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An extract from The Wilds by Sarah Pearse

The Wilds by Sarah Pearse

The Wilds by Sarah Pearse

Out here, it’s easy to get lost…

After the dark events that scarred her childhood, Kier Templer escaped her hometown and twin to live her life on the road. They’ve never lost contact until, on a trip to a Portuguese national park, Kier vanishes without a trace.

Detective Elin Warner arrives in the same park ready to immerse herself in its vast wilderness – only to hear about Kier’s disappearance, and discover a disturbing map she left behind. The few strangers at the isolated camp close ranks against her questions, and the park’s wild beauty starts to turn sinister.

Elin must untangle the clues to find out what really happened to Kier. But when you follow a trail, you have to be careful to watch your back…


‘An atmospheric chiller with shocking twists’ SHARI LAPENA

‘Grips from page one’ LOUISE CANDLISH

‘This is a one-sitting read; plan your day accordingly’ JEFFERY DEAVER




The van comes to life at night: there’s a warmth inside when the lights are on, an intimacy that makes me feel cocooned. It softens the van’s hard edges: the blocky, utilitarian shapes of the stove and fridge, the packets of food stacked up by the sink. But it’s the also time of day when I feel most vulnerable.

The van reveals everything when shadows start to creep over the land outside, the lights illuminating exactly who I am, what makes me tick. Not just my possessions – my books and paintings, but my foibles and routine. Every little movement I make.

Although I try not to think about it, it’s frightening, imagining what the van looks like from outside, small, isolated, the sole thing lit up among the darkness.

I glance through the window. The park is almost properly dark now; trees nothing more than opaque imprints against the sky. Night seems to creep over the land quicker here, a sudden plunge into gloom.

Even in dusk, this has become my favourite part of this place – this view – the river snaking a line through the valley, the trees behind rising to villages at the foothills of the mountain.


Cloud seems to permanently hover above the roofs, as if the houses have taken a breath, collectively exhaled.

I turn back, my gaze pulled to the piece of paper on the table in front of me.

With every line I’ve drawn, I’ve left pieces of myself. First kisses. The rooftop hideout. Bonfire fields that turn the sky to glow.

For a moment, I’m transported back to when I first arrived. Sticky spills of warm beer. Laughter.

I smile. It falters.

A noise from outside. Not the usual soundtrack to the national park – birdsong, leaves being dusted down by the wind – but something more deliberate.

Footsteps, scuffing through the dirt.

All at once, the small space inside the van becomes even smaller, walls contracting, closing in. The space no longer seems cosy; but cloistered, airless.

I hold my breath, send another glance through the window.

The darkness outside reveals nothing. Only shifting shapes, the faint outlines of branches reaching out to one another.

But then there’s a clang. Metal on metal.

My insides fold, then fold again. I remember what Mum used to call it: gut origami.

Standing up, I snatch the piece of paper from the table, frantically looking around.

I need to hide it.

Bending down to the cupboard, I bump into the shelf and knock over the salt grinder. The lid isn’t screwed on properly, and salt scatters across the floor.

When I drag my gaze up, there’s a face at the window.

My body does a hard stop. Blood, breath, heart – nothing moves.

Despite the shadows, I can see it: anger.

I take a breath but make no move to run. No surprise, more resignation.

Perhaps, deep down, I knew it would end like this.

Maybe, from the very beginning, the narrative was set.

You can’t outrun a monster.

I should have known that from the start.


Coming to hardback, eBook and audiobook on 16 July

Pre-order now