Finding Ruby: A Nell Montague Mystery

On Halloween night thirteen year old Ruby disappears in the company of a masked figure. She is never seen again. The only witness is Nell Montague who is just seven years old.

Twenty three years later, Nell is trapped in an abusive relationship and still suffering from vivid nightmares of what she saw. When tragedy strikes she escapes and attempts to put her past behind her. Then thirteen year old Emily disappears.

Haunted by increasingly disturbing visions and helped by a reluctant psychic, Nell must unravel the mystery of what really happened that night because to save Emily she must first find Ruby.  But to do so she will question everything she thought she knew about her own childhood and soon discovers that nightmares don’t always end when you wake up.

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Nell is a young woman, haunted by her past, and by the young girl she saw disappearing into the cellar of a derelict house, who was never seen again. When twenty-three years later another young girl disappears, the nightmares pick up speed and begin to bleed into her waking hours.


Something felt wrong, very wrong as she moved forward on feet that did not seem to belong to her, and reached the door handle. Somehow she was now in the hallway. Soft thuds came from her dads study upstairs. Then a door opened, slammed shut and heavy footsteps thundered down the stairs. Nell thrust her back against her bedroom door, frantically feeling for the handle, but though the pulsing thuds filled the stairwell, no figure appeared. Slowly the pounding of feet evened out and became the throb of a slow heartbeat. It bounced against the walls and pooled around Nells head until she could feel the beat in her chest. Unconsciously, she began to breathe faster. The throb felt like the slow, menacing rumble of an approaching avalanche. Then just as Nell felt her hands rise to cover her ears, the sound stopped. And the hallways plunged into inky darkness. Darkness and silence filled every particle of air, every jagged breath Nell took. Then insidiously the blackness turned to spots of grey and finally a small voice broke through the silence. A faint whimper, a cry, almost a mewing sound was coming from the stairs below.

Nell felt herself glide forward and in alarm tried to take a step backwards, but slowly and surely she drifted like smoke down the stairs and towards the thing that was crying like a planted trap in a teenage horror film. She was having a nightmare, another one, Nell was very aware of the fact; but it seemed too real. Part of her could feel the smooth cotton duvet above her body and was aware that her eyes were on the point of opening and would look upon her own bedroom, not the hallway of her childhood.

A small bundle lay on the stairs and it was this that was whim- pering like a stuck record. A bald doll lay face down, wrapped in a shroud of dirty white lace. Against her will, Nells fingers reached out to it. The shroud was grave cold but soft around the hard doll as Nell picked it up and turned it over. Her gasp of disgust echoed dully as she pulled her shaking fingers to cover her face, for where an angelic face should have been etched, with cute rounded cheeks, rosebud  lips  and  large  innocent  eyes,  was  instead  a contortion of suffering. The baby face was pulled into a mask of screaming, of agonies that no infant should every have to endure. A scene of domestic hell from a war-raped village; of babes ripped from the arms of their mothers to be mercilessly smashed against walls or flung into fire pits.

Peeping  from the shrouds  folds was a small knitted rabbit with button eyes and embroidered whiskers. Its long ears were lined with velvet and tiny stitches to its head showed where it had been lovingly repaired. The contrast to the tortured baby doll was stark and Nell dragged her eyes away from the bundle and straight into a mirrors murky surface on the wall above her. The hard angles of the banister, stair and walls were disturbed by a flicker of movement. Nell hesitantly raised and lowered her own arm, but the thin hand which snaked around the banister then pulled itself up to reveal a skeletal arm that kept moving. The face from her dream earlier rose like a flame. Her checked school dress was torn and stained and her bare legs marbled with bruises and dried blood. Red hair and white face, her eyes were locked on Nells as she crept closer and closer.
Time to wake up. Nell forced her eyelids up, but they slammed down again like a guillotine and the screaming doll lay in her hands like a grenade with the pin pulled. Thin white arms were reaching towards it. Nell took a ragged breath in and her eyes opened again but as she looked at her own ceiling the faint outline of the doll danced like an eye shadow, before it faded. With a stomach-churning lurch Nell sat up in bed to hear the phone downstairs

Author Bio – Born and raised at Porton Down in Wiltshire, and currently working for the NHS in Salisbury, J A Higgins has always been fascinated by crime, history and the unexplained.  Finding Ruby is a Page Turner Awards 2021 winner, and the first in the Nell Montague mystery series which will examine how horrors from the past are still very relevant today.

 Social Media Links –

Twitter - JAHiggins-Author

Instagram – higgins_author


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