#BookExtract: THE AUGURIES by F.G. Cottam

augeries

An unexpected lunar eclipse. A poisonous fog. Statues that weep blood. History professor Juliet Harrington is convinced that the recent plague of disasters crippling the capital is caused by the Almanac of Forbidden Wisdom, a potent 16th century spell-book whose magic is summoned only at disastrous cost. Juliet fears that someone reckless is using the book and she has little time left to stop them.

A series of plagues is blighting the capital . . . is a sixteenth-century spell-book behind the turmoil? In this creepy #bookextract, the sea is boiling, steam is rising, and the smell of death is overwhelming . . .  

At first, Alan thought the slight misting he’d become to be aware of was just smearing on the glass pane through which he watched the sea, steering their course. A job for a bottle of Mr Muscle and a clean rag. Then Phil came up from where he’d been repairing a torn net below and said that a mist was coming up.

‘Coming up?’

‘It’s rising from the sea, skipper. It’s bloody unusual. And it’s got very warm, suddenly. Almost unbearable down below, that heat.’

Alan engaged the auto-steer and stepped out onto the deck and was immediately aware of how warm the air felt. He’d experienced British heatwaves, but this was close to dusk and like stepping off the plane on to a broiling runway somewhere like Antigua or Barbados. Out at sea was always, always cooler than on land. That was a fixed law, an article of nature. The combination of water and wind made it so. This was more than strange. It was bizarre.

And Phil was right. The mist was rising from the sea. Except that Alan didn’t think it was mist in reality at all.

Just then something plopped to the surface and rolled lazily in water starting to bubble. It was a large flounder and it looked cooked, poached, and other fish were rising all around it to the surface, bloated, also cooked, dead. The smell of them was rich and overpowering and profoundly wrong.

‘What the fuck, skipper,’ Phil said to Alan, almost under his breath, wide-eyed with astonishment and fear. ‘The sea is boiling.’

Alan Turner bolted back into the wheelhouse and switched on the radio. The airwaves were thick with the clamour of panicked voices. They came from men aboard vessels off Padstow and Ventnor and Barmouth and Hull. Off Brixham and Lowestoft and Whitby. All around the coast, the sea simmered under a rising blanket of steam.

THE AUGURIES is available from 28 February in the UK and 1 June in the US. Read more here.

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