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The Boys Are Back In Town- David Young- Stasi Wolf/ Steve Cavanagh- The Liar/ David Jackson- Hope To Die

East Germany, 1975. Karin Müller, sidelined from the murder squad in Berlin, jumps at the chance to be sent south to Halle-Neustadt, where a pair of infant twins have gone missing.

But Müller soon finds her problems have followed her. Halle-Neustadt is a new town – the pride of the communist state – and she and her team are forbidden by the Stasi from publicising the disappearances, lest they tarnish the town’s flawless image.

Meanwhile, in the eerily nameless streets and tower blocks, a child snatcher lurks, and the clock is ticking to rescue the twins alive . . .

Having absolutely loved David Young’s debut, Stasi Child with it’s refreshingly different setting, and being steeped in the history of Germany’s former divisions, both geographically and socially, here’s the next in the series. Once again the indomitable Karin Müller finds herself enmeshed in a thorny and deeply personal investigation, under the watchful eye of the Stasi…

What I have loved about both books is Young’s attention to detail, that so firmly roots the reader in this timeframe, allowing us to bear witness to the unique and sinister workings of this totalitarian state. Unlike other authors who fail to balance their reams of research with good solid storytelling, Young consistently displays a knack for both, whether describing the functional architecture of Halle-Neustadt, where Müller is stationed, to further adroit observations on the social stratum that exists behind its concrete façade. He effortlessly melds the constraints of life in the east, with references to the forbidden fruits that lie within the west, and the frustrations that Müller and her cohorts face in the course of their investigation . I really liked the use of the dual narrative, that slowly binds the story together, the revelatory impact on Müller’s case. and the grim revelations about certain medical practices in this closed state.

In terms of characterisation, not only does Müller have to navigate the suffocating constraints of state control, which the book excels at,  but there is a slight shift in tone, as Young begins to fill out Müller’s own character more, affording some interesting insights into her family history. At times I felt, this development of Muller’s character was weighted too heavily against the main plot, giving the book a slight imbalance, and there was one twist in the plot that felt a little too contrived for this reader, leading to the feeling that this was a bridging book to greater revelations ahead, instead of a naturally fluid development of the series. However, I enjoyed the way that once again, Young carefully uses Müller’s colleagues to lighten the tone, and adds a much needed softening to the personalities that lie beneath their constricted professional lives.

To be honest though, this one small criticism of Müller’s character development within Stasi Wolf  did little to dent my enjoyment overall. Young’s astute and compelling use of his chosen location and period of history was as enlightening and educational as ever, within the arc of this dark and disturbing investigation. Recommended.

(With thanks to Bonnier Zaffre for the ARC)

WHO IS DEADLIER …

Leonard Howell’s worst nightmare has come true: his daughter Caroline has been kidnapped. Not content with relying on the cops, Howell calls the only man he trusts to get her back.

… THE MAN WHO KNOWS THE TRUTH …

Eddie Flynn knows what it’s like to lose a daughter and vows to bring Caroline home safe. Once a con artist, now a hotshot criminal attorney, Flynn is no stranger to the shady New York underworld.

… OR THE ONE WHO BELIEVES A LIE?

However, as he steps back into his old life, Flynn realizes that the rules of game have changed – and that he is being played. But who is pulling the strings? And is anyone in this twisted case telling the truth…?

Having reviewed Steve Cavanagh’s two excellent previous Eddie Flynn thrillers, The Defence and The Plea  it is with some pleasure that I can say that the big guy has come up trumps again. Having converted me to the enjoyable world of the legal thriller, Cavanagh plunges his stalwart Flynn back into a compelling tale of kidnap and twisted family secrets…

The sharp-talking, quick thinking and utterly engaging character of Eddie Flynn lies at the heart of the success of this America based series to date. He is an entirely likeable protagonist who easily gets the reader on board with his delightful mix of street smarts and, at times, emotional sensitivity. I love the little echoes of his grifter past that undercut his talents as a lawyer, and the interludes of wit that Cavanagh employs in this incredibly fast paced and engaging thriller. Cavanagh’s writing is extremely fluid and well-paced throughout, with an uncanny knack in his control of tension and action, from the high-stakes shenanigans of Flynn’s courtroom appearances, to his clear-sighted and unquestioning mission for justice for his client.

So as not to spoil your enjoyment of this thriller, I will dwell fleetingly on the plot, as there are more than a few twists and turns and surprising revelations in the course of Flynn’s thorny case. What I would say is that there is a proper ass-kicking female FBI agent in this one, who more than deserves a repeat appearance in future books (hint, hint) and a grim tale of dark jealousies that exist between siblings that could only end badly. It is never less than gripping throughout, and Flynn needs his wits about him to navigate this minefield of tricky legal negotiations, and intermittent flashpoints of danger…

All in all, The Liar proves itself an extremely enjoyable, well-plotted thriller with solid characterisation, and a nice sting in the tale. A great addition to an already mustn’t miss series. Loved it.

(With thanks to Orion for the ARC)

On a bitterly cold winter’s night, Liverpool is left stunned by a brutal murder in the grounds of the city’s Anglican Cathedral. A killer is on the loose, driven by a chilling rage. Put on the case, DS Nathan Cody is quickly stumped. Wherever he digs, the victim seems to be almost angelic – no-one has a bad word to say, let alone a motive for such a violent murder. And Cody has other things on his mind too. The ghosts of his past are coming ever closer, and – still bearing the physical and mental scars – it’s all he can do to hold onto his sanity.
And then the killer strikes again . . .

Hope To Die is the second outing for DS Nathan Cody, and the follow up to A Tapping At My Door the first of David Jackson’s new Liverpool based series. Still reeling from the events of the first book, our beleaguered detective has more demons to face in this dark and testing investigation…

Aside from the triple murder case, the book is punctuated by the experiences of a young boy suffering abuse, in this case at the hands of a religiously zealous and cruel mother, and the mental angst of DS Cody himself in the grip of the reverberations of a previous violent interlude in his police career. Jackson largely succeeds at juggling these three strands of narrative, but maybe too consciously is setting the scene for a further book in the series in the case of Cody’s torment. I felt early on that the demons haunting him would not be effectively dealt with this in this book, so resigned myself to a possible cliffhanger for this particular story arc, but no matter as the murder investigations he is involved in provided more than enough tension in the main storyline. I thought the plotting and eventual resolution of the murder cases was extremely well done, with a cunningly concealed, but utterly believable perpetrator, and I enjoyed both the build up to,  and the final unmasking of, the killer. Jackson makes liberal use of red herrings and blind alleys, and I always think this adds something to the reading of a thriller, testing out our little grey cells, and playing with our intuition. I also greatly enjoyed the sideswipes at religious fervour and hypocrisy that are central to the murderer’s motivations.

Something that is always consistent in Jackson’s writing, be it his former New York set crime series, or this one, is his solid characterisation, and the interaction between his characters. There is ready Scouse wit, emotional angst, spikiness, and total professionalism in equal measure, and he never shies away from homing in on this little mis-steps in communication that exist when people have to react with others outside of their professional zone. This is particularly evident in the torturous and frustrating relationship between Cody and DC Megan Webley, whose emotional back and forth, provides a nice little distraction from the grim murder investigation, but not to the detriment of the central plot. More a case of will they again, won’t they again, knock their heads together, throw hands up in despair etc…

Hope To Die proves itself another well-executed police procedural from David Jackson, and as another step in the confronting of Cody’s ghosts from the past, acts as a good bridge in readiness for the next in the series. I’m looking forward to it already…

(With thanks to Bonnier Zaffre for the ARC)

 

 

Blog Tour- Guest Post- David Jackson- My Liverpool- A Tapping At My Door + Review

Jackson, DaveAnd so to Raven Crime Reads for the next stop on the blog tour marking the release of David Jackson’s fifth book, A Tapping At My Door. With the previous books all being set in the jolly old U. S. of A, Jackson has stayed closer to home with this one, setting it in his native city of Liverpool. In a special guest post, the author reflects on some of the locations used in this compelling new thriller…

My Liverpool

dj“The title chosen for this blog post is ‘My Liverpool’, but it could equally be called ‘Cody’s Liverpool’, as there’s a curious overlap between the places I know well and the locations used in ‘A Tapping at My Door’!

Stoneycroft

The novel opens in a house in Stoneycroft, about 3 or 4 miles from the city centre. This was actually the first house I bought. It was nothing special, but it got me on the property ladder. At that time I had no thoughts of becoming a novelist!

Bold Street

When we first meet Cody, he’s working undercover as a busker at the bottom of Bold Street. At the time of writing, there was a massive Waterstones here. This was closed down a few months later, so I had to go back and rewrite the chapter. From this location, we follow Cody on a foot pursuit through Central Station and into Clayton Square.

Stanley Road, Kirkdale

Cody’s unit, the Major Incident Team, is housed in the police station here in this deprived area of Liverpool. It is actually situated next to a funeral parlour, hence the bit in the novel about the locals joking that it’s the only way the homicide detectives can find a dead body.

Kensington

libThe investigation takes Cody to this residential area just outside the city centre. In the book, he remembers visiting the library here as a kid, with the Francis Bacon quote above the library door: ‘Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.’ Funny that, because I remember exactly the same things from when I was a kid.

Rodney Street

As mentioned in the novel, Rodney Street is sometimes referred to as the Harley Street of the north, with its doctors, dentists, etc. Cody rents a flat above a dental practice here. Believe it or not, it’s based on a place in which I once lived on the same street. The buildings are huge, Georgian town houses, with lots of story potential, as will become apparent in the series.

Fairfield

Not far from Kensington is Fairfield, which is where Cody’s family lives. This is where I was born, and the Cody household is loosely based on what I can remember of our own place all those years ago. Running between Kensington and Fairfield is Sheil Road, close to another house I lived in, and the location for another murder in the novel.

Pubs: Ye Cracke, The Philharmonic, The Beehive

250px-YeCrackeLiverpoolOMI have had many pints of beer in many of the pubs in Liverpool, and a few of these are described in the book. Ye Cracke is a tiny watering hole, renowned as the place that John Lennon used to drink. Just around the corner from here is the building that used to be the grammar school attended by Paul McCartney, George Harrison and yours truly (although I was there much later!) By contrast, the Philharmonic pub just down the road is a huge establishment, famous for its ornate urinals! Another pub I spent some time in is The Beehive, where Cody has a meeting with Dobson the journalist.

Hope Street

I love Hope Street. Aptly named, it connects the city’s two cathedrals. It’s also home to the Everyman Theatre and a number of great restaurants. One of these – the London Carriage Works – is where Cody goes to confront the newspaper editor.

Brownlow Hill

This runs from town up through the university campus. At its bottom end is the famous Adelphi Hotel, and the car park behind this forms another location for the book.

And finally …

There is one other Liverpool landmark I’d like to talk about, but can’t, as it plays a key role in the novel’s finale. You’ll just have to read the book to find out more!”

David Jackson is the author of a series of crime thrillers featuring New York Detective Callum Doyle. His debut novel, Pariah, was Highly Commended in the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Awards. When not writing fiction, David spends his time as a lecturer in a university science department. He also gives occasional workshops on creative writing. Follow the author on Twitter @Author_Dave.

RAVEN REVIEWS:

dj

I think you can probably tell from my previous reviews for Pariah The Helper , Marked and Cry Baby that I am rather keen on the oeuvre of Mr Jackson, and this quartet of New York set thrillers were filled with twists, humour and a reckless, but all the more endearing, police protagonist, Detective Callum Doyle. After a small hiatus, Jackson returns to the world of the crime thriller, with a new setting, new characters, and the temptation of a deliciously dark and compelling investigation…

Beginning with an epigraph from The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe (one extra point allocated by this reviewer) reflecting the title of the book, we are immediately plunged into a nerve shredding opening, to which we must thank Mr Jackson for giving all us single ladies the right heebie jeebies. Disturbed by a tapping at her back door, and in a move as stupid as going to the basement in a horror film, Terri Latham goes to investigate finding a raven is responsible for the noise. Then a killer strikes, thus killing two birds with one stone (sorry couldn’t resist that one, and also the consequent loss of formerly allocated point for crimes against ravens). When Latham’s murder is investigated further, events from her recent past lead to the revisiting of a contentious case centred on police brutality. Tasked with uncovering a killer is DS Nathan Cody, a former undercover operative carrying the scars of an undercover mission gone wrong,  but can Cody keep his head as the pressure mounts, and the body count begins to rise…

You know those real read-in-one-sitting thrillers, where little short of impending starvation or natural disaster would move you from the sofa? Yep, this is one of those. Although at first glance, you could be mistaken for thinking that this was an all too familiar plot of weirdo on rampage with twisted agenda, versus damaged cop, Jackson adds a certain verve to the whole affair as he sucks us in deeper to the tormented worlds of his protagonists. Cody is a hugely empathetic character, and as his personal demons are slowly revealed his stock rises in the whole narrative arc. You have an unerring sense of the devil on his shoulder, but this is counterbalanced well by the curious mix of bravado, and at times deep self-questioning, that Jackson imbues into his character. Less successful for me initially (there was a slight look to the heavens) was the slightly awkward scenario of him being partnered up with a former lover, but my fears were assuaged as DC Megan Webley established herself quickly as acutely necessary to the unfolding of Cody’s story. I also loved his boss, DCI Stella Blunt who threatened to ride roughshod over everyone on her sporadic appearances in the plot, with an incomparable mix of steel underscored by a certain softness.

As the book races to a thrilling denouement with the killer’s motivations at last revealed, it is apt that Jackson draws on two distinctly recognisable facets of Liverpool and Liverpudlian history to bring the story to a close. I always enjoy it when British authors write so realistically and recognisably about their own stamping grounds, as in the books of Mari Hannah with the North East, David Mark with Hull, and fellow Liverpudlian Kevin Sampson for example. Throughout the book, Jackson takes us on an affectionate but not completely misty-eyed, trip through the familiar streets of his native city, and the city takes a role as a separate character in the book. The author is refreshingly disinclined to paint too rosy a picture of this city with its mixture of recognisable growth set against the curse of inner city deprivation, and he achieves this balance perfectly.

I rather enjoyed this one as you can tell, as a well-executed thriller, with plenty of scope and a firm foundation for a projected series. Quoth the Raven- it’s really rather good…

Catch up with or follow the rest of the blog tour here:

1 A Tapping at my Door Blog Banner FINAL- use this one

 

 

 

A Quick Sunday Five-A-Side…Alice Thompson/Luca Veste/Andrew Mayne/Hugo Wilcken/Jo Nesbo/

As promised here is a quick round-up of some of the October reads that I have been unable to post- some good, some indifferent and some disappointing. Have a look and make up your own minds…

bookcIn Edwardian England, Violet has a fairy tale existence: loving husband, beautiful baby son and luxurious home. She wants for nothing. But soon after the birth of her baby the idyll begins to disintegrate. Violet becomes obsessed by a book of fairy tales that her husband has locked away in a safe, and as paranoia sets in, she begins to question her own sanity, resulting in her internment in an asylum. Meanwhile, vulnerable young women are starting to disappear from the same asylum, and then found brutally murdered…

I must admit that the cover alone made me instantly put down the book I was reading and avidly leap on this one. Shallow I know. However, this was a little Gothic inspired piece of perfection, charting the mental degradation experienced by a naïve young woman in Edwardian England. Thompson balances the demands of depicting her chosen era with the tropes of the time, thus producing an incredibly authentic piece of writing that taps in perfectly to the psychological condition ‘the mad woman in the attic’ produced by a canon of writers. What was interesting, apart from the general darkness and murderous feel of the plot, was the way Thompson circumvented the genre towards the end of the book, through the use of language that her heroine Violet begins to display. The precise Edwardian vocabulary began to assume a more contemporary feel in the wake of Violet’s treatment at the asylum, and this proved an interesting divergence from the general feel of the book. With flayed corpses, books covered with human skin, and raging madness, this is definitely worth checking out…

(With thanks to Salt Publishing for the ARC)

lucaSocial media stars Chloe Morrison and Joe Hooper seem to have it all – until their bodies are found following an anonymous phone call to their high-profile agent. Tied and bound to chairs facing each other, their violent deaths cause a media scrum to descend on Liverpool, with DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi assigned to the case. Murphy is dismissive, but the media pressure intensifies when another couple is found in the same manner as the first. Only this time the killer has left a message. A link to a private video on the internet, and the words ‘Nothing stays secret’. It quickly becomes clear that more people will die; that the killer believes secrets and lies within relationships should have deadly consequences…

Bloodstream is the third Liverpool set police procedural by Luca Veste featuring detectives David Murphy and Laura Rossi. Tapping in perfectly to the insidious greed to base our lives on social media, and be obsessed with reality television, Veste has constructed an intriguing thriller using both of these trends as a backdrop. With a killer driven by an insidious desire to wreak his personal judgement on the secrets and lies that exist in personal relationships, Veste makes a good job of concealing his killer’s identity to near to the close of the book. It’s all pointing one way but no, you’d be wrong! With the established partnership of Murphy and firebrand Rossi gathering maturity, the reader is quickly enmeshed and comfortable with the dynamics of their working relationship. Murphy is still stoical and methodical, Rossi still a bit of a loose cannon, but rather sweetly now entering the realm of the grown-ups with a fledgling love affair. Although I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as the previous two, due to the more understated characterisation of Murphy and Rossi , it is in no way a bad read. A solid police procedural with some nice little knowing nods to the world of Twitter and Facebook, makes for an enjoyable catch-up with the series.

(With thanks to Simon & Schuster for the ARC)

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Meet Jessica Blackwood, FBI Agent and ex-illusionist. Called in because of her past to offer expertise on the mysterious ‘Warlock’ case, Jessica must put all her unique knowledge to the test as the FBI try to catch a ruthless killer. Needing to solve the unsolvable, and with the clock ticking, they’re banking on her being the only one able to see beyond the Warlock’s illusions…

Up until this very moment, I am still a little undecided as to whether I enjoyed Angel Killer or not. I think the safest thing to say is that I liked bits of it, but not convinced it totally worked as a whole. Written by a man with one foot in the world of magic and illusion, the actual baffling nature of the crimes were undoubtedly clever, and if ever a book was written to transfer to a big screen production, this would be it. The scope and scale of the criminal illusions perpetrated by The Warlock were unique, intriguing and a real highlight of the book. The characterisation of FBI agent, Jessica Blackwood with her mix of wide-eyed naivety, but quick witted intelligence was also well realised, and the background to her aptitude for magic influenced by her family’s involvement in this world of trickery was filled with Mayne’s undoubted knowledge of the craft. However, I wasn’t entirely convinced by the killer’s motivation, and I thought the ending was extremely damp squibbish. A mixed affair overall, but worth a look if you enjoy a pacey thriller and have an interest in magic and illusions on a grand scale.

(With thanks to Faber for the ARC)

41ncvXMjr-L__SX333_BO1,204,203,200_1950s New York: Disturbed by a troubling phone call, Dr Manne isn’t himself when he’s called out by the police to evaluate a man suspected of psychosis. But the man is perfectly calm, and insists he’s not who the police says he is. Manne isn’t sure what to believe, but something definitely isn’t right. Before he knows it, he’s helping his patient escape from an unfamiliar psychiatric hospital that reminds him of a story he heard during the war, about a secret government medical testing programme. With the stranger asleep in his bed, and the distinct feeling that he’s being followed, Manne is determined to make sense of the events unfolding around him; that is until a careless slip on the subway leads to a horrific accident. Waking up in a hospital bed, Manne realises his own identity is not as certain as he’d always believed. What kind of a hospital is he in, why can’t he leave, and who is the pretty young woman on the balcony, who he watches from his window? As Manne pieces together the story, he realises that pretending to be someone else might be his only chance for escape.

Billed as a cross between Camus and Hitchcock, with shades of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley, I must confess that for large parts of this book, I had not the faintest clue what was going on, but it mattered not a jot. This is not an easy read, and attention must be paid, as Wilcken unmercifully manipulates the character of Manne, and the reader’s sensibilities, in this twisted and cerebral tale of fluid identity and government conspiracy. It is without a doubt one of the most clever, perplexing and challenging books I’ve encountered this year, with its trail of red herrings, and it’s ability to make you flick back and forth thinking you have discovered a vital clue, only to be undone again by another shift of plot or characterisation. The backdrop of 50’s New York is perfectly realised throughout, and it’s a cracking slice of hardboiled noir to boot. Fancy a challenge? This one’s for you…

(With thanks to Melville House for the ARC)

51FIjE4xtVL__SX335_BO1,204,203,200_Jon is on the run. He has betrayed Oslo’s biggest crime lord: The Fisherman. Fleeing to an isolated corner of Norway, to a mountain town so far north that the sun never sets, Jon hopes to find sanctuary amongst a local religious sect. Hiding out in a shepherd’s cabin in the wilderness, all that stands between him and his fate are Lea, a bereaved mother and her young son, Knut. But while Lea provides him with a rifle and Knut brings essential supplies, the midnight sun is slowly driving Jon to insanity. And then he discovers that The Fisherman’s men are getting closer…

Following last year’s standalone novel Blood On Snow, Nesbo follows up with Midnight Sun another slightly compressed offering whilst we all eagerly await the next Harry Hole outing. This was okay, and I say that with reservations, as it did feel less well-formed, and slightly lackadaisical to his normal writing style. It was all a little ho-hum, let’s insert some info on the Sami lifestyle, bit of violence, touching moment of less than effective father raising money for sick child through nefarious means, interaction with cute kid he could then possibly adopt,  bit of violence (with a reindeer), love interest, bit more violence. And then a totally unsatisfactory ending – which was a real cop-out, and made me huff in despair. Overall quite disappointed, but liked the Sami bit. A bit.

(With thanks to Harvill Secker for the ARC)

 

 

 

Blog Tour- Luca Veste- #Bloodstream- Guest Post- Secrets and Lies

luca540Welcome to the last stop on the Blog Tour to mark the release of Luca Veste’s third thriller, Bloodstream, featuring DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi, which sets our intrepid detectives on a search for a serial killer who feeds off the lies that can exist in relationships. Here’s Luca’s own take on the world of secret and lies….

“Have you ever lied? Odds are, you have. According to many studies, we lie on average anything from twice a day, to fourteen times a day (dependent on which study has the most people telling the truth!). It has even been suggested by evolutionists that the ability to lie and be deceitful is a part of why we have evolved to the point of domination. Our capacity to deceive is only matched by our capacity to build things none of us really need.

So, we all lie in one way or another. Maybe some of you only tell those little, tiny, miniscule lies which hurt no one and instead make feel better. You know, the standard ones…

Of course you don’t look fat in those jeans.

You were very funny during the party. They all loved you.

I would have punched that giraffe as well… he was definitely about to headbutt one of us.

Then, there’s the bigger lies. The ones we tell as self-preservation. To our boss, to our family. Those lies we tell so as not to get into trouble, or in a bad situation. With those lies, it wasn’t the ones told to those who aren’t really central to our adult lives. For those in relationships, your partner is supposedly central to your life. Yet, it is to them that we will tell similar lies to. This person (or persons) we choose to spend our time with, our lives becoming interconnected with each other. We all have this capacity to lie to these people. A partner we have chosen specifically for the reason that to not do so would somehow make our lives lesser. We’re not forced together by circumstance like our families or bosses. We made a decision to share the most intimate part of ourselves with these people … and then we lie to them. Keep something hidden from them.

lucaThis is an aspect of life which I wanted to explore in the new Murphy & Rossi novel ‘Bloodstream‘. If we are judged on the lies we tell, would any of us survive that examination? If any of our relationships was scrutinised by an outsider, would any of us pass a test of absolute truthfulness and faithfulness?

You may think the small lies don’t really matter. That telling our partners something we know not to be true is only to protect them. Instead, isn’t it more likely that your partner is only looking for reassurance, whilst secretly knowing the truth? Aren’t we taking full part in a lie being perpetuated, allowing it to fester into your relationship, becoming somehow a factor in whether that relationship survives or not?

Is it possible to be in a relationship without lying in some way, or are we predisposed to lie our way through life?

I wanted to explore these ideas and more in the book, seeing how relationships stood up to the test. From those in the public eye, to the more mundane and normal relationships we all know and are a part of. The antagonist in the story has a glamourised version of love and relationships in his head, which he has never fully realised in reality. Anger has festered within him, to the point he now wants to destroy those he deems to fall short of his expectations. If someone in a relationship is holding a secret or lying to their partner, he believes they should suffer.

Thus, would anyone in a relationship survive this examination?

Most of us believe we’re truthful people, but is that really true?

It’s ideas and themes such as these which drive me to write the novels I do. Taking a simple thought and working it over in my mind to create a story. Place characters in situations and seeing what happens next. Using societal issues to drive a crime novel, which I really enjoy doing.

I lie less now. After reading Bloodstream, maybe you will too…”

 

Missed any posts?  Check out the blog tour at these excellent sites

Luca Veste Blog Tour

Luca Veste Blog Tour- The Inspiration for The Dying Place/Review

DP Blog Tour2 To celebrate the UK publication of Luca Veste’s second book The Dying Place it gives the Raven great pleasure to post a short piece by Luca on his initial inspiration  for the plot.  The Dying Place raises some very valid arguments at each extreme of the moral dilemma it presents, but is violence the most viable course of action to deal with the social deprivation that has permeated our everyday lives?  Read on…

“When I started writing THE DYING PLACE, my first thought was that it had to be different. Not different in a non-crime fiction sense, but different from DEAD GONE, in a way that would be at least noticeable to people. There was a temptation to go with what had seemingly worked in the first novel – a serial killer thriller, with an unknown force stalking the streets of Liverpool a year on from events in DEAD GONE – and I even mapped out a small plan for such a novel. I found that I wanted to test myself a little however, seeing if I could hold suspense with one body/death for over half the novel. Then, in a conversation with my dad talking about Book Two, the chat turned to what has been an ongoing battle between us about what to do with issues with young people. My dad is very liberal in almost all subjects, with one exception – how to deal with what some people call “scallies”. Young people who cause problems on the streets and within society. A disenfranchised section of society, who are the subject of much media interest, even though they make up a small minority of young people. My dad’s idea – one which is mirrored in so many of his generation – is to get a van full of “old boys” and go around giving these “scallies” a good kicking, which apparently would sort them out and solve all the problems caused by them.

lucaNaturally, I have misgivings about this idea. Violence stopping violence just doesn’t seem to work logically in my mind. However, I know there is – and has been since time began – a clash of generations, with the older generation always believing the younger generation is somehow a “problem”. That clash of generations was something I become more and more interested in, and eventually became the focus of THE DYING PLACE. I knew, however, that allowing my own thinking to intrude in the novel would make the book too much of a manifesto against one idea. Therefore, I had to present the two forces equally – the issues and crimes caused by some young people vs the rose-tinted view of the past some older people have. The book opens with those two view-points – a single mother of young teenagers and the issues created by a society which still treats them with disdain… and a pensioner, lamenting the way he sees his city changing around him, and the very real crimes he experiences. As we go through the book, the characters we meet are from both sides, their experiences skewing viewpoints and thoughts.

What I hope it creates is a moral dilemma in the readers mind. Whilst you may begin feeling sympathy for one character may change over time. I want to challenge a reader, whilst also providing a thrilling read, which will hopefully keep you gripped. There’s nothing better than hearing “I couldn’t stop turning the pages… ” for me.

Oh, and book three will be a serial killer again… but with a twist! ” 

Raven’s Review

luca

Once inside…there’s no way out. A fate worse than death…

DI Murphy and DS Rossi discover the body of known troublemaker Dean Hughes, dumped on the steps of St Mary’s Church in West Derby, Liverpool. His body is covered with the unmistakable marks of torture. As they hunt for the killer, they discover a worrying pattern. Other teenagers, all young delinquents, have been disappearing without a trace. Who is clearing the streets of Liverpool? Where are the other missing boys being held? And can Murphy and Rossi find them before they meet the same fate as Dean?

I think it was Karin Slaughter who said that to really tap into the sociological fears and concerns of any community that the perfect conduit for this is crime fiction. In The Dying Place– the follow up to his debut novel Dead Gone– Veste proves the point admirably. Focusing on a band of older vigilantes, swiping errant youths off the streets of Liverpool, and incarcerating them to undergo a form of behavioural re-programming, Veste uses the plot to provide a thoughtful and balanced examination of how these youths, that are such a thorn in the side of their local community, should be dealt with, and if meeting violence with violence is really the right way to address the problem. Do these youths all really fit a template because of the way they dress? Are some conditioned to be ‘bad’ by the very unstable nature of their upbringings, and detrimental familial influences? As the vigilante’s leader becomes more unhinged, scarred by the actions of youths such as these in his personal life, Veste ramps up the tension and the police themselves come into the firing line too.

Cleverly, our empathy is roundly manipulated, as we see how the actions of this vigilante band spirals out of control, and the implications for not only their detainees, but also bringing into play their family backgrounds, and the effects of the investigation on the police protagonists- most notably DI David Murphy, and his feisty DS Scouse/Italian sidekick Laura Rossi. I was most impressed with this detective duo in the debut, Dead Gone, and love the balance between the stoical and world weary Murphy, set against the hot temper and really quite enjoyable colourful swearing of his police partner Rossi. What I also enjoy about Veste’s characterisation is the way that he roundly avoids the typical stereotypes of many crime fiction novels, giving a realistic feel to the personal lives of both, and how the very nature of their jobs, and this investigation in particular, impinge on their personal relationships- or lack of. They form a solid partnership that is providing a real backbone to the continuation of the series, and with the shocking denouement affecting Murphy on an incredibly personal level, I will be interested to see the repercussions of this in the next book. Within the framework of this crime novel, Veste balances perfectly the larger sociological issues, with a pacey plot, and a solid cast of characters that proves itself an eminently enjoyable read. More please…

Luca Veste is a writer of Italian and Scouse heritage, married with two young daughters, and one of nine children. He is currently studying psychology and criminology at University in Liverpool.  He is also the editor of the Spinetingler Award nominated charity anthology ‘Off The Record’, and co-editor of ‘True Brit Grit’, also an anthology of short stories for charity. A former civil servant, actor, singer and guitarist (although he still picks it up now and again), he now divides his time between home life, Uni work and writing. Follow on Twitter @lucaveste

Find out more about Dead Gone here

(With thanks to Avon for the ARC)

Blog Tour-Kevin Sampson- Guest Post- The House On The Hill Review

 

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Marking the publication of The House On The Hill- the second in Kevin Sampson’s new crime series to feature DCI Billy McCartney- Raven Crime Reads is delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the release. Having previously reviewed the first in the series, The Killing Pool , and having just read this new one (reviewed below), I’m sure that you will not only enjoy Kevin’s piece posted here about his multi-faceted character, the mercurial Billy McCartney, but will be more than keen to seek this series out for yourselves too! So with no further ado it’s over to Kevin..

On DCI Billy McCartney

“My concept for the McCartney series was that Billy should be as complex and as much of an enigma as any of the cases he works on. I had (and have) in mind an initial 5 novels, with each instalment revealing a little more about Mac. Only once we’ve digested and understood all 5 ‘episodes’ will the full picture emerge. Until that point, it’s a process of putting all the tiny clues together as we try to get a sense of who Billy McCartney really is.

Having said that, I had a very clear notion of McCartney, his history and what drives him on, right from the start. Mac’s persona is absolutely central to each case, and the way he goes about solving it. He is defined by his own experience, and by his own distinctive morality. Mac perceives himself more as an old-time Lawman than a sophisticated modern detective. He regularly refers to himself putting on ‘the cape’ or ‘the mask’, and these nuances shine a light on Mac’s idiosyncratic approach to the job. He’s the Lone Ranger, dressed in white, chasing the lawless baddies out of town; making it safe for ordinary decent folk. Above all, he wants to make the streets safe for women.

McCartney’s very specific worldview is both informed and challenged by his perception of women. Again, there is something of the old-fashioned hero in him, racing to aid the damsel in distress. In The Killing Pool Mac risks everything in his determination to find and rescue the young runaway, Misha. And in his latest case, The House On The Hill, his obsession with a murdered colleague, DS Millie Baker, drives him beyond the rational remit of the job. He’s in Morocco to infiltrate a major hashish production gang high in the Rif mountains, but it’s the recurring flashbacks about the circumstances of Millie’s death that haunt Mac and spur him on.

Yet McCartney himself is anything but a traditional square-jawed knight in shining armour. He never, ever gets the girl. There is a loneliness that eats away at Mac – a resignation that “for McCartney, it always ends this way.” This, in turn, informs his solitary approach to his work. All too often, Mac’s fairy tales morph into nightmares, and it’s his seeming inability to find love that recurs in his moments of reflection. His consolation is that, through his diligent and often brilliant detective work, he makes the city a safer place to live. As a child he witnessed his own father being shot by armed robbers. If he can prevent other kids going through similar trauma, it has been a Good Day for McCartney.

DCI Billy McCartney presented himself to me well-defined but not quite fully formed. Just as with real people in real life, he is a work in progress, growing and changing as he reacts to different challenges. I have a pretty good idea who he really is. By the end of the fifth book we’ll know for sure. For now though, enjoy more clues about Mac in The House On The Hill.”

 

kevKevin Sampson began his writing career reviewing bands for NME. Based in Liverpool, he wrote about gangs and subcultures for The Face, I-D, and Arena. A lifelong fascination with the criminal underworld, led to Sampson’s Liverpool-set crime novels, Outlaws and Clubland, and his debut film Surveillance. Outlaws was also made as a feature film titled The Crew. Sampson is the author of eight novels and one work of non-fiction. The Killing Pool was the first in the series of the Billy McCartney novels, with a TV adaptation just announced here  Follow him on Twitter @ksampsonwriter.

 

Raven’s Review

9780224097178-largeDCI Billy McCartney has gone to ground, disillusioned with his job. When a runaway turns up on his doorstep, her story plunges Mac back to the summer of 1990, and one of his most traumatic cases. McCartney and his partner DS Millie Baker are in Ibiza, on a joint venture with the Spanish serious crime agency. Their objective: to infiltrate the Liverpool-based drug gang responsible for a wave of ecstasy-related deaths. But their stakeout takes both Mac and Millie to the heart of a dark empire whose tentacles stretch from Ireland to Morocco, and whose activities include industrial-scale drug production – and terrorism. They’re close to their big bust when Millie is abducted by the gang, and killed. McCartney never quite recovers from it. The waif who knocks on Mac’s door twenty-four years later has escaped from those same captors; a dynasty of international dope dealers based high in the Moroccan Rif. What she tells McCartney blasts his apathy away, and sends him on a mission that goes far beyond law and order. This is his chance for redemption.

The House On The Hill is the second in the DCI Billy McCartney series following the excellent opener The Killing Pool (which I waxed lyrical about last year) and can easily be read as a standalone. This new book sees Mac gone to ground, disillusioned with his job, but fate has a surprise a store for him when a young runaway turns up on his doorstep. The tale she has to tell plunges Mac back in time to the summer of 1990, and one of his most traumatic cases, both professionally and personally. The trail she sets him on, takes him and the reader back to the investigation rooted in the 90’s club scene in Ibiza, to his present day pursuit of a drug dynasty in the hills of Marrakech, where extreme danger awaits…

I would say from the outset that what Sampson achieves with ease, both in this and his novels to date, is the ability to so quickly make us so comfortable with the characters he lays before us. Even if you have not read the first book which established the depths and quirks of DCI Billy McCartney’s character, I guarantee that you will take to him, and his rough charm from the earliest beginnings of the book. In this character, Sampson has conjured up a man of sublime contradictions. He has an easy manner, flecked with humour and a cynical eye, but equally is a man haunted by events in his own childhood, and in his professional career as a police officer. Although he is to all intents and purposes a bit of a rough diamond, the wrongs he has born witness to, particularly in the historical case in Ibiza which proceeds the contemporary investigation, has affected him greatly on an emotional level. Both cases call on him to be somewhat of a knight in shining armour, but on a more basic level, are driven by his pure ambition to right the wrongs of the past, and assuage his own sense of guilt. He has a strong moral core, despite his tough guy attitude, and even when up to his armpits in danger retains this outward strength, but is man enough to confess to his inward fear. He is gallant when the female of the species is involved, but our hearts go out to him, as in the true spirit of the moral defender, he is destined to carry a sense of loneliness and isolation about him.

Equally, Sampson roundly characterises the surrounding protagonists in the book, good guys and bad guys alike, in a realistic and vital way. There are some truly horrible antagonists involved in Mac’s investigations, like drug dealer JJ Hamilton, whose nefarious dealings with the equally hideous drug lord Hassan El Glaoui, a particularly cruel and violent individual, lies at the root of Mac’s troubles. These two men are greedy, ambitious and unrelenting in their manipulation and abuse of others (in particular women) to keep a stranglehold on the drug trail they control. Also, amongst Mac’s police counterparts at home and abroad, over the course of the two cases, there is a nice mix between the good, the bad and the ugly, and of course Al Glauoi’s and Hamilton’s henchmen are carved out in true pantomime baddie style. Boo. Hiss. On a slightly lighter note, I particularly enjoyed the characterisation of the young and in a lot of ways naïve, Yasmina, the runaway who comes to Mac with her personal tale of woe. To avoid plot spoilers, I won’t divulge how she is connected to him, but her resilience (when pursued by the bad guys), balanced with her heart-warming incidental journey to a grand love affair with the spiky, and thoroughly entertaining kick ass Jessica, is a joy.

The dual timelines are powerfully and realistically presented, from the atmosphere of the heyday of Ibiza, underscored with some real trip back in time references to the essential music of this period, and the very unique and sensual casting of Morocco, leading to the breathless denouement. Sampson’s attention to location is one of the real strengths of the book, so much so that the contrasting landscapes he portrays, seem to take on the role of a character in themselves. I found the descriptions of El Glaoui’s hillside hideaway, particularly cinematic, and the events that transpire in its locale, added to the foreboding atmosphere it imparted in the book. The plot is perfectly controlled, with neither half on the dual narrative, weakened by the other, fuelled by tension and danger in equal measure. In common with The Killing Pool, Sampson does not hold back on the more sordid details of the piece, to unsettle us throughout, but like the first book, I rather enjoyed the more grubby and violent aspects of the plot, which further involved me emotionally in this theatre of danger Mac finds himself embroiled in. All in all a terrific follow up to the first book, and if this is only book two of a planned five book series, I cannot wait to see what Mac gets up to next. Bring it on…

 

BLOG TOUR IN FULL:

August 7th  DEAD GOOD BOOKS

August 8th RAVEN CRIME READS

August 9th SHAZ’S BOOK BLOG 

August 10th CRIMETIME

August 11th READER DAD

August 12th THE CRIME WARP

(With thanks to Jonathan Cape for the ARC)

 

 

 

 

 

LUCA VESTE BLOG TOUR- DEAD GONE- EXTRACT AND REVIEW

Dead GoneThe young girl you have found isn’t the first experiment I’ve carried out. She won’t be the last. A serial killer is stalking the streets of Liverpool, gruesomely murdering victims as part of a series of infamous unethical and deadly psychological experiments. When it becomes apparent that each victim has ties to the City of Liverpool University, DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi realise they’re chasing a killer unlike any they’ve hunted before – one who doesn’t just want his victims’ bodies, but wants their minds too.

So here we are on day three of the blog tour to celebrate the release of Luca Veste’s debut crime novel Dead Gone in e-book, and a cracking good debut it is too. With a solid recommendation from Mark Billingham resplendent on the jacket, I can only echo his words as Veste being a writer to watch, as this debut kept me hooked throughout and I loved the way Veste so neatly draws on his Liverpudlian and Italian roots, both in terms of the setting of the book and in the characterisation of his protagonists. With an assured touch, the reader is quickly immersed in a tautly plotted and psychologically dark tale of missing girls and a slippery killer that plumbs the depths of the psychotic mind, against the backdrop of academia. In much the same way as David Mark depicts Hull and Craig Robertson, Glasgow, Veste presents the reader with a vivid portrait of Liverpool- both good and bad- with the affections and frustrations of his home town presented in equal measure through the eyes and natural humour of his police characters, DI David Murphy and the feisty DS Laura Rossi. I think it’s worth saying at this point, that they make one hell of a team, and I found both characters extremely believable and loved the interplay between them- a partnership that has the propensity to run and run in future investigations I hope. So don’t just take my word for it and have a read of the extract below- I’m sure this will soon be winging its way to your e-reader now or check out for the paperback release in January. A great debut- more please!

LUCA VESTE- DEAD GONE

PART ONE

Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.

Isaac Asimov

We are taught from an early age to fear death, that unknowable force we are all moving towards, simply by existing. However, this aspect of human life is not one discussed easily amongst those in western society. Death is not an easy topic to discuss openly, without the fear of perhaps upsetting or insulting. This one aspect that binds us all together, touches us all, irrespective of race, gender, or orientation; the one thing we all have in common, yet so often it is considered a ‘dark’ subject. Talking about one’s own mortality is considered morbid and morose.

One truth remains however. We all die. Every single living organism experiences death. Indeed, according to Dr. Sigmund Freud, ‘It is the aim of all life.’ We live to die. Homo sapiens as a species have shown great technological advances over the past few centuries. Yet one thing we have not, and will arguably never achieve, is to create a way of dealing with death in a uniform manner as a population. We grieve differently, we die differently. Death touches us all. Should we fear death, try to actively repel it, through attempts to prolong our lives? If technology moved to such a point that death could be avoided, endless life became a possibility, would we ever be able to really live? Without being able to investigate death and the repercussions for the deceased, is it possible to study death in any meaningful way, without being able to experience it? Taken from ‘Life, Death, and Grief’, published in Psychological Society Review, 2008, issue 72.

Experiment Two

She hadn’t been afraid of the dark.

Not before. Not before it entered her life without her knowing, enveloping her like a second skin, becoming a part of her. She hadn’t been claustrophobic, petrified the walls were closing in around her. Crushed to death without knowing they’d even moved. Not scared of things that crawled around her toes. Wasn’t afraid to sit alone in a darkened room and wonder if something was touching her face, or if it was just her imagination. Nope. She wasn’t scared before. She was now. It took time to become afraid of those things, and time was all she had, stretching out in front of her without end. She blamed herself. Blamed her friends. Blamed him. She shouldn’t be there, and someone was to blame for that. Had to be. She’d become a responsible adult. The right thing, supposedly. Gone were the days she’d spent going into town, two, sometimes three times a week. Karaoke on a Friday, pulling on a Saturday ‒ if there were any decent lads out ‒ quiet one on a Sunday. Now she was always the first one to leave, early on in the night, when everyone else was just getting started. She didn’t like the feeling of being drunk. That loss of control, of sensibility. She’d been hungover so many times. She’d decided it wasn’t what responsible adults did. Her mum had drummed that into her one night, holding back her hair as two bottles of white wine and god knows how many vodka and lemonades decided they wanted out. She’d rather be at home now, watching TV after a day’s work, especially if it meant he was sitting close to her. She didn’t even mind that he always had the laptop on, playing that stupid football management game. Just being there with him was enough. She still enjoyed a drink at the end of a work day, a glass of wine with a meal and the occasional full bottle at the weekend. But the binging had stopped. That was for certain. When a Cheeky Vimto cocktail had been forced into her hand by one of the girls who told her she’d love it she didn’t say no.  Port and WKD. Who thought of these things? She didn’t care. It tasted bloody great. One more led to four more, and before she knew it, she was in an eighties-themed nightclub, dancing her heart out to Chesney Hawkes. Two a.m. hit, and she was saying her goodbyes. She loved them all. Her girls. Always left wondering why they didn’t see her more often. ‘Don’t go yet, we’ll all share a taxi later. Club doesn’t shut for another hour.’ ‘It’s alright, I’ll be fine. I’m knackered, want my bed. Need to get back … No, it’s okay I’ll walk up to the tunnel stretch by the museum if I can’t get one.’ Voice going hoarse from shouting over the music. Promises to do it all again soon. To give them a text when she’d arrived home. Finally she was out of the club, the bouncer helping her down the final step. Fresh air hit her, along with the realisation she was as drunk as she’d been in a long time. She began searching through her handbag for her phone, eventually finding it in the same pocket it was always in, wanting to call a taxi to pick her up. ‘For fuck’s sake.’ Too loud. Not in the club any longer, but her voice hadn’t caught onto that fact yet. A couple stared as they passed by, as she continued her argument with the stupid battery-sucking smart phone. The decision to wear comfortable shoes becoming the best idea she’d ever had. She set off for the taxi ranks at the end of Matthew Street, hoping it wouldn’t be too long a wait. She walked past the old Cavern Club, the sound of some shitty band murdering old hits wafting out of the doors, as a few tourists spilled out onto the street. She couldn’t find a taxi, queues of people down North John Street. She walked away from the lights of the clubs in the city centre, hoping to get one coming out of the tunnel. When she was younger it had been easier, as there was always enough of them to be safe getting the night bus home. Now she had money in her pocket she wouldn’t have to sit on a full bus, the stink of kebabs and vodka shots seeping into her clothes. The lads who were either squaring up to each other, or trying it on with any girl with a pulse. No thank you, she could pay the eight quid and get home without any of that. She stood on the corner near the museum, waiting for a hackney with its light on to pass her. She wrapped her arms around herself, cold air beginning to bite as she stopped walking and leant against the St John’s Gardens wall, the museum over to her right. The entrance and exit to Birkenhead tunnel directly opposite her. Swaying to silent music. She was cold, wishing she’d picked a warmer coat when she’d left the house earlier. She’d picked the right shoes, that was supposed to be enough. Ten minutes went by, then fifteen, before a hackney finally came towards her, slowing down before passing her. ‘Hey!’ It went up towards town, then did a U-turn and headed back her way, coming to a stop in front of her. She opened the door, barely registering the driver at all, just shouted her address at him, and settled back in the seat. She was glad to be in the warmth of the car. As they drove through the city centre, she began to feel just a little uncomfortable, the driver looking straight ahead, barely acknowledging her presence. He’d not said a word since she’d entered. Must be one of the new foreign drivers that were coming over from Eastern Europe or wherever. Her mum would know. She should ring her mum tomorrow, she thought. She hadn’t been in touch much lately, and she wanted to catch up. She yawned a few times in succession, the blurred buildings going past becoming hypnotic as the cab wound its way out of the city centre towards home. She battled her tiredness and lost, as her eyes closed and stayed that way. That was her mistake. She woke when the cab came to a stop and looked up to see the driver getting out of the cab. Through bleary eyes, confused by the sudden absence of movement, she sat fully upright. ‘I’m awake, it’s okay,’ she called out, but he was already walking around the cab, past her door and out of her sight. Panic didn’t set in straight away. Confusion was first. ‘Where are we?’ The windows inside had misted over, and she swiped her hand over the pane. To one side she saw trees lining a gravel driveway. She tried opening the door, but the handle wouldn’t budge. She moved across the seat, and tried that door handle. Same result. She swiped her hand over the window again, seeing a house to the other side. A strange house. Not her house. Oh shit, not her house. ‘What’s going on?’ She could hear the man’s shoes crunching through the gravel behind the car and then her window darkened. She jumped in her seat. He was crouched level with the window, his face obscured by a black balaclava. Panic started then. His voice came through the window. Slow, precise. ‘We’re in the middle of nowhere. So if you scream, no one will hear you. More importantly, if you do scream, I’m going to break the fingers on your right hand. Scream again, and I’ll cut them off. You understand me?’ There was no trace of an accent, yet there was something odd about his voice. She started to move across the back seat to the opposite door. Adrenaline kicked in. The need to get away, to get out of there, overtaking everything else. He was quicker though. The door opened behind her and a hand grabbed her by the shoulder. He was strong. Fight back, fight for her life, fight back. Without screaming. She used her fists against the opposite window, pulling on the door handle with all her weight, as the man attempted to drag her out. He got a firm grip of her dress, and placed his arm around her neck, turning her around. She kicked out at him, but felt herself being lifted from the car. He dragged her all the way inside the house, his grip around her throat choking the air out of her lungs. Her eyes drifted downwards and then around. Stone steps with marble pillars to the sides marked the entrance, but she had no time to look at them as she was pulled along a darkened corridor. She needed to breathe properly. Watched as one of her comfortable shoes slipped off and became lost in the darkness. She kicked at the ground, scratched at his arm, used her fingers to try and prise her way out of his hands, but nothing worked. She was being dragged along on her heels. He stopped, shifted his grip so she was now in a headlock. She could breathe a little. They went through an opening, before she bounced downwards. A staircase, she guessed. She couldn’t tell. It was too dark. They came to a stop. He took his arm from around her head, and before she had a chance to move, he pushed her with two hands. She fell backwards, landing hard. She heard, rather than saw a door close. She sprang up, the pain from the fall lost in the midst of heavy breathing and adrenaline. ‘Let me out of here you bastard! Open this door, open it now.’ She was in darkness and grasped at the door, trying to find a handle or anything that would open the door. She used her fists, banging on the door with all her strength. ‘Please, don’t leave me here.’ She continued to bang on the door until her hand started to ache. She switched hands. It came then. A voice through the walls, an audible static over it. She stopped, cocking her head to listen. ‘You will be fed. You will have water. There is a hatch opening on the door which can only be opened from the outside, through which this will be provided. On some days your food will have an extra ingredient, in order for me to clean up. You will not know when this is. If you’re good, I won’t have to kill you.’ The voice was silent then. She stood still, straining to hear any other noise, backing away from the door carefully. She put her hands out in front of her, her eyes trying to adjust. There was no sound, other than her own breathing, panting in and out. She spread her arms around, jumping a little as her hand brushed against a flat surface. She took a large breath in, struggling to keep the panic in. She couldn’t see the walls around her, yet she could already feel them. Closing in on her. She was alone, in the darkness.

Chapter One

Sunday 27th January 2013 – Day One

Frosty, brisk air swirled around Sefton Park and its surrounding area, the early morning mist only just beginning to lift above the tree line. Detached houses, set back from the main road, lined the street on one side, where flashing lights from multiple vehicles had drawn out bleary eyed gawkers. They stood on the pavements shifting on cold feet in the early morning light. Mostly, they wouldn’t say two words to each other, but the early morning excitement had driven them out, even caused conversation to break out. At one time the houses had contained whole families, now most were converted apartments, selling for six-figure sums. Detective Inspector David Murphy turned his attention back to the park over the road; not your small, family friendly, swings and slide type of park. Instead, acres of greenery, beautiful old trees, and enough space to see something new each time you walk through there. And the odd dead body turning up unannounced. It was usually suicides.Hanging from a tree or a bunch of pills in the middle of a field. Hoping no one finds them before they go. But at times it was something else. He saw the lights in the distance. Blue, red, shifting from left to right. The constant pattern having a seemingly hypnotic effect on those straining to see further into the park beyond. Murphy was sitting in his car, the engine settling as he summoned up the energy to get out and make his way over. The lights of the marked cars parked in front of his Citroen reflected off the dark interior inside, a strobe effect bouncing off the dashboard. Murphy shook his seatbelt off and leaned forward, attempting to see past the lights and people milling around the park. He slumped back in the seat when it became clear he wouldn’t see anything. He scratched his beard, the trim he’d performed the previous night giving it a coiffed edge, which he decided said ‘distinguished’ rather than ‘hiding a double chin’. He stifled a yawn and opened the car door, stretching his long legs out, the tight feeling in his calves telling him he’d maybe overdone it on the cross trainer the previous evening, trying to shift those last few pounds of weight. He’d been awake no more than fifteen minutes when his DCI had called. That made it less than an hour into the day for him, and he was walking towards the body of a dead girl. Not how Murphy usually liked to start off a day…especially a Sunday. A phone call from work before he’d even had chance to drink his coffee. Have a slice of toast. Put a fresh suit on. Death could be incredibly selfish. ‘Murphy,’ he’d answered once he’d finally located the phone hiding in his jeans pocket on the bedroom floor. Stabbed at the screen, trying to answer the stupid thing. ‘David?’ Murphy’s shoulders slumped. DCI Stephens. Which, outside of normal hours, usually signified nothing good. ‘What’s happened?’ ‘A body. Suspicious circumstances. Found in Sefton Park.’ ‘Shit. Bad?’ ‘Not sure of all the details at the moment.’ ‘I’m wanted?’ ‘Why else would I be calling you David? I’m not your bloody alarm clock.’ ‘It’s been a while, that’s all. Was starting to wonder if I’d be stuck on break-ins for another six months.’ ‘Well you’ve got something else now.’ ‘Who’s with me?’ ‘Rossi or Tony Brannon. Your decision.’ ‘Great. Not exactly Sophie’s fucking Choice.’ ‘Language. Weren’t you taught never to swear in front of a lady? And anyway, beggars can’t be choosers. How long until you can get down there?’ Murphy crooked his phone between his shoulder and ear. Grabbed his trousers from where they had been lying next to his jeans. ‘Which end?’ ‘Which end of what?’ ‘The park.’ Jesus wept. ‘Oh, Aigburth Drive. Just look for the lights. Sounds like half the bloody force is there.’ Murphy zipped up his trousers and gave the previous day’s shirt a sniff. ‘I’ll be there in twenty minutes.’ He left the house five minutes later reversing out the driveway, and onto the road. Decided twenty minutes was probably a little optimistic. It’d probably be double that this time of the morning, even without the usual weekday traffic through the tunnel. He shook his head, tugged on his bottom lip with his teeth, and turned right out of the small winding road which surrounded the small estate, lamenting the fact he was already going to be playing catch up when he got there. The commute may have been bad, but at least it gave him a chance to wake up. Within five minutes he was on the motorway heading for the Wallasey tunnel, which separated the Wirral and Liverpool. The Wirral is a small peninsula, only separated from Liverpool by the River Mersey, and connected by a mile-long tunnel underneath the seabed. The Wirral hadn’t always been home. In fact, he’d only been able to call it that for the previous few months. The differences between the two places was closing in recent years. The Wirral was historically known as simultaneously living in Liverpool’s shadow, whilst also enjoying much more wealth than most of Liverpool. These days, the link was closer. Whilst the wealth was still strong in the west of the Wirral, with the likes of West Kirby and Heswall, the destruction of the shipping trade at Cammell Laird’s on the east side meant that the Wirral now had its own pockets of deprivation. Even the kids spoke in a Scouse accent these days, albeit a bastardised version of it. Murphy was comfortable living there, even if the subtle differences became more apparent every day, needling at him. He loved the city of Liverpool. The people, the buildings, the history. He just needed to time away. Working there was enough for now. He used his fast tag when he arrived at the Wallasey tunnel booths, and broke the forty mile an hour limit going under the River Mersey, but it was still forty minutes after the phone call by the time he’d pulled the car to a stop. He walked out into the damp and cold January morning, zipping his coat up as he walked towards the railings which lined the path, hastily strung-up crime scene tape strewn across them. The wide main road was shadowed by high trees on both sides, which masked most of the view. A couple of uniforms stood guard at the park entrance ‒ a quick flash of his warrant card and he was able to pass through. He could see the hive of activity a couple of hundred yards or so up ahead, near a stone path which cut through the grass on either side, leading from the entrance into the distance. The main activity seemed to be concentrated on a grass verge which went up into the treeline. Murphy dropped his head as the wind picked up, and began walking towards it. ‘Sir!’ Detective Constable Laura Rossi, second generation Italian. Five and a half foot tall, dark long hair. Strong looking, from the broad shoulders which made her look stocky, to the roman nose which complimented her features. Most of the single, and quite a few of the married, lads at the station had tried and failed with her. Murphy wasn’t one of them. She came bounding towards Murphy and brushed her hair away from her face, tucking strands behind her ear. ‘You all right?’ ‘What have we got?’ Murphy said as she reached him. ‘Morning to you too sir.’ Murphy looked down at her, Rossi being at least eight inches smaller, and about half his weight. He smiled as she looked up to him, before realising where they were and adopting a stoic face once more. He was glad she was there. In a weird way, and completely without context given he had no kids of his own, he wanted to look after her; be a father figure of some sort. She was inexperienced, he supposed. Needed some guidance. Which, if this was a bona fide murder case, he could definitely do without. Especially considering his last effort. ‘Let’s get on with it. And stop calling me sir, how many times do I have to tell you.’ ‘Course. Sorry sir. Young female, found by a corpse sniffer around six a.m. Fully clothed. Nothing around the body, just laid out beneath a tree.’ Murphy looked around and spotted the man she was referring to, talking to some uniforms. An older guy, probably in his mid-sixties, his dog sitting next to him, silent on his lead. ‘He have anything to say?’ Murphy said. ‘Not much, dog ran off into the trees, he went looking for it and found the girl.’ ‘Is nobhead here?’ Rossi looked confused. ‘Who’s a nobhead?’ Murphy smiled, still finding it amusing that the Scouse accent didn’t match the Mediterranean looks. ‘Brannon. Is he around?’ Rossi attempted to hold back a laugh behind a hand. Murphy noticed her fingernails, bitten down rather than manicured. ‘Yeah, he’s off on the hunt for clues. His words, not mine.’ ‘Good.’ Murphy replied. ‘Fat bastard could do with some exercise. SOCOs here yet?’ ‘About twenty minutes before you.’ ‘Any other witnesses?’ ‘Not at the moment.’ ‘Okay. You looked at the body yet?’ Rossi shook her head. ‘Well then. Let’s not keep her waiting.’ Murphy snapped on his gloves, extra-large, and began walking towards the scene. He could see the Palm House, a large dome building which was the centrepiece of the park, in the distance, past the trees. The great glass windows which gave it the appearance of a huge greenhouse looked dull and lifeless in the muggy morning light. Murphy and Rossi entered the tent which was being erected around the body. The treeline was thicker there, the ground, still not completely unfrozen from the previous harsh winter, crunching underneath his feet. The click and whirr of photographs being taken was the only soundtrack to the scene. Murphy let his eyes be drawn to the girl. Early twenties he figured. Plain looking, dressed conservatively in black trousers and a red v-necked jumper. One earring, which meant either one was missing or was now a souvenir. His money, as always, was on the latter. Always to the morbid thought first. To be fair, he was usually right. Murphy side-stepped around the edge, carefully avoiding anything that looked important, and stood at the foot of the body, taking it in. She had the distinctive pallor of the dead; pale, the colour drained out of her as the blood stopped flowing. The clothes looked new, unworn, the creases on the jumper looking like they were from packaging, rather than wear. She was spread-eagled, her arms outstretched in a V, her legs doing the same. Carefully placed in the position. It looked unnatural, posed, which was probably the intention, Murphy thought. Her face was what drew his gaze. Half-lidded eyes, staring right through him. Blue, glazed, the last image they’d captured that of whoever had left her here. Her mouth was slightly parted, the top row of her teeth on show in a final grimace. Ugly, red marks over her bare neck. Dr Stuart Houghton, Stu to his friends, was crouched next to the girl. He’d been the lead pathologist in the city for as long as Murphy had been working. His grey hair was thinning, his posture looking soft as he stood up from his haunches. His short, squat stature only enhanced by the ever-growing paunch he was cultivating around his middle. He turned to look at Murphy. ‘Dr Houghton, what have we got?’ ‘Took your time Dave.’ Murphy shot his hands to his mouth. ‘Calling me Dave when you know I don’t like it? You never fail to shock. And it was only because I knew you’d be here already. What can you tell me?’ ‘Are you running this one?’ Houghton said. Murphy gazed at the pathologist and shrugged his shoulders. ‘I just do as I’m told.’ Houghton pursed his lips at him. ‘Well then, can’t tell you much at the moment,’ he said, gesturing towards the young woman. ‘This is how she was found, her arms and legs outstretched like she’s doing a star jump, only lying down. There’s no evidence around the body as far as we can tell so far, and she’s been dead around twelve hours. No ID, handbag, purse, nothing. Other than that you’ll have to wait for the post mortem for me to tell you more. We’re moving her out now.’ ‘Why suspicious then?’ Murphy asked, knowing the answer but wanting to piss off the doc a little more. Houghton muttered something under his breath before continuing. ‘ As you can no doubt already see, there’s bruises around her neck which indicate asphyxiation. First paramedic on the scene noticed them, and, in my opinion correctly, assumed it was better to call in the big boys.’ Murphy looked closer at the girl. Large bruises under her chin, turning darker as time moved on.  A large birthmark, or mole, the colour of strong coffee on the lower left side of her neck. ‘Did she die here?’ ‘Not certain yet, but I’m almost positive she wasn’t. No signs of struggle around the area. The grass is flattened only in the immediate vicinity of the body.’ ‘Any other distinguishing features aside from the mole, I need to know about straight away. And let us know when the post mortem is.’ Houghton nodded, and went back to work. Murphy left the tent, Rossi trailing behind him. ‘We’ll take a statement from the witness and then we should try and find out who she is.’ Rossi nodded and set off towards the witness. Murphy began the process of removing his gloves and looking around the area, seeing a few familiar faces from older crime scenes about the place. He nodded and exchanged greetings with some of them. No one stopped to talk to him. He wasn’t surprised. He gave one last look at the finished tent, the uniforms walking around the area, looking under the bushes and scouring the ground. Back to it.

Chapter Two

Sunday 27th January 2013 – Day One

‘This is Eddie Bishop,’ Rossi said as she led the dog walker towards Murphy. He was a grey-haired man with a stooped posture, a little Jack Russell padding alongside him. Yellow, stained teeth grimaced back at Murphy, the man’s wrinkled hands gripping the lead tighter, as he kept the dog close by. ‘Just a couple of questions, Mr Bishop.’ ‘Eddie is fine.’ ‘Okay Eddie.’ Murphy replied, noting the softness of the infamous Scouse accent. Softness which you only really heard from the older inhabitants of the city nowadays. ‘Do you walk this way often?’ he continued. ‘Twice a day, first thing in the morning, again in the evening.’ Murphy watched as Rossi wrote down the conversation in her notepad. ‘And the dog found the victim.’ Eddie’s face grew serious as he explained how he’d found the dog stood over the young woman. ‘Terrible shame. Will take me a long time to get over this, I’ll tell you that for nothing.’ ‘And you didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary this morning. Anything at all?’ Murphy asked. Eddie shook his head. ‘Same as always, just me and Floyd.’ he replied, gesturing at the dog. Murphy finished up with Eddie, explaining the need for a formal statement and promising to keep him informed, knowing that would be highly unlikely. ‘Anything else?’ Murphy asked Rossi, as she finished writing the conversation down in her notepad. ‘There’s someone who keeps telling uniforms at the gate that he heard something. Might be an idea to check that out.’ ‘Okay. We’ll do that now.’ Murphy stopped to take in the place. The park was big enough to get lost in, vast areas of green and small wooded areas surrounding it. ‘In the dark, you could become invisible in a place like this,’ Murphy said to Rossi as they neared the gates. ‘True. Perfect places for this type of thing. In and out, probably without being seen in the early hours,’ Rossi replied, stepping underneath the crime scene tape. ‘I’ll be coming to interview this witness with you, yeah? I mean, I guess I’m getting to partner up with you on this one?’ Murphy paused. ‘Let me see. We’ve worked together on and off for about two years, right?’ Rossi nodded her head up and down slowly. ‘Ever known me to choose to work with Brannon?’ She smiled and mocked a salute. ‘I’ll just go and get a new notepad from the car.’ Murphy watched as she walked towards her car parked over the road, her posture straight and assured. The trouser suit looked new. ‘Sir. Sir!’ Murphy stopped and turned. Sighed for effect. ‘What do you want Brannon?’ DS Brannon stopped jogging and bent down with his hands on his knees, panting. ‘I … sorry …’ He brought himself up again. ‘I just wondered if there was anything I can do?’ ‘Haven’t you already got something to do?’ ‘I just thought you might have something more interesting. I’m being wasted walking around looking through the mud.’ ‘Rossi is assisting me on this one Brannon. Maybe next time. For now, I want witness statements from everyone who lives in these houses which face the park entrance. Start organising it.’ ‘But …’ Murphy smiled inwardly and turned back towards the road outside the park. Brannon wasn’t all that bad really. He was annoying rather than incompetent. He wasn’t even all that fat, but first impressions stick. The uniforms were already being harassed by local residents eager to discover what was occurring near their homes. Murphy pushed through, ignoring the questions being directed towards him from a particular wild-haired older man, adorned only in a dressing gown and slippers. Murphy took the uniformed constable who’d been trying to placate the man to one side. ‘Which one says he heard something?’ ‘The loud-mouthed one.’ Typical, Murphy thought. ‘Okay, where does he live?’ The constable pointed to his house, which was exactly opposite the entrance. ‘Take him back in. We’ll be there in a minute.’ The first thought that struck Murphy as they approached the house, was that it seemed a little big for just one man. As he entered, the second thought was that it wasn’t big enough for one man and the amount of stuff he seemed to own. Newspapers were stacked up along the hallway in bundles, at least four feet in height, held together with what looked like old twine. A staircase with no carpet ran up the other side, which was similarly stacked with paper, but magazines instead of newspapers. As Murphy walked towards the first door which led off the hallway, he became aware of a sour milk smell which assailed his nostrils, making him thankful for the lack of breakfast that morning. Rossi was a few steps behind him. Murphy turned to see if it had reached her yet. From the look on her face, he knew it had. ‘In and out?’ ‘Definitely, or I’m going now.’ Rossi replied, covering her mouth with her hand. They turned into a large living room, Rossi almost bumping into the back of Murphy as he stopped in his tracks. ‘Jesus.’ The room was full. The only visible space to stand was that which Murphy was occupying. Small portable televisions teetered precariously on top of microwaves with missing doors. Stacks of crockery were piled onto an old mantelpiece a door missing its glass leaning against it. It was the world’s biggest game of Jenga, only using household goods instead of wooden bricks. ‘Who’s there?’ The voice seemed to come from within the mass of what Murphy could only think of as every item a person could acquire in their life, without ever throwing anything away. ‘Hello? I’m Detective Inspector Murphy, this is Detective Constable Rossi.’ Murphy turned to introduce Rossi, but there was an empty space behind him. Great. ‘I have a lot of work to do. Are you going to get on with it?’ Murphy ducked a little, trying to find the source of the voice. He saw a flash of brown through a small gap in the structure. ‘Can you tell me your name?’ A loud sigh. ‘Arthur Reeves.’ ‘Right. And you live here alone?’ ‘Do you see anyone else here?’ ‘I can’t even see you Mr Reeves.’ A small chuckle. ‘I guess that’s right. Let’s cut to the chase. I heard a car last night. It kept going up and down the road, disturbed my sleep. I got up out of bed and looked out the window. I couldn’t see very well, there’s not many streetlights up this way. It stopped at the entrance to the park. I assumed they’d been trying to find a parking space. Then it drove on again, right into the park.’ Murphy stood back up. ‘Did you see notice anything about the car? Colour, model, reg plate?’ ‘Not really. It was dark, as I said. Could have been dark blue, or dark red. Looked like a normal car. Or a van. A small van.’ ‘Okay. And what time was this?’ ‘About four a.m. I think. Maybe five or three, or in between. I thought it might be important, considering.’ Not exactly the early break Murphy had been looking for. ‘Anything else?’ ‘Sorry. I went back to bed. It wasn’t until I saw all the police cars turn up that I even gave it a second thought.’ ‘Well, thank you Mr Reeves,’ Murphy said, patting his thigh, ‘that’s a great help.’ ‘Is that it?’ ‘Yeah. An officer will come and take a formal statement soon. But for now, you can get back to work.’ Murphy turned out of the room, almost coming face to face with Rossi. ‘There you are.’ ‘Found the smell.’ Rossi whispered. ‘In the kitchen. There’s about two thousand empty milk bottles in there. Estimating of course. Think he got bored of rinsing them out.’ ‘Let’s get out of here.’ They left the house, Murphy filling Rossi in on his conversation. ‘What was his deal do you reckon?’ he said as he finished. ‘One of those hoarders I think. We should call environmental health. Can’t be safe living like that.’ Murphy murmured an agreement. ‘Nearest CCTV to here?’ ‘At the top junction which leads onto Ullet Road. Almost a mile up the road. Will get onto that.’ ‘What about from the other end?’ Rossi clicked her tongue. ‘A lot of roads up that way. If our guy came from there, it could be any number of places. All CCTV in the area then?’ Murphy nodded. ‘Best to check everything.’ ‘What now?’ They’d reached the entrance to the park again. The early morning mist had cleared, winter sun threatening to break through the remaining clouds. Murphy could still see faint traces of breath as he exhaled. ‘We need to find out who she is. Back to the station, check the system for any missing persons who match the description.’ ‘Okay, will meet you there’ Murphy reversed around a corner of a small cul de sac, and pointed the car back towards the station. Sefton Park is about four miles out of the centre of Liverpool, away from the hustle of town, into a leafier suburb. Once Murphy had turned into Ullet Road and then further onto the A roads which led towards the station, the contrast was complete. Half completed buildings appeared in the distance, scaffolding and cranes became the landscape. The River Mersey was off to his left, but was masked by warehouses and housing estates. Toxteth on the opposite side, still struggling to recover from the events of twenty years earlier. A city of contrast. Light and dark. Rich footballers and child poverty. Derelict housing and glass-fronted office buildings. Murphy lived it all. Took it all home with him, and attempted to make sense of it. How one city could have so many nuances to the lives of its inhabitants. Then he’d realise that every major city has the same issues. Feel slightly better about it all. It wasn’t just Liverpool, they weren’t a special case. Then he’d wake up and begin a murder investigation of a young woman, and the old feelings of resignation returned. A thread in the tapestry of his life coming loose. Frayed and torn. Threatening to be destroyed completely. A feeling in the pit of his stomach. Not a nervous feeling, something a little different. Something harder to ignore. Fear. Luca Veste is a writer of Italian and Scouse heritage, married with two young daughters, and one of nine children. He is currently studying psychology and criminology at University in Liverpool.  He is also the editor of the Spinetingler Award nominated charity anthology ‘Off The Record’, and co-editor of ‘True Brit Grit’, also an anthology of short stories for charity. A former civil servant, actor, singer and guitarist (although he still picks it up now and again), he now divides his time between home life, Uni work and writing. Visit his website http://lucaveste.com/ and follow on Twitter @lucaveste

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