A Lover of Books

Archive for the month “September, 2015”

Blog Tour – ‘Little Girl Gone’ by Alexandra Burt

Blog Tour Banner

‘Little Girl Gone’ is Alexandra Burt’s debut novel, published in both eBook and paperback by Avon on the 24th September 2015. To celebrate its release a number of book bloggers are taking part in a blog tour for which LightBrigade PR did some amazing publicity. Today it is my turn and as well as reviewing this book I also have an extract for you to hopefully whet your appetites.

When a baby goes missing things don’t look too good for the mother. Estelle Paradise wakes up one morning and discovers that her baby daughter has been taken from her crib. She searches the apartment but there is no sign of her anywhere and all her stuff has been taken.  Estelle doesn’t report the incident to the police though.

A few days later Estelle is discovered in a wrecked car miles from home, with a gunshot wound to her head and no memory of what happened. The only thing she can remember is blood, and lots of it. Will Estelle be able to recall what happened and did she have anything to do with her baby’s disappearance?

There has been a lot of hype about this book so I was looking forward to reading it.  I enjoyed this book and liked the author’s writing style. ‘Little Girl Gone’ is divided into four parts. For me the third part was when things really started to hot up and this was when I found the book the hardest to put down.

Estelle had a hard time of things and was judged rather unfairly I thought, just because she had trouble stopping her baby from crying. It was obvious that she needed to get some help and to make matters worse her husband didn’t really want to know. He thought she could snap out of it just like that. So when Mia went missing it was very easy to point the finger at Estelle.

‘Little Girl Gone’ is a psychological thriller which will really get you thinking. Although it was obvious to me who might be responsible for the kidnapping there was still a lot more to the story. I am looking forward to seeing what Alexandra Burt comes up with next.

I give this book 4 out of 5.

 

~~~~~

Extract from ‘Little Girl Gone’

‘Mrs Paradise?’ A voice sounds out of nowhere. My thoughts are sluggish, as if I’m running under water. I try and try but I’m not getting anywhere.

‘Not stable. Eighty over sixty. And falling.’

Oh God, I’m still alive.

I move my legs, they respond, barely, but they respond.

Light prowls its way into my eyes. I hear dogs barking, high pitched. They pant, their tags clatter.

‘You’ve been in a car accident.’

My face is numb, my thoughts vague, like dusty boxes in obscure and dark attic spaces. I know immediately something is amiss.

‘Oh my God, look at her head.’ A siren sounds, it stutters for a second, then turns into a steady torment.

 

I want to tell them . . . I open my mouth, my lips begin to form the words, but the burning sensation in my head becomes unbearable. My chest is on fire, and ringing in my left ear numbs the entire side of my face.

Let me die, I want to tell them. But the only sound I hear is of crude hands tearing fragile fabric.

‘Step back. Clear.’

My body explodes, jerks upward.

This isn’t part of the plan.

 

When I come to, my vision is blurred and hazy. I make out a woman in baby-blue scrubs, a nurse, slipping a plastic tube over my head and immediately two prongs hiss cold air into my nostrils.

She pumps a lever and the bed yanks upward, then another lever triggers a motor raising the headboard until my upper body is resting almost vertically.

My world becomes clearer. The nurse’s hair is in a ponytail and the pockets of her cardigan sag. I watch her dispose of tubing and wrappers and the closing of the trashcan’s metal lid sounds final, evoking a feeling I can’t quite place, a vague sense of loss, like a pickpocket making off with my loose change, disappearing into the crowd that is my strange memory.

A male voice sounds out of nowhere.

‘I need to place a central line.’

The overly gentle voice belongs to a man in a white coat. He talks to me as if I’m a child in need of comfort.

‘Just relax, you won’t feel a thing.’

 

Relax and I won’t feel a thing? Easy for him to say. I feel lost somehow, as if I’m in the middle of a blizzard, unable to decide which direction to turn. I lift my arms and pain shoots from my shoulder into my neck. I tell myself not to do that again anytime soon.

The white coat wipes the back of my hand with an alcohol wipe. It leaves an icy trail and pulls me further from my lulled state. I watch the doctor insert a long needle into my vein. A forgotten cotton wipe rests in the folds of the cotton waffle weave blanket, in its center a bright red bloody mark, like a scarlet letter.

There’s a spark of memory, it ignites but then fizzles, like a wet match. I refuse to be pulled away, I follow the crimson, attach myself to the memory that started out like a creak on the stairs, but then the monsters appear.

First I remember the darkness.

Then I remember the blood.

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Cover Reveal – ‘Make a Christmas Wish’ by Julia Williams

Make a Christmas Wish

You might not want to hear it, but it will soon be Christmas.  This time of year is when the Christmas novels start coming out and today I am delighted to be sharing with you the cover for ‘Make a Christmas Wish’ by Julia Williams, which is being published by Avon as an eBook on the 1st October 2015 and in paperback on the 5th November 2015.

 

Book Blurb

Last Christmas, when Livvy was knocked down in the supermarket car park, she certainly wasn’t ready to actually be dead! For months now she’s floated on the edge of the afterlife, generally making a nuisance of herself.

And she’s not ready to go just yet! She’s furious about the new woman in her husband’s life and she’s worried about her beloved son who doesn’t seem to be adjusting to life without her at all.

This Christmas, Livvy is given one last magical chance to make everything right. Will she take it and give her family the perfect Christmas?

Perfect for fans of CAROLE MATTHEWS, TRISHA ASHLEY and JENNY COLGAN.

 

Author Bio

Julia has always made up stories in her head, and until recently she thought everyone else did too. She grew up in London, one of eight children, including a twin sister. She married Dave, a dentist, in 1989, and they have four daughters. After the birth of the second Julia decided to try her hand at writing. Since then she has written 8 hugely popular novels, selling over a quarter of a million copies in the UK alone, and hitting the Sunday Times bestseller list.

 

Blog Tour – ‘Rings of Smoke’ by Diane O’Toole

Rings of Smoke

‘Rings of Smoke’ is being published by Britain’s Next Bestseller on the 24th September 2015. I am one of a number of book bloggers taking part in this rather exciting blog tour.

Erin Fallon is the eldest of her siblings. Her father, an Irish immigrant, naturally wants to do the best by his family. So when he gets a promotion at work he agrees to his wife’s request to move to a bigger and better house. But Erin’s mother is never happy and always expects more, which leads to her father having to work really long hours.

Leonard Fitch spent his childhood being tormented and ridiculed. At school the girls would make fun of him and at home his mother made it clear that she never really wanted him around. The only person who ever showed him any love and kindness was his father, so when he died Leonard blamed his mother whose constant demands had him working all hours. This leads to Leonard swearing to exact revenge on women, in particular mothers.

When young girls start going missing never to be found alive again, police are left baffled. Will they ever be able to solve the case?

‘Rings of Smoke’ was a really good read and so very hard to put down. I really liked the author’s writing style. Exciting and fast-paced, it was also very shocking and graphic and at first I thought I was reading something out of a horror novel. It did make me shiver a bit.

I felt sorry for what Leonard went through in his childhood, but I couldn’t believe the lengths he would go to in his revenge against women. What he did was totally despicable. A successful surgeon, it just shows that appearances can be deceptive. I certainly wouldn’t want to be alone with him.

If you enjoy crime then you should probably read ‘Rings of Smoke’, but I warn you, it isn’t for the faint hearted.

I give this book 4 out of 5.

 

~~~~~

Now for an extract from ‘Rings of Smoke’.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

Erin was still only half way along Bleaksedge Lane when the fog descended; a thick, freezing cold blanket of nothingness and it had all too quickly become difficult for Erin to see much further than a few feet in front of her. It was quiet, eerie in fact. She started thinking that perhaps she should have waited until a little later in the day when the weather might have improved. It’s a bit too late now; I’m halfway there.

She pulled her lime green scarf securely over her ears and buried her gloved hands deep inside her coat pockets. Lost in thoughts of how she would react and the first thing she would say to her mother if she found her, she was unaware of the car that was parked out of sight at the back of the derelict petrol station, engine purring quietly, ready to move.

Just as Erin was passing the petrol station, the car appeared out of the thick fog right along side her. She was stunned, rigid with fear, like a rabbit caught in headlights. The driver was leering and mouthing words at her that she couldn’t make out. He leaned over into the passenger seat, his hooknose almost touching the window as his dark bird-like eyes drank in every inch of her. He waved at her beckoning her to the car.

Erin tried to scream but the freezing cold air took her breath away, nothing came out. She set off running for her life and as she ran she could still hear the hum of the car’s engine but couldn’t tell whether or not he was coming after her; she was too terrified to look back and so she just kept running. The ice-cold air burned the back of her throat and her lungs as she gasped for breath.

From out of nowhere she was grabbed from behind and lifted off her feet, then a hand came across her face and she choked as the pungent smelling rag was pushed and held firmly against her mouth and nose. The Chloroform was fast; it took less than a minute to do the job. She was out cold – Fitch had his next victim; a little older than most of the others, it couldn’t be helped, he’d wanted this one badly and although he’d missed her birthday by a couple of days this time, he’d make sure that her birthday card reached it’s recipient on time next year.

He lifted her effortlessly over his shoulder and carried her to his car, the engine still running quietly, he opened the boot and dumped her inside. Not a single vehicle had passed down Bleaksedge Lane to witness the abduction – it was so much easier than he had anticipated – just perfect! He chuckled as he slammed the boot shut and climbed back inside his vehicle.

She’d be unconscious for a couple of hours or more, long enough for him to get her back to the lodge and settled in. He slowed as he drove past the girl’s house for one last time wondering what the girl’s mother was doing inside. Well, whatever you’re doing, your little girl won’t be coming home today, or ever again. The car sped up and disappeared into the fog.

 

About Diane O’Toole

Author Pic

Diane O’Toole  was born in Manchester into a large family of seven brothers and five sisters. As a child her playground was Belle Vue, one of the largest amusement parks in Europe. As a very young girl, I developed a voracious passion for books, and she read all of the classics: Dickens, Eliot, Trollope, and Hardy. During her teens it was Stephen King and James Herbert, and then Diane got a taste of the political thriller with Daniel Silva’s “Moscow Rules”. For “Rings of Smoke”, Diane drew on real life experiences, particularly in respect of the protagonist Erin Fallon. With stalkers, a runaway mother and abduction, she  had the bones of what she believed was a good story.

 

 

‘Remember to Breathe’ by Simon Pont

Remember to Breathe

I was sent an e-copy of ‘Remember to Breathe’ a while back by Matthew Smith of Urbane Publications. This is actually the first book by this publisher that I have read and I look forward to my ongoing journey.

‘Remember to Breathe’ is set in London and takes place over 3 months in 1999. It is the story of Samuel Grant, an ordinary man who hasn’t had much luck in love and who isn’t overly enamoured by his job.

Sam ponders life and tries to work out where it’s going. But will he get there? That’s for you to find out.

I started reading ‘Remember to Breathe’ without really knowing what to expect. At first it reminded me very slightly of Adrian Mole but I soon changed my mind. This is a story from a man’s point of view about the highs and lows of life and it’s one I think many people can relate to, male or female.

I found Samuel Grant to be quite an interesting character. He didn’t exactly do himself any favours in his love life but somehow that didn’t put me off him. In fact, I could really sympathise with Sam at times and I felt that he did talk a fair bit of sense. I enjoyed reading about the different pubs and restaurants that Sam went to and meeting his mates.

This is a book which made me smile. Some of the lines Sam came out with were just great, my favourite being, ‘Of all the curry houses in all the world…’. That tickled me for some reason.

‘Remember to Breathe’ is a story which will give you a lift if you’re feeling low. With its short sections its ideal when you only have time for a quick read. I would truly recommend giving this book a go. My only regret is that I didn’t read it earlier.

I give this book 4 out of 5.

 

Book Launch – ‘Thicker Than Water’ by Georgia Rose

Thicker Than Water - Cover

Congratulations to Georgia Rose whose new novel, ‘Thicker Than Water’ is out today.  This is the third book in The Grayson Trilogy.

 

Book Blurb

Vaguely aware of the tremor in my hand I ran my fingers up through the thick locks of his dark hair. Fear clutched at my heart as I sensed the icy tendrils of grief reaching for me once more.’

As the overseas action steps up a gear for Trent, Emma has her own challenges to face. Loyalties are tested and vengeance sought when she attracts interest from an unwelcome source.

Because someone is coming. Someone who has Emma in their sights.

Someone who will turn her life upside down… forever.

 

‘Thicker Than Water’ is available to buy on Amazon – getbook.at/ThickerThanWater

 

Guest Post by Simon Michael + Competition

Book Cover

Simon Michael’s novel, ‘The Brief’ is out in paperback on the 28th September, published by Urbane Publications Limited.  I am very pleased to be hosting a guest post by Simon Michael on my blog.

~~~~~

I guess mothers are always proud of their sons. I’m tempted to say Jewish mothers especially so, but I suspect Asian, Italian and African mothers – indeed all mothers – are no different. So the publication of a mother’s son’s first novel was never likely to pass unnoticed. And while it’s easy to deflect the “So, when can I read it?” during the gestation period, it’s more difficult after it’s been accepted for publication; more difficult still once the proofs have arrived; pretty much impossible once proofed, mere weeks before publication. She wants a copy of the book – several copies in fact – one to read, one to show her friends at the bridge club, and one for “best” to lie artfully on her coffee table, my photograph ready to greet her guests. And there’s the difficulty. There are sex scenes. Sex scenes which, if I’ve written them properly, will make the reader’s blood pump slightly faster, their pupils dilate and their breathing catch slightly in their chests. It’s not just sex; it’s sexy.

Of course, I can tell her that the book isn’t autobiographical, and there is much truth in that. But all authors draw on personal experience even if they then twist, expand and embellish. The uncle who might have been the genesis of a character in the book becomes almost unrecognisable by the end. That’s when the writing process is at its best – when characters start breathing, speaking and acting for themselves. When that spark of life you have tried to breathe into them suddenly glows of its own accord and – what do you know? – the character starts acting in ways which you would never have expected. But still…they start life rooted in real experience. Just like those sex scenes. And while I may not have done precisely what the characters are doing, it’s close enough.

My mother’s no prude, and she isn’t shockable. In fact on the extremely rare occasions when she has one sherry too many, she is liable to tell quite a risque joke. [1] And when I was little, and I asked how babies were made, she gave me a precise and extremely detailed explanation, using proper biological terminology and diagrams, until my seven-year-old eyes glazed over and I became so bored that I didn’t ask again for another five years.

But still… I cannot escape from embarrassment as I picture my mother reading in detail what I may, or may not, have been doing with parts of my body she last saw in (or, more accurately, out of) swimming trunks several decades ago. I’m married with children, so we both know I figured out what to do with those parts long ago. But still… demonstrating the detail of my knowledge is something else. And it’s not just the technical aspects of the act… it’s the… peripheral stuff… less procreative, but more fun.

The situation takes me straight back to when I was 14 or 15 and my mother insisted on taking my younger brother and me to the cinema on the last day of half term. I knew all my mates would be there, in the back row, and I resisted going, but to no avail. She was on a mission, and she thought it would be fun. After the lights went up at the end and we filed out, and my mother’s eyes lighted on the canoodling couples in the back row, several boys’ hands indiscreetly inside the clothing of several of the girls. “Oh,” she commented, rather too loudly, as we were forced by the exiting crowds to pause at the end of the row. “Isn’t that disgusting? You wouldn’t do anything like that, would you?” My mates all grinned at me, and I knew I was in for it on the Monday. Of course I would have done something just like that, given the chance. I used to dream of getting that lucky, and if mum hadn’t insisted on taking me to the cinema, I’d have hoped to be in the back row with them.

But I’m no longer 14 or 15. I’m a man of the world, and there really is no need for me to be embarrassed… is there?

I know I can’t avoid it any further. She knows my contract allows me a certain number of copies and she’s placed her order. In any event, there’s always Amazon. So, no amount of equivocation or explication is going to help. She will read it, sex scenes and all… and I will do my best not to blush.

__________________________

[1]  And seeing as you asked, here it is: A young man takes a young lady on a first date to the cinema. After draping his arm nonchalantly around her shoulders for the first half of the film, and receiving no rebuff, he puts his hand on her knee. Then he gradually moved his hand up her thigh. The young lady lets him continue for a few inches, but then slaps away his hand. “Manners!” she hisses. “Tits first!”

‘The Brief’ can be pre-ordered now, but if you don’t want to wait the eBook can be downloaded from Urbane Publications website:-

http://urbanepublications.com/books/the-brief/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Brief-Simon-Michael/dp/191069200X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1442151944&sr=8-1&keywords=the+brief+simon+Michael

 

About Simon Michael

Author

Simon Michael was called to the Bar by the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple in 1978. In his many years of prosecuting and defending criminal cases he has dealt with a wide selection of murderers, armed robbers, con artists and other assorted villainy.

A storyteller all his life, Simon started writing short stories at school. His first novel (co-written) was published by Grafton in 1988 and was followed in 1989 by his first solo novel, The Cut Throat, the first of the Charles Holborne series, based on Simon’s own experiences at the criminal Bar. The Cut Throat was successful in the UK (WH Allen) and in the USA (St Martin’s Press) and the next in the series, The Long Lie, was published in 1992. Between the two, in 1991, Simon’s short story “Split” was shortlisted for the Cosmopolitan/Perrier Short Story Award. He was also commissioned to write two feature screenplays.

Simon then put writing aside to concentrate on his career at the Bar. After a further 25 years’ experience he now has sufficient plots based on real cases for another dozen legal thrillers.

The Brief, a reworking of The Cut Throat, now set in sleazy Soho of the 1960s, will be published in September 2015 and Simon has almost completed the next two books in the series.

Simon still practises law countrywide but now works only part-time. He lives with his wife and youngest child in Bedfordshire. He is a founder member of the Ampthill Literary Festival.

 

~~~~~

Competition

Matthew Smith of Urbane Publications has kindly offered 5 paperback copies of ‘The Brief’ for a giveaway.  To enter all you have to do is leave a comment telling me why you want to win.

 

Terms and Conditions 

This competition is open worldwide.

The closing date is 11:59 p.m. on the 28th September 2015.

The winners will be randomly picked and notified of their win within 7 days of the closing date.  Their details will be passed on to Matthew Smith of Urbane Publications who will send out the prizes.

Please note that whilst I don’t mind that this competition has been added to a forum, I do expect entrants to be genuinely interested in the guest post above and the book and not just be after a freebie.

 

Good luck! 🙂 Read more…

Guest Post by Sharon McKee of Dilliebooks

Logo

I would like to introduce you all to Sharon McKee.

Publisher - Sharon

Sharon has written a guest post for my blog about Dilliebooks, a brand new independent publisher of eBooks.

 

Dilliebooks – doing things differently

My earliest memories include being told off at meal times for reading every word on any label or packaging on the table (amazing how fascinating cereal boxes can be!) and begging my infant school teacher to let me take my exercise book home so I could carry on writing stories over the weekend.

My love of reading and writing led me to a career in journalism, publishing and then in later years I moved into PR, eventually setting up my own business. Although I love fiction and have done creative writing courses, my own published writing has mainly been non-fiction articles for magazines, newspapers and websites.

In 2012 I did something I didn’t think I’d ever do and trekked to Machu Picchu in Peru to help raise money for Breast Cancer Care. Following that, I did something else I didn’t think I’d ever do and wrote a book about it!

I started to consider options for publishing it. I’m an avid ebook reader and lover of technology, but wasn’t sure about self-publishing, so I decided to look for an independent publisher who only published ebooks.

After a lot of research I couldn’t find the kind of publisher I was looking for. I wanted an independent publisher which had the best of the traditional model (request submissions, have quality criteria and the possibility of rejection, but work with their selected authors including giving editorial, production and marketing support – and pay them a fair royalty) and combine that with the opportunities that digital brings (creativity, efficiency, speed, easy global reach, new ways of marketing, engaging with readers, online opportunities).

It was also clear that ebooks were still suffering from perceptions of being second rate to print. I felt that somehow the opportunities technology offers to do things differently didn’t seem to be being explored to their full advantage.

Taking all this on board and after even more researching and in depth discussions with an ex colleague from the publishing world, we agreed that there was a gap here. So we decided to fill it.

We launched Dilliebooks in August, an independent ebook publisher looking to do things differently. We aim to blend the best from the traditional world of publishing with that from the most modern. Our ethos is one of collaboration with both writers and readers. We work with our authors giving them all the support needed and expected from a publisher – including editorial, book production and marketing expertise. We’ve developed the Writing Desk, our authors’ portal which we use both for working on books together and also for the writers to have control over their own promotional pages.

We’ve launched with a variety of non-fiction ebooks and welcome submissions directly from previously unpublished writers, those who have self-published, or been published before by traditional companies. We also don’t want to be too constrained by putting labels or genres on books – we’re interested in anything that makes us laugh, cry (in a good way!), learn, think differently, raise our eyebrows – or make us go ‘wow’!

Following our launch, which included a live Google Hangout with the authors all in different parts of the country, we’re focusing on building our presence, increasing our list of great ebooks and developing our platform to engage more with readers.

This is just the beginning for us and we’re very excited about the opportunities we have to do things differently with digital. Watch this space…!

To find out more go to www.dilliebooks.com or contact Sharon@dilliebooks.com

 

 

Cover Reveal – ‘The Second Path’ by Virginia King

The Second Path cover

Last week I posted a joint guest post on my blog from Virginia King and Kendra Olson.  You can read it here:-

https://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/08/31/one-cover-poll-two-authors/

I am now pleased to be revealing the cover of Virginia King’s new book, ‘The Second Path’.

 

Book Blurb

The way home can get complicated. When Selkie Moon wakes on a Hawaiian beach, naked and confused, strange clues about what’s happened to her draw her inexorably to France. But little does she know the mysterious path she’s heading down, the people who will challenge her on the way – and where it will end.

In the same tradition as The First Lie, The Second Path follows a cast of quirky characters through a maze of mythical clues and psychological suspense.

http://www.selkiemoon.com/

 

Blog Tour – ‘Silenced’ by Anne Randall

Silenced

Today it is my turn on this exciting blog tour and I have lots to bring you.  First up is my review of ‘Silenced’.

 

‘Silenced’ was published by Constable on the 3rd September 2015 in hardback. This is the second novel in the Wheeler and Ross series.

He buried his victim alive and was made to pay for his crime. But now he’s escaped and is on the run in the city of Glasgow.

Fiona Henderson, the daughter of the murdered victim, took things very hard and descended into a world of silence. She has gone missing and this isn’t the first time either. Soon after a homeless person is found dead in a deserted alleyway. Could this death be anything to do with the murderer on the loose?

As DIs Wheeler and Ross investigate the murder, another one occurs and a pattern starts to emerge. It’s as if the murderer has something against the homeless and vulnerable and wants to get rid of them all. The investigation reveals not only a flawed support system for the disaffected, but also a criminal class who are ruthlessly willing to exploit them.

When DI Wheeler starts receiving letters and being stalked, she and Ross realise that the threat is now personal. Someone is after DI Wheeler too and her life is in danger. Will they be able to solve the case before it’s too late?

These days I’m finding I can’t get enough of crime thrillers and so was really looking forward to reading ‘Silenced’. The prologue which I found a bit creepy piqued my interest straightway and I couldn’t wait to read on. With its short chapters and numerous twists and turns I found myself racing through this book. The story takes place over a week and in that time an awful lot happens.

As we all know, the homeless and those having to work on the game is a huge problem so I applaud Anne Randall for writing about this issue in ‘Silenced’. Although I’m sure a lot is done it’s still not enough. It’s heart-breaking seeing people living on the streets in this day and age.

‘Silenced’ is a complex mystery which really had me guessing. I liked Wheeler and Ross and hope that there are many more cases for them to solve. Keep writing, Anne.

I give this book 5 out of 5.

 

~~~~~

Below is an extract from ‘Silenced’.

Chapter 4

‘So, you’re saying I’m fucked.’ It was more of a statement than a question. Detective Inspector Kat Wheeler sat on a banquette in the alcove furthest from the stage and tried to make herself heard. Her blonde hair was shorn at the sides and longer on top, making a little quiff. She lifted a large glass of Chardonnay, took a sip and surveyed the food on the table in front of her. It was fare more suited to a wake. Scotch pies sat in pools of grease, fat bridies and sausage rolls hummed heart attack, and bowls of chips, with three types of mayonnaise, nudged the chances a little higher. But she had to eat. She decided the chips were the least toxic and speared a fat one with her fork. Around the room, the karaoke lights flashed green, red, blue and yellow on a continuous cycle. Acting Detective Inspector Steven Ross sipped his pint and reached for a piece of greasy garlic bread. He munched it before looking at her, blinking his long dark lashes over pale blue eyes. He waited a second before asking, ‘So, Stewart told you to forget it?’

‘Yep. Case closed.’ She glanced at a group of police officers huddled in front of the stage, the karaoke crew. ‘They’ll have hangovers from hell in the morning.’

‘Aye, but tonight’s the night to forget it all. Besides, it’s a celebration. Boyd got engaged and we solved the case.’

‘I’m not sure we’re celebrating the right result, Ross.’

‘We’re celebrating a result, a pretty good one in the circumstances.’

She looked at him, kept munching. Took another sip of wine. Waited.

He sighed. ‘You know the score, Wheeler. Sure you’ve photographic evidence, which may, just may, link Andy Doyle to James Gilmore but it’s a bit of a long shot.’

She finished the chip and reached for another. ‘It’s shit. Do you think I should take it higher?’

‘Come on, you already know the answer to that and, anyway, you’d get no support.’

She didn’t contradict him.

‘It would ruin their stats. From their point of view, the case is solved. Maurice Mason killed James Gilmore. Case closed. Two bastards are now off the radar, the heid-high yins are thrilled.’

‘Right. An ex-con was found dead.’ She speared another fat chip from the basket. Dipped it in the garlic mayon­naise. Ate. ‘And he was conveniently—’

Ross cut her off: ‘Wearing a St Christopher medal, which had been stolen from a murdered paedophile. You can see how it makes sense.’

‘It’s too neat, though, isn’t it?’

‘The top brass are delirious. The case is resolved. Big fucking result. You saw how Grim wrote it up in the Chronicle . . .’

‘Yeah, I remember. Carmyle police should be justifiably proud of their investigation.’

‘Just leave it, Wheeler. Pastures new and all that, and for starters that lunatic Haedyear’s done a runner.’

‘I know,’ said Wheeler. ‘You think he’ll head back to his old stomping ground, in Clarkston?’

‘He’d be a fool if he was even still in the city. My guess is he’ll be long gone,’ said Ross. ‘You think the two prison officers were in on it?’

Wheeler sipped her wine. ‘They’ve both been inter­viewed and released, but suspended from duty while the inquiry’s ongoing. Even if they’re not involved, they might end up losing their jobs.’

‘Seems a bit harsh if it was done by an outsider.’

‘But they weren’t thorough enough. I mean, Haedyear scarpered.’ Wheeler paused. ‘Anyway, should you be out on the ran-dan tonight, given that you’re going to be a dad?’

Ross shifted in his seat. ‘It’s all off again.’

‘The pregnancy?’

‘No, she’s still going ahead with it but it’s over between us.’

‘Again?’

‘Again.’

‘Because?’

‘She went into fantasy La-la Land.’

‘That’ll be the hormones kicking in.’

‘Wanted me to leave the force, get a nine-to-five. Be there for the kid.’

‘What did she suggest?’

‘Insurance.’

‘Right. I can just see you in insurance,’ said Wheeler.

‘She wanted the whole cartoon dream. Even the picket fence.’

‘Roses round the door?’

‘Exactly.’

‘But you’d miss the glamour of this job.’ Wheeler looked round the room. The Belter Bar and Grill was all about cheap booze and even cheaper artery-clogging deep-fried food. Even the humble vegetable had been coated in batter and deep-fried in fat. Tempura. Their boss DCI Stewart hadn’t turned up, but those who had were either swaying to the cheesy karaoke or looking distinctly glassy-eyed.

Ross sipped his pint. ‘I’m quite nervous about becoming a dad. Being a role model and all that stuff.’

‘You’ll be okay.’

‘Since we’re on the subject, did you ever want kids?’

Wheeler studied the contents of the chip basket. Speared a chip. Chewed. Said nothing.

Ross took the hint. He glanced across at the stage and changed the subject. ‘Look out, Boyd’s going up.’

Wheeler watched as Detective Constable Alexander Boyd lumbered towards the stage. ‘Nightmare. How does Boyd not even know how shit he is?’

‘Classic denial.’ Ross shuddered. They settled them­selves for the trauma as Boyd took the stage and began comprehensively to strangle every note of Bryan Adams’s ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It For You’.

A police sergeant in a too-tight shiny black shirt roared from the back of the room, ‘Get them out for the boys!’ Boyd duly complied and opened his shirt to expose a gen­erous expanse of flaccid flesh and tufts of thick dark chest hair. The team yelled and applauded as he gyrated and sang with no discernible talent in either department. Finally he finished and, flushed with success, left the stage to make his way to his fiancée. The upstairs function room in the bar was heaving, but not everyone in the place was drunk ‒ the staff on the whole were pretty sober.

‘So, if not the case, at least let’s celebrate Boyd’s engagement.’ Ross raised his glass. ‘The happy couple look delirious.’

‘And stocious.’ Wheeler lifted hers.

‘That too.’

‘Has no one mentioned the fact that Boyd’s still married or would that just be inconvenient?’

‘It definitely would seem that way. Anyway, his wife refused a divorce ‒ he’ll need to sit it out.’

‘That the lucky woman?’ Wheeler looked across to Boyd’s fiancée. Took in the tight red T-shirt, the short black skirt and the fishnets.

‘She looks like she’s dressed for work,’ said Ross. ‘Subtle she’s not.’

‘Tell me what she does again?’

‘She’s a burlesque dancer at Foaming Frothies. Boyd’s in Heaven.’

‘I’ll bet,’ said Wheeler, as the screen on her mobile lit up. She glanced at the number, headed to the far corner and pressed the phone to her ear. She listened carefully before making her way back to Ross. ‘New case.’ She went behind the bar, switched on the overhead lights and killed the soundtrack. She ignored the yells and waited for the boos to subside before she announced, to a silent room, ‘A body has been found in our area.’

A slurred prompt: ‘Go on, Wheeler.’

‘All I know at present is that we’re looking at a murder in the Tollcross Road area.’ She grabbed her coat and made for the door. Ross stood, pulled on his leather jacket and stared after her. ‘Guess I’ll be paying, then.’ But she was gone.

The music was switched on again, but the party was over. The atmosphere in the room was subdued. Officers who were on duty in the morning either finished their drinks quickly or abandoned them. No point in going in to a murder inquiry with a hangover. Jackets were collected. Wives, husbands and taxis were called. It was home time.

Outside, the weather raged around them. Thunder growled across the skyline as lightning flashed. ‘Thundersnow,’ muttered Wheeler, pulling up the collar of her coat as a taxi turned into Byres Road. She flagged it down.

‘So much for a night off and a wee break.’ Ross opened the door for her.

Wheeler climbed in, gave the driver instructions and, once on their way, turned to Ross. ‘Quit whining. Don’t you know—’

‘Aye. Your usual refrain, “Some poor sod has been battered/shot/strangled to death”, delete as applicable, and here I am whining about the weather/timing/ football results. Am I right?’

Wheeler skelped his arm, then ignored him, preferring instead to stare out of the window as they started their journey across the city, from the West End, where red-sandstone tenement flats began around the hundred-thousand-pound mark, to the East End, where similar flats facing Tollcross Park went for half that.

A few minutes later the driver broke the silence: ‘You polis, then?’

‘Yep,’ said Ross.

‘So I suppose you’ll not be able to tell me what this is about?’

‘Right,’ Ross replied.

‘I’m guessing you’re not uniform, so you’re CID, plus you’re leaving a night out by the looks of it, so I’d guess there’s been a death?’

Silence.

‘And you can’t talk about it?’

‘Have you been working all evening?’ asked Wheeler.

‘Just came on about half an hour ago.’

‘You get any fares take you across the city to Tollcross?’

‘Sometimes, but not the night. Tollcross Road, though, near the park? That where we’re heading? The wife loves that park.’

‘That so?’ said Ross. ‘She use it a lot?’

‘Christ, aye. During the summer she’s never away from it. It’s the roses, son, she’s mad about them . . . We don’t have a garden and that rose garden’s famous ‒ must be thousands of plants, all different types, mind . . . And the awards they win, a Garden of Excellence. The wife keeps up with it all. Lovely wee spot. Peaceful.’

‘Not tonight,’ muttered Ross.

 

~~~~~

Competition

1 very lucky person has the chance to win a copy of ‘Silenced’.  To enter just tell me why you love reading crime.

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This competition is open to residents of the UK and Europe only.

The closing date is 11:59 p.m. on the 21st September 2015.

The winner will be notified within 7 days of the closing date and their details passed on to Grace Vincent at the Little Brown Book Group Limited who will send out the prize.

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