Cover of Unholy Rites novel
Unholy Rites

The third book in the Danutia Dranchuk mystery series reunites RCMP constable Danutia Dranchuk with her friend, drama critic Arthur Fairweather. Danutia is observing a youth rehabilitation program in England when Arthur returns to the Peak District to attend his mother’s funeral. Suspecting foul play in her death, Danutia and Arthur question the feuding villagers. They soon discover the dark and dangerous side of the ancient Celtic rituals still practiced in the town. In a region with chilling reminders of child labour during the Industrial Revolution, Danutia must navigate through a community with a complex and layered history. When a boy from the village is abducted, the race to save him leads Arthur into extreme danger. Only Danutia has a chance of rescuing both Arthur and the child from an “unholy rite.”

EXCERPT

Chapter 1
Mill-on-Wye, England, February 2, 1997

Stephen stared down at the man’s head and torso, fascinated. It wasn’t a leather shirt he was seeing, it was dried, wrinkled skin. One arm lay out to the side, two bare bones reminding him of the chicken wing he’d had at dinner. He felt his own arm between wrist and elbow. One bone or two? Hard to say. He’d ask his teacher. Mrs. Rosson knew lots of stuff. He wouldn’t tell her why he was asking, though. 

He moved his fingertips across the bony skull where the man had been hit hard, then down the back of the neck to the thin cord used to strangle him. When his fingers reached the cuts in the throat, he held them there as though to stanch the flow of blood. He could almost feel the warm red fluid pulsing out, as his own palm had when Eric cut him.

“Stephen,” called a voice as if from another world.

He jerked his fingers away, slapped the scrapbook shut and stacked it on top of the others, knocking down sprigs of lavender hanging from the low rafter in the process. No time to clean up. He fumbled frantically among the books and papers on Auntie Liz’s small desk. Where was his textbook anyway his mum would kill him--“Stephen,” the voice called again, and then his mum’s tired footsteps on the stairs. He bent over a page of numbers, pencil in one hand, maths text under the other.

The door creaked open. “Stephen, didn’t you hear me calling you?” His mum looked worried as always, but the soft light in her eyes let him know he wasn’t really in trouble.

He put on his most apologetic look. “Sorry, Mum. Is it time to go already?”

“No, Mrs. Fairweather isn’t feeling well. I said you’d walk her home.”

Mrs. Fairweather! Stephen’s eyes strayed to the scrapbooks. Ethel Fairweather. That was the name neatly penned on the inside cover. What if she found out he’d been reading them? Maybe she had the second sight and knew already. First she’d give him a lecture, and then she’d tell his mum, and his mum would tell his dad, and Dad would--. No, maybe Mum wouldn’t tell Dad, because she knew what would happen. Still, better not to take any chances. He fixed his gaze on his mum. “But what about my homework? Mrs. Rosson will kill me if I haven’t finished.”

His mum sighed. There were dark smudges under her blue eyes, and when she spoke her voice was tired. “Be a good boy, Stephen. It’s only five minutes down Mill Lane. Some fresh air will do you good.”

Slowly he laid down his pencil and pushed back his chair, stiff as an old man. He was tired too, tired of being Mum’s good boy. He wanted to be bad like Eric, tell his mum and dad to fuck off, leave him alone, smash things—

“Yes’m,” he said.

"The setting is marvelous. Stewart and Bullock have drawn a small English town with its eccentric residents and countryside so real, it’s like taking a trip across the pond. The writers have drawn on a wealth of information about pagan rites and current ceremonies, which is all fascinating." ~ Mystery Maven Canada

"...RCMP constable Dranchuk is far from her Vancouver Island home...in Derbyshire, England, where she's observing a youth-rehabilitation program. The year is 1997, and Danutia is trying to come to grips with both her professional failures and successes and her somewhat limited personal life." ~ Calgary Herald