#blogtour – One Perfect Witness by Pat Young – #ExclusiveExtract

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On a remote Scottish hillside, three paths meet. On each path, a boy, one carrying a gun.
When their paths cross, a shot is fired and a boy dies.
That leaves two – one killer and one perfect witness.
This killer will stop at nothing to make sure the witness says nothing. Difficult for most people, even for someone who’s been guarding a secret of his own for five years.
What if the witness decides he’s been silent too long? Sometimes even the unspeakable must be spoken, if we can find the words.

 

Someone’s standing on the path, watching me.
I curl into a ball. In case he’s got a dog. Saw a hedgehog do that once, when it was frightened. It worked. The dog lost interest and walked away.
I stop breathing. Keep my eyes shut tight. Try not to twitch the tiniest muscle. Pray he hasn’t seen me.
Dead bracken whispers near my ear. My nose is so near the ground I can smell the earth. Think I might sneeze. I let out my breath a tiny little bit at a time but it still sounds loud as thunder.
Another few minutes pass, or maybe it’s just moments.
‘Hey, kid. You okay?’
When I don’t answer he says, ‘What you doing out here on your own at this time of the morning? You should be tucked up in bed.’
My legs are trembling, my hands too. I curl up tighter. Squeeze my knees to my chest so hard I can hardly breathe.
‘Come on. Up you get.’
I don’t move.
‘Hey, listen. You need to get up. You can’t lie there.’   
I slowly raise my head. I see a face with wide, hairy nostrils and eyes that bulge as he leans towards me. His breath reminds me of the old dog Pops had when I was small.
The man touches my elbow and I flinch away from his hand. The bad memory’s so strong my stomach feels like I’m falling down a flume.  
‘Easy, buddy, easy.’ He takes a step away from me. Holds his hands up like he’s under arrest.
I have to stand up and show him I’m not afraid. I crawl out and get to my feet, trying to hide the gun behind me.
‘Playing cowboys?’
He waits, as if he expects me to say something.
‘All by yourself?
My legs are shaking. Wish I had long trousers on to hide them.
‘You lost or something?’
I shake my head.
‘Come on over here. Don’t be scared. I won’t hurt you.’
That’s what Robbie said.
Inside my head, something snaps. I feel full of courage. I look the stranger right in the eye and bring the gun from behind my back.
‘Going to give me a look at your gun? Cool.’ He holds out his hand. ‘Hand it over, then.’
I don’t hand it over. I snap it shut, like I’ve seen Dad do. I smell metal and oil as the mechanism locks into place.
‘Shit! That doesn’t sound like a toy. Is it some kind of replica?’ He holds out his arms this time. ‘Can I see it, please?’ He smiles as if he expects me to just do as he says.
Without taking my eyes off him, I slowly raise the gun. Till it’s pointing at his chest. The smile slides from his face like slime off a stick. He moves away from me. A branch catches the back of his leg and he stumbles. I raise the rifle a little more. Settle it against my shoulder. Copying Dad. It feels so heavy I think my legs might buckle, but I don’t feel a bit afraid. I feel powerful.
I rest my cheek on the gun. Make a show of placing my finger on the trigger.
He starts to scramble through the gorse, backwards. His eyes never leaving my face. The thorns snag his shirt but he doesn’t seem to notice. Suddenly he stops and stands with his hands in the air.
‘Take it easy, kid. Watch what you’re doing with that thing.’ His voice sounds kind of wavery. ‘Put it down now, please. The joke’s over. You’ve had your fun.’
I want him to keep going. Run. Get away from me.
He doesn’t move. Well, just his arm. He stretches it out towards me, in slow motion. ‘Come on,’ he says, very quietly, coaxing. ‘Just do what I tell you and you won’t get hurt.’
Like the last time.  
I stare at him. Right down the barrel. Slowly, very slowly, I shake my head. Then I pull the trigger.

 

Pat Young grew up in the south west of Scotland where she still lives, sometimes. She often goes to the other extreme, the south west of France, in search of sunlight.

Pat never expected to be a writer. Then she found a discarded book with a wad of cash tucked in the flyleaf. ‘What if something awful happened to the person who lost this book?’ she thought, and she was off.

Pat knew nothing of writing, but she knew a thing or two about books, having studied English, French and German at Glasgow University. A passion for languages led to a career she loved and then a successful part-time business that allowed her some free-time, at last.

Pat had plans, none of which included sitting at her desk from daybreak till dusk. But some days she has to. Because there’s a story to be told. And when it’s done, she can go out to play. On zip-wires and abseil ropes, or just the tennis court.

Pat writes psychological thrillers. Her debut novel Till the Dust Settles, has been awarded the Scottish Association of Writers’ Constable Stag trophy. Following publication in July

Pat was delighted to be chosen as an ‘emerging talent’ for Crime in the Spotlight and read from Till the Dust Settles to an audience at Bloody Scotland – another dream come true.

Published by Bloodhound Books, I Know Where You Live is the much-anticipated sequel to Pat’s gripping and unmissable debut thriller, Till the Dust Settles. It too is a psychological thriller with a skillfully told story that makes for an enjoyable stand alone read. It will hook you from the start.

One Perfect Witness, Pat’s third novel to be published, tells a completely new story. If, like Pat, you’re fascinated by what happens when someone disappears, you’ll enjoy this book of secrets, lies and deception.

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#blogtour Box of Bones by Peter Morfoot – Exclusive Extract

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Christian Malraux peered at what was left of the headstone and grinned. ‘Aw, that’s sad, isn’t it? Mummy died when he was only a kid.’ He straightened. ‘Can turn you into a complete arsehole, that.’

The crime-scene photographer lowered his camera. ‘Shift,’ he said. ‘And mind where you put your feet.’

The immediate area was still littered with flower debris.

‘Yeah, wouldn’t want to spoil them.’ Malraux trod with exaggerated care between the chewed-up blooms. ‘I don’t know, Marcel, I call in as a courtesy and this is all the thanks I get? I’m over in Cannes now, you know. Full lieutenant.’

‘We miss you terribly.’

The camera’s motor drive whirred away.

‘Our paths will still cross, my friend.’ Malraux winced, screwing up his eyes. ‘Ah, shit.’ He reached under his overalls and took out two small plastic vials. Tilting his head back, he emptied one of them into his pink, lashless left eye. ‘And he had his guitar nicked didn’t he? Talk about a bad week.’

The camera went silent once more. ‘You’re still in the way.’

Blinking like a faulty light bulb, Malraux repeated the procedure with the other eye. ‘Captain Fantastic having his arse nearly shot off… I tell you, if I was still around, it wouldn’t have happened. I’ve saved his life once already.’ His head still tilted back, Malraux shuddered, freezing cold, suddenly. Trying to force his eyes open, ghastly images started crowding into his head. He pictured the entombed body beneath him rising through the stone slab and coming for him. The skeletal hands of a woman reaching out and closing around his throat. Blinking blindly, Malraux staggered backwards, dropping the vials.

More camera whirrs. ‘Sting, do they?’ Marcel said. ‘The drops?’

Gulping in air, Malraux put his hands to his neck and felt all around it. His eyes clearing, he kept them on the grave as he retreated another couple of paces. ‘Just cold,’ he said at length. ‘The stuff does that.’

‘I never realised you were such a sensitive soul.’

Malraux’s vision settled. He began to calm down. Not that he would ever admit to anyone that he’d just suffered a panic attack. ‘Because that’s definitely what it was,’ he said aloud, still staring warily at the grave.

‘What was definitely what?’

Slowly, Malraux gathered himself. He looked at his watch. ‘Got to go. Hate hanging around these places anyway. Give me the fucking creeps.’

The whirring stopped. ‘Oy! Don’t leave your shit behind.’

‘You chuck them,’ Malraux said, not looking back.

It is carnival time in Nice, and for three weeks the boulevards are alive with dancers, jugglers and musicians. Amid the colour and pageantry, a man suffers a fatal fall the first in a series of suspicious deaths.
Captain Paul Darac of the Brigade Criminelle is sure the answer lies in the mystery surrounding a daring bank heist, supposedly resolved years ago. But the reopening of the case awakens powerful enemies, and soon the safety of his friends, his colleagues and his family is at stake.

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’

 

1

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.

#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.