Book Jacket


rank 509
word count 31866
date submitted 22.07.2011
date updated 31.01.2014
genres: Fiction
classification: moderate

The Town that Danced

Sandie Zand

A barmaid’s curse, experimental ice-cream flavours and a glut of Chinese lanterns – what exactly is causing the mass insanity in sleepy Mardow-by-Sea?


Mardow-by-Sea is a town in quiet crisis. Nothing has changed in sixty years, except a dwindling in the numbers of holiday-makers coming to spend the summer.

A barmaid’s curse – that town residents might one day follow their own minds instead of living by committee rule – comes to fruition after she is murdered in the castle grounds of her lover, Lord Belafry, and people unwittingly find themselves acting on their inner voices.

When a harmless tea-dance spirals out of control, spilling into the streets in a debauched carnival that seemingly has no end, it becomes clear there are darker forces at work in Mardow-by-Sea. A prophetic vagrant and a rebellious owl seem to have the answers, but can Aelita – hired to promote the resort – decipher their clues and save the town before she too succumbs to the madness?

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dancing plague, dark humour, icecream, madness, murder, mystery, seaside

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Chris 1 wrote 47 days ago

Read right through. A rivetting portrait of a quintessential English seaside town peopled with some archetypal figures who are not what they seem by any means. Beneath the veneer of respectability, cracks appear and the Seven Deadlies are ready to explode - anger, lust, envy etc. - and begin to tear down the edifice.

There's a strain of humour (Bertie's long line of ancestors flakey pillows, Armando's disastrous outside decor) in here, laced with menace (George, Boswell). George's murder of Lizzie is like a hammer blow to the town committee's plans for a summer of lucrative trade, affecting all the main characters as they try to make the most of it and 'soldier on' in that 'quiet desperation that is the English way'.

A well-paced story with danger beneath the surface. On my shelf.

Cindy Hernandez wrote 49 days ago

Your writing was recommended to me by a friend of mine. I wasn't disappointed. Backed and good luck!

Andreea Daia wrote 53 days ago

I believe you captured exquisitely that atmosphere of small town. From the petty committee meeting, which quibbles over topics ranging from the color of the houses to whether giving away free ice cream is a sound business decision for the town, the picture of this life emerges both humorous and realistic. That the cat spoiled the rennet batch may sound amusing, yet it is its air of authenticity, of crisis from a cheesemaker’s point of view that causes the reader to walk the line between comedy and drama. The scene in which Vincent mentions that what renders his day perfect is groping Lizzy only underlines the boredom of these people. Of course, as a reader I kept telling myself something should happen that would break this balance.

Your writing is simply beautiful, very luxuriant and poetic at times. I know that some folks have issues with the narration told in the third person, present tense, but your writing is so strong that it felt natural. From what I read so far this is a charming story that I believe will appeal to a large audience. 6 stars and I’ll return to read more as time allows.



sestius wrote 127 days ago

Best thing I've ever read. Ever. Except for your other book on here. That was better.

singapore wrote 205 days ago

Hey Ms Talented. Thoroughly enjoyed this. Beautiful, vivid imagery and menacing back draft. Will comment more fully later but I just wanted to tell you how really, really good this is. I still think you should have won the opening line competition. Hugs xxx

Seringapatam wrote 378 days ago

Sandie, Very good book. | enjoyed this so much and considering its not normally my bag, I am impressed. Very intelligent writing with a lovely flow to it. Great use of characters and fantastic premise. I can only see good things for this book.
Sean Connolly. British Army on the Rampage. ( B.A.O.R) Please consider me for a read or watch list wont you? Many thanks. Sean

patio wrote 523 days ago

The two face town. I like it. Your opening is the best on here

Still reading but high stars

Mindy Haig wrote 544 days ago

Hi Sandie,
I have had this on my WL for a while and I had a chance to take a look at the first 2 chapters this morning. You have a lot of characters in these chapters which could easily get confusing but is handled very well. Your writing is lovely, very smooth, nicely paced. The scenes are set well, there is a lot of atmosphere. The only thing I had an issue with was the last 2 paragraphs of the first section of CH1, ending with And it is Aelita who is charged... Seem more like a pitch than part of the story. I think it is mainly the wording of the paragraphs, but for some reason, they just seemed awkward compared to the previous and following text.
I am interested to know what part the owl plays! I look forward to reading more!
The Wishing Place

BTW, my daughter's name is Delaney, so that being the bad guy's name was a laugh!

patricia mc a wrote 550 days ago

What excellent writing! Some of it flows like poetry and reads lyrically, then you appear to switch it up and become very straigtforward and (to me) very British. I like the contrasts. Your irreverance and occasional naughty word are well-spaced and surprise rather than offend. Wonderful touch you have! Have read through chapter 2 and will be back for more. Have WL'd and starred. Wish I'd noticed your book sooner.

Feel free to give my book, Starr, a look. Your comments would be much appreciated. All best.

RobRow wrote 561 days ago

Solid, confident writing. Interesting characters. A story that makes me want to keep reading. I'll keep reading.

mapleyther wrote 561 days ago

I think the long and short pitches are very strong - based on the first chapter alone, the writing seems to be of the same standard!

MP Jones
They Shoot Birds, Don't They?

Abby Vandiver wrote 563 days ago

You write very well and your descriptions are good and paint a vivid picture. I enoyed your story very much. Did you base your book on the true story of the dancing mania that went on for a week in 1518 in France?

Good job. Many stars.


femmefranglaise wrote 696 days ago

This has been on my watchlist for ages so hope you are still around. I thoroughly enjoyed The Town that Danced, it reminded me so much of where I used to live - but don't any more fortunately. Ah, the curse of the committee! Very well written, some great characters and a very funny story. Lots of stars

La Vie en Rosé

Bea Sinclair wrote 710 days ago

This book was a pleasure to read. You convey that small town mentality so well. Your characters are well drawn and distinct and both touching and quirky in equal measure. I have watch listed "The Town That Danced" and awarded a constellation of stars. Good luck on your way to the ED. Yours Bea

Jue Shaw wrote 723 days ago

Oh I just had to pop in after only reading the first chapter to tell you this. The town you describe sounds exactly like Bridlington where I live. A small (dying off) coastal resort in Yorkshire. Honestly, it's just like that. Also, my great uncle Ike had a fish and chip shop for years and it was called the Happy Haddock, how funny :)

I'll be back later with proper comments :) Just had to tell you that. x

patio wrote 729 days ago

wow! you have something great here. I'm impressed how you manipulated reality situations into a story. The government/Councils could use your work promote tourist destinations. You gave personality to the sun and sea and ice cream etc. I love your craftsmanship and creativity.
6 stars and recommended

Adeel wrote 734 days ago

An amusing, descriptive and well written book. Your writing style is very impressive, dialogue are realistic with vivid charachters and narrative is at great pace. Highly rated.

DaisyFitz wrote 739 days ago

I so love this, Sandie. Love the characters, the petty-mindedness of the committee, ‘they’re boggin’ – haven’t heard that in years. AeIita and John… just ahhh. Sweet. I liked Boswell’s ominous prediction of what’s to come. I liked that Lizzy and Bertie’s relationship was sweet, not some sex-fest. Nice touch.

Nit – Ho[w] much more discrete can we be, Bertie?

ShrapnelJones wrote 743 days ago

blown away by the pitch...

nice opening.

pretty good pacing lets be honest, good style, strong story, beautiful use of words. I'm gonna come back and finish it when my baby stops teething.


ozhm wrote 761 days ago

This has blown me away. It isn’t just a story, it’s an experience. I’m living in Mardow-by-Sea, drifting through it like one of the Voices in ‘Under Milk Wood.’ Shades of Dylan Thomas too in the descriptive narrative, rich as chocolate or good red wine, and at the same time sharp and funny. If there’s anything to be ‘constructive’ about, I can’t see it. I’m too involved.
Highly rated, will go on my shelf at the next shuffle.
Helen Meikle
Six Weeks in Summer.

Atieno wrote 763 days ago

The town that danced is a story that is well told. Alive and creative. Nice writing.Well done.

ajt1234 wrote 764 days ago

I've read the first three chapters, this is wonderfully good. Well done for some very good writing - and it has plenty of funny moments.

SKWILSON wrote 768 days ago

You've a good story here which by the end of chapter 4 has brought out the problems of the town and its people epitomised by George beating to death Lizzy. In the tradition of English dark humour, Tom Sharp and his Blott novels perhaps and, you might not like this, Midsommers Murders, I will read on with interest to see which way you go - critical exposure or cosy exploitation. George, Vince and Bertie are well drawn but Aelitta and John less so which matters if they are to carry the good heart of the story. Also you lose me sometimes when you have multiple characters - in the committee room for example. But I really like it when you comment on your narrative - when you say George will kill this popular girl - that gives me an assurance that you've planned everything and know what you're doing. Very good stuff.

Elizabeth.NYC wrote 773 days ago

I expected a good story here, and I'm not disappointed. The story flows naturally with strong visuals and characters. I find present tense difficult to write and sometimes awkward to read, but Town that Danced is a perfect example of present tense working flawlessly in the storyline. The characters spring alive and nobody seems mundane. Brilliant style - high stars for one of Autho's finest authors.
God of Wine

Nichola Hunter wrote 776 days ago

So glad to see a book that has been really well-edited before posting. I like the writing – it is very tight and the descriptions are vivid – I find I just visualise everything very clearly as I am reading it. The setting is really one of the characters, isn't it? I love the way you describe the town and the community. The dialogue is also very tight.
My shelf is busy right now, but I’m giving this six stars and putting it on my W/L.
Good Luck
Victoria Hunter

AudreyB wrote 777 days ago

Sandie, what are you doing to promote this amazing book? Why isn't it higher in the rankings? I'm doing three other things as I read through manuscripts today, and even so I know I'm in the hands of a master story-teller. I feel as if I've been dropped into this little threadbare community and am sitting in the Anchor listening in as the locals tell me their tale. In two short chapters I know the interrelatedness of the locals, their quirks, their loves. I'm adding you to my bursting WL and hope to be able to back it soon.


Sylvia wrote 778 days ago

I've just read through extracts of a dozen books looking for something to put on my shelf. This one stands out head and shoulders above the rest. There's no evidence of construction or contrivance; the story simply unfolds with a life of its own. Bookshelf space filled to perfection.

Kim Padgett-Clarke wrote 781 days ago

Fantastic opening paragraph which sets the scene nicely. You could have almost been describing Blackpool! There were a lot of characters to get my head around in chapter 1 and I found myself making a list of them so I didn't get lost but once they stuck in the old grey matter it was full steam ahead. The committee members characters are strong and interact nicely with each other. Speech and dialogue work perfectly together. I was just a little confused about what era this is set in? I presume it's not modern by the way you describe the smoke in the pub especially from the pipe so it certainly doesn't seem to be modern times. Maybe a little hint of when this is set at the beginning? The line you dropped in about George killing Lizzy was great. Just a little taster of what is to come; nice way to ensure that the reader keeps turning the page. Very well done and six stars.

Km (Pain)

Freddie Omm wrote 782 days ago

this opening has changed a load since last i read it, and entirely to the good!

time's fluid interjections, in the flashfoward of a throwaway remark, add an agreeably telescoped effect to this narrative. a nice mix of straight narration and live action. is george from the off too brutish? does it matter?

one thing i might suggest is to enhance the effect of "gathering", narratively i mean, which is there i think implicitly, and whose power to pull one in might be made even more irresistible were there a stronger strand running through it, cohering it like a net.

the sparkian sparks of the witty juxtapositions work well with an intelligence which never seems overly brittle.

gillie63 wrote 782 days ago

One of the most moreish books I've read in a long time. Certainly deserving of a space on any bookshelf.


Lacydeane wrote 782 days ago

You have a very unique voice--I like it. It is different, yet done very well. The dialogue flows perfectly between your characters as does the rest of your writing. You use a lot of words, but they are all necessary--full of information, without a lot of fluff--just good substance. You have a really good book here. Rated high! Blessings, Lacy

Katy Johnson wrote 782 days ago

The Town that Danced

The strongest aspect of this book is the superb writing. Gripping and succinct when it is appropriate, yet poetic and captivating throughout. I love your descriptions. You create analogies that often liken things that seem completely different, yet work perfectly to create a sense of place. The pacing is, for the most part, a perfect fit for your plot, and by chapter three or four, I found myself unable to stop reading even if I had wanted to.

You've done an excellent job with a story that is extremely complex. The plot, while incredibly dramatic and interesting, is not necessarily one that is too hard to understand. Where I really see your talent is in the multitude of characters I feel I already intimately know. At first, I was worried that too many were introduced in far too great of detail for me to feel truly connected, but by the end of chapter two/chapter three, I felt firmly immersed in the story. Although you could go on for chapters about the individual lives and details of each character, you distill it down to the pertinent characteristics, behaviors, and life experiences that drive them, and the ones that make them memorable for us in just a paragraph or two. Truly impressive.

That being said, there are not any characters that I feel are weak or uninteresting. From George and his wife (and her possible murder scheme and mis-communicated lesbian affair) to the Cantonese family of three that owns a shop by Vincent's ice cream parlor - all hold my interest. Even the town and its scenery (which feels like a character in itself) is captivating. Because of this, when we switch our focus to someone new, I never feel a sense of boredom or desire to go back to the character I am most interested in - all of them are excellent.

And in reference to setting - the way we switch from scenery, to a specific character, to the national news and so on, feels as though I am looking through a set of binoculars, constantly adjusting my zoom on this tiny little town. It's a wonderful journey. I am not exactly sure what time this is set in - I'm not sure that matters. I was annoyed by it at first, but then it started to add to the mystery and surreal aspect of the book, so I actually began to like it.

I truly don't think I have anything negative to say. The only point I would make is that I felt lost at the beginning - worried that I was being introduced to so many characters that I wouldn't remember, and also didn't feel much of anything for, as the rapid-fire introduction of so many left my head-spinning. As I said, you rectify this quickly by making them all memorable and worthy of my attention, so I'm not sure it's a criticism (maybe just an observation). If there is a way you could add a little more to the beginning plot-wise, as opposed to (what feels like) a group of character introductions, that might help. I would worry that a reader may read the first chapter or two and feel too over-whelmed to continue. Then again, the best novels are not for those who would like to shut off their brains while reading.

I wish you the best of luck with this. I'm sure it will see the desk soon.

The Promenade

Juliet Ann wrote 786 days ago

Life so gets in the way of reading - but finally got back to this and read chapter 4 - really tense scene and delivers the promised hook. I felt Lizzy's curse could have been more sinister as it is highlighted in the pitch. This is definitely going on my shelf, next time I rotate and I will be reading on to see how George gets out this one. Small note - you use 'inky night' twice (in two different character POV's), maybe use something else for the second one. Juliet

FRAN MACILVEY wrote 787 days ago

Dear Sandie

I have read the first four chapters of "The Town That Danced" this afternoon. I find your writing rich and rewarding, and worth taking time over. I just could not rush through it. There is depth here, that I don't often find. The pacing is good, the setting well described. Some of your descriptive passages are so beautiful, like poetry. Your subtle, clever use of language feels genuine. I like reading aloud and find myself wondering whether this could feature as a book at bedtime, or be made into a play.

I have only one suggestion worth mentioning, which is that you check your use of tenses. More often than not, you write in the past tense, and then move to present. Occasionally there is a mixture of the two, which I found a little odd. Now and then, I felt that they sat uncomfortably close together.

Other than that, not much to add. Sprinkled with lots of stars! On my WL. I hope you do well.

Fran Macilvey "Trapped" :)

Lallie wrote 787 days ago

It's shelved so I'll do the crit ;-)

Something struck me in the first few paragraphs and I went looking for it subsequently and found it to be less apparent: Aelita's opening dialogue - her voice sounds exactly like your narrator's. I then got picky and went through all your other dialogue for a few chapters to see if this was the case with everyone and it isn't. It's even less apparent with Aelita afer the first chapter. Pratchett does this all the time and gets away with it, and it doesn't matter at all when he does it but I have a feeling it's not the effect you were after.

You know what the good stuff is in here. I shall leave you shelved until you no longer wish to be :)

Juliet Ann wrote 790 days ago

Just finished chapter 3 and loving the voice. I am finding I am getting a little confused by who is who - there are a lot of characters in chapter 3 to get my head around. Will definitely read on. Juliet

Juliet Ann wrote 792 days ago

This is a great opening chapter. You really capture the small town mentality and the eccentric, self-serving, and delightful characters that inhabit places such as this. A fine start. I will be reading further. Juliet

Paul Beattie wrote 797 days ago

Spare, oddly poetic prose. There's an engagingly immediate, almost filmic feel to the writing. Real and involving dialogue. Interesting sense of an original, rather playful storyline taking shape. Really good stuff. Starred and shelved.

johnpatrick wrote 800 days ago

Hello Sandie,
Chaps 1-2. Had to stop due to time constraints. Would love to be reading this in the bath. In a sturdy bathing costume of course.
What an entertaining read. A very high standard of wrting, perceptive prose and succinct character delineation.
The start is smooth and immediately familiar. I was gliding along in 'Midsommer' England untill the sentence 'Those working...A Sisyphian task..' Just sounded a little too forced. Compare that to the wonderful 'This unacknowledged truth envelopes every word.'
I've never seen Fergus spelt Ferghus but I could well be wrong there.
The extended fire metaphor was the only part that, I thought, didn't fit. I read it as John's POV-or at least by association his thoughts- but it sounded too feminine and too wrought for him.
It's a balancing act with Aletia-different but on the surface similiar and this is handled well.
You capture the essence of these places fantastically well Sandie. As I said it's very familiar territory which can only help re a publisher's mindset. A sweeping, assured piece of writing that works. I can see why this is in the 100s and hopefully will go further.
On my WL . High stars. Aiming to back it.
All the Best and Thank You.
Dropping Babies.(if you could find the time for a return read I'd be chuffed).

Emsbabee wrote 813 days ago

Sandie, this is wonderful. You've managed to capture the intimate, sometimes claustrophobic nature of small town life and introudced a wealth of distinctive characters within just a few chapters. I love it, starred and on my WL, will back.

paul house wrote 867 days ago

As to be expected, beautifully written. About to go to the airport to fly to, God forbid, Manchester, so no time for in depth comments today. Shelved, though, with pleasure.

I like the opening paragraph, but I wondered if then wandering off into a committee meeting was a way to capture the reader's interest afterwards.

Also, I wanted to know whether you were deliberately making it timeless, or just hadn't spent enough time extablishing the era and background. It could be anytime from the 1930's onwards or even earlier, as you haven't even put a mobile phone in or have the committee members using a laptop, rather than pen and papers.

If you wanted it timeless I think it would benefit from a little more descriptive ambiguity of the people, buildings and village. If it was supposed to be modern then I think you need to emphasise that more. Just bring out the era (or lack ot one) more.

Sue50 wrote 879 days ago

Very nicely done! Happy to place your work on my shelf. Hope you have a chance to take a look at Dark Side by CC Brown.

Billie Storm wrote 881 days ago

'Etched with pale tension ..... a voice that would 'rake the senses.'
Ah, yes. If I were addicted to strong and excellent coffee, it would taste like this, and I would be bathed in pleasure, and relief.
But you know this anyway, I've said it before, and I still can't back you cos they've put a ring of steel around my book case.

There was another writer on here, Ingrid, who was wonderful, and altho comparisons are iffy, there is a similarity. Perhaps the quality.
Good choice of tense, present, alert, in the now, doing. Perceptive, well told...'says through a puff of smoke,'
Narrative, exchanges do sometimes veer to brittle, but i don't mind that because I just drink the good writing.
Anyway, there you go. Cannot see any probs with you in the future; it's everybody else.
You know that, too.
If you want me to look at anything in particular?

Diwrite wrote 882 days ago

Solid writing skills, and a story that zips along at an engaging pace make this a great read.
I haven't read as much as I'd like due to a groaning WL, but I can see this is good stuff.

Good luck - I'm sure this will do well.
Pascual's Birthday

Eponymous Rox wrote 884 days ago

OK, so I gotta admit I never liked the title, still don't think that short pitch does it justice, PLUS I already know whodunnit and how come. So then, why do I keep on reading and reading and reading and reading and...?

Cuz it's well spun, Milady. Backed--you sure can write!


Mr Echols wrote 886 days ago

My Dear Sandie,

I find myself in abit of a bind. You can certainly write, no doubt about it. Your dialogue is believable and flows well, and you bring character through tone of voice very well - and that's not easy to pull off. You also capture, as other comments say, that rural seaside town atmosphere perfectly - there's claustrophobia with the tweeness, a collective sleepy cowardice that allows dark deeds to be carried out. And while there are splashes of cliche to each character - the gruff but well meaning falconeer, the rage fuelled, ambitious ex soldier turned tycoon, the well intentioned but slightly naive foppish lord - you clearly love each character enough to bring them to life in a way that's a pleasure to read.

But whats the impetus for the reader to keep reading? They know from the off that the barmaid will be killed - so thats not a shocker when it happens. They know the culprit too - so its not a murder mystery, reading to keep you guessing as a detective tries to put the puzzle together. Even if you didn't tell the reader who the murderer was, George is by far and away the biggest and only real nasty piece of work in the town - so unless he was an obvious red herring (he isn't) - then we know who killed her anyway. So are we just reading to find out when George will be caught and bought to justice - and how much damage he will cause before he is stopped? Doesn't seem like enough to keep me turning the pages, no matter how perfectly you capture rural seaside townlife.

If, on the other hand, it's more about the curse, an underlying evil, magical forces at work - then I feel like the pace is moving a little slowly. The tone is too grounded in reality for these first eight chapters - it needs a splash more magic, or gothic shadows, to foreshadow these themes. The murder needs to happen earlier, too - to show its the catalyst for the plot, rather than what the plot revolves around.

It would really help your narrative drive if you stuck from the viewpoint of less, perhaps even just one, character. While I finally am getting my head around a few key characters by the eighth chapter, I would like a stronger focus on one personality to identify with and root for, to guide me through the coming dark storm of madness.

Hope this helps and you take my words as a sign of how much I became invested in your story, rather than letting it get you down.

Gitano Dragonetti

Fred Le Grand wrote 889 days ago

Hi Sandie,
You really can write, you know?
Your characterisations are superb and you set the scene so well.
The people in your book really do jump out off the page and the dialogue is smooth and clever.
Love it!

BabyStar wrote 898 days ago

I do like stories set in quirky little towns so this definitely appealed to me when reading your blurb.

I like ensemble casts as well and yours is perfectly managed and portrayed. George in particular is horrendous! Your description of the characters and settings are very well done- I can see these places in my head!

I would say that Lizzy’s demise was a slight negative for me, all over in a couple of paragraphs. Although I appreciate it isn’t meant to be all blood and guts but maybe a little more build up and verbal dialogue between the two? And the branch- to me it didn’t seem the best thing to bludgeon someone with. And even though it says she was beaten I still wondered at the time if he’d maybe stabbed her with it! I just kept seeing a thin branch rather than anything of any substance. These are minor points, please feel free to ignore them!

This is the sort of book I would buy; so many people, so many things for them to get up to… intriguing stuff.

Best of luck with this one!

Harehound wrote 912 days ago

LF XL Review

Your writing is rich, highly descriptive, and compelling. The story (got to the end of Chpt 4) is gripping and enjoyable. I rather think that occasionally you get carried away with description and/or put words into mouths that are really the narrator's thoughts?

I am interested in your use of third person present tense. Unlike many I like present tense and would usually encourage an author to use it, however I am not absolutely certain that it works in this story. I can see that you have to use third person - and that's fine - but the subject matter seems to me to call for past tense. I may well be wrong!

Although your storyline is clear and rushes us along at a good steady pace there are just one or two bits that I do not find very believable. The 'Committee' seems to have the widest possible remit, from facades to bonking earls - I am a bit lost as to who they represent. I am also a bit sceptical about the Estate in that it seems to be populated by over-exaggerated figures, falconers with seven children, gangs of military-style volunteers, cheese-seeking cats, and a manager that any half-decent earl would have sacked years ago! That said it is a good enjoyable romp.

I like this book, will back it, and will read on.