Devil-Glass

Longlisted for the 2020 Mslexia Children’s & YA Novel Competition

“A. E. Daly’s dark and richly imagined thriller infuses a contemporary murder mystery with fantasy elements of time-travel and alchemy, and spikes the whole with fascinating detail of such diverse topics as cathedral architecture, photography and parkour.  She explores themes of grief, obsession and family betrayal in vivid language and visceral imagery that’s as impossible to resist as her smart, quirky teenage protagonists.”
– Kathryn Ross, Fraser Ross Associates

Devil-Glass is a contemporary time-travel mystery set in a small Northern town.

Age Group: Teen
Complete


“What if you could go back and fix it?  That’s how it gets you, that’s the bait.  I know now why they called it devil-glass – because it tempts you, drives you mad.  Because sometimes you’d do anything, anything at all, for the chance to make things right.”

Mark Scarfe cares for his mother Neeve, a once-famous photographer who struggles with depression and runs an ailing camera shop; his father Martin is dead, his only memento a strange necklace nicknamed the Opal.  Outside their house looms the town’s vast medieval cathedral, its stoneyard managed by Mark’s family for generations.

One night Mark climbs into the cathedral attics, his secret sanctuary, but is confronted in the darkness by a shadowy intruder; he flees home, and next morning sees the cathedral roof in ruins, gutted by fire.  In the wreckage is discovered a bag belonging to Mark’s beloved aunt Harriet, the cathedral librarian; worse, there are bloodstains beside it, and Harry herself is missing.  When Mark finds a peculiar antique ‘camera’ hidden in Harry’s office he determines to unravel the mystery of her disappearance.

Pursuing the secrets of the macabre machine deep into Mark’s family history, Mark and his friends Jay and Dev discover the artefact’s time travel powers and its relationship to the Opal, and wrestle both the temptations and the dangers of time travel as they race to understand – and, if they dare, to change – the fate of Harriet Scarfe.

It wasn’t really an opal.  He didn’t know what it was; he’d just called it that when he was younger, and the name had stuck.  An uncut stone the size of an eye, flat on one side, rounded on the other, it had no glint of an opal’s rainbow fire.  It was transparent, more or less, the grey-pink jellyfish colour of sea-worn quartz; but when you turned it just so, when the angle was right, a cracked vein of crimson light corkscrewed into view and vanished, like a bloody lightning-strike encased in glass.

What is it, Mum?  His eighth birthday, the Opal in a box of cotton wool.

Just an old thing your Dad loved, Neeve had said, her voice crackling like an old radio as she held it steady; Mark knew not to look at her, or she’d cry.  I gave it to him, and he wore it every day until, until…  He wanted you to have it, when you were old enough.

He wondered sometimes why he loved it so, this keepsake of a man he couldn’t remember.  His father was a vacuum, a hole he’d tried not to fill with fantasies or blame for everything that had gone wrong since.  Over the years his dreams and wants had shrunk to a single, simple wish:  to see them together, Martin and Neeve, just once, to see them as they’d been, to know them both just for five minutes.  One glimpse, one memory that would stick, one real moment he could tear loose from the soft, faded photos Neeve kept stubbornly reframing.

But he couldn’t have it, so he wore the Opal.