Category: Harper Collins/William Morrow




Leigh Russell studied at the University of Kent, gaining a Masters degree in English. For many years a secondary school English teacher, she is a creative writing tutor for adults. She is married, has two daughters, and lives in North West London. Her first novel, Cut Short, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award in 2010. This was followed by Road Closed, Dead End, Death Bed, Stop Dead and Fatal Act, in the Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel series. Cold Sacrifice is the first title in a spin off series featuring Geraldine Steel’s sergeant, Ian Peterson.
Connect with Leigh at these sites:


Q&A with Leigh Russell

 Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
I never use personal experience or current events as my inspiration. My stories are complete flights of imagination. All my stories begin with a ‘What if…?’ question. What if a character hears a noise in the night and discovers a stranger in the house? What if someone arrived at work one day and discovered a dead body in the office? What if a bus driver found a corpse on his bus at the end of the route?

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
When you write a story you take your reader on a journey. I always know where the story begins, and where it will end, but the route evolves as I write. I have my ‘ten second elevator pitch’, but ideas occur to me as the plot and characters develop.

Your routine when writing?  Any idiosyncrasies?
I have no routine, but am rarely creative in the mornings. My brain is never fully alert until the afternoon. To begin with I wrote everything long hand and then typed it up, but I have learned to create directly onto the screen and rarely hand write now. Wherever I go, my iPad goes too, so I write wherever I am.

Is writing your full time job?  If not, may I ask what you do by day?
I am fortunate that I earn my living writing fiction. Since my spin off series launched last year, I am now delivering two novels a year to my publisher. For many years a teacher, I still do some classes, but this year will stop teaching altogether, as I no longer have enough time to do anything but write. I will continue to run occasional writing retreats for adults, one of which takes place on a beautiful Greek island every summer. It’s glorious, and a very inspiring place to work.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
A tricky question because there are so many! In the crime genre I’ll mention just three because they are also fans of my work and have been generous with their praise of my books: Lee Child, Jeffery Deaver and Peter James. Outside my own genre I enjoy Dickens, Edith Wharton, F Scott Fitzgerald, Kazuo Ishiguru, John Steinbeck, Harper Lee… to name just a very few.

What are you reading now?
At the moment I am too busy writing to have time for reading (shameful admission!) but I do have a huge list of books waiting to be read!

Are you working on your next novel?  Can you tell us a little about it?
I am always working on a novel! The sixth Geraldine Steel novel has just been published in the UK, Fatal Act, along with the first in the Ian Peterson spin off series,Cold Sacrifice. The manuscript for the second Ian Peterson novel is with my editor, and I’m currently busy writing the seventh Geraldine Steel novel. Both of these will be published in the UK this year, and hopefully in the US as well, where my existing novels are coming out every month. Writing two books year keeps me busy!

Fun questions:
Your novel will be a movie.  Who would you cast?
This is a very tricky question… an actor who is hugely talented, famous and very popular so that lots of people will go and see the film!

Manuscript/Notes: hand written or keyboard?

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Dare I say writing? It doesn’t feel like ‘work’.

Favorite meal?
Home made pizza.

Thank you for interviewing me here, and I hope you enjoy the Geraldine Steel and Ian Peterson series.


When headmistress Abigail Kirby’s corpse is discovered in the woods, police are shocked to learn that her tongue was cut out while she lay dying. Then, shortly after a witness comes forward, he is blinded and murdered. With mangled dead bodies appearing at an alarmingly increasing rate, Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel is in a race against time to find the killer before he claims his next victim….


Abigail Kirby lay on the table like a waxwork model, her face cleaned-up to reveal her square chin. Geraldine approached and forced herself to look at the victim’s open mouth: between even teeth the stump of her tongue looked surprisingly neat. Abigail Kirby stared back as though in silent protest at this scrutiny.
The pathologist looked up and Geraldine recognized the tall dark-haired medical examiner who had examined the body in the wood. ‘Hello again Inspector. You’ll forgive me if I don’t shake hands.’
Geraldine glanced down at his bloody gloves.


Genre: Mystery & Detective; Women Sleuths
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: 1/28/2014
Number of Pages: 384
ISBN: 9780062325631
Series: DI Geraldine Steel #3, Stand Alone




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I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
I do not have any affiliation with or Barnes & Noble. I am an IndieBound affiliate. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.

Guest Author FRANCES FYFIELD showcase & giveaway



“I grew up in rural Derbyshire, but my adult life has been spent mostly in London, with long intervals in Norfolk and Deal, all inspiring places. I was educated mostly in convent schools; then studied English and went on to qualify as a solicitor, working for what is now the Crown Prosecution Service, thus learning a bit about murder at second hand. Years later, writing became the real vocation, although the law and its ramifications still haunt me and inform many of my novels.

I’m a novelist, short story writer for magazines and radio, sometime Radio 4 contributor, (Front Row, Quote Unquote, Night Waves,) and presenter of Tales from the Stave. When I’m not working (which is as often as possible), I can be found in the nearest junk/charity shop or auction, looking for the kind of paintings which enhance my life. Otherwise, with a bit of luck, I’m relaxing by the sea with a bottle of wine and a friend or two.”-Frances Fyfield
Connect with Ms. Fyfield at these sites:



Marianne Shearer is at the height of her career, a dauntingly successful barrister, respected by her peers and revered by her clients. So why has she killed herself? Her latest case had again resulted in an acquittal, although the outcome was principally due to the death of the prime witness after Marianne’s forceful cross-examination. Had this wholly professional and unemotional lawyer been struck by guilt or uncertainty, or is there some secret to be discovered in her blandly comfortable private life? Her tenacious colleague Peter Friel is determined to find out of that last trial held the reason for her taking her own life. The transcript holds intriguing clues, but it is another witness at the trial who holds the key to the truth.


The trial had gone wrong on her, with the right result, certainly, one achieved through exploitation of weakness, legal argument, bullying, manipulation and luck. The suicide of the prime witness could only be called a misfortune. A thoroughly professional hatchet job on her part, in other words. It was for the prosecution to prove their case and for her to destroy it; she had done the latter but the result would not cover her with glory simply because it would be seen as an outrageous piece of cruel luck, rather than advocacy.

She would not want to say goodbye. She would never want to see him again, but he was fresh out of jail and for the first time he was leaving the court via the front door and not via the prison van. The prison van, he had told her, was an exquisitely uncomfortable mode of transport, like traveling on the inside of a human time bomb complete with molded plastic seats and manacles.


Genre: Crime Thriller
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: 11/26/2013
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 9780062301864




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No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
I do not have any affiliation with or Barnes & Noble. I am an IndieBound affiliate. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.




Leigh Russell studied at the University of Kent, gaining a Masters degree in English. For many years a secondary school English teacher, she is a creative writing tutor for adults. She is married, has two daughters, and lives in North West London. Her first novel, Cut Short, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award in 2010. This was followed by Road Closed, Dead End, Death Bed, Stop Dead and Fatal Act, in the Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel series. Cold Sacrifice is the first title in a spin off series featuring Geraldine Steel’s sergeant, Ian Peterson.
Connect with Ms. Russell at these sites:


Q&A with Leigh Russell

Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
Each of my narratives spins out from a stray idea. The inspiration for my debut novel, Cut Short, occurred to me when I was crossing my local park. It was raining, so the park was deserted. As I approached a tangled copse of trees and shrubs, a man appeared around a bend in the path. I don’t know where the idea came from, but I wondered what I would do if I walked on and saw a body in the bushes. Having seen this man, I would be able to describe him to the police, and identify him as having been in the park that afternoon. The story of the killer, and the girl he had murdered in the park, took hold of me. Six weeks later the initial idea had spilled out into a draft of the first Geraldine Steel crime novel. Cut Short was shortlisted for a major award and went on to become an international bestseller. Completing the book took months of writing, researching and rewriting, but the idea for the story struck me in one brief instant. I suppose it arose from a personal experience, but a very mundane one – passing a stranger on the path in a park.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
When you write a book you are taking your readers on a journey. I always know where the journey starts and ends, but the route from one to the other evolves as the book develops. Something I had in mind at the start might not work, or I might have a brainwave along the way that changes everything.

Your routine when writing?  Any idiosyncrasies?
I’m afraid I don’t have any routine, other than to write whenever I can. Recently I moved from a laptop to an ipad. I like it so much that I now carry an ipad mini with me wherever I go, which means I can write whenever I have any free time. But I would never claim to follow a routine. I’m not that organised! I do have a few personal idiosyncrasies but as far as writing is concerned, I just write.

Is writing your full time job?  If not, may I ask what you do by day?
Until recently I taught English full-time in high school. Now that I am earning a living from my crime novels, I have resigned from teaching in school altogether. I simply don’t have time to carry on. That said, I am committed to occasionally teaching creative writing to adults. I am pleased the prestigious Writers Lab have invited me to return to the lovely Greek island of Skyros to run a two week creative writing course in August 2014. I can’t wait!

Who are some of your favorite authors?
I have to mention Jeffery Deaver, who is a fan of Geraldine Steel. His books are incredibly clever. As fans of one another’s work, we meet at various literary conventions, and he is not only brilliant, but truly charming, modest and unassuming, as is Lee Child, another author whose work I admire. One of the many perks of writing a popular series is that I meet many fellow authors on the circuit. As well as US crime authors like Tess Gerritsen and Harlan Coben, I have many favourites among British authors, like Peter James – and Conan Doyle, of course, although I’m not old enough to have met him!

What are you reading now?
I have just been reading an out of print author, Julian Cole, who writes about the English city of York where my spin off series for Geraldine Steel’s sergeant, Ian Peterson is set. It’s a historical city with medieval churches and cathedral, and shops dating back to the fourteenth century. Before that I was reading Edith Wharton. I don’t read crime exclusively although it us a genre that fascinates me.

Are you working on your next novel?  Can you tell us a little about it?
In Geraldine Steel’s first three books, Cut Short, Road Closed and Dead End, she works with a male colleague, Ian Peterson. He now has his own spin off series which is also being published by Harper Collins in the US. With two series on the go, there are now two manuscripts to deliver each year. So yes, I am always working on my next novel! The sixth Geraldine Steel, Fatal Act, will be available to download in the UK next month. I have just finished writing the second Ian Peterson book, which starts with a death at the horse races in York. Now that is completed and ready for the editor, I have started on the seventh Geraldine Steel mystery, which sees her lose a colleague… no, I can’t tell you any more. You will have to wait and read the book for yourself!

Fun questions:
Your novel will be a movie.  Who would you cast?
It would have to be actors who are not only brilliant, and perfect for the roles of Geraldine Steel and Ian Peterson, but stars famous and popular enough to attract millions of viewers! They would also have to be available for many sequels, as I am planning to write about twenty books in the Geraldine Steel series, and fifteen in the spin off series for Ian Peterson. I have a few ideas for suitable actors but am not going to mention names as I’d hate to put anyone else off! You never know who might be looking at the books… hopefully a wealthy Hollywood director!

Manuscript/Notes: hand written or keyboard?
When I started, I wrote everything long hand in pencil before typing it up. The creative impulse didn’t seem to work so well for me when I was typing. After a while, I found I could create my stories directly on the keyboard, which made the writing process faster. I still sometimes jot down notes, but most of my writing is done on my keyboard these days.  With two books to deliver each year, that’s probably just as well.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Apart from spending time with my family, there is nothing I enjoy more than writing. There are lots of other activities I enjoy – reading, going to the theatre, listening to music… too many to list!

Favorite meal?
I am fortunate enough to live with three people who are all brilliant cooks – unlike me! Anything they make is good. I don’t eat meat, and prefer savoury to sweet, but apart from that I’m not fussy and will eat just about anything, and enjoy it.


The park – a place where children play, friends sit and gossip and people walk their dogs. But in the shadows, a predator watches, waits – and chooses his first victim. But someone has seen the killer and come forward as a witness – someone who the killer must stop at all costs. For detective Geraldine Steele it is a race against time to find the killer as two more bodies are found. A gripping psychological thriller introducing Geraldine Steel, a woman whose past is threatening to collide with her future.


He scrabbled at brittle leaves with clumsy gloved fingers then, crouching low, wriggled through the bushes. He glanced around to make sure no one was watching before he trudged away along the path. He’d been clever, careful to leave no clues. No one would find her in the park. It was his secret, his and hers, and she wouldn’t tell. He had no idea who she was, and that was clever too. It meant she didn’t know who he was.

He hadn’t chosen her because she was pretty. He hadn’t chosen her at all. She was just there. But she was pretty and he liked that. No woman had looked at him since school; she had stared into his eyes. She only said one word, ‘No!’ but she was speaking to him and he knew this was intimacy, just the two of them. It was a pity he wouldn’t see her again, but there would be others. It was raining hard. He sang softly, because you never knew who was listening.

‘Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven, like the first dew fall, on the first grass, praise for the sweetness of the wet garden…’

The rain would wash her clean.


Genre: Mystery & Detective; Women Sleuths
Published by: HarperCollins
Publication Date: Nov 26, 2013
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: 9780062325594




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I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
I do not have any affiliation with or Barnes & Noble. I am an IndieBound affiliate. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.

Guest Author IAN SANSOM



Ian Sansom is the author of the popular Mobile Library Mystery Series. He is also a frequent contributor and critic for The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The London Review of Books, and The Spectator. He is a regular broadcaster on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4.
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Q&A with Ian Samson

Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
All experience is personal experience. And all events are current. So yes, both. Everything. Absolutely everything. I draw upon everything. The world, the book and the devil. Nose to tail, and even the squeak.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
Neither. Sometimes I start with a phrase. An image. A smell. A colour. I rarely start with anything resembling a plot or a story – and arguably I rarely end up with anything resembling a plot or a story. My new novel began with the image of a man sitting with his feet resting on a copy of Debrett’sPeerage. I suppose really I start with language, or with images, or with rhythms. Sometimes I think I would rather be a poet. But poetry’s a mug’s game.

Your routine when writing?  Any idiosyncrasies?
‘Heaven gives us habits to take the place of happiness.’ Isn’t that Goethe? I think it’s Goethe. Someone like Goethe. Anyway. Yes. I am always inventing routines and habits. And then breaking them. Or they lapse. And so I have to invent another routine or habit. Perhaps this in itself is an idiosyncrasy – or perhaps it’s just life, I don’t know. Did Sisyphus have a routine?

Is writing your full time job?  If not, may I ask what you do by day?
Writing is my full-time job in the sense that it occupies my mind full-time, and sometimes more than full-time – overtime, extra time, big time. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, and it’s really all I can do with any degree of skill. Je suis un homme-plume. By day, however, I am engaged in full-time paid employment. It’s OK. I don’t mind full-time employment. I love to eat. And you know what they say – if a man shall not work, how shall he eat?

Who are some of your favorite authors?
I mostly like dead authors. They’re more fun to play with. You can say stuff to dead authors that you wouldn’t dream of saying to living authors. Flaubert, say. You can really get into a good conversation with Flaubert. Or Dickens. Chekhov. You can throw anything at them and they’ll come right back at you with something interesting.

What are you reading now?
I try to read a book a day. Sometimes two. So, today: Love’s Executioner, by Irvin B. Yalom. And The Stranger’s Child, by Alan Hollinghurst – but I can tell that’s going to spill over into tomorrow. The Stranger’s Child is a 2-day event.

Are you working on your next novel?  Can you tell us a little about it?
I’m just finishing my next novel – which will be the second in the County Guides series, in which our hero Swanton Morley travels to Devon to write another guide book on the English counties. This time he’s confronted with a mysterious death at a boys’ school. There are cream teas. And surfing Satanists.

Fun questions:
Your novel will be a movie.  Who would you cast?
Swanton Morley: Joseph Cotten. Stephen Sefton: Montgomery Clift. Miriam Morley: Sonia Henie. They’re all dead, alas, so it’s unlikely the film will get made. Do they have MGM in heaven?

Manuscript/Notes: hand written or keyboard?
I like to write with a Staedtler Pigment Liner 0.05 in a Moleskine squared pocket notebook. The squares keep me right.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby? 
I enjoy the sound of good people talking.

Favorite meal?
Years ago I went to lunch with a friend in a Cambridge college. We sat at High Table and ate boiled egg and mashed anchovy sandwiches, with a nice glass of claret. I was sat next to a bishop on one side and a mathematician on the other. That was a good meal.


Love Miss Marple? Adore Holmes and Watson? Professor Morley’s guide to Norfolk is a story of bygone England: quaint villages, eccentric locals—and murder …

It is 1937, and disillusioned Spanish Civil War veteran Stephen Sefton is broke. So when he sees a mysterious advertisement for a job where “intelligence is essential,” he eagerly applies.

Thus begins Sefton’s association with Professor Swanton Morley, an omnivorous intellect. Morley’s latest project is a history of traditional England, with a guide to every county.

They start in Norfolk, but when the vicar of Blakeney is found hanging from his church’s bell rope, Morley and Sefton find themselves drawn into a rather more fiendish plot. Did the reverend really take his own life, or is there something darker afoot?

A must-read for fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and Charles Todd, this novel includes plenty of murder, mystery, and mayhem to confound.


Reminiscences, of course, make for sad, depressing literature. Nonetheless. Some stories must be told.

In the year 1932 I came down from Cambridge with my poor degree in English, a Third – what my supervisor disapprovingly referred to as ‘the poet’s degree’. I had spent my time at college in jaunty self-indulgence, rising late, cutting lectures, wandering round wisteria-clad college quadrangles drinking and carousing, occasionally playing sport, and attempting – and failing – to write poetry in imitation of my great heroes, Eliot, Pound and Yeats. I had grand ambitions and high ideals, and absolutely no notion of exactly how I might achieve them.

I certainly had no intention of becoming involved in the exploits and adventures that I am about to relate. By late August of 1932, recovering at last from the long hang over of my childhood and adolescence, and quite unable, as it turned out, to find employment suited to my ambitions and dreams, I put down my name on the books of Messrs Gabbitas and Thring, the famous scholastic agency, and so began my brief and undistinguished career as a schoolmaster.

I shall spare the uninitiated reader the intimate details of the life of the English public school: it is, suffice it to say, a world of absurd and deeply ingrained pomposities, and attracts more than its fair share of eccentrics, hysterics, malcontents and ne’er-do-wells. At Cambridge I had been disappointed not to meet more geniuses and intellectuals: I had foolishly assumed the place would be full to the brim with the brightest and the best. As a lowly schoolmaster in some of the more minor of the minor public schools, I now found myself among those I considered to be little better than semi-imbeciles and fools. After grim stints at Arnold House, Llandullas and at the Oratory in Sunning – institutions distinguished, it seemed to me, only by their ability to render both their poor pupils and their odious staff ever more insensitive and insensible – I eventually found myself, by the autumn of 1935, in a safe berth at the Hawthorns School in Hayes. This position, though carrying with it all the usual and tiresome responsibilities, was, by virtue of the school’s location on the outskirts of London, much more congenial to me and afforded me the opportunity to reacquaint myself with old friends from my Cambridge days. Some had drifted into teaching or tutoring; some had found work with the BBC, or with newspapers; a lucky few had begun to make their mark in the literary and artistic realms. Those around me, it seemed, were flourishing: they rose, and rose. I was sinking.

After leaving Cambridge I had, frankly, lost all direction, purpose and motivation. At school I had been prepared for varsity: I had not been prepared for life. After Cambridge I had given up on my poetry and became lazier than ever in my mental habits, frequenting the cinema most often to enjoy only the most vulgar and the gaudiest of its productions: The Black Cat, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Tarzan and His Mate. Where once I had immortal longings my dreams now were mostly of Claudette Colbert. I had also become something of an addict of the more lurid work of the detective novelists – a compensation, no doubt, for the banalities of my everyday existence. The air in the pubs around Fitzrovia in the mid- 1930s, however, was thick with talk of Marx and Freud and so – if only to impress my friends and to try to keep up – I gradually found myself returning to more serious reading. I read Mr Huxley, for example – his Brave New World. And Ortega y Gasset’s The Revolt of the Masses. Strachey’s The Coming Struggle for Power. Malraux’s La Condition Humaine. These were books in ferment, as we were: these were the writers who were dreaming our wild and fantastic dreams. I began to attend meetings in the evenings. I distributed pamphlets. I frequented Hyde Park Corner. I read the Daily Worker. I came under the sway of, first, Aneurin Bevan and, then, Harry Pollitt.

I joined the Communist Party.

In the party I had found, I believed, an outlet and a home. I devoured Marx and Engels – slowly, and in English. I was particularly struck by a phrase from the Communist Manifesto, which I carefully copied out by hand and taped above my shaving mirror, the better to excite and affront myself each morning: ‘Finally, as the class struggle nears its decisive stage, disintegration of the ruling class and the older order of society becomes so active, so acute, that a small part of the ruling class breaks away to make common cause with the revolutionary class, the class which holds the future in its hands.’ After years as a pathetic Mr Chips, conducting games, leading prayers and encouraging the work of the OTC, I was desperate to hold the future, any future, in my hands.

And so, in October 1936 I left England and the Hawthorns for Barcelona and the war.

I arrived in Spain in what I now recognise as a kind of fever of idealism. I eventually returned to England almost twelve months later in turmoil, confusion and in shock. Although I had read of the great movement of masses and the coming revolution, in Spain I saw it for myself. I had long taught my pupils the stories of the great battles and the triumphs of the kings and queens of England, the tales of the Christian martyrs, and the epic poetry of Homer, the tragedies of Shakespeare. I now faced their frightful reality. Even now I find I am able to recall incidents from the war as if they happened yesterday, though they remain strangely disconnected in my mind, like cinematic images, or fragments of what Freud calls the dreamwork. From the first interview at the party offices on King Street – ‘So you want to be a hero?’ ‘No.’ ‘Good. Because we don’t need bloody heroes.’ ‘So are you a spy?’ ‘No.’ ‘Are you a pawn of Stalin?’ ‘No.’ ‘What are you then?’ ‘I am a communist’ – to arriving in Paris, en route, early in the morning, sick, hung over, shitting myself with excitement in the station toilets, shaking and laughing at the absurdity of it. And then the first winter in Spain, shell holes filled to the brink with a freezing crimson liquid, like a vast jelly – blood and water mixed together. And in summer, coming across a farm where there were wooden wine vats, and climbing in and bathing in the cool wine, while the grimy, fat, terrified farmer offered his teenage daughters to us in exchange for our not murdering them all. In a wood somewhere, in the bitter cold spring of 1937, staring at irises and crocuses poking through the dark mud, and thinking absurdly of Wordsworth, the echoing sound of gunfire all around, wounded men passing by, strapped to the back of mules. The taste of water drunk from old petrol tins. The smell of excreta and urine. Olive oil. Thyme. Candle grease. Cordite. Endless sleeplessness. Lice. The howling winds. The sizzling of the fat as we make an omelette in a large, black pan over an open fire, cutting it apart with our knives. Gorging on a field of ripe tomatoes. The Spanish rain. The hauling of the ancient Vickers machine guns over rocky ground.

And, of course, the dead. Everywhere the dead. Corpses laid out at the side of the road, the sight and smell of them like the mould on jam, maggots alive everywhere on their bodies. Corpses with their teeth knocked out – with the passing knock of a rifle butt. Corpses with their eyes pecked out. Corpses stripped. Corpses disembowelled. Corpses wounded, desecrated and disfigured.

In a year of fighting I was myself responsible for the murder of perhaps a dozen men, many of them killed during an attack using trench mortars on a retreating convoy along the Jaca road in March, May 1937? There was one survivor of this atrocity who lay in the long grass by the road, calling out for someone to finish him off. He had lost both his legs in the blast, and his face had been wiped away with shrapnel; he was nothing but flesh. A fellow volunteer hesitated, and then refused, but for some reason I felt no such compunction. I acted neither out of compassion nor in rage – it was simply [ 6 ] what happened. I shot the poor soul at point-blank range with my revolver, my mousqueton, the short little Mauser that I had assembled and reassembled from the parts of other guns, my time with the OTC at the Hawthorns School having stood me in good stead. To my shame, I must admit not only that I found the killing easy, but that I enjoyed it: it sickened me, but I enjoyed it; it made me walk tall. I felt for the first time since leaving college that I had a purpose and a role. I felt strong and invincible. I had achieved, I believed, the ultimate importance. I was like a demi-god. A saviour. I had become an instrument of history. The Truly Strong Man.

I was, in fact, nothing but a cheap murderer.

I was vice triumphant.

Soon after, I was wounded – shot in the thigh. We had been patrolling a no-man’s-land at night, somewhere near Figueras. We were ambushed. There was confusion. Men running blindly among rocks and trees. At the time, the strike of the bullet felt to me as no more than a slight shock, like an insect bite, or an inconvenience. The pain, unspeakable, came later: the feeling of jagged metal inside you. Indescribable. I was taken in a convoy of the wounded to a hospital, no more than a series of huts that had once been a bicycle workshop, requisitioned from the owners, where men lay on makeshift beds, howling and weeping, calling out in a babel of languages, row upon row of black bicycle frames and silver wheels hanging down above us, like dark mechanical angels tormenting our dreams. I was prescribed morphine and became delirious with nightmares and night sweats. Weeks turned into months. Eventually I was transferred to Barcelona, and then by train to France, and so back home to England, beaten, and limping like a wounded animal.

The adventure had lasted little more than a year. It seemed like a lifetime.

Ironically, on returning from Spain, I found myself briefly popular, hailed by friends as a hero, and by idling fellow travellers as their representative on the Spanish Front.

There were grand luncheons, at Gatti’s in the Strand, and speaking engagements in the East End, wild parties at Carlton House Terrace, late night conversations in the back rooms of pubs – a disgusting, feverish gumping from place to place. Unable to comprehend exactly what had happened to me, I spoke to no one of my true experiences: of the vile corruption of the Republicans; the unspeakable coarseness and vulgarity of my fellow volunteers; the thrill of cowardly murder; my privileged glimpse of the future. I spoke instead as others willed me to speak, pretending that the war was a portent and a fulfilment, the opening salvo in some glorious final struggle against the bourgeois. Lonely and confused, attempting to pick up my life again, I ran, briefly, a series of intense love affairs, all of them with unsuitable women, all of them increasingly disagreeable to me. One such relationship was with a married woman, the wife of the headmaster of the Hawthorns, where I had returned to teach. We became deeply involved, and she began to nurture ideas of our fleeing together and starting our lives again. This proposed arrangement I knew to be not merely impossible but preposterous, and I broke off the relationship in the most shaming of fashions – humiliating her and demeaning myself. There was a scandal.

I was, naturally, dismissed from my post.

What few valuable personal belongings and furnishings I possessed – my watch, some paintings, books – I sold in order to fund my inevitable insolvency, and to buy drink. A cabin trunk I had inherited from my father, my most treasured possession – beautifully crafted in leather, and lined in watered silk, with locks and hinges of solid brass, my father’s initials emblazoned upon it, and which had accompanied me from school to Cambridge and even on to Spain – I sold, in a drunken stupor, to a man in a pub off the Holloway Road for the princely sum of five shillings.

I had become something utterly unspeakable.

I was not merely an unemployed private school master.

I was a monster of my own making.

I moved into temporary lodgings in Camden Town. My room, a basement below a laundry, was let to me furnished. The furnishings extended only to a bed, a small table and a chair: it felt like a prison cell. Water ran down the walls from the laundry, puddling on the floor and peeling back the worn-out linoleum. Slugs and insects infested the place. At night I tried writing poems again, playing Debussy, and Beethoven’s late quartets and Schubert’s Winterreise – in a wonderful recording by Gerhard Hüsch, which reduced me to tears – again and again and again on my gramophone to drown out the noise of the rats scurrying on the floor above.

I failed to write the poems.

I sold the Debussys, and the Beethovens and Gerhard Hüsch singing Schubert. And then I sold the gramophone.

During my time in Spain a shock of my hair had turned a pure white, giving me the appearance of a badger, or a skunk: with my limp, this marking seemed to make me all the more damaged, like a shattered rock, or a sliver of quartz; the mark of Cain. I had my hair cropped like a convict’s and wore thin wire-rimmed spectacles, living my days as a heroimpostor, and my nights in self-lacerating mournfulness.

Sleep fled from me. I found it impossible to communicate with friends who had not been to Spain, and with those who had I felt unable to broach the truth, fearing that my experiences would not correspond to their own. Milton it was – was it not? – who was of the opinion that after the Restoration the very trees and vegetation had lost heart, as he had, and had begun to grow more tardily. I came to believe, after my return from Spain, that this was indeed the case: my food and drink tasted bitter; the sky was filled with clouds; London itself seemed like a wilderness. Everything seemed thin, dead and grey.

I covered up my anxieties and fears with an exaggerated heartiness, drinking to excess until late at night and early into the morning, when I would seek out the company of women, or take myself to the Turkish Baths near Exmouth Market, where the masseur would pummel and slap me, and I could then plunge into ice-cold waters, attempting to revive myself. A drinking companion who had returned from America provided me with a supply of Seconal, which I took at night in order to help me sleep. I had become increasingly sensitive to and tormented by noise: the clanging and the banging of the city, and the groaning and chattering of people. I could nowhere find peace and quiet. During the day I would walk or cycle far out of London into the country, wishing to escape what I had become. I would picnic on bread and cheese, and lie down to nap in green fields, where memories of Spain would come flooding back to haunt me. I bound my head with my jacket, the sound of insects disturbed me so – like fireworks, or gunfire. I was often dizzy and disoriented: I felt as though I were on board ship, unable to disembark, heading for nowhere. I took aspirin every day, which unsettled my stomach. Some nights I would sleep out under the stars, in the shelter of the hedges, lighting a fire to keep me warm, begging milk from farmers and eating nuts and berries from the hedgerow. The world seemed like nothing more than a vast menacing ocean, or a desert, and I had become a nomad. Sometimes I would not return to my lodgings for days. No one noted my absences.

Near Tunbridge Wells one day, in Kent, I retreated to the safety of a public library to read The Times – something to distract me from my inner thoughts. Which was where I saw the advertisement, among ‘Appointments & Situations Vacant’:

Assistant (Male) to Writer. Interesting work; good salary and expenses; no formal qualifications necessary; applicants must be prepared to travel; intelligence essential. Write, giving full particulars, BOX E1862, The Times, E.C.4. I had, at that moment, exactly two pounds ten shillings to my name – enough for a few weeks’ food and rent, maybe a month, a little more, and then . . .

I believed I had already engineered my own doom. There was no landfall, only endless horizon. I foresaw no future. I applied for the job.


Genre: Mystery/Detective
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: 11/12/2013
Number of Pages: 212
ISBN: 9780062320803




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I do not have any affiliation with or Barnes & Noble. I am an IndieBound affiliate. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.

Guest Author JOHN BURLEY



John Burley attended medical school in Chicago and completed his emergency medicine residency training at University of Maryland Medical Center/Shock Trauma in Baltimore. He currently serves as an emergency medicine physician in northern California, where he lives with his wife, daughter, Great Dane, and English Bulldog. This is his first novel.
Connect with John at these sites:



John Burley’s The Absence of Mercy is a harrowing tale of suspense involving a brutal murder and dark secrets that lie beneath the surface of a placid, tight-knit Midwestern town.

When a brutally murdered teenager is discovered in the woods surrounding a small Ohio town, Dr. Ben Stevenson—the town’s medical examiner—must decide if he’s willing to put his family’s life in danger to uncover the truth. Finding himself pulled deeper into an investigation with devastating consequences, he discovers shocking information that will shatter his quiet community, and force him to confront a haunting truth.

With its eerie portrait of suburban life and nerve-fraying plot twists, The Absence of Mercy is domestic drama at its best for fans of Harlan Coben, Laura Lippman, Jennifer McMahon, and Lisa Gardner.

This is not the beginning.

Up ahead, a young man sporting jeans and a black T­shirt walks casually down the concrete sidewalk. He hums softly to himself as he ambles along, Nike­bound feet slapping rhythmi­cally on the serpentine path he weaves through the late afternoon foot traffic. He is perhaps fifteen—not truly a young man yet, but certainly well on his way—and he walks with the energy and indifference of one who possesses the luxury of youth but not yet the experience to appreciate its value, or its evanescence.

The predator watches the young man turn a corner, disap­pearing temporarily from view behind the brick exterior of an adjacent building. Still, he maintains a respectable distance, for although he has an instinct for how to proceed, he now relin­quishes control to something else entirely. For as long as he can remember he has sensed its presence, lurking behind the trans­lucent curtain of the insignificant daily activities of his life. The thing waits for him to join it, to embrace it—observes him with its dark and faithful eyes. But there are times—times like this—when it waits no longer, when the curtain is drawn aside and it emerges, demanding to be dealt with.

The young man in the black T­shirt reaches the end of the street and proceeds across a small clearing. On the other side of the clearing is a modest thatch of woods through which a dirt trail, overgrown with the foliage of an early spring, meanders for about two hundred yards until it reaches the neighborhood just beyond.

The predator picks up his pace, closing the distance between them. He can feel the staccato of his heart kick into third gear, where power wrestles fleetingly with speed. The thing that lives behind the curtain is with him now—has become him. Its breath, wet and heavy and gritty with dirt, slides in and out of his lungs, mixing with his own quick respirations. The incessant march of its pulse thrums along eagerly behind his temples, blanching his vision slightly with each beat. Ahead of him is the boy, his slender frame swinging slightly as he walks, almost dancing, as if his long muscles dangled delicately from a metal hanger. For a moment, watching from behind as he completes the remaining steps between them, the predator is struck by the sheer beauty of that movement, and an unconscious smile falls across his face.

The sound of his footsteps causes the boy to turn, to face him now, arms hanging limply at his sides. As he does, the predator’s left hand swings quickly upward from where it had remained hidden behind his leg a moment before. His hand is curled tightly around an object, its handle connected to a thin metal shaft, long and narrow and tapered at the end to a fine point. It reaches the pinnacle of its arcing swing and enters the boy’s neck, dead center, just below the jaw. A slight jolt reverberates through the predator’s arm as the tip of the rod strikes the underside of the boy’s skull. He can feel the warmth of the boy’s skin pressing up against the flesh of his own hand as the instrument comes to rest. The boy opens his mouth to scream, but the sound is choked off by the blood filling the back of his throat. The predator pulls his arm down and away, feeling the ease with which the instrument exits the neck.

He pauses a moment, watching the boy struggle, studying the shocked confusion in his eyes. The mouth in front of him opens and closes silently. The head shakes slowly back and forth in negation. He leans in closer now, holding the boy’s gaze. The hand gripping the instrument draws back slightly in preparation for the next blow; then he pistons it upward, the long metal tip punching its way through the boy’s diaphragm and into his chest. He watches the body go rigid, watches the lips form the circle of a silent scream, the eyes wide and distant.

The boy crumples to the ground, and the predator goes with him, cradling a shoulder with his right hand, his eyes fixed on that bewildered, pallid face. He can see that the boy’s consciousness is waning now, can feel the muscles going limp in his grasp. Still, he tries to connect with those eyes, wonders what they are seeing in these final moments. He imagines what it might feel like for the world to slide away at the end, to feel the stage go dark and to step blindly into that void between this world and the next, naked and alone, waiting for what comes after . . . if anything at all.

The cool earth shifts slightly beneath his fingers, and in the space of a second the boy is gone, leaving behind his useless, broken frame. “No,” the predator whispers to himself, for the moment has passed too quickly. He shakes the body, looking for signs of life. But there is nothing. He is alone now in the woods. The realization sends him into a rage. The instrument in his hand rises and falls again and again, wanting to punish, to admonish,to hurt. When the instrument no longer satisfies him, he casts it aside, using his hands, nails, and teeth to widen the wounds. The body yields impassively to the assault, the macerated flesh fall­ing away without conviction, the pooling blood already a lifeless thing. Eventually, the ferocity of the attack begins to taper. He rests on his hands and knees, drawing in quick, ragged breaths.

Next time, I will do better, he promises the thing that lives behind the curtain. But when he turns to look the thing is gone, the curtain drawn closed once again.


Genre: Suspense
Published by: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: 11/19/2013
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 9780062227379
Note: Graphic violence




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I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
I do not have any affiliation with or Barnes & Noble. I am an IndieBound affiliate. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.

Guest Author J. A. JANCE



A voracious reader, J. A. Jance knew she wanted to be a writer from the moment she read her first Wizard of Oz book in second grade. Always drawn to mysteries, from Nancy Drew right through John D. McDonald’s Travis Magee series, it was only natural that when she tried her hand at writing her first book, it would be a mystery as well. J. A. Jance went on to become the New York Times bestselling author of the J. P. Beaumont series, the Joanna Brady series, three interrelated thrillers featuring the Walker family, and Edge of Evil. Born in South Dakota and brought up in Bisbee, Arizona, Jance lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington, and Tucson, Arizona.
Connect with Ms. Jance at these sites:

WEBSITE          TWITTER    

With Second Watch, New York Times bestselling author J. A. Jance delivers another thought-provoking novel of suspense starring Seattle investigator J. P. Beaumont.
Second Watch shows Beaumont taking some time off to get knee replacement surgery, but instead of taking his mind off work, the operation plunges him into one of the most perplexing mysteries he’s ever faced.
His past collides with his present in this complex and thrilling story that explores loss and heartbreak, duty and honor, and, most importantly, the staggering cost of war and the debts we owe those who served in the Vietnam War, and those in uniform today.


We left the P-­ 2 level of the parking lot at Belltown Terrace ten minutes later than we should have. With Mel Soames at the wheel of her Cayman and with me belted into the passenger seat, we roared out of the garage, down the alley between John and Cedar, and then up Cedar to Second Avenue.Second is one of those rare Seattle thoroughfares where, if you drive just at or even slightly below the speed limit, you can sail through one green light after another, from the Denny Regrade all the way to the International District. I love Mel dearly, but the problem with her is that she doesn’t believe in driving “just under” any speed limit, ever. That’s not her style, and certainly not on this cool September morning as we headed for the Swedish Orthopedic Institute, one of the many medical facilities located in a neighborhood Seattle natives routinely call Pill Hill.

Mel was uncharacteristically silent as she drove hell-­ bent for election through downtown Seattle, zipping through intersec­tions just as the lights changed from yellow to red. I checked to be sure my seat belt was securely fastened and kept my backseat-­ driving tendencies securely in check. Mel does not respond well to backseat driving.

“Are you okay?” she asked when the red light at Cherry finally brought her to a stop.

The truth is, I wasn’t okay. I’ve been a cop all my adult life. I’ve been in gunfights and knife fights and even the occasional fist­fight. There have been numerous times over the years when I’ve had my butt hauled off to an ER to be stitched up or worse. What all those inadvertent, spur-­ of-­ the-­ moment ER trips had in common, however, was a total lack of anticipation. Whatever hap­pened happened, and I was on the gurney and on my way. Since I had no way of knowing what was coming, I didn’t have any time to be scared to death and filled with dread before the fact. After, maybe, but not before.

This time was different, because this time I had a very good idea of what was coming. Mel was driving me to a scheduled check-­ in appointment at the Swedish Orthopedic Institute surgi­cal unit Mel and I have come to refer to as the “bone squad.” This morning at eight a.m. I was due to meet up with my orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Merritt Auld, and undergo dual knee-­ replacement surgery. Yes, dual—­ as in two knees at the same time.

I had been assured over and over that this so-­ called elective surgery was “no big deal,” but the truth is, I had seen the videos. Mel and I had watched them together. I had the distinct impres­sion that Dr. Auld would be more or less amputating both my legs and then bolting them back together with some spare metal parts in between. Let’s just say I was petrified.

“I’m fine,” I said.

“You are not fine,” Mel muttered, “and neither am I.” Then she slammed her foot on the gas, swung us into a whiplash left turn, and we charged up Cherry. Given her mood, I didn’t comment on her speed or the layer of rubber she had left on the pavement behind us.

I had gimped along for a very long time without admitting to anyone, most of all myself, that my knees were giving me hell. And once I had finally confessed the reality of the situation, Mel had set about moving heaven and earth to see that I did something about it. This morning we were both faced with a heaping helping of “watch out what you ask for.”

“You could opt to just do one, you know,” she said.

But I knew better, and so did she. When the doctor had asked me which knee was my good knee, I had told him truthfully that they were both bad. The videos had stressed that the success of the surgery was entirely dependent on doing the required post­-surgery physical therapy. Since neither of my knees would stand up to doing the necessary PT for the other, Dr. Auld had reluctantly agreed to give me a twofer.

“We’ll get through this,” I said.

She looked at me and bit her lip.

“Do you want me to drop you at the front door?”

That was a strategy we had used a lot of late. She would drop me off or pick me up from front doors while she hoofed it to and from parking garages.

“No,” I said. “I’d rather walk.”

I didn’t add “with you,” because I didn’t have to. She knew it. She also knew that by the time we made it from the parking garage to the building, we would have had to stop to rest three times and my forehead would be beaded with sweat.

“Thank you,” she said.

While I eased my body out of the passenger seat and straight­ened into an upright position, she hopped out and grabbed the athletic bag with my stuff in it out of the trunk. Then she came toward me, looking up at me, smiling.

And the thought of losing that smile was what scared me the most. What if I didn’t wake back up? Those kinds of things weren’t supposed to happen during routine surgeries, but they did. Occa­sionally there were unexpected complications and the patient died. What if this was one of those times, and this was the last time I would see Mel or hold her hand? What if this was the end of all of it? There were so many things I wanted to say about how much I loved her and how much she meant to me and how, if I didn’t make it, I wanted her to be happy for the rest of her life. But did any of those words come out of my mouth? No. Not one.

“It’s going to be okay,” she said calmly, as though she had heard the storm of misgivings that was circling around in my head. She squeezed my hand and away we went, limping along, the hare patiently keeping pace with the lumbering tortoise.

I don’t remember a lot about the check-­ in process. I do remember there was a line, and my knees made waiting in line a peculiar kind of hell. Mel offered to stand in line for me, but of course I turned her down. She started to argue, but thought better of it. Instead, she took my gym bag and sat in one of the chairs banked against the wall while I answered all the smiling clerk’s inane questions and signed the countless forms. Then, after Mel and I waited another ten minutes, a scrubs-­ clad nurse came to summon us and take us “back.”

What followed was the change into the dreaded backless gown; the weigh-­ in; the blood draw; the blood pressure, temperature, and pulse checks. Mel hung around for all of that. And she was still there when they stuck me on a bed to await the arrival of my anesthesiologist, who came waltzing into the bustling room with a phony smile plastered on his beaming face. He seemed to be having the time of his life. After introducing himself, he asked my name and my date of birth, and then he delivered an incredibly lame stand-­ up comic routine about sending me off to never-­ never land.

Gee, thanks, and how would you like a punch in the nose? 

After a second wait of who knows how long, they rolled me into another room. This time Dr. Auld was there, and so were a lot of other people. Again they wanted my name and date of birth. It occurred to me that my name and date of birth hadn’t changed in the hour and a half during which I had told four other people the same, but that’s evidently part of the program now. Or maybe they do it just for the annoyance factor.

At that point, however, Dr. Auld hauled out a Sharpie and drew a bright blue letter on each of my knees—­ R and L.

“That’s just so we’ll keep them straight,” he assured me with a jovial smile.

Maybe he expected me to laugh. I didn’t. The quip reminded me too much of the kinds of stale toasts delivered by hungover best men at countless wedding receptions, and it was about that funny, too. I guess I just wasn’t up to seeing any humor in the situation.

Neither was Mel. I glanced in her direction and saw the icy blue-­ eyed stare my lovely wife had leveled in the good doctor’s direction. Fortunately, Dr. Auld didn’t notice.

“Well,” he said. “Shall we do this?”

As they started to roll me away, Mel leaned down and kissed me good-­ bye. “Good luck,” she whispered in my ear. “Don’t be long. I’ll be right here waiting.”

I looked into Mel’s eyes and was surprised to see two tears well up and then make matching tracks down her surprisingly pale cheeks. Melissa Soames is not the crybaby type. I wanted to reach up and comfort her and tell her not to worry, but the anesthesiologist had given me something to “take the edge off,” and it was certainly working. Before I could say anything at all, Mel was gone, disappearing from view behind my merry band of scrubs-­ attired escorts as they wheeled me into a waiting elevator.

I closed my eyes then and tried to remember exactly how Mel looked in that moment before the doors slid shut between us. All I could think of as the elevator sank into what felt like the bowels of the earth was how very much I loved her and how much I wanted to believe that when I woke up, she really would be there, waiting.

Chapter 1

Except she wasn’t. When I opened my eyes again, that was the first thing I noticed. The second one was that I was “feeling no pain,” as they say, so the drugs were evidently doing what they were supposed to do.I was apparently in the recovery room. Nurses in flowery scrubs hovered in the background. I could hear their voices, but they were strangely muted, as if somebody had turned the volume way down. As far as my own ability to speak? Forget it. Someone had pushed my mute button; I couldn’t say a single word.

In the foreground, a youngish woman sat on a tall rolling stool at the side of the bed. My initial assumption was that my daughter, Kelly, had arrived from her home in southern Oregon. I had told her not to bother coming all the way from Ashland to Seattle on the occasion of my knee-­ replacement surgery. In fact, I had issued a fatherly decree to that effect, insisting that Mel and I would be fine on our own. Unfortunately, Kelly is her mother’s daughter, which is to say she is also headstrong as hell. Since when did she ever listen to a word I said?

So there Kelly sat as big as life, whether I had wanted her at the hospital or not. She wore a crimson-­and- g ray WSU sweatshirt. A curtain of long blond hair shielded her face from my view while she studiously filed her nails—­ nails that were covered with bright red polish.

Having just been through several hours of major surgery, I think I could be forgiven for being a little slow on the uptake, but eventually I realized that none of this added up. Even to my drug-­ befuddled brain, it didn’t make sense.

Kelly and I have had our share of issues over the years. The most serious of those involved her getting pregnant while she was still a senior in high school and running off to Ashland to meet up with and eventually marry her boyfriend, a wannabe actor named Jeff. Of course, the two of them have been a couple for years, and my son-­ in-­ law is now one of the well-­ established members of the acting company at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon.

The OSF offers a dozen or so plays a year, playing in repertory for months at a time, and Jeff Cartwright has certainly paid his dues. After years of learning his trade by playing minor roles as a sword-­ wielding soldier in one Shakespearian production after an­other or singing and occasionally tap dancing as a member of the chorus, he finally graduated to speaking roles. This year he was cast as Laertes in Hamlet in the Elizabethan theater and, for the first time ever in a leading role, he played Brick in the Festival’s retrospective production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in the Bowmer Theatre. (I thought he did an excellent job, but I may be slightly prejudiced. The visiting theater critic for the Seattle Times had a somewhat different opinion.)

It was September, and the season was starting to wind down, but there was no way for Jeff to get away long enough to come up to Seattle for a visit, no matter how brief, and with Kayla and Kyle, my grandkids, back in school, in fourth and first grade, respec­tively, it didn’t seem like a good time for Kelly to come gallivant­ ing to Seattle with or without them in tow just to hover at my sickbed.

In other words, I was both surprised and not surprised to see Kelly there; but then, gradually, a few other details began to sink into my drug-­ stupefied consciousness. Kelly would never in a mil­lion years show up wearing a WSU shirt. No way! She is a Univer­sity of Oregon Duck, green and yellow all the way. Woe betide anyone who tries to tell her differently, and she has every right to insist on that!

To my everlasting amazement and with only the barest of fi­nancial aid from yours truly, this once marginal student got her BA in psychology from Southern Oregon University, and she’s now finishing up with a distance-­ learning master’s in business ad­ministration from the U of O in Eugene. She’s done all this, on her own and without any parental prompting, while running an at-­ home day care center and looking after her own two kids. When Kelly turned into a rabid Ducks fan along the way, she got no complaints from me, even though I’m a University of Washington Husky from the get-­ go.

But the very idea of Kelly Beaumont Cartwright wearing a Cougars sweatshirt? Nope. Believe me, it’s not gonna happen.

Then there was the puzzling matter of the very long hair. Kelly’s hair used to be about that same length—­ which is to say more than shoulder length—­but it isn’t anymore. A year or so ago, she cut it off and donated her shorn locks to a charity that makes wigs for cancer patients. (Karen, Kelly’s mother and my ex-­ wife, died after a long battle with breast cancer, and Kelly remains a dedicated part of the cancer-­ fighting community. In addition to donating her hair, she sponsors a Relay for Life team and makes certain that both her father and stepfather step up to the plate with cash donations to the cause on a yearly basis.)

As my visitor continued to file her nails with single-­ minded focus, the polish struck me as odd. In my experience, mothers of young children in general—­ and my daughter in particular—­ don’t wear nail polish of any kind. Nail enamel and motherhood don’t seem to go together, and on the rare occasions when Kelly had indulged in a manicure she had opted for something in the pale pink realm, not this amazingly vivid scarlet, the kind of color Mel seems to favor.

Between the cascade of long blond hair and the bright red nail polish, I was pretty sure my silent visitor wasn’t Kelly. If not her, then, I asked myself, who else was likely to show up at my hospital bedside to visit?

Cherisse, maybe?

Cherisse is my daughter-in-­law. She has long hair and she does wear nail polish. She and my son, Scott, don’t have kids so far, but Cherisse is not a blonde—­at least she wasn’t the last time I saw her. Besides, if anyone was going to show up unannounced at my hos­pital bedside, it would be my son, not his wife.

I finally managed to find a semblance of my voice, but what came out of my mouth sounded croaky, like the throaty grum­blings of an overage frog.

“Who are you?” I asked.

In answer, she simply shook her head, causing the cascade of silvery blond hair to ripple across her shoulder. I was starting to feel tired—­ sleepy. I must have blinked. In that moment, the shim­mering blond hair and crimson sweatshirt vanished. In their place I saw a woman who was clearly a nurse.

“Mr. Beaumont. Mr. Beaumont,” she said, in a concerned voice that was far too loud. “How are you doing, Mr. Beaumont? It’s time to wake up now.”

“I’ve already been awake,” I wanted to say, but I didn’t. In­stead, looking up into a worried face topping a set of colorful scrubs, I wondered when it was that nurses stopped wearing white uniforms and white caps and started doing their jobs wearing clothes that looked more like crazed flower gardens than anything else.

“Okay,” I managed, only now my voice was more of a whisper than a croak. “My wife?”

“Right here,” Mel answered, appearing in the background, just over the nurse’s shoulder. “I’m right here.”

She looked haggard and weary. I had spent a long time sleep­ing; she had spent the same amount of time worrying. Unfortunately, it showed.

“Where did she go?” I asked the nurse, who was busy taking my blood pressure reading.

“Where did who go?” she asked.

“The girl in the sweatshirt.”

“What girl?” she asked. “What sweatshirt?”

Taking a cue from me, Mel looked around the recovery room, which consisted of a perimeter of several curtained-­ off patient cubicles surrounding a central nurses’ station. The whole place was a beehive of activity.

“I see nurses and patients,” Mel said. “I don’t see anyone in a sweatshirt.”

“But she was right here,” I argued. “A blonde with bright red nail polish a lot like yours. She was wearing a WSU sweatshirt, and she was filing her nails with one of those pointy little nail files.”

“A metal one?” Mel asked, frowning. “Those are bad for your nails. I haven’t used one of those in years. Do they even still sell them?”

That question was directed at the nurse, who, busy taking my temperature, simply shrugged.

“Beats me,” she said. “I’m not big on manicures. Never have been.”

That’s when I got the message. I was under the influence of powerful drugs. The girl in the sweatshirt didn’t exist. I had made her up.

“How’re you doing, Mr. B.?” Mel asked. Sidling up to the other side of the bed, she called me by her currently favored pet name and planted a kiss on my cheek. “I talked to the doctor. He said you did great. They’ll keep you here in the recovery room for an hour or two, until they’re sure you’re stable, and then they’ll trans­fer you to your room. I called the kids, by the way, and let every­body know that you came through surgery like a champ.”

This was all good news, but I didn’t feel like a champ. I felt more like a chump.

“Can I get you something to drink?” the nurse asked. “Some water? Some juice?”

I didn’t want anything to drink right then because part of me was still looking for the girl. Part of me was still convinced she had been there, but I couldn’t imagine who else she might have been. One of Ron Peters’s girls, maybe? Heather and Tracy had both gone to WSU. Of the two, I’d always had a special connec­tion with the younger one, Heather. As a kid she was a cute little blond-­ haired beauty whose blue-­ eyed grin had kept me in my place, properly wrapped around her little finger. At fifteen, a barely recognizable Heather, one with hennaed hair and numer­ous piercings, had gone into full-­fledged off-­the-­rails teenage re­bellion, complete with your basic bad-­ to-­ the-bone boyfriend.

In the aftermath of said boyfriend’s death, unlamented by anyone but Heather, her father and stepmother had managed to get the grieving girl on track. She had reenrolled in school, gradu­ated from high school, and gone on to a successful college experi­ence. One thing I did know clearly—­ this was September. That meant that, as far as I knew, Heather was off at school, too, work­ing on a Ph.D. somewhere in the wilds of New Mexico. So, no, my mysterious visitor couldn’t very well be Heather Peters, either.

Not taking my disinterested answer about wanting something to drink for a real no, the nurse handed me a glass with water and a straw bent in my direction. “Drink,” she said. I took a reluctant sip, but I was still looking around the room; still searching.

Mel is nothing if not observant. “Beau,” she said. “Believe me, there’s nobody here in a WSU sweatshirt. And on my way here from the lobby, I didn’t meet anybody in the elevator or the hall­way who was wearing one, either.”

“Probably just dreaming,” the nurse suggested. “The stuff they use in the OR puts ’em out pretty good, and I’ve been told that the dreams that go along with the drugs can be pretty convincing.”

“It wasn’t a dream,” I insisted to the nurse. “She was right here just a few minutes ago—­right where you’re standing now. She was sitting on a stool.”

The nurse turned around and made a show of looking over her shoulder. “Sorry,” she said. “Was there a stool here? I must have missed it.”

But of course there was no stool visible anywhere in the recov­ery room complex, and no crimson sweatshirt, either.

The nurse turned to Mel. “He’s going to be here for an hour or so, and probably drifting in and out of it for most of that time. Why don’t you go get yourself a bite to eat? If you leave me your cell phone number, I can let you know when we’re moving him to his room.”

Allowing herself to be convinced, Mel kissed me again. “I am going to go get something,” she said.

“You do that,” I managed. “I think I’ll just nap for a while.”

My eyelids were growing heavy. I could feel myself drifting. The din of recovery room noise retreated, and just that quickly, the blonde was back at my bedside, sitting on a rolling stool that seemed to appear and disappear like magic at the same time she did. The cascade of swinging hair still shielded her face, and she was still filing her nails.

I’ve had recurring dreams on occasion, but not very often. Most of the time it’s the kind of thing where something in the dream, usually something bad, jars me awake. When I go back to sleep, the dream picks up again, sometimes in exactly the same place, but a slightly different starting point can lead to a slightly different outcome.

This dream was just like that. I was still in the bed in the recov­ery room, but Mel was gone and so was my nurse. Everyone else in the room was faded and fuzzy, like from the days before high-­ def appeared. Only the blonde on the stool stood out in clear relief against everything else.

“Who are you?” I asked. “What are you doing here? What do you want?”

She didn’t look up. “You said you’d never forget me,” she said accusingly, “but you have, haven’t you?”

I was more than a little impatient with all the phony game playing. “How can I tell?” I demanded. “You won’t even tell me your name.”

“My name is Monica,” she answered quietly. “Monica Welling­ton.”

Then she lifted her head and turned to face me. Once the hair was swept away, however, I was appalled to see that there was no face at all. Instead, what peered at me over the neck of the crimson sweatshirt was nothing but a skull, topped by a headful of gor­geous long blond hair, parted in the middle.

“You promised my mother that you’d find out who did it,” she said. “You never did.”

With that she was gone, plunging me into a strange existence where the boundaries between memory and dream blurred some­how, leaving me to relive that long-­ ago time in every jarring detail.


Genre: Fiction/Suspense/Mystery
Published by: William Morrow
Publication Date: 9/10/13
Number of Pages: 368
ISBN: 9780062134677




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Tomorrow is a big day for today’s guest.  His book will be hitting the shelves and he begins his VBT with Partners In Crime Tours.  I have the honor of giving you a sneak peek.  I ask, with your help, in welcoming Mr. Luke Delaney!!


Luke Delaney joined the Metropolitan Police Service in the late 1980s and his first posting was to an inner city area of South East London notorious for high levels of crime and extreme violence. He later joined CID where he investigated murders ranging from those committed by fledgling serial killers to gangland assassinations.
Connect with Mr. Delany at the Harper Collins site:


After a young man is found brutally murdered in his own flat, DI Sean Corrigan, responsible for one of South London’s Murder Investigation Units, takes on the case. At first it appears to be a straightforward domestic murder, but immediately Corrigan suspects it is much more and it soon becomes clear he is hunting a particularly clever and ruthless serial killer who changes his modus operandi each time he kills, leaving no useable forensic evidence behind…


Saturday. I agreed to go to the park with the wife and chil- dren. They’re over there on the grassy hill, just along from the pond. They’ve fed themselves, fed the ducks, and now they’re feeding their own belief that we’re one normal happy family. And to be fair, as far as they’re concerned, we are. I won’t let the sight of them spoil my day. The sun is shining and I’m getting a bit of a tan. The memory of the latest visit is still fresh and satisfying. It keeps the smile on my face.Look at all these people. Happy and relaxed. They’ve no idea I’m watching them. Watching as small children wander away from mothers too distracted by idle chat to notice. Then they realize their little darling has wandered too far and up goes that shrill shriek of an overprotective parent, followed by a leg slap for the child and more shrieking.

I am satisfied for the time being. The fun I had last week will keep me contented for a while, so everyone is safe today.

Chapter 1
It was 3 a.m. and Detective Inspector Sean Corrigan drove through the dreary streets of New Cross, southeast London. He had been born and raised in nearby Dulwich, and for as long as he could remember, these streets had been a dangerous place. People could quickly become victims here, regardless of age, sex, or color. Life had little value.

But these worries were for other p eople, not Sean. They were for the people who had nine- to- five jobs in shops and of- fices. Those who arrived bleary eyed to work each morning, then scuttled home nervously every evening, only feeling safe once they’d bolted themselves behind closed doors.

Sean didn’t fear the streets, having dealt with the worst they could throw at him. He was a detective inspector in charge of one of South London’s Murder Investigation Teams, dedicated to dealing with violent death. The killers hunted their victims and Sean hunted the killers. He drove with the window down and doors unlocked.

He’d been asleep at home when Detective Sergeant Dave Donnelly called. There’d been a murder. A bad one. A young man beaten and stabbed to death in his own flat. One minute Sean was lying by his wife’s side, the next he was driving to the place where a young man’s life had been torn away.

The streets around the murder scene were eerily quiet. He was pleased to see that the uniformed officers had done their job properly and taped off a large cordon around the block the flat was in. He’d been to scenes before where the cordon started and stopped at the front door. How much evidence had been carried away from scenes on the soles of shoes? He didn’t want to think about it.

There were two marked patrol cars alongside Donnelly’s unmarked Ford. He always laughed at the murder scenes on television, with dozens of police cars parked outside, all with blue lights swirling away. Inside, dozens of detectives and fo- rensics guys would be falling over each other. Reality was dif- ferent. Entirely different.

Real crime scenes were all the more disturbing for their quietness— the violent death of the victim would leave the at- mosphere shattered and brutalized. Sean could feel the horror closing in around him as he examined a scene. It was his job to discover the details of death, and over time he had grown hardened to it, but not immune. He knew that this scene would be no different.

He parked outside the taped- off cordon and climbed from the isolation of his car into the warm loneliness of the night, the stars of the clear sky and the streetlights removing all illusion of darkness. If he had been anyone else, doing any other job, he might have noticed how beautiful it was, but such thoughts had no place here. He flashed his identification to the approaching uniformed officer and grunted his name. “DI Sean Corrigan, Serious Crime Group South. Where’s this flat?”

The uniformed officer was young. He seemed afraid of Sean. He must be new if a mere detective inspector scared him. “Number sixteen Tabard House, sir. It’s on the second floor, up the stairs and turn right. Or you could take the lift.”


Sean opened the boot of his car and cast a quick glance over the contents squeezed inside. Two large square plastic bins con- tained all he would need for an initial scene examination. Paper suits and slippers. Various sizes of plastic exhibit bags, paper bags for clothing, half a dozen boxes of plastic gloves, rolls of sticky labels, and of course a sledgehammer, a crowbar, and other tools. The boot of Sean’s car would be mirrored by detec- tives’ cars across the world.

He pulled on a forensic containment suit and headed to- ward the stairwell. The block was of a type common to this area of London. Low- rise tenements made from dark, oppres- sive, brown- gray brick that had been thrown up after the Sec- ond World War to house those bombed out of old slum areas. In their time they’d been a revelation— indoor toilets, running water, heating— but now only those trapped in poverty lived in them. They looked like prisons, and in a way that’s what they were.

The stairwell smelled of urine. The stench of humans living on top of one another was unmistakable. This was summer and the vents of the flats pumped out the smells from within. Sean almost gagged on it, the sight, sound, and smell of the tenement block reminding him all too vividly of his own childhood, liv- ing in a three- bedroom, public housing duplex with his mother, two brothers, two sisters, and his father— his father who would lead him away from the others, taking him to the upstairs bed- room where things would happen. His mother too frightened to intervene— thoughts of reaching for a knife in the kitchen drawer swirling in her head, but fading away as her courage de-serted her. But the curse of his childhood had left him with a rare and dark insightfulness— an ability to understand the mo- tivations of those he hunted.

All too often the abused become the abusers as the darkness overtakes them, evil begetting evil— a terrible cycle of violence, virtually impossible to break— and so the demons of Sean’s past were too deeply assimilated in his being to ever be rid of. But Sean was different in that he could control his demons and his rage, using his shattered upbringing to allow him insights into the crimes he investigated that other cops could only dream of. He understood the killers, rapists, and arsonists— understood why they had to do what they did, could interpret their motivation— see what they saw, smell what they had smelled, feel what they had felt— their excitement, power, lust, revulsion, guilt, regret, fear. He could make leaps in investiga- tions others struggled to understand, filling in the blanks with his unique imagination. Crime scenes came alive in his mind’s eye, playing in his head like movies. He was no psychic or clair- voyant; he was just a cop— but a cop with a broken past and a dangerous future, his skill at reading the ones he hunted born of his own dark, haunted past. Where better for a failed disciple of true evil to hide than among cops? Where better to turn his unique tools to good use than the police? He swallowed the bile rising in his throat and headed for the crime scene— the mur- der scene.

Sean stopped briefly to acknowledge another uniformed of- ficer posted at the front door of the flat. The constable lifted the tape across the door and watched him duck inside. Sean looked down the corridor of the flat. It was bigger than it had seemed from the outside. DS Donnelly waited for him, his large frame filling the doorway, his mustache all but concealing the move- ment of his lips as he talked. Dave Donnelly, twenty- year-p lus veteran of the Metropolitan Police and very much Sean’s old- school right- hand man. His anchor to the logical and practi- cal course of an investigation and part- time crutch to lean on. They’d had their run- ins and disagreements, but they under- stood each other— they trusted each other.

“Morning, guv’nor. Stick to the right of the hallway here. That’s the route I’ve been taking in and out,” Donnelly growled in his strange accent, a mix of Glaswegian and Cockney, his mustache twitching as he spoke.

“What’ve we got?” Sean asked matter- of- factly.

“No sign of forced entry. Security is good in the flat, so he probably let the killer in. All the damage to the victim seems to have been done in the living room. A real fucking mess in there. No signs of disturbance anywhere else. The living room is the last door on the right, down the corridor. Other than that we’ve got a kitchen, two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a separate room for the toilet. From what I’ve seen, the victim kept things reason- ably clean and tidy. Decent taste in furniture. There’s a few pho- ties of the victim around the place— as best I can tell, anyway. His injuries make it a wee bit difficult to be absolutely sure. There’s plenty of them with him, shall we say, embracing other men.”

“Gay?” Sean asked.

“Looks that way. It’s early days, but there’s definitely some decent hi- fi and TV stuff around the place, and I notice several of the photies have our boy in far- flung corners of the world. Must have cost a few pennies. We’re not dealing with a com- plete loser here. He had a decent enough job, or he was a decent enough villain, although I don’t get the feel this is a villain’s home.” Both men craned their heads around the hallway area, as if to confirm Donnelly’s assessment so far. He continued: “And I’ve found a few letters all addressed to a Daniel Graydon. Nothing for anyone else.”

“Well, Daniel Graydon,” Sean asked, “what the hell hap- pened to you? And why?”

“Shall we?” With an outstretched hand pointing along the corridor, Donnelly invited Sean to continue.

They moved from room to room, leaving the living room to the end. They trod carefully, moving around the edges so as not to disturb any invisible footprint indentations left in the car- pets or minute but vital evidence: a strand of hair, a tiny drop of blood. Occasionally Sean would take a photograph with his small digital camera. He would keep the photographs for his personal use only, to remind him of details he had seen, but also to put himself back at the scene anytime he needed to sense it again, to smell the odor of blood, to taste the sickly sweet fla- vor of death. To feel the killer’s presence. He wished he could be alone in the flat, without the distraction of having to talk to anyone— to explain what he was seeing and feeling. It had been the same ever since he was a young cop, his ability to step into the shoes of the offender, be it a residential burglary or murder. Seeing the scene through the eyes of the offender. But only the more alarming scenes seemed to trigger this reaction. Walking around scenes of domestic murders or gangland stabbings he saw more than most other detectives, but felt no more than they did. This scene already seemed different. He wished he were alone.

Sean felt uncomfortable in the flat. Like an intruder. As if he should be constantly apologizing for being there. He shook off the feeling and mentally absorbed everything. The cleanli- ness of the furniture and the floors. Were the dishes washed and put away? Had any food been left out? Did anything, no matter how small, seem somehow out of place? If the victim kept his clothing neatly folded away, then a shirt on the floor would alert Sean’s curiosity. If the victim had lived in squalor, a freshly cleaned glass next to a sink full of dirty dishes would at- tract his eye. Indeed, Sean had already noted something amiss.

Sean and Donnelly came to the living room. The door was ajar, exactly how it had been found by the young constable. Donnelly moved inside. Sean followed.

There was a strong smell of blood— a lot of blood. It was a metallic smell. Like hot copper. Sean recalled the times he’d tasted his own blood. It always made him think that it tasted ex- actly like it smelled. At least this man had been killed recently. It was summer now— if the victim had been there for a few days the flat would have reeked. Flies would have filled the room, maggots infesting the body. He felt a jolt of guilt for being glad the man had just been killed.

Sean crouched next to the body, careful to avoid stepping in the pool of thick burgundy blood that had formed around the victim’s head. He’d seen many murder victims. Some had almost no wounds to speak of, others had terrible injuries. This was a bad one. As bad as he’d seen.

“Jesus Christ. What the hell happened in this room?” Sean asked.

Donnelly looked around. The dining room table was over- turned. Two of the chairs with it had been destroyed. The TV had been knocked from its stand. Pictures lay smashed on the floor. CDs were strewn around the room. The lights from the CD player blinked in green.

“Must have been a hell of a fight,” Donnelly said.

Sean stood up, unable to look away from the victim: a white male, about twenty years old, wearing a T- shirt that was 50 percent soaked in blood, and hipster jeans, also heavily soaked in blood. One sock remained on his right foot; the other was nowhere to be seen. He was lying on his back, the left leg bent under the right, with both arms stretched out in a crucifix posi- tion. There were no restraints of any kind in evidence. The left side of his face and head had been caved in. The victim’s short hair allowed Sean to see two serious head wounds indicating horrific fractures to the skull. Both eyes were swollen almost completely shut and his nose was smashed, with congealed blood crusted around it. The mouth hadn’t escaped punish- ment, the lips showing several deep cuts, with the jaw hanging, dislocated. Sean wondered how many teeth would be missing. The right ear was nowhere to be seen. He hoped to God the man had died from the first blow to his head, but he doubted it.

The pool of blood by the victim’s head was the only heavy saturation area other than his clothing. Elsewhere there were dozens of splash marks: on the walls, furniture, and carpet. Sean imagined the victim’s head being whipped around by the ferocity of the blows, the blood from his wounds traveling in a fine spray through the air until it landed where it now remained. Once examined properly, these splash marks should provide a useful map of how the attack had developed.

The victim’s body had not been spared. Sean wasn’t about to start counting, but there must have been fifty to a hundred stab wounds. The legs, abdomen, chest, and arms had all been brutally attacked. Sean looked around for weapons, but could see none. He returned his gaze to the shattered body, trying to free his mind, to see what had happened to the young man now lying dead on his own floor. For the most fleeting of moments he saw a figure hunched over the dying man, something that re- sembled a screwdriver rather than a knife gripped in his hand, but the image was gone as quickly as it had arrived. Finally he managed to look away and speak.

“Who found the body?”

“That would be us,” Donnelly replied.

“How so?

“Well, us via a concerned neighbor.”

“Is the neighbor a suspect?”

“No, no,” Donnelly dismissed the idea. “Some young bird from a few doors down, on her way home with her kebab and chips after a night of shagging and drinking.”

“Did she enter the flat?”

“No. She’s not the hero type, by all accounts. She saw the door slightly open and decided we ought to know about it. If she’d been sober, she probably wouldn’t have bothered.”

Sean nodded his agreement. Alcohol made some people conscientious citizens in the same way it made others violent temporary psychopaths.

“Uniform sent a unit around to check it out and found our victim here,” Donnelly added.

“Did he trample the scene?”

“No, he’s a probationer straight out of Hendon and still scared enough to remember what he’s supposed to do. He kept to the edges, touched nothing.”

“Good,” Sean said automatically, his mind having already moved on, already growing heavy with possibilities. “Well, whoever did this is either very angry or very ill.”

“No doubt about that,” Donnelly agreed.

There was a pause, both men taking the chance to breathe deeply and steady themselves, clearing their minds, a necessary prelude before trying to think coldly and logically. Seeing this brutality would never be easy, would never be matter- of- fact.

“Okay. First guess is we’re looking at a domestic murder.”

“A lover’s tiff?” Donnelly asked.

Sean nodded. “Whoever did this probably took a fair old beating themselves,” he added. “A man fighting for his life can do a lot of damage.”

“I’ll check the local hospitals,” Donnelly volunteered. “See if anyone who looks like they’ve been in a real ding- dong has been admitted.”

“Check with the local police stations for the same and wake the rest of the team up. Let’s get everyone together at the station for an eight a.m. briefing. And we might as well see if we can get a pathologist to examine the body while it’s still in place.”

“That won’t be easy, guv.”

“I know, but try. See if Dr. Canning is available. He some- times comes out if it’s a good one, and he’s the best.”

“I’ll do what I can, but no promises.”

Sean surveyed the scene. Most murders didn’t take long to solve. The most obvious suspect was usually the right suspect. The panicked nature of the crime provided an Aladdin’s cave of forensic evidence. Enough to get a conviction. In cases like this, detectives often had to do little more than wait for the labora- tory to examine the exhibits from the scene and provide all the answers. But as Sean looked around something was already niggling away at his instincts.

Donnelly spoke again. “Seems straightforward?”

“Yeah, I’m pretty happy.” He let the statement linger.

“But . . . ?”

“The victim almost certainly knew his killer. No forced en- try, so he’s let him in. A boyfriend is a fair bet. This smells like a domestic murder. A few too many drinks. A heated argument. A fight kicks off and gets nastier and nastier, both end up beat- en to a pulp and one dies. A crime of passion that the killer had no time to prepare for. He’s lost it for a while, killed a friend. A lover. Now all he wants to do is run. Get away from this flat and be somewhere safe to think out his next move. But there’re a couple of things missing for me.”

“Such as?”

“They’ve probably been having a drink, but there are no glasses anywhere. Can you remember dealing with a domestic murder where alcohol wasn’t involved?”

“Maybe he cleaned the place up a bit?” Donnelly offered. “Washed the glasses and put them away.”

“Why would he bother cleaning a glass when his blood and fingerprints must be all over the place after a struggle like this?”

“Panic?” Donnelly suggested. “Wasn’t thinking straight. He cleaned up his glass, maybe started to clean up other stuff too before he realized he was wasting his time.”


Sean was thinking hard. The lack of signs of alcohol was a small point, but any experienced detective would have expected to find evidence of its use at a scene like this. An empty bottle of cider. A half- empty bottle of Scotch, or a champagne bottle to fuel the rage of the rich. But it was the image he was begin- ning to visualize that was plaguing him with doubt— the image his mind was piecing together using evidence that was miss- ing as much as evidence that was present. The image of a figure crouching very deliberately over the victim. No frenzy, no rage, but evil in a human form.

“There’s something else,” he told Donnelly. “The killing ob- viously took place in the living room. We know he must have gone out the front door because everything else is locked up nice and tight. But the hallway is clean. Nothing. The carpet is light beige, yet there’s no sign of a bloody footprint. And the door handle? Nothing. No blood. Nothing.

“So our killer beats and stabs the victim to death in a fren- zied moment of rage and yet stops to clean his hands before opening any doors. After killing a man who may have been his lover, he’s suddenly calm enough to take his shoes off and tiptoe out of the place. That doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Donnelly joined in. “And if our boy did stop to clean him- self up before leaving, then where did he get clean? He had two choices. The sink in the bathroom or the sink in the kitchen.”

Sean continued for him. “We’ve seen both of them. Clean as a whistle. No signs of recent use. Not even a splash of water.”

“Aye,” Donnelly said. “But it’s probably nothing. We’re as- suming too much. Maybe forensics will prove us wrong and find some blood in the hallway we can’t see.”

Sean wasn’t convinced, but before he could reply the uniformed constable at the front door called into the flat. “Excuse me, sir, your lab team is here.”

Sean shouted a reply. “Coming out.”

He and Donnelly walked from the flat carefully, keeping to the route they’d used on entering. They walked to the edge of the taped- off cordon where they knew Detective Sergeant Andy Roddis would be waiting with his team of specially trained detectives and scene examiners.

DS Roddis saw Sean and Donnelly approach. He observed their forensics suits but was not impressed. “I take it you two have already been trampling all over my scene.” He was right to be annoyed. The book said no one into the house except the scene examination team. “Next time I’m going to seize your clothing as exhibits.”

Sean needed Roddis on his side.

“Sorry, Andy,” he said. “We haven’t touched a thing. Prom- ise.”

“I hear you have a dead male for me in flat number sixteen. Yes?” Roddis still sounded irritated.

“I’m afraid so,” said Donnelly.

Roddis turned to Sean. “Anything special you want from us?”

“No. Our money’s on a domestic, so stick to the basics. You can keep the expensive toys locked away.”

“Very well,” Roddis replied. “Blood, fibers, prints, hair, and semen it is.”

Donnelly and Sean were already walking away. Sean called over his shoulder, “I’m briefing my team at eight a.m. Try to get me a preliminary report before then.”

“I might be able to phone something through to you. Will that do?”

“Fine,” said Sean. Right now he would take anything offered.
* * *
It was shortly before 8 a.m. and Sean sat alone in his bleak, functional office in the Peckham police station, surrounded by the same cheap wooden furniture that adorned each and ev- ery police building across London. The office was just about big enough to house two four- foot battered oblong desks and an extra two uncomfortable chairs for the frequent visitors. Two ancient- looking computers sat, one on each desk, enabling him to view different inquiries at the same time, and the harsh fluorescent lights above painted everything a dull yellow. How he envied those TV detectives with their leather swivel chairs, banks of all- seeing, all- dancing computers, and most of all the Jasper Conran reading lamps slung low over shining glass desks. Reality was mundane and functional.

Sean thought about the victim. What sort of person had he been? Was he loved? Would he be missed? He would find out soon enough. The phone rang and made him jump.

“DI Corrigan.” He rarely wasted words on the phone. Years of speaking into radios had trimmed his speech.

“Mr. Corrigan, it’s DS Roddis. You wanted an update for your briefing?” Roddis didn’t recognize any ranks above his own, but his powerful position meant he was never challenged by his seniors. He decided the forensic resources assigned to each case, and it was he who knew the right people at the right laboratories across the southeast who could get the job done. Everybody, regardless of rank, respected his monopoly.

“Thanks for calling. What’ve you got for me?”

“Well, it’s early days.”

Sean knew the lab team would have done little more than get organized. “I appreciate that, but I’d like whatever you’ve got.”

“Very well. We’ve had a cursory look around. The entry and exit point is surprisingly clean, given the nature of the attack. And the hallway was clean too. Perhaps we’ll find something when we get better lighting and some UV lamps. Other than that, nothing definite yet. The blood spray marks on the walls and furniture have me a little confused.”

“Confused?” Sean asked.

“Having seen the victim’s wounds, I’m pretty sure the blow to the head all but killed him, and it certainly knocked him down. I have a blood spray pattern on a wall that would be con- sistent with a blow to his head with a heavy object.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“If the victim was prostrate when the other injuries were in- flicted, then I would only expect to find small, localized sprays, but I’ve got numerous others, over the carpet, broken furniture, up the walls. They’re not consistent with his wounds.”

“Then he must have other wounds we haven’t seen yet,” Sean suggested. “Or maybe the blood is from the attacker?”

“Possibly.” Roddis sounded unconvinced. “No obvious murder weapon yet,” he continued, “but it will probably turn up when we get into the search properly.”

“Anything else?” Sean asked, in hope more than expecta- tion.

“There’s plenty of documentation: address books, diaries, bank books, and so on. It shouldn’t be too hard to confirm the victim’s identity. That’s it so far.”

Sean may not have particularly liked Roddis, but he valued his professionalism. “Thanks. It’ll be a help in the briefing. Might keep the team awake.” He hung up.

Reclining in his chair, Sean stared at the lukewarm cup of coffee on his desk. What would it mean if the splash patterns didn’t match the wounds on the victim? Had the killer been badly injured himself and the blood sprays came from his wounds? He doubted it, especially if Roddis was right about the victim being all but taken out with the first blow to the head. And if he was knocked down with the first blow, then what the hell were the other injuries about? The answers would come, he reassured himself. Wait for the full forensic examination of the scene, the postmortem of the victim. The answers would come. They always did.

He stood and looked out of his window down at the station parking lot. He saw DS Sally Jones outside furiously smoking a cigarette, laughing and joking with a c ouple of girls from the typing pool. He watched her, admiring her. A five- foot- three bundle of energy. He thought she had a good pair of legs, but she carried too much weight up top for his taste. He tried to remember if he had ever seen her fair hair not tied back in a ponytail.

He loved her ability to connect with people. She could talk to anyone and make them feel that she was their best friend in the world, and so Sean sometimes used her to do the things he would find impossible to do well. Speaking with grieving parents. Telling a husband his wife had been raped and mur- dered in their own home. Sean had watched in awe as Sally told people unthinkable things and then half an hour later she would be laughing and joking, puffing on a cigarette, chatting with whoever was close enough. She was tough. Tougher than he would ever be. He smiled as he watched her.

Sean wondered why she was still alone. He couldn’t imagine doing this job and then going home to an empty house. Sally told him she was clearly too much for any man to handle. He had often tried to sense some sorrow in her. Some loneliness. He never could.

He checked the time. She was going to be late for the brief- ing. He could call out the window and warn her, but he decided it would be more fun to leave it.

He walked the short distance along the busy, brightly lit corridor: doors on both sides; old and new posters pinned and stuck to the walls, uniformly ignored by passersby all too single- mindedly trying to get to wherever they were going to stop and take notice of someone else’s appeals for assistance. He reached the briefing room and entered. His team continued to chatter away among themselves. A couple of them, including Donnelly, mouthed a greeting. He nodded back.

The team was relatively small. Two detective sergeants— Sally and Donnelly— and ten detective constables. Sean sat in his usual chair at the head of a rectangular wooden table, the cheapest money could buy. He dropped his mobile phone and notebook in front of him and looked around, making sure everyone was there. He nodded to Donnelly, who understood the cue. They’d been working with each other long enough to be able to communicate without the need for words.

“All right, p eople, listen up. The guv’nor wants to speak and we’ve got a lot to get through, so let’s park our arses and crack on.” The murmuring faded as the team began to sit and concen- trate on Sean.

Detective Constable Zukov spoke. “D’you want me to grab DS Jones, boss? I think she’s having a smoke in the yard.”

“No. Don’t bother,” Sean told him. “She’ll be here soon enough.”

The room fell silent, Sean looking at Donnelly with a slight grin on his face. They both turned to the briefing room door just as DS Sally Jones came bursting in. There was a low hum of stifled laughter.

“Shit. Sorry I’m late, guv.” The hum of low laughter grew. Sally swatted Zukov across the head as she walked past. He threw his hands up in protest. “I told you to come and get me, Paulo.” The constable didn’t answer, but the smile on his face said everything.

Sean joined in. “Afternoon, Sally. Thanks for joining us.”

“It’s a pleasure, sir.”

“As I’m sure you’ve all worked out, we’ve picked up another murder.” Some of the team groaned.

Sally spoke up. “We’re only in summer and already we’ve had sixteen murders on this team alone. Eight still need pre- paring for court. Who’s going to put those court presentations together if we’re constantly being dumped on?” There was a rumble of approval around the room.

“No point in moaning,” Sean told them. “All the other teams are just as busy as we are, so we get this one. As you’re all no doubt aware, we don’t have a live investigation running, so we’re the obvious choice.”

Sean was prepared for the grumbling. Police officers always grumbled. They were either moaning about being too busy or they were moaning about not earning enough overtime. It was a fact of life with police.

He continued. “Okay, this is the job. What we know so far is that our victim was beaten and stabbed to death. At this time we believe the victim is Daniel Graydon, the occupier of the flat where we’re pretty certain the crime took place. But his facial injuries are severe, so visual identification has yet to be confirmed. We are treating the flat as our primary crime scene. Dave and I have already had a look around and it’s not pretty. The victim would appear to have been hit on the head with a heavy object, and that may well have been the critical injury, although we’ll have to wait for the autopsy to confirm that. The stab wounds are numerous and spread across a wide area. This was a vicious, brutal attack.

“It is suspected the victim may be gay, and the early theory is that it was probably a domestic. If that’s the case, then the killer himself could be hurt. We’re already checking the hospi- tals and custody suites on the off chance he was picked up for something else after fleeing the scene. I don’t want this to get complicated, so let’s keep it simple. A nice, neat, join- the- dots investigation will do me fine.”

Sean looked toward Sally.

“Sally, I want you to pick four guys and start on door- to- door immediately. That time of night, beaten to death, someone must have heard or seen something. The rest of you, hang fire. The lab team is looking at the victim’s personal stuff, so we’ll have a long list of p eople to trace and chat with soon enough. I don’t expect it to be long before we have a decent idea who our prime suspect is.

“Dave. You go office manager on this one.” Donnelly nod- ded acknowledgment. “The rest of you check with Dave at least three times a day for your assignments. And remember,” Sean added, “the first few hours are the most important, so let’s eat on the hoof and worry about sleep when the killer’s banged up downstairs.”

There were nods of approval as the group began to break up. Sean could sense their optimism, their trust in his leadership, his judgment. He hadn’t failed them yet.

He prayed this case would be no different.

It was almost 1 p.m. and Sean had spent the morning on the phone. He’d told the same story a dozen times. To his super- intendent, the Intelligence Unit, the gay and lesbian liaison of- ficer, the local uniformed duty officer, the community safety inspector. He was sick of telling. Sally and Donnelly had re- turned for their meeting and sat in his office. Sally had brought coffee and sandwiches, which Sean ate without tasting. It was the first thing he had eaten since the phone call from Donnelly early that morning, so he was happy just to get something into his stomach.

Between bites they talked, all of them aware they hadn’t a moment to waste on a proper lunch. The first days of a murder inquiry were always the same— so much to get through and so little time. Forensic evidence degraded, witnesses’ memories faded, CCTV tapes would be recorded over. Time was Sean’s enemy now.

“Anything from the door- to- door, Sally?” he asked. “Give me good news only.”

“Nothing,” she replied. “I’ve still got guys down there knocking on doors, but so far all we’re being told is that Gray- don kept himself to himself. No noisy parties. No fights. No problems. No nothing. Everybody says he was a nice kid. As for last night, nobody saw or heard a thing. Another quiet night in South London.”

“That can’t be right,” Sean argued. “A man gets beaten to death within a few feet of what, four other flats, and no one heard it?”

“That’s what we’re being told.”

Sean sighed and turned toward Donnelly. “Dave?”

“Aye. We’ve managed to make copies of his diary, address book, and what have you. I’ve got a couple of the lads going through that now. Expect to be informed about next of kin pretty soon. No boyfriend yet, though. No one name coming up over and over. I’ll be sending the troops out to trace friends and associates as and when we have their details. Oh, and the coro- ner’s officer has been on the blower. The body’s been moved from the scene and taken to Guy’s Hospital. Postmortem’s at four p.m. today.”

Sean’s mind flashed with the images of previous postmor- tems he’d attended as he pushed what was left of his sandwich to one side.

“Who’s doing it?”

“You’ve got your wish there, boss. It’s Dr. Canning. Any- thing more from the forensics team at the scene?”

“Not yet. Roddis doesn’t reckon they’ll be finished until about this time tomorrow, then as usual everything gets sent to the lab and we wait.”

A young detective from Sean’s team appeared at the door holding a small piece of paper pinched between his fingers. “I think I’ve found an address for the parents.” The three detec- tives continued to look at him.

“I’ll take that, thanks,” Sally told him. The young detective handed her the note and backed away from the door.

Sean knew his responsibilities. “I’ll come too. Shit, this is gonna be fun. Dave, I’ll see you back here at about three thirty. You can take me to the postmortem.”

“I’ll be here,” Donnelly assured him.

Sean tugged his jacket on and headed for the door, Sally in pursuit. “And remember,” he told Donnelly, “if anyone asks, this is a straightforward domestic murder. No need to get any- one excited.”

“Having doubts?” Donnelly managed to ask before Sean was gone.

“No,” Sean answered, not entirely truthfully. For a second he was back in the flat, back at the scene of the slaughter, watch- ing the killer moving around Graydon’s prostrate form, but he saw no panic or fury in his actions, no jealousy or rage, only a coldness— a sense of satisfaction.

Donnelly’s voice snapped him back. “You all right, guv’ nor?”

“Sorry, yes I’m fine. Just find me the boyfriend— whoever he is. Find him and you’ve found our prime suspect.”

“I’ll do my best.”

“I know you will,” Sean told him as he watched him stride back into the main office.


Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (May 21, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0062219464
ISBN-13: 978-0062219466




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