrel Baby, showed real promise. Her second proves it was no fluke. Winnipeg mail carrier Beryl Kyte, back from Baby, stumbles over a body, a young woman with mushrooms in her mouth. Two more…” >>
— The Globe & Mail