November 2015 Round-Up and Raven’s Book(s) of the Month

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)Aside from a nasty viral thingummy afflicting the Raven last month, luckily it did not affect my reading too much, so a not too shoddy 11 reviews posted, and some in reserve for December. I actually really enjoyed my reading this month, as it was a good mix of debut and established writers, and a variety of locations and styles. Also, after my wee moan last month at the crime dramas on British TV, my mood was lifted considerably by the return of Scandinavian treat The Bridge, and the truly excellent London Spy which is both compelling and beautifully acted and filmed. To lift the spirits even further Luther is back on the BBC on the 15th December. Swoon….

Well silly season is now upon us, so after a pretty impressive book tally in November, December may be a bit more sporadic thanks to the demands of working in retail at Christmas. I’m taking part in a blog tour in conjunction with the marvellous The Booktrail  which will feature some cracking crime books across a host of blogs, so keep an eye out for that. Also, 2016 is knocking at the door, with an influx of next year’s releases plopping through the door, so every moment not spent recommending and selling books to harassed Xmas shoppers, will be spent reading as much as physically possible! Oh, and how could I forget? My Top Five Reads of 2015 beckons- best put my thinking cap on…

ravenxmasHave a great month everybody. Ho, ho, ho and all that!

Books Read and Reviewed

 Matthew Frank- If I Should Die

Alice Thompson- The Book Collector

Luca Veste- Bloodstream

Andrew Mayne- Angel Killer

Hugo Wilcken- The Reflection

Jo Nesbo- Midnight Sun

Caroline Mitchell- Don’t Turn Around

Denzil Meyrick- Whisky From Small Glasses

 Barbra Leslie- Cracked

Mari Hannah- The Silent Room

Cilla and Rolf Borjlind- Third Voice

Raven’s Book(s) of the Month

An incredibly tough month to pick from, with many of these appealing to me in different ways. So very honourable mentions to two of my favourite writers Mari Hannah and Luca Veste for keeping the British police procedural and thriller genre so vibrant and engaging with The Silent Room and Bloodstream respectively. Thanks to Hugo Wilcken for stretching my little grey cells with The Reflection, to Barbra Leslie for the kooky high octane Cracked, and loved the Gothic intensity of Alice Thompson’s The Book Collector– great cover too!

So completely level pegging for November’s accolade are these two, actually published further back in 2015 but a joy to finally get to! Intelligent, well crafted, and totally compelling reads that I would urge you to discover for yourselves…

 Matthew Frank- If I Should Die   Cilla and Rolf Borjlind- Third Voice

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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)


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)




October 2015 Round-Up and Raven’s Book of the Month

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)Well wasn’t that just an incredibly frustrating month? Thwarted by an exceptionally busy work month, a heavy reading schedule of fiction,  and my continuing battles with technology- now hopefully fixed by an investment in a new laptop- I only managed to bring you a fairly paltry five reviews. Slapped wrists for me I think. Just glad I managed to squeeze in my blog tours with Luca Veste, David Young, and James Nally on various borrowed devices!

It’s also been a disappointing month with the much-lauded arrival of some new crime dramas on our screens, heralding a sense of extreme dissatisfaction in this feathered one. With a viewing time of one episode for From Darkness (twenty minutes of plot and dialogue punctuated by winsome staring out of a car window, kitchen window, out to sea) , one episode of Unforgotten (predictable fodder), and the heady heights of an episode and a half for River (which was the one I was really looking forward to- Stellan Skarsgard [over]acting weird + ghost) it was all very vexing. Roll on the new series of Luther and the return of The Bridge…

Anyway, on a brighter note, I have a slew of unposted reviews which I will start posting today to try and catch-up, and there’s a few little treats in there for you so keep ’em peeled. Here’s to a more productive November…

Books reviewed this month:

Brian Freeman- Goodbye To The Dead

James Nally- Alone With The Dead

Shawn Kobb- Collection: A Rocket Malone Mystery

David Young- Stasi Child

Antti Tuomainen- Dark As My Heart

Raven’s Book(s) of the Month

StasiChild_firstlook_540Absolutely no contest this month, and a genuinely impossible anttidecision between these two stellar reads! Step forward David Young- Stasi Child, and Antti Tuomainen Dark As My Heart, for two exceptionally compelling reads set in East Berlin and Finland respectively. I can’t choose between you, nor would I want to, so everyone read both! You won’t be disappointed. Promise…

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

October Round-Up and Raven’s Book of the Month

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It was wonderful to host an exclusive Q&A with Dwayne Alexander Smith and to take part in the blog tour for the release of Luca Veste’s The Dying Place, but a month of total frustration reading-wise which saw my normal list of 10 or more severely curtailed! Due to the time pressures of reading and reviewing, I now have ‘the 40 page rule’.  So if a book has not piqued my interest, be it with characterisation, location, the writing style or other random points of interest that I look for, it gets consigned to the slush pile. Some people have questioned me on the wisdom of this, but having seen other reviews of books I’ve abandoned, some people have suffered excruciating mental torment in their dogged determination to read to the end. Sadly, the axe fell on six books this month which didn’t make the grade in terms of what hooks me in- a well-crafted writing style, a-smack-between-the-eyes plotline, or an endearing or likeably dislikeable protagonist. It also means that I have more time now to unearth some real gems, and as I am participating in Crime Fiction  New Talent November features, (see next post) a chance to discover some cracking new authors. Fear not though, I have already read three incredibly strong books for release in November, and looking at the to-be-read pile they will have good company I’m sure…

Raven reviewed:

Val McDermid- Forensics: The Anatomy Of Crime

Ryan David Jahn- The Gentle Assassin

Steffen Jacobsen- Trophy

Marco Malvaldi- Three Card Monte (

Luca Veste- The Dying Place


Book of the Month

jahnRyan David Jahn- The Gentle Assassin:

Seems a tad unfair to only have 5 to choose from this month, but having waited a good while for a new one from the exceptionally talented Mr Jahn, I could not award this to anyone else. Once again, Jahn lifts the ordinary crime thriller to join the ranks of the best contemporary American fiction writers, with this thoughtful, emotional and genuinely engaging novel. With its careful interweaving of two timelines, and two central characters that effortlessly carry the emotional weight of this compelling thriller, this may well feature in my end of year Top 5. Watch this space…


Happy reading everyone!

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


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)


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!



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 and follow on Twitter @lucaveste