To promote the release of debut thriller No Mercy (US title The Absence of Mercy) Raven Crime Reads is pleased as punch to bring you an exclusive extract from this harrowing tale of suspense, brutal murder and dark secrets that lie beneath the surface of a placid, tight-knit town. Perfect for fans of Harlan Coben and Linwood Barclay this is a page turning thriller that will keep you hooked…
This is not the beginning.
Up ahead, a young man sporting jeans and a black T-shirt walks casually down the concrete sidewalk. He hums softly to himself as he ambles along, Nike-bound 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 T-shirt 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 neighbourhood 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 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.
During his undergraduate years, John also trained as a paramedic/firefighter and served for many years in that capacity in a busy 911 jurisdiction in Montgomery County, Maryland, just north of Washington, D.C. He later completed a Master of Science program in medical pathology at University of Maryland, Baltimore and went on to attend medical school, earning his Doctor of Medicine from Rosalind Franklin University in North Chicago, Illinois. He then returned to Baltimore to complete an emergency medicine residency training program at University of Maryland/Shock Trauma Center.
After graduating from residency, John moved with his family to California, where he began work on his first novel. Four years later, the manuscript was purchased by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins. The Absence of Mercy was published in November of 2013. It received the National Black Ribbon Award in recognition of an author who brings a fresh voice to suspense writing.
John and his family currently live in the San Francisco Bay area where he works as an emergency department physician. He is also hard at work on his next novel. Visit John’s website here: John Burley.com