Tuesday, 25 September 2018

A House Divided by Rachel McLean + Excerpt

A House Divided by Rachel McLean
Published by Catawampus Press today, the 25th September 2018.

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository
Wordery (unavailable)
Waterstones (unavailable)
Amazon US / Amazon UK

Add A House Divided to your Goodreads

Jennifer Sinclair is many things: loyal government minister, loving wife and devoted mother.

But when a terror attack threatens her family, her world is turned upside down. When the government she has served targets her Muslim husband and sons, her loyalties are tested. And when her family is about to be torn apart, she must take drastic action to protect them.

A House Divided is a tense and timely thriller about political extremism and divided loyalties, and their impact on one woman.


The story so far:

Jennifer Sinclair is a Labour MP and minister. A co-ordinated bomb attack has hit Waterloo in London and Spaghetti Junction in Jennifer’s Birmingham constituency. Jennifer has gone to Spaghetti Junction with her husband, Yusuf, to see the carnage.

 * * *
The land beneath the raised motorway of Spaghetti Junction was a strange mixture of canal towpaths, junk yards, litter-strewn paths and what were probably the least picturesque canal-side flats in the city.
Jennifer climbed out of her car, taking in the carnage that had destroyed this corner of her constituency.
Five hundred metres from where she stood, a pile of concrete and mangled steel rose up. In the shadow of the silent motorway overhead, mechanical diggers added more rubble to it.
Police cars and fire service vehicles were parked haphazardly on a patch of grass studded with occasional piles of dog mess. Beyond that, a police cordon stirred in the breeze, shuddering each time another crash of collapsing rubble sent reverberations across the site.
Behind her, clear of the motorway’s structure, were two hastily erected Portacabins. People paced in and out of them, voices raised against the sound of machinery.
A uniformed police officer approached her, holding out his hand. Brett Sanders, Assistant Chief Constable. She shook his hand, still looking past him to the motorway beyond. He turned to Yusuf and shook his hand too, placing a familiar hand on his arm. Jennifer knew how much contact Yusuf had with the police from his work at the shelter.
“Thanks for coming,” Brett said.
“No problem,” she replied. “Tell me what’s happening.”
The Chief Constable put his fingers to his lips and blew a loud whistle. She flinched, surprised and impressed in equal measure.
The diggers fell quiet. Workers climbed out of them, scurrying towards the safety of the Portacabins.
Jennifer looked up. Towering above them, beyond the diggers and the rubble, were two cranes. They plucked at the jagged edges of the overpass, picking out loose metal and concrete and lowering it to the ground. After a moment, they stopped too.
The only sounds were the distant hum of traffic and the trill of birdsong. She was familiar with this spot, had often walked along the towpath. The roar of the motorway was a constant fact of life to anyone living near it, but today the silence was deafening.
Born and raised in this part of Birmingham, Jennifer was used to the background notes of the M6 and Aston Expressway as a constant fact of life, as something that rumbled through your bones and became a part of you. Now, it was as if the heart of the city had been ripped out.
The quiet was broken by the thwack of a helicopter overhead. She looked up, shielding her eyes against the low October sun. Police or media, she couldn’t tell.
She took a deep breath and turned to her police escort, which had grown to include the Chief Superintendent for the area and a plain clothes officer. They gestured towards the Portacabins and she followed.
As they picked their way across the grass she spotted movement from the corner of her eye. A small crowd had gathered, whether to ogle the wreckage or to see what she had to offer, she couldn’t tell. She gave a tight wave, knowing better than to smile.
Yusuf was walking beside her. She grabbed his hand and squeezed, but got nothing back. He hated the public eye, something he’d realised when standing for election in an unwinnable seat a year after they’d met.
They were almost at the Portacabins now. They’d had to fight their way through vehicles, squeezing between cars. The bulky Chief Constable sweated in his heavy uniform, grimacing his way through the gaps, muttering under his breath.
Jennifer turned to wait for him just as a man stepped forward from the crowd, dipping under the police cordon. She resisted the urge to shrink back: these were her constituents, after all. But the police were less reticent. Two officers stepped in and each put a hand on his shoulder, guiding him backwards. He glowered at them and spat at the ground.
He raised a finger and pointed at Yusuf.
“Your bloody lot!” he shouted. His voice was high and ragged. “This is your fault! Go home, the lot of you!”
Yusuf’s hand dropped. The police officers dived on the man, pushing him to the ground. Another appeared in front of Jennifer, ushering her into the Portacabin.
“No,” she snapped. “Let me go. I’m not hiding.”
She approached the crowd. Someone was holding a phone up, filming the man. He was being bundled into a car now, his head pushed down as he ducked into the back seat.
She turned to Brett. “Wait,” she said. “Why are you arresting him? He hasn’t hurt anyone.”
“Threatening behaviour, ma’am. We can’t be too careful.”
He was close to her, his arm almost touching hers. She spun round, looking for Yusuf.
“Where’s my husband?” The policeman pointed to where Yusuf was already being ushered into one of the Portacabins.
“Excuse me.” She hurried after him.
A young woman sat at a desk inside, talking into a mobile phone. She glanced up and hurried out, still talking into the phone.
Jennifer’s mind was racing. She had no idea how it felt to be talked to like that.
“I’m sorry, love.“
“It’s not your fault.”
She shrugged, feeling inadequate. “I shouldn’t have made you come.”
He slumped into the chair and rubbed his forehead. “I can handle that. Racist abuse is nothing new.”
She nodded, looking back out of the window. The police car was driving away with the man inside. She needed to get back out there.
Somewhere outside there was a splintering sound, as another building collapsed. Jennifer shot her head up. “Shall we go back out?”
Outside, she could hear voices. Their welcoming party must be wondering what was going on. Not to mention the onlookers with their phones.
He put a hand to his neat beard and looked past her.
“Course. Sorry, love. I shouldn’t have let them bundle me away like that. You didn’t.”
She shrugged and he came over to her. She leaned against him and he ran a hand through her hair.
“You’re tougher than me,” he said.
She snorted. “I pretend to be.”
“No, you don’t.”
“Maybe half the time.”
“Well, it’s pretty convincing.” He kissed her forehead. “Let’s get back out there. Reassure people.”
“Thanks.” She opened the door. The cranes had starting inching into life again and she heard one of the diggers start its engine. This was bigger than her.
“I hate this,” she whispered. “Seeing what they’ve done to our city. That poor woman we had to visit this morning, her daughter dead. And tomorrow I’ve got Bronzefield again, a meeting with the governor.”
He stood behind her, his body warm against hers. “I’m sorry. I know it’s hard.”
She turned and held out her hand. “That woman this morning. Mrs Jacobs. I kept thinking about Waterloo. About the bomb, and how I felt when I couldn’t get hold of you.”
She could feel the rise and fall of his chest behind her, reassuring. She paused, listening to the noises of machinery and distant voices.
“I couldn’t do this without you, you know,” she said.
She felt his body tense. “Me too,” he whispered.
 * * *

Meet the author

I'm Rachel McLean and I write thrillers and speculative fiction.

I'm told that the world wants upbeat, cheerful stories - well, I'm sorry but I can't help. My stories have an uncanny habit of predicting future events (and not the good ones). They're inspired by my work at the Environment Agency and the Labour Party and explore issues like climate change, Islamophobia, the refugee crisis and sexism in high places. All with a focus on how these impact individual people and families.

Author links: 
Book ClubTwitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Rachel McLean / Thrillers / Books from England


  1. Hmm, could be interesting! I like British politics and read the occasional terrorist plot in my fiction.

  2. Not sure that I would enjoy that one.

    1. It sounds uncomfortably close to reality right now

  3. I don;t know if I would enjoy the politic aspect of the story but I do like to read about how people get affected by this kind of events.

    1. It sounds like such a difficult situation to find oneself forced into