We present an extract from The Mystery Of Four, the new thriller by Sam Blake, author of Little Bones, The Dark Room and Remember My Name.

Tess Morgan has finally made her dream of restoring beautiful Kilfenora House and Gardens into a reality. But the week before the grand opening, her dream turns into a nightmare when a devastating accident looks set to ruin her carefully laid plans. There are rumours that Kilfenora House is cursed, but this feels personal, and increasingly terrifying, as people begin to die in a pattern that mirrors past events.Could Tess herself be in danger?


Almost midnight. The garden is ink-black, as though it's been washed with a brush, details of marble statues and sweeping steps picked out by the weak moonlight.

Below, a bronze fountain cast in the likeness of Apollo splashes water into the lake, disturbing the stillness of the hour. Accompanied by the distant scream of a fox, the hoot of an owl, the night sounds meld into backdrop for what is to come.

"The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike."

Skirting the high granite wall, careful footsteps crunch on the gravel to the end of the path where towering gates stand open, wrought-iron flourishes picked out with golden ivy leaves, visible even in the darkness.

Now cutting across the neatly mown grass in front of the glasshouses, and through another set of matching gates.

Beyond, a series of round rose beds and square ponds are linked like gems in a necklace along the formal Rose Walk, leading to the wishing well and the yew maze. On either side, crowded flower beds wait for the morning sunshine, their scent heavy, trapped between high walls covered in more roses, their stems entwined, thick with thorns.

A black shape slips into the foliage unseen, green eyes watching.

Almost there. This will be the last trip.

It's been a long journey, the planning detailed, but there’s been a lot of time for that. Now, the last act will be easy.

The water in the ponds is deathly still, the fragrance of roses and buddleia heavy in the night air.

Just before the last set of gates, tucked into the corner, is the Poison Garden. Fenced in to keep the unsuspecting public safe, the brass sign is dull without the sun to light it. Stepping onto the bone-dry earth, trowel ready, the tall purple-flowered stems are hard to see, buried deep in the shrubbery. But it is the roots that are the most potent, dried and ground to a lethal powder.

Watching her suffering as she slowly succumbs will be poetry indeed.

Glancing up, windows mirror-like in the darkness, the house is quiet now. As if it’s waiting.

Waiting to see what happens. Because it’s all about to happen.

"The time is come."

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Listen: Sam Blake talks to RTÉ Arena


'I'm sorry, just run that past me again?’ Tess Morgan turned up the speaker on her phone and ran her hands into her bubbly chestnut curls, narrowing her eyes, as if it would help her better understand the man who had just called. And possibly ruined her life.

Wherever he was, she could hear traffic, the pip of a pedestrian crossing. He had a strong Northern Irish accent, but that didn’t mean anything.

'I wanted to talk to you about Eoin Doyle. We’ve received some information about the disappearance of Fidelma Hoey. I believe Doyle works for you?’

‘And you are again?’

‘Jerry Lynch, Daily News.’

The Daily News was an Irish national tabloid – as her best friend Genevieve’s eternally elegant mother Clarissa put it so aptly, a rag she wouldn’t clean her shoes on. Getting a call from them was never going to be good. Tess cleared her throat.

‘Eoin doesn’t work for me, I don’t really know him at all. I mean I know of him, but only what I’ve heard.’

‘I had information that he was involved in the restoration of Kilfenora House. You do own Kilfenora House?’

‘Yes, yes I do.’ Tess paused for a moment, thinking hard. ‘It’s possible he was working for one of the contractors – maybe? I’d have to check. I didn’t employ him personally.’

‘I did wonder about that, given that you live alone.’

Tess wasn’t sure if she was more surprised by his tone or the fact he was implying knowledge of her domestic arrangements. Either way it was creepy.

‘I’m sorry?’

‘Eoin Doyle has been connected to the disappearance of several women over the past ten years. They all lived alone.’

Tess tried to catch her thoughts and process what he was saying. Eoin Doyle lived in the village, had done all his life. He had a conviction for assaulting his ex-wife, she knew about that, and there had been rumours about the guards being interested in his activities around the times various women had disappeared in Wicklow. According to local gossip, Doyle maintained that he’d just been in the wrong place at the wrong time – albeit on more than one occasion.

Enough times for him to be taken in for questioning, but not enough to land him in court.

Although that could have had less to do with his innocence and more to do with the fact that the missing women’s bodies had never been found. The Gardai kept denying that a serial killer might be at work, but it was in all the papers that they’d launched a single investigation into what had been dubbed the ‘Radio Snatcher’ disappearances, and were drawing links between them.

But what the hell had this got to do with Kilfenora?

‘I’m sorry . . . Jerry, is it? I’m still not clear how this relates to me.’ ‘We’ve had a tip-off that there might be an area of interest to the Gardai on the edge of the Kilfenora estate.’

Tess looked blindly out of her office window, barely focusing on the tiny front garden and its riot of summer colour. Across the lane Clarissa’s black cat Merlin skulked around the wide stable yard entrance, keeping to the shade of the granite walls. Tess squinted, trying to make sense of what Lynch was saying. What was an area of interest?

‘You’re going to have to spell it out for me, I’m still not following.’

‘A body, Ms Morgan. We’ve had a tip-off that one of the women Eoin Doyle is thought to have been involved with has been buried in a place called Fury Hill. I believe that’s on your property.’

For once, Tess was lost for words.

The Mystery Of Four by Sam Blake is published by Corvus.