Discover the gripping, twist-filled start to a fantastic new London-set crime thriller series starring morally corrupt DI Ray Drake from debut author Mark Hill. The Raven guarantees that this synopsis and exclusive extract will get your crime tingles tingling. Trust me…
Thirty years ago, the Longacre Children’s Home was burned to the ground.
Now a killer calling himself the Two O’Clock Boy is hunting all those who grew up there.
DI Ray Drake will do whatever it takes to stop the murders.
But he will go even further to bury the secrets hidden since the night of the fire…
The English Channel, 1986
The boy loved his parents more than anything on this Earth. And so he had to kill them.
Perched on the edge of the bunk, he listened to them now. To the squeak of their soles on the deck above as they threw recriminations back and forth in voices as vicious as the screeching seagulls wheeling in the sky. He heard the crack of the sail in the wind, the smack of the water against the hull inches from his head, a soothing, hypnotic rhythm.
Slap . . . slap . . . slap . . .
Before everything went wrong, before the boy went away as one person and came back as someone different, they had been full of gentle caresses and soft words for each other. But they argued all the time now, his parents – too stridently, loud enough for him to hear – and the quarrel was always about the same thing: what could be done about their unhappy son?
He understood that they wanted him to know how remorseful they were about what had happened. But their misery only made him feel worse. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been able to speak to them, to utter a single word, and the longer he stayed silent the more his parents fought. The boy plugged his fingers into his ears, closed his eyes, and listened to the dull roar within him.
His love for them was untethering, drifting away on a fierce tide.
Slap . . . slap . . . slap . . .
A muffled voice. ‘Darling.’
The boy’s hands were pulled gently from his face. His mother crouched before him. Her eyes were rimmed red, and her hair was plastered to her face by sea spray, but she was still startlingly beautiful.
‘Why don’t you come up top?’
Her cold fingers tucked a loose strand of his hair behind his ear. For a brief moment he felt a familiar tenderness, wanted to clasp her to him and ignore the bitter thoughts that churned in his head. But he didn’t, he couldn’t. It had been weeks since he’d been able to speak.
A shadow fell across the hatch. His father’s voice boomed, ‘Is he coming up?’
‘Please, let me handle this,’ his mother barked over her shoulder, and after a moment of hesitation, the shadow disappeared.
‘We’re doing the best we can.’ She waited for her son to speak. ‘But you must tell us how you feel, so that we can help you.’
The boy managed a small nod, and hope flickered in his mother’s gaze.
‘Your father and I . . . we love you more than anything. If we argue it’s because we can never forgive ourselves for what happened to you. You know that, don’t you?’
Her eyes filled with tears, and he would do anything to stop her from crying. In a cracked voice, barely more than a whisper, he heard himself say, ‘I love you.’
His mother’s hand flew to her mouth. She stood, hunched in the cabin. ‘We’re about to eat sandwiches.’
Moving to the steps, she spoke brightly, but her voice trembled.
‘Why don’t you come up when you’re ready?’
He nodded. With a last, eager smile, his mother climbed to the hatch and her body was consumed by sunlight.
The boy’s heel thudded against the clasp of the toolbox beneath his berth. He pulled out the metal box and tipped open the lid to reveal his father’s tools. Rasps, pliers, a spirit level. Tacks and nails, a chisel slick with grease. Lifting the top tray, the heavier tools were revealed: a saw, a screwdriver, a peen hammer. The varnish on the handle of the hammer was worn away. The wood was rough, its mottled head pounded to a dull grey. He lifted it, felt its weight in his palm.
Clenching the hammer in his fist, he stooped beneath the bulkhead – in the last couple of years he’d grown so much taller – to listen to the clink of plastic plates, his parents’ animated voices on the deck.
‘Sandwiches are ready!’ called his mother.
Every night he had the same dream, like a terrible premonition: his parents passed him on the street without a glance, as if they were total strangers. Sooner or later, he knew, this nightmare would become a reality. The resentment they felt that their child had gone for ever, replaced by somebody else, someone ugly inside, would chip away at their love for him. Until there was nothing left.
And he was afraid that his own fierce love for them was slowly rotting, corroded by blame and bitterness. One day, when it was gone completely, other emotions would fill the desolate space inside him. Fury, rage. A cold, implacable hatred. Already he felt anger swelling like a storm where his love had been. He couldn’t bear to hate them, yearned to keep his love for his parents – and his memories of a happy time before he went to that place – uncorrupted, and to carry it with him into an uncertain future.
And so he had to act.
Gripping the hammer, the boy moved towards the hatch. His view filled with the blinding grey of the sky and the blur of the wheeling gulls, which screamed a warning to him that this world would always snatch from him the things he cherished, that life would always be this way. He stepped onto the windblown deck in the middle of a sea that went on for ever.
Slap . . . slap . . . slap . .
— The Crime Vault (@TheCrimeVault) September 18, 2016
‘A delight of a book that wreaks havoc with your assumptions in a delicious Highsmithian manner. Hill has a hell of a career ahead of him’ ALEX MARWOOD
‘An unsettling and powerful story… The plot cleverly weaves past and present – with shocking, edge-of-the-seat twists until its heart-stopping finale’ DAVID YOUNG
‘Mark Hill’s debut is a slick and gritty page turner that expertly examines the lengths people will go to to hide a guilty secret. It’s a compelling read, packed with unexpected twists and explosive secrets, that builds to a shocking and unforgettable climax. A fantastic debut’ ROD REYNOLDS
‘Mark Hill has written a brilliant debut with characters that linger in the subconscious long after reading. I devoured The Two O’Clock Boy and can’t wait to see what he does next. He’s a real talent’ STEVE CAVANAGH