Unravelling Oliver is a terrific psychological thriller. I am pleased to show you an extract today – follow along the rest of the week and find out more.
Extract No. 1
“I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her. She just lay on the floor holding her jaw. Staring at me. Silent. She didn’t even seem to be surprised.
I was surprised. I hadn’t planned to do it. Usually when you hear about this kind of thing, it is the 1950s, and the husband comes home drunk to his slovenly wife from the pub and finds that his dinner is cold. On the contrary, it was 12 November 2011, a wintry Saturday evening on a south Dublin avenue, and Alice had prepared a delicious meal: lamb tagine, served on a bed of couscous, with pitta bread and a side dish of mint yoghurt. Though the lamb was a tad lukewarm by the time she presented it, I really couldn’t fault it. I had washed the meal down with two glasses of Sancerre, while Alice prepared the raspberry roulade for serving. I certainly wasn’t drunk.
But now, here she lay; the lower half of her body nearly hidden behind the legs of our mahogany dining table, her arms, head and torso curled inwards like a question mark. How had she fallen into that shape? There must have been
considerable force behind my closed fist. If the glass had been in my hand, would I have stopped and put it down before I hit her? Or would I have smashed it into her face? Would it have shattered on contact and torn her pale skin? Could I have scarred her for life? It’s very hard to know. The words that come to mind are ‘circumstances beyond our control’. I emphasize the word ‘our’, because, although I should not have done it, she really should not have provoked me.
The phone rang. Maybe I should have ignored it, but it might have been important.
‘Oliver. It’s Moya. How are things?’
These rhetorical questions irritate me. ‘How are things?’, indeed.
Sorry, Moya, I’ve just punched Alice in the face and she’s lying on
the floor. And we’ve had a marvellous dinner.
Of course, I didn’t say that. I made some ham- fisted attempt at an excuse and bade her farewell. I waited for the reciprocal adieu.There was a moment’s silence and then:
‘Don’t you want to know how I am? Where I am?’
I was short and to the point. ‘No.’
Another silence. And then, whispered, ‘Oh right, OK, is Alice there?’
Go away, you stupid irritating woman.
I didn’t say that either. I told her that now was not a good time. She tried to inveigle me into a conversation, prattling about her new life in France. Even amid the turmoil, I could tell that she wanted me to be jealous. Bloody Moya. I ended the conversation politely but firmly.
I thought that the decent thing to do was for me to leave the house immediately. Not permanently, you understand. I thought there was more chance of Alice getting up off the floor if I wasn’t looming over her. I went to get my coat from its peg in the hall. It was a little difficult to do up the buttons. My hands suddenly seemed to be too large
for my gloves.”
Unravelling Oliver is available Now from Penguin