Behind the Mask is Nothing

Melanie had a headache. Oliver directed three people to cluster round, touching her shoulders, hands and ankles. He squatted in front of her, took off her ankh and bandanna, stroked out the long, silky hair and looked deep into her eyes. Her cheeks quivered, her mouth fell open. He laid hands on her temples and she groaned, then howled at the ceiling, and the tongue-stud gleamed under a coat of saliva. She screwed up her face, eyes closed, shaking. Finally she gulped air and calmed down. The headache was gone.

 Amelia cackled. “You had an orgasm.”




How could anyone get drawn into a cult without realising?

Stef does. An overworked teacher, she questions her husband’s fidelity, but is drawn into a community on a remote Exmoor estate run by the couples counsellor. Meanwhile, her grandmother, who is writing her memoir about the Hitler Youth girls in Berlin with a mixture of guilt and nostalgia, looks on helplessly as Stef descends ever further.

A scintillating novel about the abuse of power – and the acceptance of this abuse.




Judy Birkbeck studied German and French from Reading University, and gained an MA in Creative Writing from Exeter University. She works as a technical, legal and commercial translator from German, French, Russian and Spanish. Behind The Mask Is Nothing was partly inspired by personal experience of a non-residential cult-like group. She is currently working on her third novel, about the abuse of power within the family.

She has  had several short stories published in Litro, The Lampeter Review, and elseewhere.

She was born and bred in London, and lives in Yorkshire.


Published 17th May 2017



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