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MIRANDA'S TEMPEST - A Bribie Island Mystery


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Miranda’s Tempest is the second crime novel with a music setting from author Juliet Hoey. Following on her critically acclaimed debut novel The Sixth Partita, this recent work of crime/mystery is structured along the lines of Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest.  The story is set in Queensland. Miranda, a Brisbane pianist, is depressed after finding out that her husband has had an affair. When she ignores warnings from her friend’s mother, Veronica, about an unsavoury character who is pursuing her, she is attacked and manages to escape with difficulty. 

Meanwhile Veronica has found some old newspaper clippings about a crime committed many years ago in Europe, and quite by chance, learns soon afterwards about a mystery associated with Bribie Island, Queensland.  While seemingly unconnected, the threads of these disparate events finally weave themselves into a hideous pattern as Miranda unwittingly chances upon a vital piece of evidence which puts her in extreme danger. In a chilling climax, she fights for her life.  

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ISBN: 978-1-921919-26-8 
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 114
Genre: Fiction/Crime
 

Cover design: Bonnie Hoey

 

 


Author: Juliet Hoey
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2012
Language: English

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AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

 

Gympie-born Juliet Hoey has lived most of her life in Brisbane. A professional musician, she graduated from the Queensland Conservatorium with a distinction in piano. She subsequently studied cello and enjoys playing that instrument in a community orchestra. With this same orchestra she has to date performed seven piano concertos. She has also given numerous solo and duo piano recitals in the course of a very busy musical career. She was an examiner in piano for many years, is a frequent adjudicator and currently teaches both piano and cello.  

Writing has been a parallel passion ever since the age of nine when she found herself on holiday at Bribie Island without anything to read and solved the problem by writing a terrible book about a dog called Spotty. It sent her mother into hysterics but kept the budding author happily occupied for weeks. Three years later she won a state-wide essay competition as well as carrying off the English prize at school nearly every year. After school she majored in English at Queensland University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree.  

During her busy life as a musician and a mother, she still found time to write numerous articles, short stories and poetry. With her musician husband Denis, she wrote three musicals for children, one of which The Loaded Dog, enjoyed an immensely successful schools tour by the Queensland Opera Company. In 1986 she co-founded the national Church music magazine One Voice which she subsequently edited alone for five years.  

In 1998 she published a non-fiction book Under the Mulberry Tree which describes the experience of growing up in the riverside suburb of Bulimba. Her first novel, The Sixth Partita was published by Zeus Publications in 2007 to critical acclaim. Miranda’s Tempest is her second novel.  

Juliet Hoey has four adult sons, an increasing number of grandchildren and a very patient husband.

 

She never wanted to go in the first place. For a start, she hated boats and had been terrified of water ever since that hideous day when she fell out of her brother’s dinghy on the canal at the bottom of the garden. She was five years old. Visions of eerie green depths clotted with water weeds that covered her face as she struggled for breath were to haunt her for the rest of her life. She never learnt to swim. 

“Don’t be an old wet blanket,” her husband teased, eighteen years later. “Besides, do you want to spoil our holiday?”

She hesitated, then smiled up at him. “No, I don’t want to spoil it. It’s all been great and tomorrow is our last day.”  

“Better put on plenty of suntan oil then,” he returned her smile. “It’s going to be a stinker of a morning.”

They pushed off into the shallows of the boat ramp, and as the motor fired smartly, the little boat gained speed and made smooth headway across the clear, blue waters of the bay with only one small delay to interrupt their journey. She relaxed a little then, fears forgotten for the moment as she savoured the unfamiliar joy of cool sea winds that fanned her long, fair hair, while the gentle shoreline slipped smoothly by with languid ease as the hours passed. Nearly time to make landfall.  

Morning turned to noon. Suddenly, the weather changed. Gone was the pleasant ambience of early morning. Now the sun burned down with savage cruelty from a dense bronze sky. Thick, damp air, pregnant with unshed rain, lay like a suffocating blanket upon earth and sea, until huge black clouds appeared from nowhere to begin their mad race across the darkening sky. 

 She shuffled restlessly on the hard, wooden bench, her tranquil mood gone with the coolness of the morning.   

Why do I feel so frightened? It’s not just the sea this time. It’s not the storm that’s coming, even though I can’t stand storms. It’s something I don’t understand. It’s something… Anxious for reassurance, she looked round at him. He stood up, balancing with an easy confidence.  

“Sweetheart,” he said, “I have to do this, you know. You’ve given me no choice.”  

He was smiling as he tightened the anchor rope around her neck. She was too stunned to struggle much. Yet as she sank into black depths of final nothingness in the narrow hull of the boat, she became once more the terrified child who gasped for air in the oily waters of the old canal, and with her last breath, could feel again the tangled water weeds upon her drowning face.

He sighed with satisfaction at a job well done. Cutting the motor, he eased the little boat into the shallows and brought her to shore just as the heavens opened and lightning split the purple skies. He buried her hastily beneath a pine tree while the thunder roared and swift torrents washed away her every trace from the rough wooden bench in the prow.        

 

*

 

                        

Bribie Island, Queensland

 

The beach at Woorim is a thousand miles from anywhere. Or so it seems. To be sure, there are signs of civilisation if you go looking for them. Behind the surf club the village clusters around its pub, its newsagent, its clutch of small, friendly shops. A mega trendy apartment block peers with funky insolence over the dunes. Nearby the lifesavers’ tower performs its time-honoured task of shark-spotting and surf rescue.

All of this is attractive enough, I daresay. But it is not the Woorim that I know. It is not the beach that I adore. Instead, my small kingdom lies some distance away. Down near the end of Boyd Street just past the lookout, you come upon a small path. This sandy track ambles its way through scrubby trees and bracken to twist a little before opening out on to the beach. At the end of the path, sea and sky appear from nowhere, blue upon blue in a frame of dark green. The magic never fails. Through this enchanted portal I am gently led into another world, a Narnia of my own making.  

From my vantage point under the shade of the casuarina trees I can look out now across the boat passage to Moreton Island. Swathed in its gauzy scarf, the ever-changing colours mirror the caprices of the weather – today pale blue, tomorrow soft amethyst. Sometimes, darkly menacing, it turns into a monster of jagged, grey hills which sulk beneath angry clouds. At other times the distant island retreats behind a curtain of fine, misty rain to disappear from view altogether. How easy then to imagine that there is no Moreton at all, that Bribie exists alone in these wild waters, a castaway’s refuge adrift in an endless sea. 

*          

This is Miranda’s story, not mine. I suppose I should let her tell it herself. Indeed I begged her to, but she was adamant right from the beginning.

“You tell it, Veronica,” she insisted. “You’re the one with the gift of the gab. And you were involved right from the word ‘go’. I’d only get it all muddled. Besides, I still find it hard sometimes even to think about it.”

I could well understand that. Still, I hesitated.

“Please!” she continued, “you’re the one who helped me most, the whole way through and especially at the end. You and Sarah. The way you both worked it all out was just brilliant. If you hadn’t, they wouldn’t have got to me in time. I’d have died on the spot. You know that.”

I sighed. “Okay. You win. But what about all those occasions when I wasn’t there with you? You’d have to fill me in on them. And do you really think you could face having to go over the whole thing again, and then telling me exactly how it happened?”

She nodded. “I know I’ll find it hard, but it’s such an unbelievable story, it has to be told,” she replied firmly, “and you’re the only person I can trust to tell it.”  

 

 

Bribie Island, September 2004

 

“Come unto these yellow sands,

     And then take hands.”

(Shakespeare: The Tempest, Act One, Scene One)

Scene One

 

I got up reluctantly from my sandy perch under the dunes. Time to get back to the cottage. I had been here on the beach for well over an hour and the others would be sending out a search party if I didn’t turn up soon. One of the penalties of ageing. It never ceases to amuse me. Behold me, a fit, healthy specimen in my seventies, more than capable of looking after myself. I watch what I eat. I take care of my health. I exercise six days a week. I am quite street-smart. Yet none of this ever stops my daughter Helen, my son-in-law Andrew and yes, even my darling grandchildren from imagining that I’m in constant danger of being attacked by gangs of bogans roaming the dunes with razor-sharp knives, or at the very least, of being torn to shreds in the jaws of designated man-eating sharks with my name engraved on their fins.

I walked the short block back to the house and started rinsing the sand off my feet at the outside tap.

“Nanny, you’ve been gone simply ages. Mum was just going up to see if you were alright.” James is eleven years old, and responsible for the world.  

“It’s okay, sweetie. You know what I’m like once I get anywhere near water … Damn! I’ve got jellyfish bites all over my ankle.”

“Serves you right, you old gadabout,” reproved Helen, coming out on to the veranda and brandishing a salad server. “Anyway, you’re back just in time. Andrew’s taken the other two over to Bongaree to get the fish for tea. They’ll be back any minute.”

“In that case, I’m disappearing into the shower before Bedlam sets in.”

“Too late! Bedlam has arrived,” announced Andrew from behind an enormous white packet. “Hurry up, Jonathan ... Clare, do you think that you could manage to walk a straight line instead of cart-wheeling across the floor?”

“Oh Dad! I have to keep practising my routines every spare second. My grading’s next week and...”  

“For pity’s sake, the lot of you, will you come and sit down before it all gets stone cold.”

 

*

 

We spend as much time up here as we can. I am supposed to be retired. Somehow I can’t see it’s ever happening. Musicians seldom retire, they just do less. I am past retiring age, but still have a sizeable music teaching practice in Brisbane. My house at McDowall is well set up with its studio – well, actually, with its two upstairs studios, because Helen also taught from home before she married. When she left, I had the wall between the two rooms knocked out to make one large area, ideal for student concerts. I also accompany quite a bit, and still do some examining.

“You’ll kill yourself,” proclaims Sarah. Dear Sarah. Dramatic, generous, impulsive, eternally shrouded in Celtic gloom, my old maid elder sister has spent a lifetime worrying over me. At the age of nearly eighty she’s not about to change, either.

“It’s the Hogan coming out in you,” I tease her.   

Helen is my only child. James and I married fairly late, and we were lucky to manage even one baby. We treasured every minute that we had, perhaps sensing that our time together would be all too short, as indeed it was. One unforgettable night it was all over. Helen was only twenty and right in the middle of her music degree course at the Queensland Conservatorium. I was jolted awake by my husband’s pathetic struggle to breathe. Frantically, I tried CPR while screaming at Helen to call an ambulance. It was no good. James Henry O’Donnell, medical practitioner, aged fifty-six, was pronounced dead on arrival at Royal Brisbane Hospital.

We shared a few sad years, just the two of us then, our sorrow made even deeper by the dreadful thing that happened to Helen three years later in London. She was spending a few months studying the keyboard music of Bach with an acclaimed Baroque specialist. We nearly lost her there one cold spring night, when she clung to life by a thread, alone and in an alien land.

How often we look at her now, Andrew and I, with a silent prayer of thanks for a precious life so nearly lost.   

* 

“Mum,” asked Jonathan through a mouthful of cod, “is Miranda coming tomorrow?”

Miranda Thomas went through the Conservatorium with Helen and has been like one of the family ever since.

Helen and I exchanged glances.

“I don’t know, love. She said she’d like to, but she has a lot of theory papers to mark … I’m sure she’ll come if she can.”  

‘That’s good,” chimed in Clare. “She promised to play some duets with me. She’s such a cool sight reader. She can play anything you whack in front of her. Awesome.”

“I know,” groaned Helen. “She makes me sick.”

 

Helen’s sight-reading has always been the weak link in her musical armoury. I should know. I taught her right up until her Con audition.

“Well anyway,” James waved his fork in the air, “at least Patrick and Fabian might come too. I’m dying to go to the pool with them.”

“Don’t get your hopes up, mate,” replied Andrew kindly. “I don’t know if Michael is free to bring their boys up. It might be just Miranda on her own, or it might even be nobody at all. In which case you’ll just have to put up with this boring old Carlisle family for the rest of the week.”

“Well, one can always live in hope,” intoned James. James’s nose is permanently glued to a book. He collects quotations the way other kids collect bugs.  

* 

“What gives with Miranda and Michael now?” asked Andrew. The children were all in bed, hopefully out of earshot.

“Last I heard she thought she might give him another chance. Mind you, she’s terribly cut up. I don’t think she really knows what she wants at this stage.”

“Did you actually ask her?”

“Yes I did. But it was only a five-second conversation behind a pillar at the last examiners’ meeting,” replied Helen. “Besides, walls have ears.”

“Especially musos. That’s why some of them have perfect pitch. To catch all the gossip.”

“Anyway, I’m not all that hopeful. She’s just so hurt I really don’t know if she could ever manage to forgive him. I’m not sure if I could, either, in her shoes.”

“He’s an idiot,” scowled Andrew. “Doesn’t know a good thing when he’s on to it.”

“How did it all start?” I asked.

Helen looked thoughtful. “Apparently at a music camp.” She took another sip of her coffee. “Well, you know how it is. You work your butt off all day conducting and tutoring stacks of kids. You put up with the excruciating noises they make if they’re only string beginners, or with indifferent singing if it’s choirs you’re doing. After a hundred years, you get them all to bed. Then some poor suckers have to stay on up duty parading outside the cabins until the last brat subsides into slumber while the rest of the staff go off and have drinkies in their quarters. Anyway, this particular night, Michael and this bird drew the short straw of night patrol. I hear she’s a bit of a slag. They got talking, she gave him the come on, one thing led to another and a few nights later, hey presto, a romantic tryst down behind the sand dunes.”

“No!”

“Oh yes!”

“How did Miranda find out?” I asked.

“Well, he told her. As soon as he got home, she knew there was something wrong and eventually managed to worm it out of him.”

“At least that’s better than hearing it from some gossip or other.”

“I suppose it does indicate an apelike kind of conscience, buried a long way down... If only I could get my hands on him...”

“Just what would you do, sweetheart?” Andrew suppressed a grin.

“Oh it’s funny, is it?”

“Of course it’s not funny. It’s bloody awful. I’m just trying to picture little old you trying to bash up someone Michael’s size.” Helen smiled in spite of herself.  

“Anyway,” I put in, “Michael’s always liked his bit of skirt, hasn’t he? Remember the way he used to drool over Diane Forsayth’s cleavage all those years ago, even though he couldn’t stand her as a person?”

Andrew agreed. “With Michael, it was all about sex. I thought he’d grown up a bit since then, but you never know how people are going to break out.”

“You know, he really does adore Miranda,” I said thoughtfully.

“Yes, and he has a great way of showing it, hasn’t he?” Helen was in tears.

I put my arm around her. “They’ll sort it out, love. Just give them time.”

Andrew reached over the table to hold her hand. “You know, it was probably just a one off thing,” he said. “I mean, one of those stupid flings done in a rare moment of weakness. I’m sure he’s really sorry now... Of course, I know that’s no excuse.”

“Well, anyway,” Helen wiped her eyes, “I suppose all we can do is to give poor old Miranda lots of TLC. And then just wait and see.”

“Meanwhile trying to be civil to Michael,” warned Andrew.

“Now that,” replied Helen, “may be rather difficult.”

Miranda did come the next day. Without Michael or the boys.

“I just need to get away from the lot of them,” she shrugged. “I simply can’t do the happy family act at the moment. And anyway, the twins always like having their father to themselves for a while.”

“Come on, Mrs Healy. Get your togs on and come down to the beach,” Helen coaxed, giving her a big hug. “The sea’s wonderful therapy, you know. And it will help take your mind off things for a while.”   

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