Behind the Book: THE KILLING SITE by Caro Peacock

killing site

July, 1847. Now a happily married mother-of-two, Liberty Lane’s attendance at a London dinner party with her husband, Robert, ends in disaster when she is kidnapped from outside the smart London townhouse.

As Libby tries to formulate a plan of escape, her old friends, former street urchin Tabby and groom Amos Legge, desperately search for her. Convinced that somebody in the Maynard household, where the dinner party was held, knows something about Libby’s disappearance, Tabby keeps watch on the house – and makes a truly shocking discovery.

Can Liberty Lane escape from her kidnappers? This engrossing Victorian mystery has plenty of twists and turns. Set 170 years ago, when the current Houses of Parliament buildings were being constructed, the building site provides a fascinating backdrop to the mystery. Below, Caro explains how this inspired the story behind THE KILLING SITE.  

I used to work in the Houses of Parliament as a reporter, so the wonderful and ambitious work of the Victorian architect, Charles Barry, was the background to my daily life. Recently the buildings have attracted a lot of interest because they need serious repair. Work will go on for years and cost tens of millions. The Killing Site looks back 170 years to the time when the present parliament buildings were being constructed, amid as much controversy as now, with increasing delays and expense. After the old houses of Parliament burned down in 1834, it took more than twenty years to build the replacements, with complaints, rows and delays every step of the way. Charles Barry died before the work was completed. It struck me that the central character of my Victorian mystery novels, Liberty Lane, would have been familiar with the great building site by the Thames and the arguments swirling round it. From there, it was a short step to make it the centre of her next case.

Followers of Liberty will note that the present book leaps forward six years from her last case, Fool’s Gold, in which she’d just married Robert Carmichael. After the ups and downs of their courtship it seemed only fair to let them marry, but I did it with some regret, knowing that in the nineteenth century marriage was all too likely to end Liberty’s career as an independent investigator. In those six years they’ve had two children and, although she’s kept her skills sharpened with the occasional case, she’s been semi-retired. I needed something big to jolt her out of that, so I started the present book by having her kidnapped.

Want to read more about Caro and her titles? Click here.

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March Editor’s Pick: THE RED HAND OF FURY by R. N. Morris

red hand of fury

 

This month’s Editor’s Pick is from Kate Lyall Grant, Publisher.

Set during the eve of the First World War, THE RED HAND OF FURY is the fourth intriguing historical mystery to feature maverick Scotland Yard detective Silas Quinn. The action kicks off when a young man climbs into the polar bear enclosure at London Zoo, to be brutally mauled to death. Shortly afterwards, another young man leaps to his death from a notorious Suicide Bridge. Two seemingly unconnected deaths, one would suppose – and yet there are similarities. Following a third attempted suicide, Detective Inspector Silas Quinn knows he must uncover the link between the three men if he is to discover what caused them to take their own lives. The one tangible piece of evidence is a card found in each of the victims’ possession, depicting a crudely-drawn red hand. What does it signify? To find the answers, Quinn must revisit his own dark past. But can he keep his sanity in the process?

Quirky, original, darkly playful, fiendishly clever and encompassing a wide range of complex themes, such as mental illness, socialism, pacifism, scientific progress, class prejudice, crime and punishment (to name but a few!), I never quite knew where this narrative was going to take me next. From the initial opening scenes involving the disturbingly deranged Silas Quinn’s admission to Colney Hatch mental asylum, the plot had me gripped throughout, with its plentiful array of twists and turns, and shock chapter endings. There’s an intriguing dynamic between the troubled, mercurial, unpredictable DI Silas Quinn and his stalwart sergeants, the solid, no-nonsense Cockney Inchball and the more bookish, imaginative Macadam; the three of them forming a loyal, mutually supportive team, despite their very different approaches to the investigation and occasional bickering. Quinn himself makes for thoroughly entertaining – if occasionally disturbing – company; only just managing to cling on to his sanity in this latest mystery as he faces up to his most formidable foe yet.

If you enjoy a fascinating, well-researched historical mystery with a decidedly subversive edge, THE RED HAND OF FURY is for you!

Find out more about R. N. Morris and his titles published by Severn House here.

From Suffering to Sleuthing: Caro Ramsay’s Acting Diary

suffering

A six-week-old baby is stolen from outside a village shop, and Detective Inspector Costello quickly surmises there’s more to this case than meets the eye. As she questions those involved, she uncovers evidence that this was no impulsive act as the police initially assumed, but something cold, logical, meticulously planned . . . Meanwhile, Colin Anderson is on the Cold Case Unit, reviewing the unsolved rape of a young mother back in 1996. Convinced this isn’t the attacker’s only crime, Anderson looks for a pattern. But when he does find a connection, it reaches back into his own past . . .

 

“Ramsay offers up a cracking plot, disturbing and unexpected twists, flawed yet compelling characters and an unsettling conclusion . . . A taut, shattering, mesmerizing page-turner”

Booklist Starred Review

Caro Ramsay’s latest thriller has been receiving wonderful praise from reviewers and readers alike, but when she’s not writing, our Booklist starred author showcases her performing skills as part of a fun-loving acting troupe. Fancy an insight into their ‘deliciously silly’ antics? Carry On! 

When I find myself making a comedy sporran by gluing tassels on to a hairy cushion in the garden at 3 a.m. (the glue is toxic indoors), I wonder why I speak to fellow crime writer Douglas Skelton. When I found myself on stage with a broken foot after it was crushed by Trump the Wonderhorse, I wonder why I speak to him at all.

They do say that comedy is dangerous.

So, at some point during a Scottish Writers’ Conference, I was given a script under a slice of lemon cheesecake. Two years later, four crime writers known as Crime Writers Amalgamated Productions (CWAP) have taken ‘Carry On Sleuthing’ to new depths of theatre with their Letitia Luvibod Head Scratchers, Death On the Ocean Wave – a mystery set aboard the ocean going liner The Knotty Knigel – and another play based on the murder of an underwear magnate, Death at the Knickerage. (It’s really bad. Total pants, in fact.)

It’s all good Carry On Fun. Letitia (Me) and her nephew Bunny Sprocket (Skelton) try to solve the murder before the audience. Dame Petunia Uppercrust, Colleen O’Blarney, Loxie McLovely and Phil McCavity (he’s a plasterer) all get caught up in the deadly scandal – more than the audience ever do. The minute Trump the Wonderhorse appears, he gets a standing ovation. That shows how bad the rest of us are.

The stage is set, the lights go up, the music starts, the audience is invited to guess who did what to whom and why.  There is a very clever mystery behind the madness. The audience never guess the culprit. They are usually too drunk. I get it wrong too and I have the script in front of me.

My character Letitia Luvibod is loosely based on Dame Celia Molestrangler, and if you don’t know who she is, you should.  I fashion my own mole from double-sided Sellotape, crushed cornflakes and a few hairs snipped from the cat. It’s impressive. During one performance somebody from the audience was heard to mutter, ‘You think she’d do something about that!’

Much tittering is gained from Michael J Malone who plays Tremble the butler. His accent trembles as well, all the way from Sheffield to Johannesburg. You don’t get that at the RSC.

It’s all deliciously silly. We are hopeless. We don’t care.

‘What you are about to see is a play performed by crime writers with no acting experience whatsoever. This will become evident very quickly,’ goes the introduction, just in case somebody wandered in expecting Benedict Cumberbatch.

The jokes are so old the audience revel in nostalgia.  As Ronnie Corbett once said, ‘We are pushing back the boundaries of comedy. Or, this play really is beyond a joke.’

It might look a chaotic mess but it’s all meticulously planned, honed to the last detail. Sometimes we rehearse for oh, all of five minutes before going to the bar.

Originally it was a bit of fun and we fundraised for charities close to our heart. But now we are being booked for proper theatres, with paying audiences, with props, orchestra pits and other things to fall into or off of.

Seriously, there is nothing in the world that warms your innards like making people laugh. Although a pantomime horse urinating down your leg comes a close second.

 

 

For more information on Caro and her titles, click here.

#BookExtract: SIGN OF THE CROSS by Glenn Cooper

sign of the cross

Introducing Harvard professor Cal Donovan in the first of an intriguing new series of religious conspiracy thrillers.

Responding to an urgent summons from the Vatican, Cal Donovan flies to Italy to interview a young priest who has developed the stigmata of the crucifixion, determined to uncover the cause of the mysterious wounds. When Giovanni is kidnapped, Cal comes to realize that the priest holds the key to an earth-shattering secret. Can Cal track him down before an apocalyptic catastrophe is unleashed?

 

Fast-paced, thrilling and bursting with intrigue at every turn, Glenn Cooper takes us on a heart-stopping trip to Italy we won’t forget! Wish you were there? Get ready for an exhilarating journey with this extract postcard from Italy.    

 

The young priest, Giovanni Berardino, awoke from his afternoon nap damp with sweat. The shutters were closed and his room was dark and uncomfortably warm despite the whirring table fan. Even the simple act of switching on his bedside lamp had become difficult. He had already taught himself how to get out of bed without using his hands by throwing his legs down with speed and using the momentum to stand. Once upright he hesitantly inspected his gauze-wrapped wrists. They were stained through with fresh blood. Choking back tears, he gingerly placed his palms together and bowed his head in prayer.

The painful bleeding had begun a month earlier. So far he had been able to hide it from his new parishioners in the medieval hill town of Monte Sulla but he feared he would be found out and compelled to see a physician. Already the nuns and a few parishioners had noticed that the jovial disposition he’d displayed on his arrival to the town had turned sour and tongues were wagging. Was he upset about something? Was he facing the self-doubts that plague many a young man in the early days of priesthood? Or was there something about his new brothers and sisters that displeased him?

The priest’s house was directly across the piazza from the ancient church of Santa Croce. His small room had an en suite bathroom and there, after donning his black trousers, he slowly unwrapped the gauze. He didn’t like to look at the wounds. They were deep and bloody, the diameter of a two-euro coin. He applied some ointment and rewrapped them with the last of his fresh gauze. He would have to get more at the pharmacy that afternoon. The pharmacist had made a light comment about his need for so many bandages – are you making a mummy, padre? He dreaded the scrutiny but what was he to do? He couldn’t ask Sister Theresa or Sister Vera to make the purchase for him.

Despite the heat he had been forced to eschew his short-sleeved black clerical shirts in favor of long-sleeved ones. He slipped one over his undershirt and began the slow, difficult task of buttoning it. When he was done he flinched as slid the plastic Roman collar into the tab on his shirt.

The vision began as suddenly and unexpectedly as always. Since the wounds had appeared, not a day had passed without at least one. This was his second since breakfast. He had come to welcome these interludes for so many reasons, one of which was the remission of pain that accompanied them. He closed his eyes tightly and let his arms fall to his side, letting the vision wash over him, through him.

His face softened and he spoke. “Yes, yes, yes, yes.”

At the exact same time, Irene Berardino was shopping in the city center of Francavilla al Mare some ninety kilometers to the east of Monte Sulla on the Adriatic coast.

Lugging a heavy nylon shopping bag, she traded the air-conditioned supermarket for the steamy humidity of Viale Nettuno. She began heading toward the apartment she shared with her mother when she stopped dead in her tracks to stare at the man walking into a shop. At first she thought the abrupt temperature change was playing tricks on her mind but it took little time to conclude her eyes weren’t deceiving her.

No one else looked like her brother and this was his favorite gelato café.

He was easy to spot – over six-feet tall, roly-poly, short black hair with a widow’s peak, and long retro sideburns. Then there were his feet, so large he used to be teased for them. “What are those, shoes or rowboats?” the children used to cry. And of course, there was his clerical collar.

“Giovanni?” she shouted as the door closed behind him.

She rushed down the street and peered through the window of the shop. The owner was behind the counter scooping chocolate chip gelato into plastic cups for a mother and her two young children. She couldn’t see Giovanni.

She pushed the door open and went inside.

“Excuse me?” she asked. “Where did the priest go?”

“What priest?” the owner asked.

“The one who just came in.”

“I didn’t see any priest.”

“I’m sorry,” Irene said. “I just saw him go inside.”

The mother stared over her glasses at the young woman. “No one came in,” she said.

“That’s impossible,” Irene said. “Is there a toilet or a back door?”

“Only behind the counter,” the owner said, becoming irritated. “No one came in. Now, do you want a gelato or do you want to leave?”

 

Find out more about this title here.

Fancy a copy?

UK: get yours here.
US: pre-order here.

 

 

 

 

 

Our first 2018 titles have landed!

From religious conspiracy thriller to Hollywood noir, we’re starting 2018 with a feast of compelling new reads (and new authors)! Our delectable January titles are now available to purchase in the UK using the links below.

9780727887733_FCMAN ON ICE
by Humphrey Hawksley

It’s Russia vs USA in this tense and twisting thriller.

Rake Ozenna of the elite Eskimo Scouts brings his fiancée, trauma surgeon Carrie Walker, to his remote home island in the Bering Strait, where they are immediately faced with a medical crisis. Then Russian helicopters swarm in. When news breaks of a possible Russian invasion, the only way Rake can save his people is to undertake a perilous mission across the ice. Can he survive long enough to prevent a new world war breaking out?

UK: get your copy here.
US: pre-order here.

sign of the cross

SIGN OF THE CROSS
by Glenn Cooper

Introducing Harvard professor Cal Donovan in the first of an intriguing new series of religious conspiracy thrillers.

Responding to an urgent summons from the Vatican, Cal Donovan flies to Italy to interview a young priest who has developed the stigmata of the crucifixion, determined to uncover the cause of the mysterious wounds. When Giovanni is kidnapped, Cal comes to realize that the priest holds the key to an earth-shattering secret. Can Cal track him down before an apocalyptic catastrophe is unleashed?

UK: get your copy here.
US: pre-order here.

donovan

THE LONG SILENCE
by Gerard O’Donovan

A compelling first in a new series of noir mysteries set in Hollywood’s early days.

February, 1922. A leading movie director is murdered, and studio boss Mack Sennett calls in Irish-American investigator Tom Collins. Troubled star Mabel Normand is rumoured to be involved, but she’s gone missing. Collins’ quest leads him through the brutal heart of Prohibition-era Los Angeles to a secret so explosive it must be kept silent at any cost . . .

UK: get your copy here.
US: pre-order here.

Against the LawAGAINST THE LAW
by Jay Brandon

A razor-sharp legal thriller from an exciting new author for Severn House.

Fresh out of prison, former lawyer Edward Hall thinks his days in the courtroom are behind him. Until his sister, Dr Amy Hall, is arrested for murder, accused of shooting the ex-husband with whom she is supposedly reconciled. Edward promises to do everything he can to protect his sister, because she is innocent, isn’t she?

UK: get your copy here.
US: pre-order here.

fakes

FAKES AND LIES
by Jane A. Adams

Ex-police officer Naomi Blake must uncover the truth when an artist is found dead.

Artist and sometime forger Freddie Jones is found dead, but no one is surprised. Freddie drank heavily and was a lifelong smoker. Only Bee, Freddie’s daughter, is convinced he was murdered. Just before he died, her father confided that he was afraid of something . . . When a prominent gallery owner is murdered and a portfolio of Freddie’s drawings is stolen, it appears Bee could be right. Naomi vows to find out the truth.

UK: get your copy here.
US: pre-order here.

killing site

THE KILLING SITE
by Caro Peacock

Fans of Victorian mysteries will be enthralled by the new Liberty Lane adventure.

July, 1847. Liberty Lane is kidnapped upon leaving a dinner party. While she tries to execute a plan of escape, her old friends, former street urchin Tabby and groom Amos Legge, are convinced that somebody in the Maynard household, where the dinner party was held, knows something about Libby’s disappearance. But when Tabby keeps watch on the house, she makes a truly shocking discovery . . .

UK: get your copy here.
US: pre-order here.

taggedTAGGED FOR MURDER
by Jack Fredrickson

Hard-boiled detective fiction at its best – a gripping new case for Dek Elstrom.

A dead man is found on the top of a box car on an abandoned rail siding. Who was he, and how did he end up there? Paid to photograph the scene, private investigator Dek Elstrom’s photos reveal there’s a witness to the murder, a tagger who’s returned to the scene to paint what he saw, but his work quickly disappears – as does the man who hired Dek. What is it that the mysterious graffiti artist wants the world to know?

UK: get your copy here.
US: pre-order here.

#BookExtract: THE LONG SILENCE by Gerard O’Donovan

donovanIntroducing Irish-born cop turned private investigator Tom Collins in the first of a brand-new historical mystery series.

February, 1922. Hollywood is young but mired in scandal. When a leading movie director is murdered, Irish-American investigator Tom Collins is called in by studio boss Mack Sennett, whose troubled star, Mabel Normand, is rumoured to be involved but is missing. Collins’ quest leads him through the brutal heart of Prohibition-era Los Angeles to an explosive secret . . .

 

Inspired by the unsolved real-life murder of movie director William Desmond Taylor, THE LONG SILENCE is the first in an instantly compelling series of new noir mysteries set in Hollywood’s early days. This title is available in the UK from 31 January and in the US from 1 May, but here’s your chance to dip your toe into this richly evocative mystery in advance with an extract from the book.  

What happened next was so fast he only recalled it later in magnesium-bright fragments: Madden striding back across the street, the Packard’s headlamps flaring, the auto pulling away, the sheen of a long-barrel revolver nosing out the open window. Stepping out from the porch, for Tom, was an act of pure instinct. As was his shout of warning. But the yell only confused Madden, who swung round, panicked eyes fixing on Tom emerging from the shadows, and only then looking back over his shoulder, too late, catching nothing but muzzle flash.

The first round thumped into Madden’s back by his left shoulder blade, sending him into a spin that halted abruptly when a second blew a dark gout of blood from his chest and he catapulted back as though his feet had been sliced from under him. The third slug smacked into his skull as he fell, the back of his head evaporating in a spray of red rain as his body attempted one last mid-air convulsion.

Tom dived as the Packard came level, loosing off at him now. He did his best to become one with the sidewalk as a couple of shots hit the storefront behind, and the plate glass shattered and fell, crashing to the paving in shimmering cascades all around. Above the crystal din, he strained to distinguish the Packard’s engine. If it stopped, he’d have to get up and run for cover elsewhere. But the roaring motor passed on, a squeal of tires on the wet street signaling a corner turned. He stayed down. Stayed down until all he heard was the rain again, a hissing on the street broken only by his own heartbeat and the pop and crash of falling glass.

Only then did he drag himself up from the ground, standing as best he could and using the hood of the nearest automobile for support. He patted himself down, examining his limbs and torso for injury or rupture, shaking glass and rain from his coat. He was unscathed but for a graze on his left wrist where he’d hit the sidewalk awkwardly and a bloody scratch on his right knee, the worst of which was a four-inch rip to a good pair of suit pants.

He was OK. He didn’t need to look to tell the same could not be said for Madden. But look he did, unable to keep his eyes from the rain-spattered heap lying sprawled in an expanding stain of blood, his narrow frame contorted beyond nature and any possibility of life. As Tom stumbled over to the body, he became aware of other presences on the street now, peering down from unlit windows, out from cautiously opening doors. A burble of shocked and excited voices leaked from the light-filled doorway of Hannigan’s, the raw, stupefied ‘Jesus Cwyst, Jesus Cwyst’ of the ancient doorman joining the muttering figures spilling into the street, circling the dead body at a distance.

Still shaking as if the ground was moving under him, Tom looked up and around and shouted as best he could.

‘For pity’s sake, stop gawking and somebody call the cops.’

 

Find out more about THE LONG SILENCE here.

February Editor’s Pick: THE GIRL IN THE WOODS by Patricia Macdonald

girl woodsFebruary’s Editor’s Pick is by Kate Lyall Grant, Publisher.

This month I have selected Patricia Macdonald’s chilling novel of psychological suspense, THE GIRL IN THE WOODS.

The action kicks off when Philadelphia businesswoman Blair Butler is summoned back to her small hometown in the Pocono Mountains to see her terminally ill sister one last time – only for her sister Celeste to make a shocking deathbed confession. Is it really true that the wrong man has spent fifteen years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit?

Having promised her dying sister that she will do her best to right the wrongs of the past, Blair sets out to discover what really happened that cold, wet November night fifteen years before: the night her best friend Molly’s battered body was found in the woods behind her home. But the truth, when finally revealed, is far more shocking than Blair could have imagined.

The author of more than 15 internationally-bestselling novels of thrilling domestic suspense, Patricia Macdonald is a master of her craft and at the top of her game in this latest suspenseful outing.  With its intriguing premise, pacy and eventful plot, plentiful array of unexpected twists, credible suspects and cast of wholly believable, fully rounded but often damaged and not always likeable characters, THE GIRL IN THE WOODS had me gripped from the outset, consumed with curiosity as to what exactly had befallen poor little Molly Sinclair – and why – and who of this isolated, taciturn, mountain community might have had a part to play in her untimely death. I would wholeheartedly recommend to fans of Gillian Flynn, Ruth Ware and Claire Mackintosh.

THE GIRL IN THE WOODS is available 28 February in the UK and 1 June in the US. Click here for more information.

Did You Know: GERARD O’DONOVAN

donovanIntroducing Irish-born cop turned private investigator Tom Collins in the first of a brand-new historical mystery series.

February, 1922. Hollywood is young but mired in scandal. When a leading movie director is murdered, Irish-American investigator Tom Collins is called in by studio boss Mack Sennett, whose troubled star, Mabel Normand, is rumoured to be involved but is missing. Collins’ quest leads him through the brutal heart of Prohibition-era Los Angeles to an explosive secret . . .

 

Inspired by the unsolved real-life murder of movie director William Desmond Taylor, The Long Silence is the first in a richly evocative, instantly compelling series of new noir mysteries set in Hollywood’s early days. Author Gerard o’Donovan shares some interesting facts about Hollywood’s early days and its leading characters:

1)  Silent movies were the first global entertainment industry, creating the first internationally recognizable superstars like Rudolf Valentino, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and Mabel Normand.

2) Mabel Normand was the movie world’s first great female comedy star. By 1920 Mary Pickford was the only actress more famous than her. But Normand was vulnerable and had a growing cocaine habit, and her association with a number of big scandals, especially the murder of her supposed fiancé William Desmond Taylor, eventually led to her tragically early death in 1932.

3) Mack Sennett was Hollywood’s first King of Comedy – the man who discovered Mabel Normand, Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton – but lost them all because he was too mean to pay them what other studios could see they were worth.

4) Adolph Zukor, the greatest of the movie moguls, was a Hungarian immigrant who made a fortune in the fur trade before moving into movies. In partnership with Jesse Lasky, Cecil B DeMIlle and Sam Goldwyn he built the first permanent movie studio in Hollywood. Presiding over Famous Players-Lasky and its Paramount distribution arm from New York, he built a vast corporate empire by a relentless process of merger and acquisition – and ruthless efficiency.

5) Many people remain fascinated by the William Desmond Taylor murder, especially in America. The most famous website devoted to it is Taylorology.com, a sprawling labyrinth of arcane information about the murder. See also the excellent Looking for Mabel Normand site.

THE LONG SILENCE is available 31 January 2018 in the UK and 1 May 2018 in the US. Find out more about this title here.

Behind the Book: SIGN OF THE CROSS by Glenn Cooper

sign of the crossIntroducing Harvard professor Cal Donovan in the first of an intriguing new series of religious conspiracy thrillers.

Responding to an urgent summons from the Vatican, Harvard professor of religion and archaeology, Cal Donovan, flies to Italy to interview a young priest who has developed the stigmata of the crucifixion, determined to uncover the cause of the mysterious wounds. When Giovanni is kidnapped, Cal comes to realize that the priest holds the key to an earth-shattering secret. Can Cal track him down before an apocalyptic catastrophe is unleashed?

SIGN OF THE CROSS has got us all on the edge of our seats, but what inspired Cal Donovan’s first adventure in this thrilling new series? Glenn reveals all . . .  

At the time I began SIGN OF THE CROSS I had written ten novels (two linked trilogies and four standalones). I wanted to start a new series of standalones with a recurring protagonist. I had Cal Donovan fleshed out. He was a professor of the history of religion and archaeology at the Harvard Divinity School – young, independently wealthy, full of flaws. He was going to be the perfect vehicle for advancing my interests in European history, the history of the Catholic, and, of course, good stories. What I was looking for was Cal’s first adventure and I found it in the ancient city of Lecce located in the heel of Italy’s boot. I was there on a book tour for my tenth book and found myself hosted at a lunch at the residence of the archbishop of Lecce, an elegant, erudite man who was interested in the concepts of Hell depicted in my DOWN trilogy. Over a delicious meal prepared by the nuns who ran his palazzo, he told me stories of his early priesthood in the town of San Giovanni Rotondo, where one of his jobs had been to tend to the body lying in state of the famous stigmatic monk Padre Pio. He recalled that before his eyes, the deep, angry wounds in the monk’s palms healed themselves after his death and I knew I had my story. Cal Donovan would be asked by the Pope to do an informal, off-the-books investigation of a young stigmatic Italian priest who was rapidly developing a cult of followers. Was he a faker? Was he a true stigmatic? Why were powerful, shadowy figures willing to kill to uncover the origins of the priest’s stigmata? Later, when SIGN OF THE CROSS was published in Italian (it hit #1 in the fiction bestseller lists) I gave a copy to the archbishop and held my breath awaiting his verdict. He loved it. I exhaled. A series was born and while you may perhaps sit down to read the first Cal Donovan book, I am sitting down to begin writing the fourth!

SIGN OF THE CROSS is available from 31 January 2018 in the UK and 1 May 2018 in the US. Find out more about this title here.

#BookExtract: FREE FROM ALL DANGER by Chris Nickson

free from“Nickson is at the top of his game in this fairly clued whodunit”
Publishers Weekly Starred Review

October, 1736. Lured out of retirement to serve as Constable once again, Richard Nottingham finds Leeds very different from the place he remembers. Newcomers have been attracted by the town’s growing wealth, but the crimes remain the same, as Nottingham discovers when a body is found floating in the River Aire, its throat cut.

But he’s dealing with a new kind of criminal, someone with no respect for anything or anyone. Someone who believes he’s beyond the law; someone willing to destroy anyone who opposes him. To stop him, Nottingham will need to call in old favours, rely on trusted friendships, and seek help from some very unlikely sources.

If you’ve not yet read Chris Nickson’s latest Richard Nottingham novel, here’s your chance to dip your toe into this critically acclaimed mystery, courtesy of this brilliant extract from the book. Warning: it’s a page-turner! 

The same entrance to the same court, with the sound of the river a few yards away and the creak of boats moored for loading. A mist was rising, softening the edges of the world.

As he approached, a man came up to Jane. A few words and they vanished down the passageway. The woman had a living to earn, after all. He could wait. The constable walked to the bridge and stood with his elbows resting on the stone parapet.

Shreds of fog drifted in the night air. There was no breeze, only the clinging dampness he could feel deep in his chest. He was growing old, noticing his aches and pains more and more each day and relishing the heat of a good fire to warm his bones.

A man shouted from somewhere and a voice answered before the pair of them began to laugh. A lone cart rumbled over the bridge, irons wheels rattling over the cobbles. Finally Nottingham moved. He’d given her enough time.

Jane wasn’t waiting at the entrance to the court. Another customer already? From her appearance the night before she needed all she could get. He was about to go to the White Swan for a drink and try later when he heard a groan. Not pleasure; this was pure pain. He called out her name but there was no answer.

The passage was black. No light reached this far. He had to feel his way along, heart thumping, eyes trying to pick out something, anything.

His feet found her first, touching the soft lump on the ground. He knelt, fingertips searching until he found her head, then feeling for a pulse in the neck. Jane’s flesh was still warm, but her life had gone. The man he saw must have been her killer.

There was blood on the front of her dress, wet and sticky under his fingertips. Barely dead.

He had to leave her. He needed some of the men to help. As fast as he could, he ran up to the jail, legs hurting with every stride. The night watch was just arriving. He sent one for the coroner, two more with the old door to transport the body, and another with a light to guard the scene.

His mouth was dry. Nottingham gulped at a drink of ale and saw he’d left a bloody print on the mug. It was all over him – his greatcoat, his hands. He began to clean himself but stopped – what was the point? The blood would be back as soon as he began to examine her.

‘Find Mr Lister and have him meet me there,’ he ordered as he left.

The men were waiting for him. They stood, silently watching him, all of them with dour, brutal faces. But that was who you needed to keep law in the darkness. The lantern flame flickered, enough for him to see Jane lying there. She’d drawn up her knees and thrown out her arms before she died. He must have heard her final sound.

Whores were killed. There were men who considered them fair sport. But this, just after she’d sent him her message? This wasn’t anger. This was deliberate. He could feel it.

In his mind, Nottingham tried to picture the figure he’d seen disappear down this passageway with Jane. Tall, perhaps? A hat of some kind. But it was no more than a suggestion, a faint outline in the night and the mist.

There was no peace on the woman’s dead face. Nothing more than agony, lips back in a rictus smile, eyes wide. He reached down and lowered the lids; it was the one thing he could do for her at this moment.

Hoggart came bustling through, wearing a heavy coat that reached down to his calves, the gold buckles of his shoes glittering in the light. He sighed, told the man to hold the lantern higher and squatted by the body.

‘She hasn’t been dead long, Mr Nottingham.’

‘I know. Only a few minutes.’

‘Well, there’s nothing anyone on this earth can do for her now.’ He stood, looked down at the corpse and shook her head. ‘You might as well take her away.’

******

She was on the slab of the cold room in the jail when Lister arrived. The candles burning in each corner of the room made it nearly as bright as day.

He had her naked, the tattered old gown cut away so he could examine the wound. In the stomach. It must have taken her a few minutes to die, and she’d done so in horrible pain. If he’d come back sooner . . . but what could he have done? He couldn’t have saved her. Nobody could, the knife had gone too deep. But he might have caught her killer.

‘Boss?’

The word pulled him back from his thoughts.

‘I saw the man who did it.’ He explained it all, from the message to the finding.

Rob was looking at the body.

‘I used to see her sometimes when I was doing my rounds,’ Lister said. ‘What did the man look like?’

Like everyone and nobody, Nottingham thought.

‘Just a shape,’ he said and raised his head. ‘She had some information for me and then someone murdered her.’ He breathed for a moment or two. ‘There’s something going on here, I’m certain of it.’

‘Boss, you remember what it’s like. We have four or five whores murdered every year. Often more.’

He knew. Sometimes they found the killer; usually there was nothing to set them on the trail. Nottingham held up Jane’s hand with its little finger missing.

‘She lasted out there for more than twenty years. This happened when she was young and she had her revenge on the man who did it. She was careful. She made sure she was never caught out.’ He picked her knife from the shelf where it sat with the few other things she’d carried. The edge was sharp as a razor. ‘She had something to defend herself.’

‘Maybe she let down her guard. He might have taken her by surprise. I don’t know.’

But Nottingham had no doubts. The man had come to kill her. And he’d given him the chance, thinking Jane could earn a few pennies before they talked.

 

 

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