We're delighted to present an extract from The Temple House Vanishing, the new novel by Rachel Donohue, published by Corvus.

When a teacher and pupil go missing from a Catholic boarding school, the rumour mill goes into overdrive with a variety of absurd reasons to explain their disappearance. Years later, a journalist connected to the missing girl is determined to find out exactly what happened...


Prologue: The Journalist

I picture Victoria standing at the window of her office high above the city that morning. The face that must have once been lovely reflected in the dark glass, tired and wasted now. She holds the phone out from her, like it is a tasteless thing. My voice at the other end echoes into the bare room. The boxes stacked; shelves cleared.

I know there is a newspaper on her desk. They are delivered early to her floor. And that he, Mr Lavelle, is staring at her from the corner of page five, with my words underneath. He is like a spectre from the past, leaning against the bonnet of a car, his fair head looking slightly away from the camera, eyebrows raised. He looks dishevelled for a teacher, the collar of his tweed coat tilted up, the face unshaven. But beautiful, there is no doubting that. It's there in the symmetry of the bones and the evenness of the gaze. A sort of luminous quality to him. A face you would stop to look at, remember.

I think about how long she must have spent staring at the picture. And what it meant.

But Victoria didn’t want to talk to me any more about him, or Louisa. She said nothing mattered much now. Her voice flat and listless. And this, in a strange way, was true. It was the end, not the beginning. The future, like the past, was already set. She hung up the phone then. She had no need for my intrusions any more.

I sat for a while on the edge of my bed. The early-morning light leaking in under the curtains. A weary, sleepless, draining night just gone. Victoria was leaving it all up to me. The responsibility of telling another’s story. And it didn’t surprise me.

It was reported afterwards that she cancelled her meetings for the rest of the week. She also deleted files and ordered flowers for her mother. No one, however, noticed anything particularly odd about her behaviour. She passed through the beige rituals of that day as she did every other.

A colleague was quoted as saying she ate lunch alone at her desk, and that this was not unusual.

Another said that Victoria had looked like she was bored or distracted at their last meeting. The sky outside of the window that evening seemed to catch her attention more than the conversation within. Several times she apologized for having lost her way in the discussion and checked her mobile.

But this was not an ordinary day. It had not been an ordinary life.

When the office emptied that evening, Victoria climbed the narrow stairs to the roof garden ten storeys high.

The garden where clients were entertained in the summer and junior associates were plied with free drink and promised opportunities for greatness.

A place where in the past I’m sure she had stood silently in the evening sun, waiting for the appropriate moment to leave.

The roof garden where you might walk to the edge of the building and pit the force of your life and all its glassy achievements against the strength of your desire to experience a fall.

The place where Victoria chose to take off her shoes, climb over the low, neat, box hedge that served as a barrier and then jump, unseen into the dark night.

A silent, resolute descent.

I imagine she thought about Louisa. But then, I will never know.

She remained conscious of reputation to the end. She fell not to the front, where she might have crashed through the shiny white atrium and on to the expensive Italian marble tiles, but to the back of the building, where there are bike racks, and the ground is littered with cigarette butts. Where Security wouldn’t find her until the morning.

I know this because I went to see it for myself, the place where she fell. I stood behind the police line and looked up at the grey sky.

And I thought of Mr Lavelle and how once, when Louisa and Victoria were young, he had told them the fates might choose to come to the rescue of a hero.

But he had been wrong. I should have told her that.

There are no heroes in this story.

The Temple House Vanishing, by Rachel Donohue (published by Corvus) is in bookshops now.