I am delighted to welcome Ray Clark to the blog today. His new book, Implant, is a must read for the summer. As a special treat, Ray entices us in today with an excerpt from the book! Over to you, Ray:
Bramfield, near Leeds, a sleepy little market town nestled on the borders of West and North Yorkshire. Detectives Stewart Gardener and Sean Reilly discover the naked corpse of Alex Wilson, nailed to the wall of a cellar in his uncle’s hardware store. His lips are sewn together and his body bears only one mark, a fresh scar near his abdomen.
Within forty-eight hours, their investigation results in dead ends, more victims, no suspects and very little in the way of solid evidence.
Gardener and Reilly have a problem and a question on their hands: are the residents of Bramfield prepared for one of history’s most sadistic killers, The Tooth Fairy? The detectives race against time to stop the trail of horrific murders…
The sound of the incoming call broke the silence in the station.
Maurice Cragg, the desk sergeant, glanced up as PC Gary Close reached for his mobile and answered it.
Under normal circumstances, he would not allow personal calls at work, as was the right of any employer. But there were a number of overriding factors that gave way to his leniency. Not the least of which was the fact he was engrossed in a serial on BBC Radio 4, something called Mystery House starring Bela Lugosi, a lost classic from the archives recently discovered. The fact that it was also three o’ clock in the morning, Monday to be precise, meant the small community police station of Bramfield had little or nothing to actually do.
Also, he liked Gary Close. Close was pretty slim, around six feet tall, with dark brown hair and a rugged complexion that had at some point suffered the effects of teenage acne. Despite being only nineteen, he was no stranger to bad luck. His father had been killed when Gary was eleven. His best friend had died of a drug overdose about four years ago, in extremely strange circumstances. Three months ago he broke his leg playing Sunday League football, and had returned to work following only a two-month convalescence. And to top it all, his mother Christine had recently been diagnosed with what seemed like an inoperable brain tumour.
Cragg sighed. God, he felt sorry for that lad. But for all that, he had the makings of a damn good copper. He was dedicated, willing to go the extra mile to help out. He’d make D.I. someday, if his temper didn’t have the better of him.
“What do you mean, three hours?” demanded Gary.
Cragg glanced up again, slightly irritated at the interruption but concerned by Gary’s tone.
“Who is this?” shouted the PC.
Cragg lowered the volume on the radio, taking a keener interest.
Gary moved the phone away from his ear and glanced at the screen. “Number withheld,” he said to Maurice. He raised the mobile and tried to continue the conversation. “Hello?” Gary lowered the cell. “He’s gone.”
“Who has?” Cragg asked, leaning forward in his armchair. They were currently in the back room of the station, which resembled someone’s sitting room. They had a table and chairs, a three-piece suite, a wooden floor with an assortment of rugs, and wallpaper that must have ceased production in the 1950s.
“That’s just it, I don’t know.”
“Well, what was he on about, three hours?”
“When I answered, he just said ‘you’ve got three hours left.’”
“To what? He didn’t say anything else? He didn’t hint towards anything?” asked Cragg, trying to assess whether or not it was serious. In the background the only thing he could hear was the continuation of his serial at a much lower volume.
“No,” replied Gary.
“Did you hear anything else, any background noise? Cars, phones ringing, a party going on somewhere?”
“No, nothing. That’s what was unsettling me.”
“A hoax call, maybe?”
“Could be, but you’d still expect to hear something else, wouldn’t you?”
Cragg glanced at his watch. “Perhaps not, especially at this time of a morning. No hint then as to what was going to happen in three hours? Or where?”
“Did you recognize the voice?” asked Cragg.
As Cragg was about to ask another question, the phone to the station rang.
“Bloody hell,” said Cragg. “Not much chance of a relaxing end to the shift, is there?”
He answered after the third ring. Before he could anything, a concerned voice spoke.
“Is that the Bramfield Police Station?”
“Yes, sir,” replied Cragg. “How can I help you?”
“It’s me that can help you. I live in the town, in a flat above one of the shops at the back of the Market Square, on Spital Street opposite Armitage’s.”
“The hardware store?”
“That’s the one.”
“Can you tell me your name, sir?”
“Jones, Richard Jones.”
“What about the hardware store?”
“Well, it’s three o’ clock in the morning, and there’s a light on in the shop.”
“I appreciate your concern, Mr. Jones,” replied Cragg, who knew Richard Jones pretty well; he worked nights at the furniture warehouse a couple of miles outside the town, which would explain why he was still up. “Maybe old Armitage can’t sleep.”
“Maybe he can’t, but he’s hardly likely to leave the front door wide open, whatever he’s doing.”
Alex Wilson was awake, of that he was sure.
But it was hard to tell because he couldn’t see a thing. Wherever he was, it was pitch black. He’d often heard the saying before, and had also been in circumstances where it had been dark, but not completely fucking black like it was now.
Alex was more than concerned; the first waves of paranoia were creeping in.
For one thing, he couldn’t move. Every time his brain sent a signal to either his arms or his legs, nothing happened. Equally frightening was that he had tried several times to shift his position, even in the slightest way, without success. He couldn’t even feel his arms or legs, or in fact his entire body.
Did he still have it?
Don’t be fucking stupid, Alex! You must at least still have your body. Otherwise, how would you be able to think things out? The blood must be circulating towards your brain and at least allowing some rational thought.
Unless, of course, his head been removed from his body and he was wired up to machinery which produced thoughts for him.
Alex decided he wasn’t going there. That was irrational!
He tried to work out whether he was horizontal or vertical, but even that seemed impossible.
Maybe that bastard, Lance Hobson, was testing out a new drug, something that wasn’t street legal, to see what kind of effect it would have.
That would obviously take time, which was another puzzle. How long had he been in his current situation? He had no way of working it out. Even if he could move his arm and check his watch, he still couldn’t see it because of how dark it was.
As his thoughts were becoming clearer, he tried as hard as he could to remember the last conscious thing he’d done. He conjured up a picture of meeting Lance Hobson in the car park in Bramfield, outside the public toilets adjacent to the church. But he had no idea when that was.
He suddenly had a vision of his flat. He was in the kitchen, heating up a pan of soup. He had no recollection however of eating it.
Alex sighed. It was bloody hopeless. But of all the questions he could not answer, there was very definitely one he could.
Wherever he was, the smell was vaguely familiar.
Buy Link: https://amzn.to/2KFWfzi
Authors website: http://michelekhoury.com/
About the Author
The British Fantasy Society published Ray Clark’s first work in 1995 – Manitou Man: The World of Graham Masterton, was nominated for both the World and British Fantasy Awards. In 2009, Ray’s short story, Promises To Keep, made the final shortlist for the best short story award from The Tom Howard Foundation. Ray is based in Goole, and has set his Gardener and Reilly crime series in nearby Leeds.
I had never read anything by Canadian author, Louise Penny, and as we share a surname, I decided I should do so. Still Life is her first novel featuring her recurring character Arnaud Gamache, so it seemed as good a place to start as any. The novel was published by St. Martin’s Paperbacks on 1 January 2005 and later went on to win the Anthony Award for Best First Novel in 2007. Nevertheless, I found it difficult to get into and nearly put it aside, but I am glad I persevered.
The novel starts when a body is found in the woods around the village of Three Pines, south of Montreal. It transpires to be the body of Jane Neal, a long-term and much loved member of the Three Pines community. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of the suspicious death. His investigation must discover whether Jane’s death is an accident or something much more sinister.
I found the character of the young female assistant, Nichol very irritating and did not feel she added much to the advancement of the story. The pace at the beginning of the book was extremely slow, for no apparent reason, although it did improve as the novel progressed. Still Life is an award-winning first novel where Louise Penny introduces an engaging hero in Inspector Gamache. I would be willing to read another book in this series.