Social Media Icons

Saturday, April 21, 2018

BLOG TOUR & REVIEW: The Lost Children by Theresa Talbot @aria_fiction @theresa_talbot

The Lost Children
by Theresa Talbot

Thank you to Aria Fiction for letting me be today's Blog Tour stop!

Continue below for a synopsis, about the author, my review and an excerpt!
Publisher:  Aria Fiction
Publish Date:  April 1, 2018

Kindle Edition
466 pages
Series: Book One
Genres: Thriller, Mystery, Crime Fiction

First in a gripping new thriller series featuring investigative journalist Oonagh O'Neil. Perfect for fans of Broadhurch.

TV journalist and media darling Oonagh O’Neil can sense a sinister coverup from the moment an elderly priest dies on the altar of his Glasgow church. Especially as his death comes as she is about to expose the shocking truth behind the closure of a Magdalene Institution. The Church has already tried to suppress what happened to decades of forgotten women. Is someone also covering their tracks?

DI Alec Davies is appointed to investigate the priest's death. He and Oonagh go way back. But what secrets lie behind the derelict Institution's doors? What sparked the infamous three-day riot that closed it? And what happened to the girls that survived the institution and vowed to stay friends forever?

From Ireland to Scotland.

From life to death.

Purchase here:  Amazon | Kobo | Google Play | iBooks

Theresa Talbot is a BBC broadcaster and freelance producer. A former radio news editor, she also hosted The Beechgrove Potting Shed on BBC Radio Scotland, but for many she will be most familiar as the voice of the station's Traffic & Travel. Late 2014 saw the publication of her first book, This Is What I Look Like, a humorous memoir covering everything from working with Andy Williams to rescuing chickens and discovering nuns hidden in gardens. She's much in demand at book festivals, both as an author and as a chairperson.

"Hi I’m Theresa Talbot – I was born at a very young age in Glasgow and things developed from there. Strange as it may seem now, my first and only baby-sitter was a huge German Shepherd called Rusty. Rusty would guard my pram outside our flat in Finnieston, when it was deemed normal to leave your children outside unattended. This was the 60s when Finnieston was a densely populated working class area in the west end of the city. Now it’s densely populated by Hipsters who roam wild among the trendy new cafes and bars selling organic food served on rustic bits of slate. I mean the Hipsters no harm, but had they been on the scene in the 60s I’m sure my ever resourceful Mother would have found them more gainful employment and roped them into watching my pram for a few hours, leaving Rusty Dog to run free in the local park.  

Rusty belonged to my God-Mother Ruby who ‘lived-in-sin’ with a Polish chap who ran a speakeasy downstairs from us. I was devastated when I discovered that Ruby wasn’t actually my Fairy Godmother – but eternally grateful that through her I was familiar with the term ‘living-in-sin’ from a very young age and gorged myself on the possibilities of what that could possibly mean. I was eighteen before I knew what a speakeasy was, but that didn’t hold the same appeal.
I can’t remember when I decided I would like to become a writer, certainly not as a child, as to me being ‘a writer’ was something posh people did. I never even considered it could be a job, and certainly not my job. I’ve always had a fertile imagination and loved to read and hear stories. It was so much part of my childhood. My Mum & Dad were Irish and told great ghost stories that I lapped up, my Grandfather too, he would always have a tale that was just that wee bit scarier than everyone else’s – and swore each word was true. At bedtime I drove my entire family mental demanding story after story. My older siblings would beg to be let sleep as I pinched them awake demanding ‘just one more’.

Perhaps it was this background of fantasy and ghost stories that first inspired me to write. One I remember particularly well was my Dad telling me that if a priest dies on the altar saying mass, then his ghost has to come back and finish the service. Bear in mind I was five years old when I first heard this – no wonder I had insomnia from an early age! But it was that actual tale that made me want to write my own ghost story. I thought it was super-scary.

Strangely enough I never did write a ghost story. I sort of fell into journalism after a range of jobs as diverse as Library Assistant, Care Home Assistant and Medical Rep. But there was always something niggling at the back of my mind telling me to write. I’d toyed with a few writers groups, wrote short stories etc, but never really took myself seriously as a writer. Looking back now I think that was a lack of confidence.

But I never gave up! It wasn’t until the year 2000 that I considered actually sitting down and writing a book. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, no plan, no structure, I just started writing. In fact it was that early ghost story of the priest dying on the altar that gave me my opening line and it blossomed from there.

At the time I was a broadcast journalist and was researching a story surrounding Glasgow’s Magdalene Institution which closed down in 1958. I thought it would make a great radio feature, but the more I looked into it the more absorbed I became. There was a bigger story to tell and I decided that turning it into a work of fiction would give me greater dramatic licence and more freedom.  

That story eventually became ‘The Lost Children,’ and I’m thrilled to bits that Team Aria love it as much as I do.

I’m still a broadcast journalist, with the emphasis on broadcast rather than journalism. My day job is basically talking out loud on the wireless; BBC Radio Scotland rope me in a few times a week as a traffic & travel presenter & newsreader. I also presented the weekly gardening programme for a few years  – but that’s given way to some programme where men hit balls with sticks.

Oh I’ve got so much more I want to tell you, but sadly we’ve run out of time!"

Follow:  Website | Twitter | Facebook

Follow Aria Fiction:  

My Review:

A fantastic first in a series from Theresa Talbot.  Rather than seeing this mystery/thriller through the eyes of law enforcement, instead we see through Oonagh's eyes - a journalist who is looking into the Magdalene children and how they were forced into asylums by their family and the Catholic church where they were tortured, stripped of their dignity and suffered for their "sins"... mostly created by their own families.  Sweep them under the rug.  Sell their children.  Out of sight.  Out of mind.  But what happens when they rebel and secrets come out YEARS later.

This definitely does not shed a good light on the Catholic church, priests and the means that people went to in the 1950s (really not that long ago) to put problem children in their place.  There were some harrowing moments and hard reads in which we see the children abused, physically and sexually, by their own families.  Tossed aside like bad meat.  Told they were the sinners.  How many times do you have to hear such things before you begin to believe it's true?  Can you ever forget and let go of the torture that you went through - both mentally and physically?

Oonagh herself is going through her own issues - pregnant with her married boyfriend's baby.  Unwanted, she questions her own decisions and remember how her father told her she'd know the Devil when she saw him.  I personally love Oonagh - her tenacity, her flaws, her inability to back down and let go of this story - even almost at the cost of her own life.

Looking forward to book two and continuing on in this series.


Glasgow, 1958

The body had been wrapped in a piece of torn sheet, then stuffed into the box.

Sally came in from the cold; stopping at the back door to stamp her feet and shake off the wet earth caked to her boots. They were miles too big and tied around the ankles with string. Her skinny wee legs were mottled blue with the cold. She caught Irene Connolly watching her from a third floor window. Her face and hands pressed hard against the glass. She shooed her away – gestured for her to ‘beat it’ – hoping to God she’d go back to bed before there was trouble.

Sally’s footsteps sent the rats scurrying for cover as she opened the door. Tiny claws scraped and clicked on the stone floor, their tails slithered like big, fat worms. There were two boxes stored overnight in the pantry. She carried them through and laid them on the table beside a third. Each held a similar bundle. Tightly bound. Carefully wrapped. Like tiny Egyptian mummies, so small they could easily fit into one box.

She pushed a strand of hair from her eyes, wiping the sweat from her brow at the same time. Despite the cold, beads of perspiration clustered on her forehead, her thin shirt had become damp and it clung to her back from the sheer effort of digging into the hardened earth out in the yard. Her small wiry frame concealed a surprising physical stamina. The mental stamina came from knowing no other way of life.

Some said she was simple – ‘There’s a waant wi that yin,’ they’d say. Sally let them think what they liked.

The lid balanced precariously on top of the third bundle, which was still warm. It took all her weight to hold it down in place. A tiny bone cracked under the pressure, but she carried on regardless. She took a nail from between her teeth and hammered it into the wood. She did this with all six nails before being fully satisfied the lid was secure.

As she wiped the sweat and mucus from her top lip, she stopped dead in her tracks. She pushed her ear against the makeshift coffin and froze.

There was no mistaking the tiny cries from within.

Glasgow, 2000

 ‘Take this, all of you, and drink from it.’ Father Tom Findlay held the chalice above his head. ‘This my blood…’

The meagre congregation mouthed the words along with him. He looked out at his flock and could have wept. There were a dozen at best. They were mostly old; mostly women and most of them had nowhere else to go. All huddled around the pews closest to the radiators. Still, at least he had a job.
He took just one sip. Meticulously he wiped the rim of the chalice clean with a linen cloth and handed it back to the old priest by his side, before walking down the steps of the altar.

He wanted to believe he carried the sacred body of Jesus Christ in his hands. He wanted to, but couldn’t.

A handful of people shuffled sideways out of the pews to get their daily bread. He was desperate to give them more, but he really had nothing left to offer.

The first supplicant was too frail to shuffle the few feet to the altar; he went to her first. Walking over to her pew, he smiled, pretending not to notice the faint smell of piss, masked by thick musky perfume.

‘Body of Christ.’ He tried not to gag as he placed the communion wafer in her slack mouth, and looked away when her ulcerated tongue licked the crumbs from her parched lips.

‘Amen,’ she replied, then wound her shaky arthritic fingers round his, and bent to kiss his hand. ‘Thank you, Father. Thank you, Father.’

Tom felt like a complete fraud as he prised his hand away and left her rocking back and forth, her milky eyes spilling with gratitude that the priest had gone to all that trouble.

As he turned to go back to the altar there was a collective sharp intake of breath from the congregation. He turned as the old priest stumbled towards him and fell to the floor. The weak autumn sunshine streaming through the stained glass windows gave his ashen face an undeserved healthy pink glow. His catatonic stare was fixed on the crucifix. Tom rushed to his side and felt for a pulse. But there was none.

Father Kennedy’s frail body lay prostrate on the altar: the ultimate offering. The gold chalice by his side. The puddle of wine became a blood-red snake that trickled its way along the marble floor, reaching out for him, pausing briefly to lick its lips before creeping into his white cassock.

No comments

Leave a Comment