#BookExtract: CROSS MY PATH by Clea Simon

cross my path

Care’s reputation as a private investigator is growing and clients are beating a path to her door. An elderly woman seeks Care’s help in finding out what happened to her brother. Blackie senses he’s met this woman before, sometime before he became a cat. But who is she – and what is their connection? At the same time, a dockworker asks Care to find a colleague who’s gone missing, and the investigation takes a disturbing new twist . .

 

Private investigator Care is riding on the wave of success, but is she about to come crashing off? There are twists and turns aplenty in this absorbing new mystery featuring our favourite feline, Blackie! Check out this extract from the start of the novel . . .

Something is amiss. I can feel it in my guard hairs. In my whiskers, flared to catch the slightest vibration. Something has gone wrong.

I wake with a start, blinking as I take in the scene before me. A rundown office, its only furnishings a torn sofa, a battered desk, and two bookshelves, nearly bare of books. A girl sits at the desk, scratching away with a pen. A young woman, really, curves beginning to soften her spare frame. No, there is nothing to be feared here. Nothing is out of place. Nothing has changed since I lay down to rest, only moments before. It was a dream that woke me. A recurring nightmare of three shadows – men – who loom, waiting, as I sink into oblivion. Into death. But they are not here. We are alone, the girl and I, and my eyes begin to close once more.

Then – a silhouette. A visitor stands in the doorway. It is her arrival, her gentle knock on the door, that must have woken me, but she is no nightmare figure, nothing like the ghouls who haunt my sleep. She is female, frail. A skinny thing in rags who rushes forward, oblivious of me, seated here and watching.

‘Thank you.’ The woman is sobbing, she’s so grateful. Grabs the girl’s hand between her two bony ones, as if to press home her words. As if they were in a throne room instead of this spare chamber, two flights up. ‘I can’t begin to . . .’ She breaks off to breathe, her wide eyes more eloquent than her words. ‘Thank you so much.’

‘It’s nothing,’ the girl – Care – responds, as my own ears pitch forward at the echo. As if unconsciously aware, she catches herself and corrects, her voice mature for her years. ‘You’re welcome, I mean. It is what I do. I find things. Do the needful. Locate that which is lost. Right the wrongs, the ones I can.’

I hear her words and relax. This is her creed, inherited from her mentor, which she’s reciting now. The words rote, but memorable, explaining her profession to the world in a way that will be understood and repeated. That will be shared with others. For it is her trade that has brought this woman here, in recognition of a task completed.

‘You did! You found him.’ The woman’s acknowledgment confirms my memory. She wipes her tears with one hand, still holding Care’s with her other. ‘I had thought that he was lost.’

Releasing the girl at last, she rummages through her garment, locating a pocket hidden in the oversize skirt’s ragged folds.

‘No, really.’ The girl holds up her hands. ‘It’s not necessary.’

She means what she says, the demurral in her tone as well as gesture. Even my casual appraisal sees the truth. Care has, at this point, more than the poor woman who stands before her, and her concerns, for the moment, do not involve either sustenance or shelter. But her words are to no avail, and when the woman finally fishes out the coin, its edges chipped away, the girl accepts it, as she would a grand prize. The woman’s dignity is at stake and is more to be valued than this one degraded coin. Although her senses are not acute as mine, even the girl can see how solemn the woman appears as she hands the penny over. How sincere.

‘My boy would have been lost without you,’ she says, her voice calmer now. Hushed. ‘He would have been taken – shipped to the islands, or worse.’

Care nods. There is nothing left to say. She did rescue the boy, who had been taken, press-ganged into service, completing the job for which she was hired, as she has now several times since I have come to join her. But even as the woman turns to go, her departure marked by more tears and pronouncements of gratitude, the girl stays silent. Something weighs on her, I see.  Some burden not alleviated by the retrieval of one small child.

I watch her, and I wait.

 

 

CROSS MY PATH is out now in the UK and 1 July in the US. Find out more about this title and the Blackie and Care mystery series here.

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Behind the Book: HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT by Mary Ellis

hiding

On the run from a troubled past, Kate Weller, the newest member of Price Investigations, covers her tracks, changes her name and takes a case in Charleston, South Carolina, where she can hide in plain sight.

Kate sets about trying to locate her adopted client’s natural siblings, only to find more questions than answers. Meanwhile, her new landlord is sticking his nose into her case. Surely Eric Manfredi should focus on whatever competitor is bent on ruining his family business. But when Eric’s father is arrested for murder, can Kate find the real culprit before a killer from her own past tracks her down?

We’re excited to introduce private investigator Kate Weller in the first of the brand-new Marked for Retribution mystery series! What makes Charleston the perfect location for an investigator on the run? Mary Ellis takes us Behind the Book . . .

Since I had to take my Florida insurance investigator on the run, I thought the coastal city of Charleston would be a perfect location. All those narrow cobblestone streets, ancient oak trees shrouded in Spanish moss, and hordes of tourists would give Kate plenty of hiding spots. After all, that’s what I marveled over on my first trip to the three-hundred-year-old city that launched the American Civil War. But after my second or third trip, I saw a different Charleston. I saw a sophisticated blend of old and new, young and old, rich and poor, a place where the twentieth century set roots between the stately planters’ mansions and grew like ivy up their brick garden walls. The city’s historical past was never walled off like a museum, but has been re-energized by each new generation that lives there. Its population is a diverse mixture of doctors and lawyers, students and professors, artists and waiters, thriving amidst the horse-drawn carriages and haunted history tours.

My story involves two fiercely competitive Italian restaurants and a feud that refuses to die . . . that is, until one of them is murdered. When I needed a location for a pivotal scene between my murder suspect and his son, I chose Shem Creek Park, just across the Cooper River from downtown. Shrimp boats still venture out each morning (in season) to cast their nets in the Atlantic Ocean and then sell their fresh catch at the dockside market, just like fisherman have done for a hundred years. The young and the old . . . the new generation replacing the previous.

Charleston also has several slow-paced barrier islands, where the residents’ privacy is protected from outsiders on both sides of the law. I selected Kiawah
Island with its palm trees, sandy beaches and luxurious mansions, for the home of my fictional murder victim. I had so much fun staging the pivotal climax amid such splendor and grace in an area where location becomes one of the book’s characters.
HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT introduces private investigator Kate Weller in the first of the brand-new Marked for Retribution mystery series as she tries to stay one step ahead of her past while hunting for a killer.

HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT is published 30 April in the UK and 1 August in the US. Find out more here.

#BookExtract: THE RED HAND OF FURY by R.N. Morris

Red Hand of Fury 4

June, 1914. A young man is mauled to death by a polar bear at London Zoo. Shortly afterwards, another young man leaps to his death from a notorious Suicide Bridge. Two seemingly unconnected deaths – and yet there are similarities.

Following a third attempted suicide, DI Silas Quinn knows he must uncover the link between the three men to discover why they took their own lives. What does a card found in each of the victims’ possession, depicting a crudely-drawn red hand, signify? To find the answers, Quinn must revisit his own dark past. But can he keep his sanity in the process?

“Silas Quinn is a superb, complicated and brilliantly realised detective and   THE RED HAND OF FURY is a wonderful addition to a gripping series. Don’t                hesitate!” 

William Ryan, author of The Constant Soldier

We couldn’t agree more – this supremely dark historical mystery had us gripped from start to finish! Here’s a little taster of what THE RED HAND OF FURY has in store . . .   

They stood Quinn in the showers, stripped and shivering. The skin of his body was as grey as newsprint, except where sores broke out in angry clusters.

‘So. Silas Quinn, as I live and breathe. I’ve been following your career, Silas. You’ve been doing well for yourself since the last time you was in here. Quite the celebrity. What’s that they call you in the Clarion? Quick-fire Quinn? Marvellous, the way you managed to make something of your life. Who would have thunk it? Not me, I confess. I’ll be honest with you. I didn’t think you’d last five minutes on the outside. Thought you would go the same way as your old man. Topped himself, dinnee, if I remember rightly? But look at the state you’re in. It’s all turned to shit, by the looks of it. Never mind. You’ve come back to us now. Back where you belong. Back home, you are, Silas. We’re your family.’

Quinn let out a small whimper. A bubble of snot formed over one nostril.

Stanley curled his lip with distaste. ‘Get the clippers. He’s crawling with lice. The fucking dirty bastard.’

He assumed the privilege of shaving Quinn himself. He held the clippers at arm’s length and allowed the shorn clumps of hair to fall over Quinn’s naked body and on to the stone floor. If a strand found its way on to his apron, he would deliberately nick Quinn’s scalp. Whenever this happened, Quinn would tense and wince and let out a brief yelp of pain. For that he was punished with a sharp tap of the clipper head. He quickly learnt to stand immobile, his whole body cowed in a pose of submission.

When he was completely shaven, Stanley turned the shower on and stepped back.

The water was cold. Quinn began to scream. He sank down to his haunches and tried to cover his head with his arms.

 

 

 

THE RED HAND OF FURY is available now in the UK and from 1 July in the US. Find out more here.

Did You Know . . . Jeri Westerson and THE DEEPEST GRAVE

deepest grave

London, 1392. Strange mischief is afoot at St Modwen’s Church. Are corpses stalking the graveyard at night, disturbing graves and dragging coffins? Meanwhile,  Philippa Walcote’s seven-year-old son, Christopher, has been accused of murder and of attempting to steal a family relic – the missing relic of St Modwen. Is he guilty? Crispin faces a desperate race against time to solve the strange goings-on at St Modwen’s and prove a child’s innocence.

 

Full of dark, disturbing mischief, THE DEEPEST GRAVE is the new title in the Crispin Guest medieval noir series. Are corpses stalking the graveyard at night at St Modwen’s Church? Before we reveal Jeri’s Did You Know for THE DEEPEST GRAVE, we have one for Jeri herself: did you know she collects medieval weaponry? Not only that, she’s learned how to use them! As she says, pumpkins are a lot of fun to scalp with a broadsword!

Did you know that as far back as the Middle Ages, people feared the walking dead? There were reported incidents when family members claimed to have seen their deceased loved ones walking about at night, and sometimes family members had fallen ill because their dead were cursing them. To put a stop to it, families dug up the dead and found that face cloths around the mouth were bloodied, and instantly ascribed it to the late-night blood-sucking. Of course, we know now that once any kind of animal dies, it can no longer rely on living enzymes and circulating blood to prevent the bacteria from breaking down the body, and some of that putrefaction of decay creates liquid waste which excretes where it can. Some of that results in gases that expand the body and split it open. But, not to put too fine a point on it, there are other openings of the body. One is the mouth. It’s naturally occurring, this appearance of what seems to be blood on the mouth. But they didn’t know that then, and all sorts of fanciful tales emerged, like those of vampires. The sure-fire way to stop the dead from walking was to cut off the head and place it between the legs of the deceased, and then cut out the heart and burn it at a crossroads. Ah, those were the days!

THE DEEPEST GRAVE is published 30 April in the UK and 1 August in the US. Find out more here.

 

Blizzards and Books: A PLA Adventure!

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Last month, Severn House’s two leading ladies, Kate Lyall Grant and Michelle Duff, headed Stateside for the PLA conference, and what an eventful trip it was! From fromages to feline mysteries, blizzards to Booklist, Kate gives us her round-up of their American adventure . . .

In March, my esteemed colleague Michelle Duff and I headed to Philadelphia for the Public Library  Association (PLA) conference. Unfortunately, on the day we were due to arrive (March 21st), the US East Coast was hit by the mother of all storms, a true nor’easter. We only just made it by the skin of our teeth, catching the last flight out of London before all East Coast-bound flights were cancelled, and endured an extremely bumpy landing in Philly as the blizzard raged around us.

However, the next day dawned bright and fair and, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, we headed to the Pennsylvania Convention Center to man our stall, and meet the librarians who order our books. It was a fascinating morning, making face-to-face contact and soliciting invaluable feedback from our key customers, those librarians on the shop floor who actually purchase our books, know many of the readers personally, and who could tell us what makes them select a particular title (or not); what they think of our covers; what their readers actually think of our books, and what kind of books they like to read themselves.

That afternoon, we were delighted to welcome Severn House authors Karen E. Olson and Clea Simon to the booth, where they were signing copies of their latest titles (fast-paced cybercrime thrillers VANISHED and BETRAYED from Karen; intriguing feline mysteries CROSS MY PATH and AS DARK AS MY FUR from Clea) to an enthusiastic reception from librarians and passing punters.

All copies having been successfully signed and sold, it was off to the Booklist booth to partake of some cheeky reds, delicate whites and scrumptious fromages at their well-attended ‘Wine, Cheese and Murder’ event, chewing the fat with legendary Booklist editor Bill Ott and those of his colleagues who had made it through the blizzards from Chicago, as well as various mystery writers and editors.

We then wended our way to the Pyramid Club (which boasts the most spectacular views of the city) where our distributors, Ingram, were hosting a lavish Customer Event, complete with copious canapes, cockle-warming cocktails, a lively band and someone who looked suspiciously like Founding Father Benjamin Franklin himself.  Michelle and I had sixty copies of Patricia MacDonald’s compelling new psychological thriller, THE GIRL IN THE WOODS, to give away – and had many enthusiastic takers, despite the fact that the author herself was not there to sign them, her flight home from Jamaica having been cancelled due to the storm. (But if you’re going to be stranded anywhere, Jamaica is probably a good place to start!).

Finally, it was off to the Dandelion Pub (www.thedandelionpub.com), Philadelphia’s famous British-themed pub, where Michelle and I felt very much at home as we tucked into hearty rabbit pie, succulent fish-and-chips and that quintessential British dish, chicken tikka masala, while putting the world to rights with Booklist’s Bill Ott, who had recently enjoyed a trip to the UK, and was interested to discuss the merits (or otherwise) of those British TV staples, Gogglebox and Naked Attraction.

The following day, bidding a fond farewell to Philadelphia, we boarded the train for New York to sample the delights of NYC’s intriguing new interactive spy museum (www.spyscape.com) where Michelle covered herself in glory; I (I’m sorry to admit) rather less so. But that, as they say, is another story . . .

#BookExtract: THE TIN GOD by Chris Nickson

tin godLeeds, England. October, 1897. Superintendent Tom Harper’s wife Annabelle is one of seven women selected to stand for election as a Poor Law Guardian. But as the campaign begins, Annabelle and the other female candidates start to receive anonymous letters from someone who believes a woman’s place lies firmly in the home. When the threats escalate into outright violence with fatal consequences, Harper knows he’s in a race against time to uncover the culprit before more deaths follow. With the lives of his wife and daughter at risk, the political becomes cruelly personal . . .

 

Love historical mysteries and looking for a new read? THE TIN GOD by Chris Nickson is steeped in 1890s Leeds and has women in politics – and murder – at its core. This fascinating and compelling historical crime mystery will have you hooked in no time . . . get a taster by reading this tantalising extract! 

On the stroke of five, Harper pulled on his mackintosh and hat and glanced out of the window. Blue skies, a few high clouds, and a lemon sun: a perfect late autumn afternoon. Saturday, and a day away from this place ahead of him. Not free, though; he’d promised Annabelle he’d spend tomorrow walking round Sheepscar, delivering leaflets for her campaign.

Ash sat at his desk in the detectives’ office, writing up a report.

‘Did you find anything yet?’

‘Not a dicky bird, sir.’ He sighed and scratched his chin. ‘You weren’t banking on it, were you?’

‘No.’ He shook his head. ‘If there’s any trouble tonight, make sure you let me know.’

‘I will, sir. Let’s hope it’s peaceful, eh?’

It was warm enough to walk back out to the Victoria. Even if the air was filled with all the soot and smoke of industry, so strong he could taste it on his tongue, it still felt good to breathe it into his lungs after a day in a stuffy office.

###

‘Do you think I look all right, Tom?’ Annabelle stood in front of the mirror. She was wearing a plain dress of dark blue wool. It was cut high, to the base of her throat, modest and serious, a cameo brooch at her neck. Her hair was up in some style he couldn’t name but had probably taken an hour to engineer so it looked nonchalant.

‘I think you look grand,’ he told her. ‘Like a member of the Poor Law Board.’ He nudged Mary, who was sitting on his lap, staring in awe at her mother.

‘Da’s right. You’re a bobby dazzler, Mam,’ she said. ‘I’d vote for you.’

‘That’ll do for me.’ Annabelle picked up her daughter and twirled her in the air. ‘You’re absolutely sure?’

‘Positive,’ Harper replied. He pulled the watch from his waistcoat. ‘We’d better get going. That meeting starts in three-quarters of an hour.’ It wasn’t that far – the hall at St Clement’s, just up Chapeltown Road – but he knew she’d want to arrive early, to prepare herself, and put leaflets on all the chairs. Ellen would bring Mary shortly before the event began.

It was a fine evening for a stroll, Indian summer, still some sun and a note of warmth in the air. The factories had shut down until Monday morning, the constant hums and drones and bangs of the machinery all silenced. The chimneystacks rose like a forest, stretching off to the horizon, the dirt leaving its mark on every surface around Leeds.

Annabelle took his arm as they walked. He’d put on his best suit, the fine dove-grey worsted she’d had Moses Cohen tailor for him seven years before. It was still smart, but growing uncomfortably tight around the waist.

‘It’s going to be fine, isn’t it?’ she asked.

‘Of course it is.’ He glanced over at her. ‘It’s not like you to be so nervous. You usually dive right in.’

‘This is something new, that’s all,’ she replied after a moment. ‘And if I fail, well, it’ll be obvious, won’t it? I’d be letting everyone down who’s helping.’ She nodded at the hall, just visible behind the church, its low outline stark against the gasometers. ‘All of them who turn up tonight. If anyone does.’

‘You’ll do well.’ He kissed her cheek and grinned. ‘Trust me, I’m a policeman.’

‘I thought you lot were only good for telling the time.’

The words had hardly left her mouth when he heard the low roar. It grew louder, then a deep, violent explosion ripped out of the ground. A column of smoke plumed up from the hall, throwing wood and roof tiles and bricks high into the air.

‘Christ.’ They stared for a second, not knowing what to say. He didn’t have the words for this. ‘Stay here,’ he told her, then changed his mind. ‘No. Go home.’

Before he’d finished speaking, Tom Harper was running towards the blast.

Want to read more? Click here for more information about THE TIN GOD and previous titles in the Tom Harper series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May UK and September US Editor’s Pick: THE LAST NIGHT OUT by Catherine O’Connell

Our Editor’s Pick for May UK/September US is Catherine O’Connell’s compelling psychological thriller, THE LAST NIGHT OUT, chosen by Kate Lyall Grant, Publisher.

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After drinking too much at her bachelorette party, Maggie Trueheart wakes up to find a stranger in her bed. To make matters worse, a phone call brings the devastating news that her dear friend, Angie Lupino, was murdered some time after they parted ways the night before.

Kelly Delaney, who left the party early, is the first of Maggie’s friends to face questions from Chicago Homicide Detective, Ron O’Reilly. After taking a closer look at the other women who attended the party, O’Reilly comes to the conclusion that some or all of them are lying.

As the clock ticks down on the wedding day and more shocking secrets are revealed, the murderer zeros in on another one of the girls. Can the killer be stopped before there is another victim?

Fast-paced and suspenseful, involving a cast of intriguing and convincing characters, all of them with fascinating back stories, THE LAST NIGHT OUT, with its many unexpected twists and turns, kept me racing through the pages, desperate to uncover the various secrets that Maggie, Kelly, Suzanne, Carol Anne and Natasha are concealing. This gripping page-turner combines the suspense of Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood with the appealing, complicated characters of Marian Keyes, but with a unique perspective that is Catherine O’Connell’s own. I loved it!

And it turns out, I’m not the only one: foreign rights have already been pre-empted in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Brazil, ensuring an exciting future ahead for this enormously talented thriller writer.

Read more about THE LAST NIGHT OUT here.

Behind the Book: HUSK by Dave Zeltserman

HuskClassic contemporary horror from the Shamus and Derringer-winning author of Small Crimes.

Charlie is a Husker on the prowl in the New Hampshire wilderness when he falls in love. But loving Jill means leaving the Husk clan, with its gruesome cannibalistic rituals – a hugely difficult task. It’s only in New York City that the secret to ending his terrible cravings may reveal itself – if it doesn’t kill him and everything he has grown to love first. HUSK is guaranteed to leave readers shaken, stirred – and chilled to the bone.

 

Creepy mythology combined with romance and a fascinating lead character – we quickly fell under the spell of this darkly imagined tale. Award-winning author Dave Zeltserman takes us back to where it all started . . .

I was invited to provide a story a horror story for a book that will be titled Kannibal Cookbook, and my story features a woman who is pissed at her boyfriend for bailing at the last minute on a trip to Stowe, Vermont, decides to go herself, picks up a hitchhiker whom she is strongly attracted to, and accepts his invitation to spend a night at his remote New Hampshire town, which turns out to be a backward hidden place filled with cannibals. She is then descended on by the townsfolks with their many century-old sharp-bladed tools.

Writing this got the creative juices flowing for a novel that would be the reverse of this story. Instead of a member of a cannibal clan returning home after three years because he couldn’t stand living in our world, I would have Charlie Husk of the New Hampshire Husk clan out on a run to pick up stragglers, but finding and falling in love with Jill Zemler, and deciding to live in our world to be with her. Charlie will ultimately learn it’s not so easy to leave the clan behind.

This book has two of my favorite elements: (1) an outsider desperately trying to fit in, (2) a creepy mythology. In this mythology, clans are scattered throughout the world, living in remote, undiscovered wilderness, collecting lost hikers or venturing into our world to pick up stragglers. They’re stronger and faster than us, and there are other subtle physical differences. Clan members feed on us not out of choice, but because the cravings demand it. Charlie imagines the cravings as tiny, angry worms that will burrow into his bones and muscles and ultimately drive him to madness if they’re not kept satisfied. There are other elements to this mythology, including the slaughtering ritual, but my hope is this all adds up to a creepy horror novel with an After Hours (1985 Martin Scorsese film) vibe.

HUSK is available from 31 May in the UK and 1 September in the US. Click here for more chilling details . . .