Harriet Turner knows all about journeys. After all, she’s arranged hundreds of them for the travel agency her family runs in the Australian coastal town of Merryn Bay. But when her work colleague and foster sister Lara disappears on the eve of a big overseas trip, Harriet finds herself in uncharted territory.
Left alone in England with a coachload of eccentric tourists on a themed tour of locations from the Willoughby TV detective series, Harriet has her hands full. But as the bus trundles through the picturesque Cornwall countryside, the tour becomes another kind of journey for her. She finds herself facing big questions about her family and her childhood; about her feelings for the guest of honour on the tour, star of Willoughby, Patrick Shawcross – and the biggest puzzle of all: what has happened to Lara?
‘An endearing and humane story about a family and its sticky web of secrets and misunderstandings. Sibling rivalry, the legacy of a lie told for the best possible reasons and the trauma of grief give this comedy-drama plenty of meat… A charming and intriguing jigsaw that eventually comes together in a moving and deeply satisfying way. This is one of those rare books you could recommend to anyone and know that they’ll love it.’
Australian Women’s Weekly
‘A big book about a big-hearted family… an affectionate, funny, teary book about grief, love, lies and revelations.’
‘A book to treasure that is clever, amusing and heart-warmingly touching.’
‘With every book, Monica McInerney becomes more skilled at juggling plot complexities and giving depth to her characters… Perfect winter weekend reading.’
‘McInerney’s familiar themes … resonate with greater confidence and sureness. McInerney, who is based in Dublin, brings Maeve Binchy readily to mind. She has the same palpable affection for her characters and the plot structure is both reassuring and comfortable. Her books are for handbags and airports, traffic jams, railway stations and bus stops. They make us forget the irritating details of the day…Warmly written, kindly and empathetic.’
Sydney Morning Herald
‘A warm and intricate novel about the inner workings of everyday families.’
A warm-hearted journey of discovery.
The Adelaide Advertiser
‘The exploration of family ties that McInerney has made her trademark.’
‘A book which was hard to put down until the last page was turned… fun, serious, sad and best of all, a jolly good read. The characters are engaging and believable and the Turner family draws the reader into their lives to experience feelings of family solidarity, sibling rivalry, jealousy and intrigue, bound together with humour and warmth.’
‘A fun read full of humour and romance.’
‘A family saga in its truest sense…This is a novel with a lot between the covers and, luckily, McInerney keeps it all under control. She deftly mixes the light with the heavy and the concerns of the characters are real and relevant enough to keep us reading. The account of Harriet’s attempts to grapple with grief is particularly touching.’
Ireland on Sunday
‘McInerney has managed to create a story that is not your typical run of the mill novel. The storyline jumps from Australia to Ireland with ease, while the elderly tourists provide humour. Harriet’s battle with her internal demons is well depicted and the underlying mystery of where her foster sister has gone keeps the reader hooked. Well worth a read.’
‘Family Baggage is a compelling read which examines the realities of life, death and family loyalty… The book struck a chord moving me to tears more than once, and it is sure to tug at the heartstrings of any reader. Monica McInerney has a talent for suspense, holding out on details just long enough to keep you hooked and itching to turn the pages to find out what happens in the end.’
Even as it came to mind, the conveyor belt gave a jerk and came to a halt. A voice over the PA announced a slight delay with the rest of the luggage. Harriet took the opportunity to check the itinerary one more time. She flicked over the cover page showing the new brightly coloured logo of a suitcase with wings and their slogan – Turner Travel: Tours Tailored Just for You. She turned past page two: Welcome Aboard the Willoughby Tour. Follow in the footsteps of one of TV’s best-loved detectives in this special Turner Travel tailored tour of Devon and Cornwall! She stopped at page three, where the real business of the tour began. Day 1. Arrive at Bristol Airport. We’ll be greeted by Lara Robinson, our on-site guide, and then travel by bus to our hotel for the night!
There it was in black and white. We’ll be greeted by Lara Robinson. James had hastily had it added to the revised itinerary. That’s what was supposed to happen. They were supposed to walk out into the arrivals area any minute now and be greeted by Lara, who would then lead them to a waiting bus and get them to their hotel, so they could all be tucked up asleep in their beds before eleven o’clock.
So if Lara was waiting for them just metres away on the other side of the baggage area wall, why wasn’t she answering her mobile? Why hadn’t she been answering it for the past four hours, in fact?
Harriet had rung her first from the airport in Paris, when she’d heard there’d been a delay with their connecting flight to Bristol. She’d got her voicemail and left a brief message. ‘Lara, it’s Harriet. Just to say if you’re not already at the airport, there’s no rush. Fog in Paris, so we’ll be a bit late.’ Businesslike. To the point. The only way they spoke to each other these days.
She had overheard several members of the group talking about Lara during the flight from Paris. Some of them were Merryn Bay locals and had taken Turner Travel theme tours before. They were cheerfully filling in the details for the others. Harriet heard every word. It was one of the advantages of travelling with people with hearing problems. What they thought were whispers were often almost shouts.
Mrs Lamerton in particular was holding court. As well as being the head of theWilloughby fan club, she had also appointed herself the Turner Travel and Lara expert. Harriet tried not to listen as her family’s private business was shouted across the cabin. ‘. . . Yes, it’s one of the last family-owned travel companies in the state. Started by the children’s parents, Penny and Neil Turner, may their souls rest in peace. Marvellous people, emigrated to Australia to start a new life and just took the bull by the horns and started their own business . . . Actually, the Willoughby tour was my idea, well, mine and Lara Robinson’s . . . Yes, she’s meeting us at Bristol, she’s at the end of a three-month study program at a tourism college in Bath . . . Yes, part of an international travel industry exchange program, she told me all about it . . .’
One of the other women managed to interrupt her. ‘Is Lara married?’
‘No, and nor is Harriet, for that matter.’ Mrs Lamerton lowered her voice, but only slightly. ‘They’re both in their early thirties, too. One of the drawbacks of living and working in a small town like Merryn Bay, I suppose. Not a big catchment area for eligible males. They’d want to start getting a move on.’
Harriet had to force herself not to lean over the seat and explain that in fact she had been living with a man until quite recently and that Lara had also had several serious relationships over the years.
The other woman hadn’t pursued that subject anyway. ‘So why is Lara’s surname Robinson not Turner? I thought you said all the Turner Travel tour guides were family members?’
Mrs Lamerton sounded almost triumphant with her knowledge. ‘Lara grew up with them, and she’s always worked with them, but she’s not a real Turner. The Turners took her in when her own parents were killed in a car crash. She was only eight years old.’
‘Oh, how tragic. So she’s not related to them at all?’
‘No, I understand both families emigrated from England to Australia at the same time. They all met on the ship, I believe.’
‘So what do we call her? Harriet’s foster-sister or stepsister or —?’
A PA announcement from the captain had drowned out their voices after that. Harriet wondered what Mrs Lamerton’s answer would have been. Lara’s title had always been a bit confusing, for all of them. Not a stepsister, or foster-sister, or even half-sister. An almost-sister, perhaps?