The Breaking of Liam Glass by Charles Harris – Exclusive Extract

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Tuesday 8 pm

‘Every day’s newspaper starts empty of ideas – and some of them stay that way.’

Gareth Whelpower, ‘Off-Stone – Memories of a Newspaper Man’

 

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The Canyons

It was like they weren’t there. Millions of Londoners streamed past the Gordon Road Estates every twenty-four hours, in their cars, buses and trains, but they didn’t see them; as if they were invisible, easily ignored. A mixed-up part of town, full of mixed-up people, where nothing much ever happened. Squeezed between the rich glamour of Regent’s Park, the neon buzz of central London and the squat seriousness of Euston. High-rise blocks towered over low ones; pensioners scratched along next to smart-casual media consultants; bankers in Reiss suits lived beside teenage gangsters in shades. If you parked your car next to one of the little squares, you didn’t know if you were going to come back and find a glossy leaflet for Hatha Yoga under the wipers, or the wheels gone and the car up on bricks.

But something was about to happen tonight.

Liam Glass was waiting angrily in the dark outside his front door on one of the first-floor walkways – shuffling from one foot to another, hunched into his hoodie, waiting, waiting, waiting; waiting for his mum, who was inside, searching endlessly through drawers and bags. He shivered as a dankness rose from the concrete and the road below glistened like fire under the street lights. A Tory election leaflet had been shoved half through their letterbox. He pulled it out and scanned it, frowning in concentration.

Katrina finally arrived with her debit card and a bustle of urgency.

‘So as you remember the PIN number,’ she said, holding out a scrap of paper. She thought he was still a kid.

He took the card, but not the note with the PIN, and turned away, grumpily.

‘You’ll forget!’ she called. But he was already stomping off down the steps.

Of course, he was just a kid, but not to himself. Tall for his age. Hormones rising. Ready to fight for his place in the world. Down he went, into Gordon Road, down the hard-lit electric canyons like he was in the Wild West. And full of his own thoughts: football matches played and unplayed, Xbox games waiting, friends, Shay Begum and Zen Methercroft, Facebook, Instagram, real girls from school, naked women on websites he thought Katrina didn’t know he knew…

He passed Royland Pinkersleigh, who was rhythmically flailing around with a rag and soap suds, swabbing down the wall outside his little gym, All Roads Lead to Royland. Royland flailed faster, trying not to think of all his problems, trying not to think of his partner Sadé in the tiny gym office, wrestling with the accounts. Sadé, who would be only too pleased to remind him about their debts as soon as he went back inside. Royland half glanced at Liam, thought he’d seen him before but couldn’t remember where, then applied himself to the rag and bucket once more.

Liam stepped into the road, right in front of Jamila Hasan’s green Mini Cooper…

Jamila was distracted, thinking about the art-gallery opening she was already late for – and she the guest of honour as the local councillor. At the last moment, she swerved and missed him. She hooted, but Liam hardly heard above the tick-tick-oomp-oomp of the music playing out of his earphones. She hooted again as she sped away from him, desperately composing the speech she was supposed to be making to the assembled art lovers and local journalists in fifteen minutes’ time.

Liam trotted past Jason Crowthorne, chief reporter of the Camden Herald, who hardly noticed him in the dark, saw him and didn’t see him, just another hoodie, shoulders hunched, round faced, ear buds in his ears, staring at the phone in his hand.

An hour before, Jason had turned twenty-nine, but he’d kept it to himself and had merely stolen a Twix from the vending machine in the newsroom. He didn’t like sharing personal grief.

Now he locked his car and shivered in the cold April breeze. He turned away from Liam, who was ambling down the road in the other direction.

Didn’t see either, as the others hadn’t, the two dark shapes following.

 

 

With London knife crime now on the rise, this is not so much a whodunnit as a blackly comic what-they-did-after-it satire, that resonates in a timely way.

Teenage footballer Liam Glass is stabbed on an estate next to London’s Regents Park and, with an eye to the main chance, journalist Jason Crowthorne sets out to make the most of the story and build a crusade against teenage knife-crime.

In the following 24 hours, Jason creates his campaign, hiding a scoop from rival journalists and avoiding arrest. But other powerful figures are determined to exploit the boy’s story as much as they can, and they have fewer scruples! Liam Glass is a darkly satirical look at the deep splits in modern communities, asking deep moral questions in a sympathetic and humorous way.

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#BlogTour – Fight Or Die by James Hilton – exclusive extract

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When the Gunn brothers Danny and Clay answer a call to help old friends, they are plunged into a volatile and deadly situation. Larry and Pamela Duke own one of the most popular nightclubs in the Spanish resort town of Ultima, but a local gang known as the Locos are determined to take it. Danny and Clay are hired to protect the club, but new adversaries enter the game. Against such odds there are only two choices: fight or die…

Ortega had spent two years in one of Spain’s toughest prisons, where he’d been in the company of many vicious men. He’d also been in enough street fights to recognise a dangerous prospect when he saw one. He studied the big American with practised eyes, made subtle calculations behind his unwavering façade. The man was about six-five, maybe more. His accent unmistakable. Powerful-looking with enough scars on his face to give him a sinister edge. Well over two hundred pounds. Big arms and shoulders. But he wasn’t slow: two experienced Locos had gone down in a few seconds. This Clay could be real trouble.
Got to take him out!
Ortega set himself.
Do it now!
But then the big man did something unexpected. He started to walk away. “You know what? This is none of my business; go ahead and do what you were gonna do. I’m going for a beer further down the road.”
Ortega looked at the big man’s back as he stalked away. No way was this American pig leaving here in one piece. He snatched at his knife and lurched after Clay. With deadly intent, he aimed for the kidney and slammed his blade forward—but all he hit was air.
The big man wasn’t there. He’d turned in a subtle pivot and now had Ortega’s arm caught at the wrist and wrapped up at the elbow. Ortega had been in a few arm-locks in his time but this was unlike anything he’d experienced before. When a cop had you in a hold they were trying to restrain you. This was very different.
Pain erupted in his arm, a sudden heat like boiling water in the joint of his elbow. The two men locked eyes in a battle of wills. Ortega strained against the hold.
The big man braced his arms and chest in one severe movement and Ortega felt his elbow joint first hyper-extend and then dislocate fully in a mind-numbing separation of bone and sinew. Ortega felt his legs begin to give way beneath him as his knife clattered to the floor.
“Well I guess you won’t be signing any deeds after all,” said Clay.
Ortega found his voice, but all he could emit was a high-pitched series of gasping curses.
The woman’s—Pamela’s—voice rang out from behind the bar. “You know you’re right, Mr Vincenzo Ortega. My husband isn’t a match for you anymore, but you’ll find that good men have good friends and Clay here is one of the best. Tell your boss that we’re not interested and won’t be railroaded. Any more shit like today and he’ll be the one out of business. For good.”
“You piece of shi—” Ortega’s response was cut short by an elbow to his face. A quick spin by Clay coupled with a few running steps and Ortega found himself crashing out into the street.
Seconds later Donal and Aspanu were dumped unceremoniously by his side. Clay glowered down at the fallen gangsters. “You’d better listen to the lady. If you come back again, I’ll be mighty upset. These are decent people. Bring crap like this here again and you’ll pay dearly; unlike the easy ride you got today.”
Ortega began to vow retribution but discovered that his mouth didn’t work. That fucker had broken his jaw! He struggled to his feet, both dislocated arm and shattered jaw sending a barrage of pain through his nervous system.
The big man pointed to the knife embedded in Donal’s blood-soaked thigh. “Hey, you might want to get that looked at.”
Aspanu had regained consciousness and was looking around, blinking rapidly, clearly trying to make sense of the situation. A fierce grunt and head nodding from Ortega sent him scurrying towards a black Mercedes parked kerbside. Aspanu unlocked the car and then helped Ortega into the passenger seat. Donal, still bleeding profusely and glassy-eyed, was hauled up and pushed without ceremony onto the back seats. The Mercedes then sped away, causing an oncoming car to swerve out of its path.

#BlogTour – Sweet After Death by Valentina Giambanco – Exclusive extract

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Prologue

The woods pressed into the town from all sides. The bite of land that had been scooped out of the wilderness by the original residents was barely visible from above during the day, and at night – when the only lights were a few scattered street lamps – it was all but gone.

The deer raised its snout, sniffed the cold night air and took a couple of steps. It paused by the line of trees and waited. Somewhere much higher up on the mountain the winds howled and shook the firs for what they were worth, but in the hollow of the valley the town of Ludlow lay silent and still. The deer ambled into the middle of the empty road and three others followed it out of the shadows. They made no sound as they padded on the veil of snow and their reflections crossed the windows of the shuttered stores on Main Street. The town stirred in its sleep but it did not wake: a dog barked from inside a house, a porch light – triggered by a faulty motion sensor – came on and went off in one of the timber-frame homes, and one of the town’s three traffic lights ticked and flickered from red to green to marshal the nonexistent 3 a.m. traffic. And yet, tucked away in an alley, a thin shadow tracked the progress of the deer and matched them step for step. They didn’t pick up its scent because it smelled of forest and dead leaves, and they didn’t hear any footsteps because it made no sound as it wove between the houses. The deer followed a familiar route that would lead them to the woods at the other end of Main Street, and it wasn’t until they had almost reached their destination that they caught the ugly scent. It was a few hundred yards away yet sharp enough to startle them. For an instant they froze and then, one after the other, they bounded out of sight. The acrid smoke spread through Main Street, reaching into the alleys and the backstreets, under the doors and into the gaps of the old window-frames. But the car burning bright by the crossroads would not be discovered until morning, and by then the thin shadow was long gone.

A few miles away Samuel shifted his weight on the thin mattress and listened out for birdsong: he couldn’t hear any, and it could only mean that it was still pitch black outside. He sighed and tried to grasp the tail of a half-remembered dream. Something had woken him up, though, and it took him a moment for the notion to sink small, keen teeth into his mind – dulled, as it was, by sleep and the warm cocoon of his blankets. Then a rough hand grabbed his shoulder and Samuel flinched and understood. He sat up without a sound, eyes peering through the gloom.

The bedroom – such as it was – was plain, with pallets for beds and a wooden stove in the corner. Embers from last night’s fire lit the bundles of blankets lying on the other pallets, and a cold draft found Samuel as soon as he threw off the covers.

He didn’t have much time, and he knew it. His heart had begun to race and his mouth was a tight line as he pulled on his boots and snatched his satchel from the side of the bed. The tip of the boy’s finger brushed against his good-luck charm, hidden in the folds of the satchel, and he felt a crackle of pleasure.

Two minutes later, Samuel walked out into the night and the door closed softly behind him. He looked up: the sky was low with heavy clouds, and he could almost taste the snow that was about to fall. He ran across the clearing and straight into the forest. He knew each tree and boulder and rock, and the dusting of white on the ground showed him the way. They had always called him ‘Mouse’ because he was small for his age – fifteen years old the previous November – small and fast. He needed all the speed and cunning he could muster now.

Speed, cunning and the spirit of the mountain on his side. He was three hundred yards away when the bell clanged and shattered the silence. They would be waking up then, rushing and scrambling after their things, and when the door opened to the night they would fall out and come after him. And God forbid they should catch him. The black raven feather in the boy’s satchel would have to work hard to keep him safe.

In the dead of winter Homicide Detective Alice Madison is sent to the remote town of Ludlow, Washington, to investigate an unspeakable crime.

Together with her partner Detective Sergeant Kevin Brown and crime scene investigator Amy Sorensen, Madison must first understand the killer’s motives…but the dark mountains that surround Ludlow know how to keep their secrets and that the human heart is wilder than any beast’s.

As the killer strikes again Madison and her team are under siege. And as they become targets Madison realises that in the freezing woods around the pretty town a cunning evil has been waiting for her.

Undertow by Elizabeth Heathcote – Exclusive Extract

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The woman’s name was Zena and she was twenty-nine. There was a picture in the paper – she was very good-looking, slim with long glossy black hair, flawless ivory skin, in the photograph she looked like a model. Paula recognised her, had seen her before in the village. Shaun had pointed her out one day – he knew her a bit from when they were young, she’d grown up nearby and then moved away. Shaun had said hello to her, but she’d blanked him. He’d been stung by that, she could tell, but he’d laughed it off.

It turned out she and her partner had been living around the corner in Shell Road. The paper said that they’d bought it as a weekend place just a few months ago. Paula could see the house from her garden – an old lady called Iris used to live there and after she died it was empty for a while. Paula knew someone had moved in, but she hadn’t seen them yet, she didn’t realise it was the same woman. They were down for the bank holiday. The woman went for a swim late afternoon on the Monday and didn’t come back. The paper said she had swum from the stretch of the beach next to the bungalow, which wasn’t safe – she should have known that, growing up around there. It wasn’t protected for swimming – jet skis and boats used that area, plus the tide was strong and there were big waves, an undertow that could be dangerous.

There was lots of talk in the village, about the dead woman, theories about how she had died, rumours that it wasn’t just a simple case of drowning, that there was more to it than that. Shaun said it was all nonsense and Paula was happy to agree with him. St Jude’s was a gossipy place, everyone liked to have an opinion.

Someone who knew the dead woman from way back said she was a strong swimmer, that she knew what she was doing. Sometimes, Shaun said, it isn’t enough.

 

 

My husband’s lover. They said her death was a tragic accident. And I believed them . . . until now.

Carmen is happily married to Tom, a successful London lawyer and divorcé with three children. She is content to absorb the stresses of being a stepmother to teenagers and the stain of ‘second wife’. She knows she’ll always live in the shadow of another woman – not Tom’s first wife Laura, who is resolutely polite and determinedly respectable, but the lover that ended his first marriage: Zena. Zena who was shockingly beautiful. Zena who drowned swimming late one night.

But Carmen can overlook her husband’s dead mistress . . . until she starts to suspect that he might have been the person who killed her.

Thin Ice Blog Tour – Exclusive Extract

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imageSnowed in with a couple of psychopaths for the winter…

When two small time crooks rob Reykjavík’s premier drug dealer hoping for a quick escape to the sun, their plans start to unravel after their getaway driver fails to show.  Tensions mount between the pair and the two women they have grabbed as hostages when they find themselves holed upcountry in an isolated hotel that has been mothballed for the season.

Back in the capital, Gunnhildur, Eirikur and Helgi, find themselves at a dead end, investigating what appear to be the unrelated disappearance of a mother, her daughter and their car during a day’s shopping, and the death of a thief in a house fire.

Gunna and her team are faced with a set of riddles but as more people are quizzed it begins to emerge that all these unrelated incidents are in fact linked. And at the same time, two increasingly desperate lowlifes have no choice but to make some big decisions on how to get rid of their accidental hostages….

As part of the Thin Ice blog tour, here’s an exclusive extract to whet your appetite for more.

 

‘I will not get over it!’ Erna yelled at the top of her voice. ‘What’s going on? Why are we here? I don’t even believe that’s a real gun and I’ve a good mind to just walk out the door this minute.’ 

‘Go on,’ Össur hissed, ‘try it. See what happens.’ 

Erna stood up and stalked towards him, her hands on her hips, glaring down at him from the extra height two inches of heels gave her while Össur sat still, looking up at her from under heavy lids. 

‘I don’t believe you. I think you’re a petty, thieving conman, and I don’t believe for a second that you’d dare carry a gun if it was real. I’ve half a mind to give you a slap and go to that phone in the lobby and call the police.’ 

The report was deafening, and as the smoke cleared there was a rattling of metal from one of the cupboards. Össur had fired without taking his eyes from Erna’s face and he watched her expression dissolve from fury into disbelief as her hands went to her mouth. 

‘God . . .’ she whispered. 

They looked to see a hole punched neatly in the cupboard door while Erna gradually sank to the floor on her knees. 

‘I think the lady . . .’ Össur said with a sneer. ‘The lady has had a shock. So maybe she’d feel better if she went to lie down for a while?’