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Unhanged Arthur: "Too Far to Fall" by Shane Sawyer

This week, we are publishing excerpts from the five manuscripts up for this year’s Unhanged Arthur for Best Unpublished First Novel, presented by the Crime Writers of Canada. 

In today’s story…an aged woman feels the onset of a coming storm and rises from her seat to spot an unwelcome visitor outside her window.
an excerpt from Too Far to Fall, by Shane Sawyer:

The instant the car door slammed Margaret Greenbaum jerked out of a shallow uneasy sleep. Blinking to clear her eyes she peered through the window and scanned the street. Nothing.  

Taking both arms of the walker tightly in hand she began struggling to her feet. The rest of her faculties might be failing, one by one they had begun to flicker, threatening to go out for good, but so far her hearing had remained intact. She could still identify every car door slammer on the street. This one was irregular.

Her progress across the room—such a small distance—was agony, her joints crying out with each shuffling step. The news had been full of the approaching storm but she didn’t need weathermen to tell her what her knees had known for days: a real doozy was on the way.  

Finally, she reached the chair by the side window. From there she had a clear view of the house next door. What were the chances that she had arrived in time? Easing herself down she twitched the lace curtain aside. There was someone there, standing beside the gate! With both hands she raised the binoculars from their accustomed position around her neck and with difficulty she adjusted the dial. A girl sprang into focus.

“Oh!” She was nothing at all like Jane, small delicate Jane with her once dark hair and steady brown eyes. The tears began to gather and Margaret felt a rush of the now familiar mixture of grief, bewilderment and anxiety.  

Blinking rapidly she focused again on the girl. No, there was no comforting similarity. This girl was tall. Very tall and thin it seemed, although it was hard to tell for sure under all the winter layers. Her hair was an unusual red gold colour and hung straight as a die almost to her shoulders. She had bangs that lay against almost equally straight eyebrows above deep set eyes. Margaret couldn’t quite make out their colour…

Abruptly the burnished head turned and those eyes were staring right at her. They were grey, grey and expressionless. With a yelp Margaret jerked back, her hand groping to close the curtain and the binoculars falling to bang against her chest where her heart jumped thin and erratic.

No. There was no reassurance to be found in that face.  

She sat as her pulse steadied and tried to think. Her fingers, bent and sore, worried the fringe of her shawl. She was probably being a paranoid fool but she couldn’t shake the feeling of urgency. The compulsion to do something. She had no choice.  

After another moment her hands stilled. She had made her decision. She pulled herself up again and began another slow journey across the room. This time towards the telephone.


In between drafts Shane Sawyer’s been a lawyer in Ottawa, a database administrator in Sydney, Australia, and a copyeditor for a trade magazine in Taipei. She’s currently working on both a second mystery and a fantasy novel for young readers.

Established in 2007, the Unhanged Arthur for Best Unpublished First Novel is one of the prestigious Arthur Ellis Awards. Bestowed each year by the Crime Writers of Canada, this year’s winner will be announced at the Arthur Ellis Awards Banquet held on May 31 in Toronto.

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