REVIEW - Bitter Moon
by Ali Gunn

Reviewed by: Michelle Medhat

Bitter Moon

© Ali Gunn 2024

The village of Inway was everything Kelly had ever dreamed of. Beaches, beauty, and, barely an hour’s drive to the south, the bright lights of Cambridge and the promise of a new job.

But there was one, teensy, tiny catch. A serial killer was on the loose.


Rumour had it that every time the full moon fell on a Friday night, one unlucky homeowner would meet their match. Six of them had died so far, not enough to convince Kelly of a pattern. And she ought to know: she was a police officer after all.

‘You’re mad,’ her best friend Beth had told her over coffee. ‘Utterly mad.’

‘Really? There are a thousand people in Inway. And we only have a full moon on a Friday, what, every seven months? Even if the rumours are true, the odds of it being me are…’

She’d paused, thinking about it for a moment. Once every seven months… One thousand people… ‘Once every five-hundred-and-eighty-three years,’ she’d concluded. ‘Give or take. And that’s if this rumour were true which, y’know, it’s not.’

‘But it’s haunted,’ Beth teased. ‘The local Facebook group says there’s a ghost that appears inside homes and slashes their victims… No forensics, no CCTV, nada.’

Kelly laughed. As if local Facebook groups ever offered anything but nonsense, drama, the occasional second-hand freebie.

‘I’ll put up the Ring doorbell you bought me for Christmas if it’ll make you happy.’

‘Alright, babes, you’ve got a deal, but on your head be it. Don’t come crying to me if a big scary ghost murders you.’

And that was how she’d convinced herself to buy a big old house in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere. A hundred thousand pounds – the entirety of her inheritance from her late granny – for a three-bedroom house with sweeping views over Norfolk.

That money wouldn’t have bought a parking space in Islington.

So she’d arrived in her banged-up old Vauxhall Corsa, her life’s belongings stuffed into the boot and spilling over onto the back seat, the keys to her new life in hand. She’d even swung a transfer from the Met to Cambridgeshire Constabulary.

The lock was stiff at first as if unwilling to yield to its new owner. Then the door swung inwards, revealing the house that she’d toured barely three months earlier. That walk-through had been fifteen minutes long and felt even shorter. Her jaw had dropped at the view through the bi-fold doors out onto the countryside. The décor was a little too grand, too ornate for her tastes, but now that it was empty, the bare bones were even more beautiful.

‘It’s huge!’ she whispered, her voice echoing back at her. Why on earth had the last homeowner decided to let the place go?

Then, on the table, she saw it: a pristine white envelope underneath a bottle of Châteauneuf-du- Pape. She set aside the bottle of wine and turned over the envelope. It was sealed in wax, a thick monogrammed L clearly visible.


When Kelly tugged at it, the seal came away with the upper fold. Inside was a note on thick, yellow paper, with loopy, almost schoolgirlish handwriting which read:

Welcome to Inway.

Enjoy the views and the wine as if each day might be your last, Good luck


Good luck?

What the hell?

Was that why Ms Fearn had sold the place for a song? Had she been so terrified that she was going to be the next to be murdered that she’d sold up and fled Inway? And what was with the cryptic warning? Was it supposed to be one of those “live your best life” messages… or a death threat?

‘Well, Lucy Fearn,’ Kelly said. ‘At least you had good taste in wine.’

The note was as eventful as it got that day. Unpacking took mere minutes. She’d even had time to install the Ring doorbell that Beth had given her as a goodbye present “to keep her safe from the Inway killer”. Hah.

In no time at all, Kelly found herself admiring the view with a glass of free red wine in hand. The sun was beginning to set, the moon a crescent shape in the sky.

Not tonight, she thought, smiling at the absurdity of it all. Who would give up a house like this to get away from one madman? Murders – and worse – happened all the time, everywhere. People like

Kelly were the thin blue line between them and the rest of society. And there was no such thing as a serial killer ghost.

The thought comforted Kelly as she curled up on her airbed in the big, strange house. A chill breeze made her wrap herself up tightly, her mind drifting off to a dreamless slumber.

Home sweet home.






The Chinese call it the Bitter Moon, the last full moon of June. Naturally, this year’s was on a Friday.

After a long, stressful working week away from Inway, she was welcomed home by the soft trilling little egrets, bitterns, and, most-amusingly named, bearded tits. If she’d been born a man, the latter would’ve been the perfect drag name. She smirked as she pictured it: And please welcome to the stage, Ms Bearded Tits!

But there was none of that around here. God forbid the village had a little culture going on. The

average resident had to be pushing seventy and the “entertainment” on offer in the village reflected that. There was an early bird supper at The Bell Tolls (three, OAP-sized courses for £12 before six o’clock) or, on a Thursday afternoon, bingo at the community hall.

That didn’t bother Kelly too much, but two things did. First, the complete lack of proper broadband. She was reliant upon a satellite service that cost an arm and a leg and could barely keep up with a


Skype call let alone working from home. Second, the other residents of Yew Tree Lane. They eyed her suspiciously with every move, watching with beady eyes every time she ventured down into the

village as if to ask how she dared to come to town.

Even going into the pub triggered a hushed silence to fall as necks whipped around to look at her. Voices then muttered: who’s the new girl?

Then, when she stared back, they stopped looking. She signalled to the barman to pour her a pint, handing him a ten-pound note.’

‘You’ll get used to it,’ said a warm, soothing voice at the other end of the bar. She glanced over to see a younger man she hadn’t seen in here before. He beamed at her, all white teeth and dimples.

‘You the old new person?’ Kelly asked. The barman appeared with a pint that was half-foam and set it down in front of her together with four round pound coins. It was worse than London. And hers was the only badly-poured pint in the place.

The man laughed. ‘Nope, I was born here. Name’s Mo.’ ‘Kelly,’ she said. ‘That short for something?’

He flashed another of those killer smiles.

‘Nope. My old ma said you always had to leave people wanting more. So she called me Mo. Everyone wants Mo, right?’

‘Smart lady.’

The smile turned into a wan, puppy-faced look. ‘Yeah, she was. Mama Loch was famous around here. Died a few years ago, though.’

She sipped her beer before murmuring her apologies.

‘Don’t be sorry. It’s not your fault she’s gone. So where in the village have you moved into?’ ‘Yew Tree Lane.’

His eyes went wide. Then he whispered underneath his breath. ‘Not the murder house?’ ‘Eh? I’m at number 10.’

‘Sheeeet….’ He cocked his head towards the door.

Abandoning her pint, she followed her new friend out the front door and into the sunshine. He strode off down the pavement, pausing to beckon her to follow. She fell into lockstep with him.

‘What do you mean, murder house?’

‘Who’d you buy the house from?’ he asked as they turned down a narrow path towards the village church.

She half-closed her eyes. ‘Lucy Fearn.’ That was right. The name was the name she’d seen on the paperwork. And “Lucy” had signed the note with the wine too.

He shook his head slowly. ‘You sure about that?’


They came to a stop in front of the church where there was a row of gravestones. The nearest, which looked brand new unlike the others in the row, faced away from them. When she walked around to read it, her jaw dropped.

Beloved mother, wife of Ezekial. Her duty done, earth has lost a woman, but Heaven has gained an angel. Lucy J Fearn, 1940 to 2021.

She tore her gaze away from the headstone to ask Mo what the hell was going on. But he was gone.





That night, the sun set in slow motion, a riot of pinks and oranges cascading across the sky.

But even the beauty of the Norfolk Broads couldn’t calm her nerves. How on earth could the woman she’d bought this house from be dead? She’d written a note for God’s sake.

Good luck. That’s what Lucy had said. But could Kelly find the darned note?

She’d called Beth back in Islington to relay the day’s events. ‘Calm your tits, love,’ she’d said.

‘That’s easy for you to say. You’re in London.’

‘And you could be here too. Your old room’s still available if you’ve changed your mind. And you know Gary will have you back on the team.’

Running back to her old life was tempting. Gary had been a fair DCI. He’d asked a lot but never too much. And her little room in Islington was right around the corner from a wicked cocktail bar.

She shook her head slowly. ‘I can’t. I’ve bought this place now. When’re you coming up to visit?’ ‘For your funeral,’ Beth joked. ‘After the killer gets you.’

‘Ha fucking ha. It’s weird, isn’t it? This Mo Loch guy showing me the grave, then poof, vanishing into thin air. And why was there a grave for Lucy Fearn?’

She could imagine Beth shrugging. ‘I dunno. Shared name?’

Of course! Kelly bolted upright and began rummaging through the mountain of paperwork from the solicitors who’d done her conveyancing. A copy of the transfer document – marked TR1 – was in the folder. She whipped it out and read it to herself.

Seller: Lucy Fearn.

It’s got to be the same name. There’s no such thing as ghosts.

She relayed that down the phone. ‘I knew I wasn’t getting letters from dead women.’

Beth wasn’t convinced. ‘You should still sell the place and move home. You’ll get a wicked profit off your investment.’


That wasn’t a bad idea. If someone else, like her, didn’t agree with the superstition then she’d get a fortune for it.

‘Wait, Mo said it was the murder house.’

She had to Google it. The Wi-Fi was on the fritz again.

‘I’m on it, babe,’ Beth said. ‘Here we go… Lucy J Fearn was found hanging from the beams back in 2021. And get this: there was a bottle of wine next to her suicide note. She’d even sealed the note in an envelope with a wax seal so the police would know it was hers.’

Kelly’s blood ran cold.’ Châteauneuf-du-Pape?’ she asked sharply.

‘Doesn’t say,’ Beth said. ‘Just that the victim was found hanging from the beams in the lounge.

This lounge? Kelly looked up. Oak beams ran the length of the ceiling, solid, comforting, and definitely strong enough to hang from.

She shuddered. The beautiful, double-height lounge with the mezzanine that had become her home office, was where the old homeowner had died. Eww.

‘But babe, that’s not a murder. You don’t have to tell buyers about suicides, do you?’ Kelly had no idea. ‘Hang on. This woman… when did she die?’

‘The end of May it says here. A Friday.’ ‘And was that a full moon?’

She waited while Beth tapped away on the other end of the phone line. ‘Fuuuuuck.’

‘What?’ Kelly demanded, pacing the living room back and forth.

‘It wasn’t just a full moon. It was a super moon. A blood moon mixed with a total eclipse.’ ‘A what?’

Then the line crackled. The call dropped. Kelly’s pulse rate began to rise.

No signal.

She waved the phone around, standing on the sofa and holding it up as if to try and catch a phone signal in an invisible net. It didn’t work.

Was there something to it? Lucy Fearn’s death had occurred three years ago on a supermoon on a Friday. Then every full moon Friday since, someone else in this tiny, God-forsaken village had died.

And -

Her thoughts were interrupted by a loud knock at the door. Now her heart was really thundering in her chest.

She tried ignoring it.

Knock. Knock.


Whoever it was, they weren’t going away.

Have a word with yourself, woman, she told herself. She was a police officer. She didn’t believe in full moons or dead people writing notes. What nonsense.

The Ring doorbell!

She’d almost forgotten she’d installed it. If Beth were here, she could’ve kissed her.

She opened up the app on her phone and turned on the camera. Standing on the doorstep was a smiling Mo Loch, a bunch of flowers in hand.

For a split second, she wondered what he wanted. Then her mind – and her libido – answered that question for her. It couldn’t hurt just to talk to him… could it? She hesitated and then hit the button to answer the door. Mo’s face appeared on-screen. His hair was made up, his shirt crisp and ironed. He looked even better than when he’d been propping up the bar in the village pub.


‘Hi, it’s me, Mo. You disappeared on me the other day.’

There was something about his casual confidence, the erroneous assertion that it had been her that disappeared on him, that raised the hairs on the back of his neck. Her police training screamed to stay away. Maybe there really was a killer on the loose… and if there were, it could well be the handsome stranger who’d taken her straight to Lucy Fearn’s grave and then disappeared without a


‘It’s not a good time, Mo,’ she said. ‘I’ve got work to do.’

It was plausible enough. The police always had work to do.

His face fell. Then the image began to crack up. The damned Wi-Fi was at it again. Was this even online? Both her phone and her doorbell were on the same network… Whatever.

‘Okay,’ he said. ‘Not tonight then.’

‘Not tonight. Another time,’ she tried to say.

Then she crept down the hallway to watch him go. Mo Loch’s broad shoulders disappeared down the driveaway, each step occasioning a loud crunch. He’d left the flowers on the doorstep.

She exhaled. The stupidity of it all. She’d sent a handsome, nice man away because of some stupid rumour causing her gut to go haywire. The lock creaked as she opened the front door to snatch up the flowers. Then she turned and sniffed the roses.

Then she screamed.

In front of her was a woman, no more than five one, holding a wicked-long, curved knife. Long grey hair tumbled down a weatherworn face. Around her neck were unmistakable ligature marks, the tell- tale signs of a hanging.

Before Kelly could scream or drop the flowers, the knife swung towards her at lightning speed, connecting with her chest. Blinding-hot white pain seared throughout her body as she tumbled to the floor.

‘You thought you could buy my house for £100,000?’ the old woman said scathingly.

‘Norfolk Inway.’

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First published for Michelle Medhat’s birthday cross-genre short story competition 2024.

The moral rights of Ali Gunn to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Cover Art designed by Ali Gunn.

All characters are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

First Edition.

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