The Other Side of Night

A Novel

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 11, 2022. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

For fans of Matt Haig and Anthony Horowitz, a “strange, compelling, and ultimately moving head-spinner of a novel” (John Connolly) in which the lives of a disgraced police officer, a prolific author, and an upstanding citizen are inextricably bound together by a series of mysterious deaths.

The Other Side of Night begins with a man named David Asha writing about his biggest regret: his sudden separation from his son, Elliot. In his grief, David tells a story.

Next, we step into the life of Harriet Kealty, a police officer trying to clear her name after a lapse of judgment. She discovers a curious inscription in a secondhand book–a plea: Help me, he’s trying to kill me. Who wrote this note? Who is “he”?

This note leads Harri to David Asha, who was last seen stepping off a cliff. Police suspect he couldn’t cope after his wife’s sudden death. Still, why would this man jump and leave behind his young son? Quickly, Harri’s attention zeroes in on a person she knows all too well.

Ben Elmys: once the love of her life. A surrogate father to Elliot Asha and trusted friend to the Ashas.

Ben may also be a murderer.

Compulsively readable and thought-provoking, “The Other Side of Night is one of those rare books that you’ll still be thinking about long after the last page” (Jenny Blackhurst, author of How I Lost You).


PART ONE The Child

Extract from the court report of R v. Elmys

Roger Sumption QC for the Crown Prosecution Service

Ms. Hardcastle, you run Sunshine Start, is that correct?

Elaine Hardcastle


Roger Sumption QC

Could you describe what you do?

Elaine Hardcastle

We provide temporary care for children until they can be placed with a foster family or adopted.

Roger Sumption QC

Can you explain how you first encountered the defendant?

Elaine Hardcastle

Mr. Elmys was going to adopt Elliot Asha. Well, he did, but when I first met him, he was still going through the legal formalities.

Roger Sumption QC

I believe you told the police there was something odd about Mr. Elmys's behavior on the day he came to collect Elliot.

Elaine Hardcastle


Roger Sumption QC

Can you elaborate? Tell us about it for the benefit of the jury.

Elaine Hardcastle

It was last August. I remember because we were planning our annual sunshine holiday. It's a little treat we give the children at the end of every summer, sort of to make up for them not going away like they might if they were with family. I was sad Elliot was leaving us and missing it but pleased he had a new home. Well, an old home.

Roger Sumption QC

Can you explain?

Elaine Hardcastle

David and Elizabeth Asha had made Mr. Elmys trustee of their estate and Elliot's guardian. Elliot was going back to the family home to live with Mr. Elmys.

Roger Sumption QC

And how did he seem to you that day?

Elaine Hardcastle

Elliot? He was sad. At least to begin with.

Roger Sumption QC

And Mr. Elmys?

Elaine Hardcastle

I, well, we met in my office. I like to give new guardians the opportunity to ask questions while I'm doing final checks.

Roger Sumption QC

Did Mr. Elmys ask any questions?

Elaine Hardcastle

No. He just watched me going over the paperwork. He seemed distracted.

Grace Oyewole QC for the defendant

My Lord, as someone might be if they were suddenly responsible for a child.

Justice Thomas


Elaine Hardcastle

That's true. A lot of people who adopt struggle with the responsibility. But this was different. Am I, I mean, I hope it's not untoward or anything, but Mr. Elmys seemed troubled.

Grace Oyewole QC for the defendant

My Lord.

Justice Thomas

Please keep to your recollection of events, Mrs. Hardcastle. You're not qualified to give opinions on Mr. Elmys's frame of mind.

Roger Sumption QC

What happened then?

Elaine Hardcastle

I asked Mr. Elmys to stay in the welcome room. It's a play space we use to acclimatize children to their new families. I left him there and went to fetch Elliot, who was with Stephanie Cliffe, one of our counselors. She was observing him interact with other children. Or rather not interact. His parents' deaths had hit him hard. Is it okay to say that? I mean, it's my opinion, but it's based on decades of working with children.

He was sitting apart, like he did every day, staring out of the window at the old oak tree that grows just beside the residential wing. Whenever I'd ask him what he was doing, why he was daydreaming rather than playing, he'd say he was counting souls. Each leaf was a person. One day they'd start to fall, and by winter they'd all be gone. I thought it was a very strange way for a ten-year-old child to look at the world.

Anyway, I found him by the window, and Steph and I took him to the welcome room. It was very distressing.

Roger Sumption QC


Elaine Hardcastle

He was crying. Fighting with us both. We don't use physical restraint at Sunshine, but this was as close as I'd ever come to having to do so.

Roger Sumption QC

Would you say he was afraid of Mr. Elmys?

Grace Oyewole QC

I hesitate to rise, but my learned friend knows the rules. Can I ask that he stick to them so that I do not have to address my Lord further?

Roger Sumption QC

Then I will ask a different question. Did you get Elliot to the welcome room?

Elaine Hardcastle


Roger Sumption QC

What happened then?

Elaine Hardcastle

He ran away from us and went into the corner. He was very upset. He sat with his back to us, but I think he was crying. I asked him to come and say hello to Mr. Elmys, but he ignored me. I reminded him Mr. Elmys was one of his parents' oldest friends. "They wouldn't have left you in his care if they didn't think he was a good man," I told him, but he stayed put.

Roger Sumption QC

What did Mr. Elmys do?

Elaine Hardcastle

When I looked at him, I thought he was crying, but he caught my eye and turned away, so I can't be sure. These are emotional experiences. Big rocks.

Roger Sumption QC

Excuse me?

Elaine Hardcastle

It's what I tell the children. When you go to the beach, it's mostly pebbles, but occasionally there will be one or two big rocks you have to climb over. Just like life. Most days are pebbles, but every so often you'll hit a big rock. Adoption is a big rock. A murder trial is another big rock.

Roger Sumption QC

Quite. Going back to that day, Mrs. Hardcastle, what happened next?

Elaine Hardcastle

Elliot was shuddering and shaking. He was very upset. I told Mr. Elmys we would have to try another day if we couldn't calm him down. I was about to go to the boy, when Mr. Elmys asked if he could try. I wasn't sure it was a good idea, but Mr. Elmys was already on his way. He crouched beside Elliot and spoke to him.

Roger Sumption QC

Could you hear what he was saying?

Elaine Hardcastle

No. He wasn't whispering exactly, just speaking softly. After a short while, Mr. Elmys stood. I thought he'd failed and was about to go over, but Elliot got up and turned around. He wiped his tears and then took Mr. Elmys's hand. Steph and I were blown away. I'd never seen anything like it. The boy was transformed. He seemed calm, happy almost.

"How did you do that? What did you say?" I asked Mr. Elmys. I've worked with hundreds of children and I was stunned.

Roger Sumption QC

And what was the defendant's reply?

Elaine Hardcastle

"We made a deal, didn't we, Elliot?" And he looked down at the boy, who nodded. The two of them smiled.

Roger Sumption QC

Did you ever learn the nature of this deal?

Elaine Hardcastle


Roger Sumption QC

So, it was secret?

Elaine Hardcastle

Yes. It was secret.


Harriet Kealty had spent almost an hour sitting alone outside the Nantwich Bookshop, and was now nursing her third espresso. She watched the other customers and listened to their conversations as Steve and Denise, the friendly owners of the bookshop, and their staff shuttled in and out, ferrying orders of coffee and cakes. It was a Saturday, so the town center was busy and the square opposite the crooked Tudor building was packed with shoppers buzzing from one market stall to another.

Harri checked her watch: 11:58. Two minutes off an hour. More than any reasonable person could be expected to wait. But she wasn't a reasonable person. She was desperate to reclaim a life she'd lost a few painful weeks ago. She'd been lured here by hope, and to leave would be admitting it had been extinguished, but in the end, after another twenty minutes of sitting there with a gnawing sense of inevitability, Harri finally accepted defeat. John Marlowe, the man who'd emailed her, promising she would get her job back if she came to this meeting, had been yet another troll, a liar who felt entitled to waste her time and humiliate her because she'd been so successfully cast as the villain by the local papers.

Another dead end.

She asked Denise for the bill, paid in change, and drifted into the shop. There were tables and chairs arranged between the bookshelves, and the hubbub of conversation filled the room. Friends and family bound together by shared experience. She had nothing to keep her company. Ever since that awful night, her life had been one misstep after another. She desperately wanted what all these people had: an ordinary life. She wanted to feel good. Overwhelmed by loneliness, her mind reached, as it had so many times, for Ben. He'd made her feel good for a while, and she was afraid she'd never meet anyone like him again. Self-pity brought tears to her eyes.

Great, she thought. A private humiliation and a public embarrassment. She hurried towards a flight of stairs and a sign that said Toilets.

Her footsteps echoed around the narrow, crooked stairwell, and the sounds of the café faded as she emerged into an almost deserted secondhand-books section. Cracked spines sliced long runs of other less damaged but clearly used books. Beyond the high shelves, almost directly opposite the top of the stairs, was a corridor that led to the toilets, where she might find a mirror in which she could check her makeup, and the privacy to compose herself. There was only one problem. The old man who stood between her and the corridor. He looked startled, as though her rushed arrival had caught him in some mischief.

"I'm sorry," she said, fighting for composure.

"Please don't apologize," he replied, obviously trying to recover his own.

"I didn't mean to startle you."

He smiled indulgently and his face creased like an unmade bed. "You didn't. I was just thinking."

His eyes fell, and for a moment Harri forgot her own worries. The man's sadness hit her like a wave. His craggy face was downcast and his eyes were heavy and shining with the prospect of a storm. His mop of gray hair had been neatly combed, and he looked as though he was dressed for a date. His tweed jacket, black trousers, and white shirt were well pressed, and his woven-silk red tie was bright and clean. If he was on a date, then, like her, he had been stood up, because there was no one else around. He was tall and might once have been handsome, but whatever gifts youth had conferred were long gone. Only a brightness in his eyes hinted at the charisma that might have drawn people to him and the energy he might have had long ago. His slight frame was angled against a supportive ebony walking stick. Harri took a generous guess he was the right side of ninety. She wanted to get past him but felt awkward, as it seemed as though he was expecting a conversation.

"My wife and I fell in love the instant we met. She's gone now, but she's always with me, you know, in all the moments we shared," he said, and Harri feared he might cry. He took a couple of breaths, and she prayed he would hold it together, because she didn't think she'd be able to stop herself if she saw someone else weeping. "She loved to read," he added at last.

He managed a false smile. The world was full of people like him, their best days gone, their glories forgotten. All they loved, everything they'd done, nothing more than memories fading like writing in sand, washed away by the tide of time.

"I'm sorry. It's not long since I lost her and…" He trailed off, and they stood in awkward silence for a moment.

"It's all so overwhelming," he added sadly. "You take a journey together, and you know everything that starts will have an end, but you can never quite bring yourself to believe it. Somewhere there's a secret tribe of quiet immortals, right? Some race of souls who never perish. You come to believe you'll find a way to join them, and you push the end from your mind."

He took a step forward, and for a moment Harri thought he'd reach out and touch her, but he stopped a pace away and settled on his cane.

"It was sudden. Heart attack. We never had the chance to say goodbye." His voice was cracked with age, but as he spoke of his loss, emotion fractured it further. "I couldn't save her. It was one of those things. I'm so sorry…"

His words drifted to nothing, but his eyes stayed on Harri before shifting away.

"She was very beautiful, you know? Like you."

Harri didn't feel at all beautiful. She'd gained six pounds since her dismissal, and even though she wasn't overweight, she felt the extra baggage on her normally slight five-foot-six-inch frame. She hadn't been to the salon for months and had her light brown hair tied in a tail to conceal the tangles and split ends. Her usual wardrobe of suits had been replaced by scruffy sneakers, jeans, and T-shirts, and whereas she'd once taken time over her makeup, she could barely muster the enthusiasm for lipstick. She might be many things, but right now beautiful wasn't one of them.

She thought he was just being polite, so she didn't thank him for his dishonesty and grew increasingly uncomfortable in the beat that followed. She could hear the hubbub rising up the stairs and longed to be part of the crowd. Fate had thrown her in the path of this broken old man, but she didn't have what it took to fix him. She was just as damaged. Her discomfort must have shown, because his demeanor changed.

"Listen to me." His voice brightened, but his eyes told her the levity was forced. "I'm a blathering old fool."

"Not at all," Harri said automatically. Her mother had raised her to be polite. "Death is difficult."

"If you could know the moment of your end, would you want to?" the old man mused.

She thought about all the bad things that had ever happened to her. Would it have helped to know about them in advance?

"No. No. I don't think I would," she replied. "It would hang over me like a cloud."

"True." He nodded. "I promised myself I wouldn't get carried away, that I'd be strong, but it's so hard. I'm so alone, you see. Almost everyone I've ever known is gone. She was my love. She still is. Just being here is so difficult."

"It's okay. That's normal. In the police we call it survivor's guilt."

The man bit his lip and cast around the room, as though something in the old books might support him in his grief. He found strength from somewhere.

"You're good and kind. You have a big heart," he said, and Harri almost broke down in tears. He was a soul in torment and he was trying to be nice to her. "We all face the same end. Whatever our road, we finish the journey pleading with the void. Begging for just one more moment. But there's never enough time. The relentless turn of the seconds. The ticking clock. That is our enemy. I loved her so much."

His eyes met Harri's and they shimmered.

"What would you give for just one more moment with someone who meant everything?"

Harri found herself wanting to take the old widower's hand and soothe the pain, but he moved back a half step and eyed her with the sudden alertness of someone waking from a dream.

"Listen to me casting a shadow over your day. That's not who I am. I'm a bringer of smiles. You know what my wife used to say? 'You are my star. You light up the darkest day.' Don't you think that's beautiful?"

"Very," Harri replied.

"That's what I should be doing; lighting up days, not darkening them. I'm sorry I've upset you."

"Not at all," she assured him.

"I've wasted your time at the very least. It's most selfish of me. Clinging to moments. Hoarding memories. I'm old. My day is done. Yours is ahead of you, and I have no right to waste another second. It's been my absolute pleasure. Thank you for your kindness. Goodbye."

Harri couldn't suppress a surprised smile when the old man abruptly pivoted around his walking stick and hurried past her. Within moments, he was clanking down the stairs.

She was about to head to the toilet when she noticed a book on the floor. It had been concealed by the man and lay with the cover spread wide, spine broken, like a dead bird. Had he been looking at it when she'd startled him?

Happiness: A New Way of Life.

A woman smiled up from the cover. She looked annoyingly contented. Harri preferred thrillers and normally would never have been interested in such a book, but she was desperate, and if the smiling author, Isabella Tosetti, had just one useful nugget of advice, she'd take it. Harri picked up the book and checked the inner leaf. Fifty pence for a whole new way of life.

Bargain, she thought, and she took the book with her.


There was a knock at the door, and she put down the book and crossed the small bedroom of the little apartment she'd bought when she first moved to Stoke-on-Trent. It was on the sixth floor of a modern building on a quiet backstreet, not far from the old pot banks that stood to the south of Hanley. Harri's one-bedroom home might have been small, but the big windows in the living room gave her a panoramic view of the city and the emerald countryside beyond. It used to inspire her, but she didn't even glance at it now.

"Who is it?" she asked before pressing her eye to the spy hole.

"Me," Sabih Khan said.

He was in a tailored suit that clung to his wiry frame, and his hair was as immaculately coiffed as ever, the black waves shining with product.

Harri opened the door for her old partner.

"All right?" he said, lingering on the threshold. "I thought I'd stop by to see how you're doing."

"Did Powell send you?" Harri asked, sensing Sabih's reticence.

"No," he replied indignantly. "I'm here because—"

She cut him off. "Because you care?"

"You know, people ask if I miss you, but right now I can't say that I do."

"Well, you know the way out."

"I will come in, thank you," he said, pushing his way past Harri.

She shut the door and followed him through the open-plan kitchen diner to the living room, and she flushed as she suddenly saw her home through a newcomer's eyes. It was a battlefield of misery, and the casualties of her war with depression were scattered everywhere: clothes, magazines, unopened post, half-consumed cups of coffee, crumb-covered plates, some relatively recent, others relics from weeks ago. She hadn't felt this low since her relationship with Ben had ended. Harri registered the look on Sabih's face.

"I know what it looks like," she said. "But these aren't telltale signs. I've just been busy."

"Empty bottles, discarded food, unkempt appearance," Sabih responded, and Harri's hand rose instinctively to straighten her hair. "None of these are signs of depression. Is that what you're telling me?"

He held her gaze, and they stood in silence as she eyed him defiantly.

"I was just passing," he said at last. "I'm not here to intrude on your business. If you say you're fine…" He trailed off. "But if you need help—"

"Listen," she interrupted. "You can tell Powell, or anyone else who wants to know, that I'm doing brilliantly and winning at life."

"I'm sorry, Harri," Sabih said. "I let you down. I never thought Powell would go for you like that. I don't know what to say. I wish I could take it back. Do better. Be stronger."

And just like that he took the angry wind of indignation out of her sails. Harri couldn't cope with kindness. Not today. She nodded, not trusting herself to reply. She'd thought about that night so many times and wondered what she could have done differently. Her partner, her friend, was being beaten to death. If she hadn't stepped in to save him, well, he wouldn't be here. In her self-righteous self-pity she'd forgotten his suffering.

"How are you?" she asked. "The ribs?"

"Okay. Still hurts to breathe, and I don't think I'll be setting any track-and-field records for a while. The body heals. It's the mind that's harder, right? Do I still have what it takes? Will I be the first in next time, or a step behind everyone else?"

She could only imagine how his confidence had been knocked. Her own was shot.

"You'll be the classic fool rushing in," she remarked.

He didn't look reassured. "What about you?" he asked. "How are you doing? Really?"

"I've been better. Some guy wasted an hour of my life today. Emailed me claiming he knew something about the footage of that night. Said I'd get it if I came to meet him in Nantwich. Never showed. I emailed him, giving a few choice thoughts on him wasting my time, but it's probably some troll with a fake account."

"Harami," Sabih said. "Powell should have done more to keep your name out of the papers."

Harri nodded. She'd devoted her life to the police, but none of that had mattered and her boss had hung her out for the vultures.

Sabih's phone rang and he pulled it from his pocket.

"Sorry, it's the guv'nor," he said. He answered the call. "Go ahead, guv." There was a brief pause, and Harri imagined Powell rattling off an instruction. "I'm on my way."

He hung up and gave Harri an apologetic puppy-dog shrug. "Sorry. Duty calls."

Harri felt a pang of envy. A few weeks ago, she would have been going with him.

"Ah, that was insensitive of me. Great body, sharp mind, not so hot on all these complicated human things," he said, his index finger shuttling back and forth through the air between them.

Harri suddenly felt sorry for him. He'd been beaten and battered physically and psychologically, and he was grieving too. He'd lost a partner.

"Complicated human things?" Harri replied. "What are you, a robot? Just say, 'Let's grab a beer sometime,' and leave with a smile on your face."

"Let's grab a beer sometime," Sabih said as he backed towards the door. "You're the best, Harri. A top girl."

She couldn't resist a smile at his awkwardness.

After he was gone, Harri stood in the little flat for a moment, listening to the distant sounds of the city, where thousands of lives far more productive than hers were being played out. She glanced around the messy room and thought about tidying up, but the brief surge of energy that had risen in Sabih's presence soon dissipated. The mess could wait. She left everything as it was and returned to her book.

Extract from Happiness: A New Way of Life

By Isabella Tosetti

Printed with permission of Vitalife Press

Happiness as Love

Romeo and Juliet. Star-crossed lovers, ill-fated to suffer. A picture of love that's endured to this day. One of pain and sacrifice. Love as tragedy. Alongside this runs a steady stream of novels, television, film, and song that tell us love is the most powerful source of happiness.

Death cannot stop true love.

You had me at hello.

You complete me.

And so on.

The world's libraries could be filled with nothing but books on love, and still the poets would think more needed to be said.

Dr. Martha McClintock demonstrated what we perceive as falling in love is actually a sense of attraction manufactured by our brain because it has used a combination of visual and olfactory stimuli to gauge that union with the man or woman in question would produce offspring with optimized immune systems. Less star-crossed love, more evolutionary biology. This is true even of same-sex relationships, because the matching of immune systems is blind to prejudice and untroubled by concepts of gender.

We've all heard friends say, "I don't know what she sees in him," or, "He loses his mind when he's around her."

On Sale
Oct 11, 2022
Page Count
304 pages