Tonight is the night for secrets
Pregnant Victoria Valbon was brutally murdered in an alley three weeks ago – and her killer hasn’t been caught.
Tonight is Stella McKeever’s final radio show. The theme is secrets. You tell her yours, and she’ll share some of hers.
Stella might tell you about Tom, a boyfriend who likes to play games, about the mother who abandoned her, now back after twelve years. She might tell you about the perfume bottle with the star-shaped stopper, or about her father …
What Stella really wants to know is more about the mysterious man calling the station … who says he knows who killed Victoria, and has proof.
Tonight is the night for secrets, and Stella wants to know everything…
I am delighted to be able to offer an exclusive extract from Louise Beech’s taut and emotive psychological thriller Call Me Star Girl today. Read on and find out why everyone is talking about this book!
Before they found the girl in the alley, I found a book in the foyer at work.
The girl would be found dead, her neck bloody, her body covered with a red coat, and with no obvious clues as to who had left her that way. The book was brand new, unopened, wrapped in brown paper, and had a single clue as to who had left it there.
A note inside the first page: Stella, this will tell you everything.
After I had picked up the package, unwrapped it carefully and read those words, I looked around the silent radio station, nervous. I’d been about to leave after my show; about to turn off the last light. The nights can be lonely there with just you and the music, and an audience you can’t see. Between songs and commercials, every sound seems to echo along the empty corridors. Every shadow flickers under the cheap fluorescent lights. I don’t scare easily – if anything I love the isolation, the thrill of doing things no one can see – but the book being on that foyer table, where it hadn’t been an hour ago, unnerved me.
Because no one had been in the building since the start of my show.
I looked at the front cover, all smoke greys and silvers; intriguing. The man’s face – half in shadow, half in light – was an interesting one. The eye that was visible was intense – its eyebrow arched, villain-like; and the damp hair was slicked back. The title said Harland: The Man, The Movie, The Madness.
It was Harland Grey. I vaguely remembered the name from news stories. A murderer. Hadn’t he killed a girl on camera, in a movie? Yes. When she disappeared, no one even realised the last scene she filmed had been her death, at the hands of Grey in a cameo as her killer.
I read the blurb, standing alone in the foyer, but it told me little more than I already knew.
What did it mean? Who the hell had left it there?~
Stella, this will tell you everything.
Presenters often receive weird things in the post, but someone had been in the building and delivered this by hand. Tonight. How had they got in? I hadn’t heard the door slam. You need a code to enter the building. Maybe it was just one of the other presenters messing around? But why would they?
The lights buzzed and flickered. I held my breath. Exhaled when they settled. I would not be spooked by a trickster.
Stella, this will tell you everything.
How did they know what I wanted to know? What was everything?
I opened the main door, book held tight to my hammering chest. The carpark was empty, a weed-logged expanse edged with dying trees. It’s always quiet at this hour of the night. I waited, not sure what I expected to happen – maybe some stranger loitering, hunched over and menacing. They would not scare me.
‘I’m not afraid,’ I said aloud.
Who was I trying to convince?
I set off for home. I usually walk, enjoying the night air after a stuffy studio. I’m not sure why – though now it seems profound – but I paused at the alley that separates the allotment from the Fortune Bingo hall. Bramble bushes tangle there like sweet barbed wire. It’s a long but narrow cut-through that kids ride their bikes too fast along and drunks stagger down when the pub shuts. I rarely walk down there, even though it would make my journey home quicker. The place disturbs me, so I always hurry past, take the long way around, without glancing into the shadows.
I did that night too.
But I looked back. Just once, the strange book pressed against my chest.
It was two weeks before they found the girl there.
Two weeks before I started getting the phone calls.
I didn’t know any of that then. If I had, I might have walked a little faster.
If you can’t wait to read the rest of Stella’s story, Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech, published by Orenda Books, is now available in both paperback and ebook from all good bookshops and online retailers, including Hive, Waterstones, Book Depository, and Amazon.
Thank you so much to Louise and to Orenda Books for letting me host this extract, and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. The blog tour continues until the end of the month so check out the other your stops for further extracts, reviews and more!