Last month I posted a spoiler-free review of the latest installment of Lee Murray’s thriller series, the Taine McKenna Adventures. In Into the Ashes, Taine faces his biggest foe yet: the active volcanic isles of New Zealand itself. Check out an excerpt from the book below, then follow the link to enter a giveaway for an Amazon gift card!
No longer content to rumble in anger, the great mountain warriors of New Zealand’s central plateau, the Kāhui Tupua, are preparing again for battle. At least, that’s how the Māori elders tell it. The nation’s leaders scoff at the danger. That is; until the ground opens and all hell breaks loose. The armed forces are hastily deployed; NZDF Sergeant Taine McKenna and his section tasked with evacuating civilians and tourists from Tongariro National Park. It is too little, too late. With earthquakes coming thick and fast and the mountains spewing rock and ash, McKenna and his men are cut off. Their only hope of rescuing the stranded civilians is to find another route out, but a busload of prison evacuees has other ideas. And, deep beneath the earth’s crust, other forces are stirring.
A deadly wash of lava and rocks, as wide as the Waikato River, surged around the house, taking the line of least resistance. The side of the house exploded in flames. Taine had no time to take it in because the front wheels of the Unimog were lifting in the swell, the air blackening with the smoke and stench of immolating tyres.
“Hine, go!” Read croaked. Grabbing Brooker by his shirt, he dragged him back onto the Unimog.
She jumped clear, landing near Taine as the lava surged around the Unimog. Carried on the broiling wave of lava, it circled in a bizarre ballet, Brooker and Read still inside.
Dammit. Taine had to get them off now. That truck was a toaster oven bobbing on a sea of red heat. “Read!” “I’m sending Brooker to you. Line-out style. Be ready!”
Taine had to hand it to him: as ideas went, it was gutsy. With the bed of the Unimog still floating above the flow, there was a chance it could work.
“Hine, we’re going to have to catch Brooker.”
Hurry it up, Read.
Standing as close as they dared, Taine and Hine braced themselves…
The Unimog circled.
The vehicle came around. Read bent his knees, grabbing Brooker by the overalls below his hips. When the vehicle neared the lava’s leading edge, Read thrust him upwards, Brooker jumping as best he could.
Dammit. He was going to fall short. Taine stepped forward, his boot searing at the edge of the liquid rock. He leaned out and yanked Brooker to him, while, crouched low, Hine caught the boy’s trailing leg before it hit the lava.
Taine snatched his own foot back.
“Fuck me! That was close,” Brooker panted, his chest heaving.
One down, one to go. What if Read leapt and missed? Taine glanced at Hine. He could spare her that at least. “Help Brooker to the twin cab,” Taine shouted. “I’ll get Read on the next pass.”
Suddenly, Lefty was there, pushing Hine out of the way. “It’s okay. I’ll do it. You get clear.” The soldier hefted Brooker over his shoulder, carrying him down the driveway, where Miller was backing up the truck, slowing just enough to allow the men to pile on.
The Unimog was like a raft on the rapids, the viscous current pulling it towards the middle of the lava-river.
“Read!” Taine yelled.
“Is Brooker safe?” Read called over the roar of the lava.
Taine glanced back. Lefty and Pringle were lifting Brooker onto the truck while, on the flatbed, Parata dragged him in.
“He’s safe. Read—” Taine jumped back as a spray of lava spurted off the surface.
“I know, I know. I’m coming. Just waiting until the…” he trailed off.
“Matt,” Hine whispered.
Lee Murray is a Bram Stoker-nominated writer and editor of horror fiction, and multi-award-winning writer of dark speculative fiction (Sir Julius Vogel, Australian Shadows). Her works include the Taine McKenna adventure series, and supernatural crime-noir series The Path of Ra (co-written with Dan Rabarts). She is the editor of ten dark fiction anthologies, the latest being Hellhole: An Anthology of Subterranean Terror (Adrenalin Press). Lee lives with her family in New Zealand where she conjures up stories from her office overlooking a cow paddock.
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