Buried Thunder

When Maya strays into the forest, she walks straight into a nightmare.
It’s not just the horrific discovery she makes among the trees, it’s what’s waiting for her at home. Something too terrifying to believe in. She’s not even sure she believes it herself.

Perhaps she’s going mad—only imagining the sounds in the night and the feeling of being stalked. Maybe she didn’t see anything in the forest after all?

And there’s another question: what was she doing there in the first place . . . alone . . . at dusk? All she knows is that the eyes of a fox drew her there.

They will do so again.


‘Like most of my novels, Buried Thunder started from an image in my head. I had no idea what that image meant or where it was going to lead, but I followed it as I always do. The picture I saw was a girl rushing through a forest at dusk and stumbling – literally – upon a body lying in a thicket: a woman of about thirty. I didn’t know who the girl was or the woman, or why they were there, but I was intrigued by the picture, so I carried on. The girl checks the body over, makes sure the woman is dead, then hurries off to raise the alarm in the village. The trouble is she’s not sure of the way back, since her family have only just moved to the area – and there’s an even bigger problem. She’s barely taken a few steps before she sees a second body lying in front of her: a man with red hair. By this time the words were coming fast. She checks the man over. He too is clearly dead. She sets off again, only to see a figure standing at the top of the clearing, bent over a third body lying on the forest floor. And suddenly she’s running for her life. This was still Chapter One. I had no idea who all these people were and I was also aware of another question. What was it that had sent the girl rushing into the forest in the first place? That brought me to the central character in the story, and its most potent symbol. The fox. I’ve been fascinated by foxes all my life and I quickly realised that the presence of a fox was going to dominate this novel; and so it was that during the writing of Buried Thunder, as the girl – Maya – struggles with the elemental forces closing around her and her family in their ancient country hotel, I found myself obsessed with the role of the fox in the story, and with foxes in general. Yet for all the research I did into the nature and mythology of foxes, I still found myself yearning for something more visceral, more personal that I could experience, something that would give me the kind of insight I felt I didn’t yet have into these sinister and beautiful creatures. Then one day that experience came to me. For many years now I have been working in an old stone outhouse at the top of my village. My family and friends call it ‘Tim’s Bolthole’ and although it’s very primitive, it’s a perfect place to write: peaceful, secluded and situated on a big parcel of land with fields and rolling hills all around. Not far away there’s a paddock and a stable, and the snort of horses is often the only sound I hear during my working hours. Some months into the writing of Buried Thunder I stepped out of the Bolthole late one afternoon to take a break and gather my thoughts. I’d written the first draft and was into the second, but I wasn’t happy with the material, especially the scenes with the fox. I felt I hadn’t connected with the animal in the way I wanted to. I wasn’t sure what was missing, but something was, and it was unsettling me. In this mood I wandered down to the low paddock fence and leaned on it. Everything was quiet. The horses were inside the stable and dusk was falling. I just leaned on the fence, thinking, then after a few moments, I sensed that something was watching me from the paddock. I turned my head slightly to the right, and there, no more than ten yards away, was a fox. It just stood there, watching me with those strange yellow eyes. I stared back and neither of us moved for some time, then suddenly it looked down and started grubbing in the ground with its paws. This went on for a minute or two, then just as suddenly, it stopped and fixed me with its eyes again. And so it went on, the animal staring, then looking down and grubbing in the ground, then staring again, and me just standing there, looking back. Ten minutes went by, then abruptly it ended. A last bout of grubbing, a final stare, an electrifying moment of stillness, then the animal turned, loped away round the back of the stable, and was gone. I realise now that the birth of Buried Thunder took place at this point.’

Tim Bowler


A symphony of unease…..this book won’t make you feel safe.’
Nicolette Jones, Sunday Times

‘Carnegie-winner Bowler is on great form with this intense, psychological thriller.’
The Bookseller

‘A tense and haunting thriller.’
Julia Eccleshare, Lovereading

‘An ingenious, fast-moving, highly readable gothic mystery.’
The School Librarian

‘Frightening and well paced…..reminded me of Alan Garner’s classic The Owl Service.’
Geraldine Brennan, The Observer

‘A powerfully atmospheric psychological thriller.’
Robert Dunbar, Irish Times

‘Truly chilling.’

‘Buried Thunder is a tour de force….teen fiction at its very best.’
Lancashire Evening Post

‘A bone-chilling and eerie story.’
John Millen, South China Morning Post

‘I wasn’t ready to scream, but I wasn’t far from it.’

‘Prepare to be chilled to the soul.’

‘I thought it was inspired.’
The Book Zone

‘A thrilling tale.’

‘A dark, psychological thriller with genuine moments of chilling horror.’

‘A simply brilliant and utterly compelling book.’
Mostly Books

‘An absolutely brilliant read.’

‘Dark, intense and compelling.’


The body was lying in a thicket – a woman of about thirty – and Maya wouldn’t have noticed it at all if she hadn’t tripped over a root and rolled up against it. She scrambled back to her feet and stared down. The figure lay motionless, dusk settling over it. From a distant part of the forest came the sound of Tom calling.


‘Tom!’ she called back.

But she knew he couldn’t hear her. She’d shouted repeatedly but his voice had continued to move further from her. He was clearly heading back to the village. He tried once more, even so.

‘Where are you?’

That was the trouble. She didn’t know. She didn’t even remember how she’d ended up here. Something must have made her run away from Tom and cut into the trees, yet her mind was a shadow. She had a ghost of recollection.

Something on the path, something yellow.

But that was all.

She didn’t shout back this time. She knew there was no point; and besides, she now had a bigger problem. She looked down at the body. She had to check this out, however scared she felt. There was just a chance this woman was alive. She took a slow breath, then knelt down.

The ground felt hard and bony. She peered at the body, wary in case it suddenly moved, but all was still. She inched nearer, the dusk thickening around her. Even this close it was hard to make out the figure clearly, but gradually the image defined itself.

A curvy form, chest and stomach still, so too the face. Eyes shut. A blue dress, the colour just discernible in the fading light, and a low neckline. The woman seemed to have come from a party. There was no sign of an injury.

Something glinted in the darkness, a pendant nestling in the woman’s cleavage: a horseshoe emblem on a slender chain. A lock of hair fell over it and then was still. Maya clenched her fists. This woman was surely dead.

And yet….

‘Are you alive?’ she said.

Her voice sounded small in the darkening forest. There was no response, but from somewhere near came a rustling sound. She whirled round and peered into the gloom. The rustling stopped and silence fell once more.

She could feel herself starting to panic. She thought of her mobile back at home. Not that it would help much here. She had no idea how to describe where she was. She’d barely found her way round Hembury village in the few days since the family moved here. The forest she didn’t know at all.

The rustling came again.

Then faded as before.

She stood up. She had to find the path home, raise the alarm, and somehow memorise the way to this place, so that she could describe it to the police. She looked about her and straightaway found the perfect marker: a huge beech tree, clearly damaged. Even in this poor light she could see that two of the lower branches had been cut off and a third was supported by a cradle of ropes from above.

She looked back at the body on the ground.

‘I’m going to run back home,’ she whispered. She had no idea why she was talking to this woman. ‘I’m going to find Mum and Dad, and they’ll call the police. I’ll run as fast as I can. You won’t be on your own for long.’

It was then that she heard footsteps.

Not heavy. Quite the opposite. They sounded stealthy. She crouched, her eyes moving fast. This didn’t have to be dangerous. It might even be someone who could help, someone who might miss all this and walk straight past if she didn’t call out or show herself.

But she stayed where she was and said nothing.

The footsteps drew closer. She edged behind an oak tree and waited. Closer, closer, slow footsteps – then suddenly they stopped and silence fell once more. She stayed behind the oak, her ears straining.

But all she heard was a rustle in the leaves above her that died as she craned her head round to look. The foliage was still, as though it had never moved. She turned and gazed back at the dead woman.

Still lying in the same position, but something looked different. Then she saw it. The head had tilted to the side, the long hair falling away, and the eyes were now open; and underneath them – like a third eye – the horseshoe pendant was shining in the darkness.

Maya stared. She wanted to run so much, but she found she couldn’t move. The pendant went on shining, and something in the dead eyes seemed to shine too. She swallowed. This was madness. She had to break free.

She slipped from behind the oak and crept towards the edge of the thicket. The dusk was now so heavy it was hard to see anything clearly, but somehow she made out the way to go. She stole forward, watching, listening.

Here was the clearing. She remembered stumbling into it on her mad rush here. To the left was the damaged beech tree; to the right the deeper, denser folds of the forest. It was hard to believe she’d crashed through that, yet remembered so little of it.

But that was the way she had to go. She knew that much at least. The path home lay somewhere in that direction. She took a deep breath and set off across the clearing – only to freeze once again.

A second body was lying before her.

Straight ahead.

She made herself creep closer. She had to check this out too. She knew it. She couldn’t just run past, however much she wanted to. It was a man this time, and like the woman, clearly dead. She knelt beside him. No movement in the stomach or chest. The eyes were open but they were vacant.

Once again, there was no sign of an injury.

She was trembling now. She forced herself to study the body. The police would ask questions. They’d want a description. She tried to take in what she could, muttering what she saw into the silent air.

‘Man about thirty-five, suit, tie, white shirt, red hair…’

She stopped, looked again. But there was no mistake. The darkness was draining all colour from the body, yet something red still clung to the hair.

‘Red hair,’ she went on, ‘and…and a silver watch.’

Something was moving over to the right, a shadow among the trees at the top of the clearing. She narrowed her eyes and stared; but the shadow was gone and all was gloom again. She tried to stay calm, make herself think.

There were probably lots of paths back to the village but she didn’t know them. She had to find the way she’d come, and that meant heading for the trees, whatever else lay in that direction; and she had to go now. She set off across the clearing, walking fast.

She wanted to run. She wanted to burst through the trees and away from this place, but she knew she had to resist. All her instincts told her that the moment she broke into a run, panic would take over. A fast, steady walk was what was needed. Yet even as she walked, she felt a pressure to look back.

She ignored it. She had to scan the trees, watch for danger, find the path, get away. She mustn’t look back. Just keep walking, walking, walking. She strode on, step, step, step, but still the pressure grew. She stopped, breathing hard, and turned.

The man’s body was still visible, lying on its back, but as with the woman, the head had tilted to the side and the eyes were shining in the darkness. She turned and hurried on towards the trees – only to freeze yet again.

The shadow was back, directly in front of her. The features were hidden, the form blurred, but there was no mistaking the figure standing there, back towards her, bent over a third body, stretched upon the forest floor.

She stared, and as she did so, she saw the figure stiffen, as though it had sensed her, and straighten, and turn towards her. But she saw no more. She was running wild, blundering through thickets, coppices, tawny shrubs.

She had no idea where she was going. All she knew was that she was crashing through branches, brambles, foliage. She heard shouts. Some were hers, some were not. She couldn’t catch the words.

They came again, somewhere near. She thought of the shadow and raced on. The shouts continued but she was hardly listening now. All she wanted was to run, run, run. But she didn’t know which way to go. Then she saw it. Straight ahead.

She stopped, gasping, and peered into the darkness. Before her was a wall of trees – and something else. Two yellow eyes, watching her; and now a head, and a body. Then she saw what it was.

A fox.

Recollection came streaming back. She’d seen a fox earlier, perhaps this very one. She remembered it now. It had been on the path and she’d followed it into the forest, leaving Tom behind. But why had she done that? And why had she forgotten about it till now?

‘What do you want?’ she heard herself say.

The yellow eyes closed, opened, closed again.

And in the space where they had been, she saw a narrow path through the trees.

She tore down it, screaming. But here were the shouts again, and they were closer than ever. She ran on, on, the voices growing louder – and then she fell. She saw leaves, branches, the trunk of a tree, the face of the forest floor as she tumbled upon it.

And a shadow leaning over her.


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