#BlogTour | #Extract: She Be Damned by M.J. Tjia (@mjtjia) @Legend_Press #HeloiseChancey

9781785079313.jpg“London, 1863: prostitutes in the Waterloo area are turning up dead, their sexual organs mutilated and removed. When another girl goes missing, fears grow that the killer may have claimed their latest victim.

The police are at a loss and so it falls to courtesan and professional detective, Heloise Chancey, to investigate.

With the assistance of her trusty Chinese maid, Amah Li Leen, Heloise inches closer to the truth. But when Amah is implicated in the brutal plot, Heloise must reconsider who she can trust, before the killer strikes again.”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the She Be Damned blog tour.  She Be Damned is the first of the Heloise Chancey Mysteries, is written by M.J. Tjia and was published by Legend Press on 1st August 2017.

To celebrate this new release I have an intriguing extract in the form of the first chapter to share with you today.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Chapter One
The bedroom door closes softly behind him. I then hear the front door close. Thank Christ. I sit up in bed and rub at the crick in my neck. I’ve been lying in the same decorous pose for some time, pretending to be asleep, conscious of his admiring gaze. Two hours ago, while it was still dark and he’d snored and farted on his own side of the bed, I’d taken a pee and chewed on mint washed down with water so my breath was fresh when he woke. I’d reclined, eyes closed, amongst my silk pillows, one arm flung above my head, mouth gently clamped shut. I lay slightly to the side, so that the fullness of my cleavage was accentuated. My sheer night dress fell away to reveal one rosy nipple, which tautened in the crisp morning air and I’d wondered if he would take it into his warm mouth, willed him to, almost squirmed with the anticipation of it, a giggle spiralling up my chest. But I hadn’t initiated anything. I was the sleeping kitten, the sleeping beauty, after all. My night dress slips to the floor as I step out of bed and I look at my reflection in the dresser’s mirror, tilting my head from one side to the other. I pull my tousled dark hair forward, so that only the lower curve of my breasts are visible. Running my fingers over the small triangle of hair between my legs, I wish it was a shade lighter, so that I could colour it yellow or blue. That would amuse my lovers. I pose for a moment, a cross between the Greek nude I’d sneaked in to see at the Exhibition of ’51, and the girls ironically named Chastity and Faith in the photographs I keep in the bottom drawer of the nightstand. I pivot to see the reflection of my pale bottom. I hate it, I’m embarrassed by it. It’s small and firm. I will never be a Grande Odalisque. I want it to be rounded and heavy like the base of a vase. I want his fingers to be able to knead it like it’s biscuit dough. Taking a step closer to the mirror I scrutinise my face. I’m vain, and I am not vain. I know I’m beautiful, but I know my beauty is to be utilised, tended. The winged eyebrows, the high cheek bones, and the full bottom lip that I pout as I gaze at myself. The colour of my eyes are changeable, depending upon my mood, or maybe even upon how much wine I’d enjoyed the night before; sometimes they’re as smooth as a hazelnut, other times flecked with gold. They are perfectly set off by my heart-shaped face, so I’m told. ‘Shimmering pools of melancholy, making thy heart ache’. Isn’t that how that ridiculous poet had described my eyes? More like ‘shimmering pools of colic, making thy middles ache’. I grin, a deep dimple puckering my left cheek. I own my face, but so do others. I’m almost famous, infamous. When I think of this I feel a flutter of excitement in the pit of my stomach, but I also feel a little sick. I’ve worked towards this for a long time, even before I knew what could be achieved. And of course, now I have other strengths to work with besides this beauty. I have more to trade than just my body. I hurry into my dressing room and tug on the bell pull. Wrenching open the door I call for Amah to come and help me dress. We will have company soon. I’m already tying the ribbon on my silk underwear when Amah Li Leen enters. She’s a plump, middle-aged woman from the East. She’s wearing a plain, white blouse and black skirt, and her shiny black hair is coiled into a low bun. I never cease to be irritated by how she dresses. We’ve often argued about it. I want her to dress in colourful sarongs from Malaya or those heavy Chinese smocks with the mandarin collars. I want her to fit in with the Oriental décor of my house. Furniture and art from the Orient are very much in style at the moment, and many men, especially those in shipping and diplomatic work, admire how I’ve decorated my rooms. So she could at least look the part if my guests are to catch a glimpse of her. But she won’t. She says she doesn’t want to stand out, although it’s almost as if her sober apparel accentuates her almond-shaped eyes, her bronzed skin colour. “What is Sir Thomas visiting for, Heloise?” she asks as she helps me shrug into a sheer chemise. The faint cadence of a Liverpool accent is discernible in her speech. “His missive just said something about a number of suspicious deaths in the Waterloo area.” “Why does he think this would be of interest to you?” I gasp as she tightens my corset.
“I am hoping he wants me to investigate.”
“Ridiculous,” she mutters, helping me step into a voluminous, crinoline hoop. “Nearly as ridiculous as this contraption.” Amah’s skirt is far narrower than what’s fashionable.
“I would be mortified to be seen in your skirt, Amah.”
“Well, I’m used to it, aren’t I?” I laugh.
“That’s a lie. If it were not so cold here, you would wear much less.” I look for an answering smile from her but, not receiving one, I sit down at my dressing table. Tears smart in my eyes as Amah Li Leen brushes and pulls my hair into loops, tutting that there is no time to curl the ends.
“What will you wear today?” she asks, as she moves to the dressing room that houses my vast collection of gowns. Gone are the days of wearing the same gown until it’s stiff with grime and drudgery – that one I had of grey batiste, bought for a song from the Belgian girl grown too large in the belly, that hid stains yet showed sweat under the arms or, later, the blue silk, which was more expensive but acquired the shine of poverty and overuse. I don’t even want to think of the creased, brown sheathes of leather I wore as shoes. The sour reek that wafted from my feet, embarrassing, distracting, as I grimaced with feigned pleasure pressed against a brick wall.
“How about the new lilac one with the orange-blossom trim?”
“I think maybe the dove-grey would be better for a meeting with Sir Thomas,” says Amah. She comes back to the dressing table carrying the heavy gown across both her forearms and deposits it onto a plush armchair. I frown slightly.
“I suppose you’re right. But I will wear the crimson petticoat beneath it.” She pulls the petticoat, then the dress, over my body. Although it does not reveal my shoulders, it is gathered at the waist and cut low over my breasts. I dab perfumed powder across my neck and bosom.
“Maybe just a little lace at the front,” I say, smiling. “I don’t need to show so much flesh for the work Sir Thomas offers me.” I go to add something gay to my apparel, a flower or a feather, but there’s a hard rap on the door knocker and I can hear Bundle, my butler, on his way to answer it. I’m clasping down the sides of my gown to fit through the doorway when I notice the stiff expression on Amah’s face. I squeeze her arm and lean down to kiss her on the cheek.
“One day we’ll be back in the sunlight.” I’m surprised to find two men in my drawing room. Sir Thomas Avery I know well. He is a man of maybe forty-five years, a little shorter than me, with thick, frizzled mutton chop sideburns. He steps forward and takes my hand in greeting. He then introduces the stranger standing by one of the windows which overlooks the street below.
“This is Mr Priestly,” he says. The other man doesn’t approach me but bows his head.
“Pleased to meet you, Mrs Chancey,” he says. His lips widen a little, but he makes no real effort to smile. A thin frame and large ears preclude Mr Priestly from being a handsome man, but he is well, if soberly, dressed and gentlemanly. His eyes flick over my figure and then, with more leisure, he looks around my drawing room. His gaze follows the pattern of the Oriental rug, the scrollwork on the mahogany side board and the richly damasked sofas with intricately worked legs. He takes in the assortment of Chinese blue and white vases in the dark cabinets and the jade figurines on the mantelpiece. Finally his gaze rests on the large mural that adorns the furthest wall. A painting of a peacock, sat on a sparse tree branch, fills the space. The peacock, a fusion of azure, green and gold leaf with a regal crown of feathers, displays its resplendent train so that the golden eyes of its plumage can be admired. It might be a trick of the light and artistry, but the peacock’s tail feathers seem to quiver.
“How very… exotic,” he says. He moves towards the fireplace and studies the painting in the gilded frame above it. The portrait is of a young woman dressed in Javanese costume. Her hair is pulled into a low bun, silver earrings decorate her lobes, and she holds a white flower behind her back. Richly decorated batik is wrapped around her breasts, and a tight sarong swathes her lower body.
“Is that you?” he asks me, surprise in his voice.
“Yes.” I stand by him and look up at the portrait. “My friend Charles Cunningham lent me the fabric for the sitting. His father brought the lengths of silk and batik back from Java, after one of his assignments with Raffles. Such beautiful, earthy colours, aren’t they?” Mr Priestly steps a few feet away from me.
“I’m afraid I don’t follow this fashion for aping savages.” I feel a prick of resentment at the insult to my drawing room and portrait – the insult to me. But I learnt long ago to hold my temper in check, I have learnt to behave with decorum, for I no longer work in a Liverpool back-alley. Smiling sweetly as I lower myself and my wide skirts carefully onto the sofa, I say,
“Oh, don’t feel bad. Not everyone can be a la mode, can they?” Sir Thomas clears his throat loudly.
“Maybe we should discuss the purpose of our visit, Mrs Chancey.”
“Yes, let’s,” I answer, patting the sofa cushion next to mine. “Please have a seat.” Sir Thomas sits down and looks at Mr Priestly expectantly. However, rather than speak himself, Mr Priestly gestures for Sir Thomas to proceed.
“Well, Mrs Chancey,” says Sir Thomas. “I have come to ask you to do a spot of work for us again.”
“Wonderful. Who will I need to be this time?” Sir Thomas smiles.
“Certainly your prior experience as a stage actress has benefitted us, Mrs Chancey. And it is true. We do need you to do some covert investigating for us.” One of Sir Thomas’ many businesses includes a private detective agency. Although he has a surfeit of male detectives, he has found it very difficult to find females willing or able to sleuth. Having both the willingness and ability, I’ve worked on and off for Sir Thomas over the last eighteen months. I’ve posed as a sewing woman to gain access to a noble house, I’ve rouged and revealed myself as a street prostitute in order to spy on a group of young men and I have even performed as a harem dancer in order to reconnoitre at a foreign embassy. Sir Thomas clears his throat again.
“Yes. Well, maybe the task we ask of you this time will not be so enjoyable, I’m afraid.” He glances at Mr Priestly, who nods him on. “As you know, we are investigating the deaths of several women in the Waterloo area.”
“How did they die?” I ask. Sir Thomas waves his hand. He won’t go on. Mr Priestly stares hard at me for a few moments.
“Sir Thomas assures me I can broach any subject with you, Mrs Chancey.”
“Of course,” I smile. He means because I’m a whore, of course, but I won’t let him think his sting has broken skin. He turns and gazes out the window as he speaks.
“It seems that each of these women – well, really, they were prostitutes – had terminated a pregnancy and died soon after from blood loss and infection.”
“Well, unfortunately that happens far too frequently.”
“That is so, but luckily the body of the last prostitute who died in this manner was taken to the hospital to be used as a specimen, and they found that…” He glances over at me, his eyes appraising.
“What?” I ask.
“They found parts of her body missing.”
“What parts?”
“Her uterus was gone, but so were her other… feminine parts.” Revulsion curls through my body and I feel the pulse of an old wound between my legs. I glance at Sir Thomas whose eyes fall away from mine.
“What makes you think her death is connected to the other deaths in Waterloo?”
“It was the fourth body they had received in this condition in the last seven weeks.”
“What? And was it not reported to the police?” My voice rises in disbelief. Mr Priestly shrugs.
“Well, they were only prostitutes, after all. At first the hospital staff thought they were the victims of amateur hysterectomies, but when they found that each of the women was also missing…”
“Missing…?” I shake my head a little, hoping I’m not about to hear what I think is coming, although a part of me, tucked away beneath the horror, wonders how he’ll describe it. Mr Priestly straightens his collar.
“Apparently all their sexual organs were missing. Inside and out. I am positive you know to what I am referring, Mrs Chancey.” I can’t help but press my knees together. I nod. “Accordingly, it became apparent that there was a pattern to these deaths,” he continues.
“And what do the police think now?”
“Obviously someone in the area is butchering these unfortunate women, whether accidentally or in spite is uncertain. However – and it’s not surprising – the police don’t want to waste too much time investigating the deaths of prostitutes when the rights of decent, law-abiding Londoners need to be protected.” Indignation sharpens my thoughts, but I command my body to relax. After all, what else is to be expected? If I’m to mix in polite society I need to mimic their ways. I force a languid smile to my face, eyes narrowed, as I watch Mr Priestly.
“So, what on earth do you want to look into these deaths for? If the police are not interested, why should we be?”
“A friend of mine heard of these cases and has become immensely interested. It is on behalf of my friend that I have engaged Sir Thomas’ services.”
“And why has your friend become so interested?” Mr Priestly takes his time seating himself in an armchair, crossing one leg over the other. He scrutinises my face for a few moments before answering.
“My friend has a special concern. It is for this reason we ask for your assistance.”
“What is this special concern?”
“My friend is a respectable gentleman, well known to his peers. A short time ago he found out that his daughter was in an unhappy condition. She is not married.” Mr Priestly pauses to let the awful truth of his statement sink in.
“Ah, I see. And what did he do?” I ask. Mr Priestly frowns.
“Naturally he disowned her. He allowed her to pack some of her belongings and had her taken to a convent near Shropshire.”
“Naturally,” I repeat, my voice dry.
“Yes, but she did not make it to Shropshire. She bribed the coachman to take her to a hotel in Charing Cross, and from there she has disappeared.”
“Do you know why she wanted to be left at that hotel?”
“Apparently her… the other party… was staying there. He is a Frenchman.” He nods, as if this fact alone throws light on the cause of her predicament.
“But nobody knows where she is now?” Sir Thomas takes up the thread of the story.
“At first Mr Priestly required my men to look into her activities at the hotel, but upon questioning Monsieur Baudin, we learnt she had left his care most swiftly.”
“I suppose he did not want her now she was in trouble?”
“Something like that, it would seem. Since then he seems to have flown the coop,” says Sir Thomas. “My detectives have since found out that the young lady took a cab to Waterloo where she spent a little over three weeks in a boarding house before moving into another well-known establishment nearby.”
“What establishment?” Mr Priestly purses his lips for a moment.
“A house of illrepute, it would seem. She moved to an abode owned by one Madame Silvestre.”
“Ah yes, I’m aware of her services,” I reply, thinking of how it’s been many years since I have had the pleasure of the old cat’s acquaintance. “Do you need me to fetch her?”
“If only it were that easy. It seems she has since disappeared. Nobody knows where she has gone.” The sudden realisation dawns on me.
“Are you concerned that she too has been mutilated?”
“We are not sure what has become of her,” says Sir Thomas. “Madame Silvestre might just be hiding her, or maybe the young lady has moved on to another place.”
“Or maybe she is one of the butcher’s victims,” says Mr Priestly. He withdraws a card case from his pocket and carefully takes out a small photograph. He hands this to me. “Eleanor Carter.” The likeness is of a very fair, young woman. Her face is small and serious and the bodice of her gown is buttoned tightly to the base of her throat.
“How old is she?” I ask.
“She is only seventeen. She is quite small and pretty – this photograph does not do her justice,” says Mr Priestly. “My friend is worried for her safety.”
“He might have thought of that before he threw her out onto the street,” I say, before I can help myself. Mr Priestly’s brow lifts as he looks across at me coldly.
“Although it is out of the question for her to return to her familial home, naturally my friend is troubled. He would like to see her ensconced safely at the nunnery.” I glance from Sir Thomas to Mr Priestly.
“You want me to find her?” Sir Thomas sits back into the sofa and extends his legs out before himself. He studies his shoes as he says,
“Well, as you now know, I have already had my detectives scouting for information on Miss Carter, but they have failed to find her.”
“And you think my womanly touch might avail?” I ask, amused. Sir Thomas resettles himself again.
“As simple questioning has not sufficed, we wondered if you could possibly discover Miss Carter’s movements with more covert methods.”
“Such as…?” Mr Priestly makes an impatient motion with his hand.
“You seemed interested in picking up the mantle of another character again, Mrs Chancey, and that is what we are asking of you. I believe it won’t be too much of a stretch for you, for we would like you to pose as a…” he glances at Sir Thomas, “a ‘gay girl’, I think they’re called.” I stop breathing for a moment as annoyance flushes through my body. It’s true that I posed as a street prostitute for Sir Thomas, but that was just a lark, and it’s also true that in the dim past I’d worked in many places, both good and bad, but I choose not to think of that now. So, for this absolute pig of a man to refer to me as a mere gay girl makes me angry. I’m no longer a lowly grisette, willing to flatter or implore my way to a few more pennies or ribbons while I try to hide my desperation.  I lift my chin.
“You want me to pose as a prostitute?”
“Precisely.”
“At Madame Silvestre’s?”
“If they would have you, certainly,” says Mr Priestly, his voice even. “What better place for you to be situated in order to find out where Miss Carter is?” I heave myself up from the sofa and stride to the bay window. My skirt bumps a side-table causing a figurine of a Chinese goddess to totter. Go back to work in a brothel, for the sake of a little detection? I’m not so sure. Sir Thomas puts his hands out entreatingly.
“Mrs Chancey, not only can you investigate the disappearance of Miss Carter, you can also look into the other deaths. You can try to find more information about the monster who is harming these women.”
“Who knows?” interrupts Mr Priestly. “You could even pretend to be pregnant and see where that takes you.”
“Be your bait, you mean?” I ask, my voice flippant.
“Whatever it takes, Mrs Chancey, whatever it takes.” Mr Priestly slips his fingers into his gloves. “You may put it about that Miss Carter is a young relative of your own, but in no way must her name be connected back to my friend. Sir Thomas will take care of the case from now on. I am sure you will be remunerated…” he glances around my sumptuous drawing room, “as grandly as possible.” I turn from the window, the smile on my face fixed.
“I don’t work for Sir Thomas for the money, Mr Priestly. I have my own independent means. I follow inquiries for Sir Thomas purely for the pleasure of it, and in this I would find no pleasure. I’m afraid I will need to decline your kind offer.” He stops pulling on his remaining glove and eyes me for a few, long moments.
“I must assure you that I do not request you to take this case – I insist you take this case.”
“Insist? You cannot make me take this case, Mr Priestly.”
“Mrs Chancey, I know the local magistrate, Sir Herbert Brimm. I know for a fact that he and others are interested in your mysterious activities in the Limehouse area. One word from me and you will be examined by the local police and the doctor in their employ.” I can feel anger drain the colour from my cheeks and my fingers quiver with adrenalin. I’ve heard of this movement to examine prostitutes for contagious diseases. He would menace me with this detestable law that terrorises prostitutes and offends even righteous women? He would dare threaten me with a disgusting doctor probing my body for sickness?
“That will never eventuate, Mr Priestly. I know far more important and powerful people than you.”
“Ah, you must mean your protector,” replies Mr Priestly. “Tell me, how would he like an examination of your private life smeared in the newspapers for his wife and esteemed friends to see? Think of his poor children. Be sure, Mrs Chancey, the damage can be done before he is able to assist you.” I grip my waist, my fingertips digging into the unyielding corset. My popularity with patrons is closely tied to my discretion. It has always been so. But in this trembling moment of rage I have nothing to lose.
“Do it then, sir. Do your worst,” I say, struggling to keep my voice low. Sir Thomas steps between us, his hands raised.
“Please, Mr Priestly, there’s no need for these threats.” He turns to me. “Mrs Chancey, surely we can come to an agreement on how you can investigate this in a manner with which you are comfortable. We really do need your assistance.” I look into Sir Thomas’ flushed, kind face and then shrug one shoulder.
“Allow me to think it over. And if I do decide to proceed,” I glare at Mr Priestly, “I will only deal with Sir Thomas.”
“That suits me perfectly,” says Mr Priestly. He leaves the room without bidding farewell. Sir Thomas thanks me profusely and presses my hand goodbye between his clammy ones.
“I will be in touch.” He follows Mr Priestly to the front door as swiftly as his short legs will take him.  From the window I watch the men descend the few front steps down. I make sure to stand a little behind the silk drapes so that they can’t see me. Stopping on the last step Mr Priestly turns to Sir Thomas and says,
“What on earth do you think a little dollymop like her can achieve?”
“She’s done some very good work for us…” Sir Thomas protests. The rest of the conversation is drowned out by the arrival of their carriage. I stand very still for a few minutes, watching the carriage pull away, until I sense someone behind me.
“What are you thinking?” asks Amah. “Are you wondering how you will investigate this dreadful affair?” I turn my head slightly, and meet her eye.
“No. I am considering in what way I will repay the precious Mr Priestly for his insults.”

I hope that’s piqued your interest.  Mrs Heloise Chancey doesn’t sound like a lady to be messed with, does she?  And I absolutely love that cover.  This one will definitely be added to the TBR.

She Be Damned: A Heloise Chancey Mystery by M.J. Tjia was published in the UK by Legend Press on 1st August 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

she be damned Blog Tour Banner jpeg.jpg

about the author3

Mirandi by Red Boots Photographic (46 of 136)web.jpgM.J. is a Brisbane-based writer. She has been shortlisted for the Josephine Ulrick Short Story Prize and the Luke Bitmead Bursary (UK), and longlisted for the ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize and CWA (UK) dagger awards. Her work has appeared in RexPeril and Shibboleth and Other Stories.

She is the author of She Be Damned: A Heloise Chancey Mystery, (2017) with the sequel to follow in 2018.

Author Links: | Twitter |

 

 

#BlogTour | #Extract: The Abattoir of Dreams by Mark Tilbury (@MTilburyAuthor) @BloodhoundBook

the abattoir of dreams.jpg“The past is never far away. Michael Tate has not had an easy life. With his father in prison, and his mother dead, Michael was sent to Woodside Children’s Home. Now an adult, Michael wakes up in hospital from a coma suffering from amnesia and paralysis. Confused and terrified, he is charged with the fatal stabbing of his girlfriend, Becky. He also learns he attempted to end his own life. Detective Inspector John Carver is determined that Michael is sent to prison. With no way of defending himself, Michael is left in his hospital bed awaiting transfer to remand. But then strange things begin to happen and his childhood comes back to haunt him. Can Michael ever escape the past? Will he ever discover the truth about Becky’s murder? And why is DI Carver so eager to make him suffer? The Abattoir of Dreams is a bitter sweet story of murder, innocence and abuse.”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the The Abattoir of Dreams blog tour.  Author Mark Tilbury is one of those writers whose work I have been incredibly keen to read since I started blogging over a year ago.  A number of fellow bloggers whose opinions I trust are huge Mark Tilbury fans which I think says an awful lot, don’t you?  And I plan to start with The Abattoir of Dreams as it’s receiving absolutely brilliant, rave reviews.

To celebrate it’s recent release I have an extract to share with you today.  So without further ado, make yourself comfy and read on…

Chapter One
Nurse Emily Dixon fussed with my bedsheet and fixed me with a smile that seemed more professional than friendly. ‘There’s someone here to see you, Michael.’
‘Who?’
‘Detective Inspector Carver. Thames Valley police.’
‘Has he found my memory?’
‘I think it’s more serious than that.’ She left, replaced by a tall, slim man in a charcoal suit.
‘Hello, Mr. Tate.’
There was something about his lopsided grin I didn’t like. Half-sincere, perhaps? ‘Hello.’
‘I see they’ve given you your own room.’
Wasn’t I the lucky one.
He sat on a chair next to the bed. ‘Do you know why I’m here?’
‘No.’ I wiped sweat off my forehead with the back of my hand. There was a fan on top of a five-drawer unit by the window; its blades didn’t so much as spin but lurch, like a buckled wheel.
Next to the unit, a wheelchair, my only mode of transport in this brave, new, paralysed world. If anyone ever bothered to hoist me out of the bed, that was.
‘Look at me when I’m speaking to you, Michael. Didn’t your mother teach you any manners?’
This sudden change of tone sent a shiver through my body. I didn’t have a clue whether my mother had taught me anything; I didn’t even remember her. I looked into his pale blue eyes; they seemed to glisten in the afternoon sunlight pouring through a small window behind the bed.
‘That’s better,’ he crooned. ‘You can tell a lot from a man’s eyes.’
The room didn’t seem to have enough air. I wanted to run to the window. Dive through it. Put an end to this eternal nightmare of paralysis and amnesia.
‘You look better than the last time I last saw you.’
‘Last time?’
‘I’ve been to see you three times, Michael. First time, you had tubes sticking out of everywhere.  Second time, you were still in a coma. Not very chatty.’ He grinned, seemingly pleased with his own lame joke. ‘But, today, hey presto, the wanderer returns.’
‘Why are you here?’
He ignored my question. ‘Funny things, comas; neither dead nor alive. Strange sort of limbo.’
‘If you say so.’
‘Have you remembered anything yet? Doctor claims you’re suffering from amnesia.’
‘I don’t remember a thing.’ The truth.
‘If I was to be cynical, Michael, I might think your memory loss was a tad convenient. But, just for the record, let me help you with the events of Monday, June twenty-first; the night you walked to the top of Evenlode flats and tried your hand at flying. A witness said you came home from work at nine-fifteen. She remembered you because you always dragged your work bag up the metal handrail and pissed her off.’
‘Work?’
‘The George Hotel in Feelham. You were a washer-upper. A dish-jockey. But, that’s not relevant, Michael. Suffice to say, you left work at eight forty-five, and clunked your way upstairs at nine-fifteen. Our witness says she heard a lot of banging and thudding coming from your flat, but she just assumed you were having sex. Then, at ten thirty-five, according to two eye witnesses, you jumped off the roof. So, that just leaves the missing hour and twenty minutes when you stabbed your girlfriend to death with a kitchen knife.’
My heart stopped. ‘What?’
‘Murdered her in cold blood, Michael.’ He spoke the way some adults speak to old people as if they’re all deaf and daft. ‘Stabbed her twenty-one times.’
‘My girlfriend?’
‘Becky Marie Coombs. Name ring a bell?’
It didn’t. How was I supposed to react to the news I’d killed my girlfriend if I didn’t even remember her? It felt as if Carver was describing a nightmare which had happened to someone else.
‘Did you let yourself into your flat, or did Becky let you in?’
‘I don’t remember.’
‘Course. I forgot. All Dumbo’s memories fell out of his ears when he hit that builder’s van. Let me help you. Tell you what I think happened. You got home after working your bollocks off in that hotel kitchen. Only thing you’re bothered about is a drink to unwind and hitting the sack, right?’
‘If you say so.’
‘You like a drink, don’t you, Michael?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘You do. Becky’s mum called you a piss-head, but that’s neither here nor there. So, you let yourself in, and then you realise your worst nightmare. Becky’s in bed with another man.’
‘I don’t—’
‘I’ll tell you this for nothing, son: I would have been bloody furious as well. How dare some dirty dog get into your bed and soil your sheets?’
The room was stifling. Suffocating. There was an oxygen cylinder by the door. I almost called out for a nurse to come and connect me up to it.
‘Let’s face it, Michael, you’ve not got much going for you, have you? A shitty job in a shitty hotel. Crap pay. Crap hours. A drink problem. A face like a smacked arse. If life was a pair of underpants, you’d be a skid mark, right?’
‘Could you open the window?’
He didn’t seem to hear me. ‘Do you know how I do my job, Michael?’
‘No.’
‘I imagine myself in the same situation as the criminal. Ask myself what would I do if I came home knackered from work and found my bird in bed with a stranger. A fucking freeloader. And here’s the truth: I’d want blood, too. Not the man’s. No way. Uh-uh. That slimy twat has no contract with me. No promises to stay faithful. No declarations of undying love. Just a dirty little opportunist. But, Mrs. Carver, bless her, well, she swore to be mine and mine alone. Not get in the sack with someone else as soon as my back’s turned. Open her legs to the first dirty bastard who paid her a compliment. Are we thinking the same thoughts, Michael?’
‘I—’
‘Of course we are. It’s a universal truth no man is willing to share. What’s his is his. So, I’d throw out the imposter. Naked if need be. Then I’d do the same as you Michael. I’d stab the bitch to death in a jealous rage.’
I focussed my attention on the knackered fan. It looked the way I felt.
‘Twenty-one stab wounds, Michael. And you expect me to believe you don’t remember a single one of them?’
‘I don’t.’
‘What about the one in her neck?’
‘I need water.’
‘Or the ten in her left breast?’
‘Please. I don’t—’
‘Was the breast significant, Michael? Maybe the bloke was sucking her tit when you caught them at it?’
My chest felt as if a boa constrictor had coiled itself around me and was squeezing for all it was worth.
‘You stabbed her in the eye, Michael. Was that symbolic?’
I shook my head. What did he want me to say? Oh, yes, come to think of it, I did mutilate her.
It must have slipped my mind.
Carver took a picture from the breast pocket of his suit. He handed it to me. ‘This is what you did, Michael. Take a good look. See if it jogs your memory.’

***

Woah!  If I wasn’t already lining this one up for the TBR I would be now.  Has that piqued your interest?  Let me know in the comments.

The Abattoir of Dreams by Mark Tilbury was published in the UK by Bloodhound Books on 28th February 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

16864285_10155070138771255_4033312303074279502_n.jpg

copy-of-copy-of-smith-sons-1

mark tilbury.jpgMark lives in a small village in the lovely county of Cumbria, although his books are set in Oxfordshire where he was born and raised.

Mark served in the Royal Navy, and was left to raise his two daughters alone after being widowed. He finally took the plunge and self-published two books on Amazon, The Revelation Room and The Eyes of the Accused.

He’s always had a keen interest in writing, and is extremely proud to have his third novel, The Abattoir of Dreams, published by Bloodhound Books.

When he’s not writing, Mark can be found trying and failing to master blues guitar,
and taking walks around the beautiful county of Cumbria.

Author Links:Website | Twitter | Facebook |

 

 

#SeriesSpotlight | #Extract: After She’s Gone by Sheryl Browne (@SherylBrowne) @ChocLituk

after shes gone.jpgAfter She’s Gone
“He’s killed your child and kidnapped your wife. What would YOU do?

There’s evil and then there’s Patrick Sullivan. A drug dealer, pimp and murderer, there are no depths to which Patrick would not sink, and Detective Inspector Matthew Adams has found this out in the most devastating way imaginable. 

When Patrick’s brother is shot dead in a drug bust gone wrong, the bitter battle between the two men intensifies, and Matthew finds it increasingly difficult to hold the moral high ground. All he wants is to make the pimping scum suffer the way he did … the way Lily did.

But being at war with such a depraved individual means that it’s not just Matthew who’s in danger. Patrick has taken a lot from Matthew, but he hasn’t taken everything – and now he wants everything.”

sins of the father.jpgSins of the Father
“What if you’d been accused of one of the worst crimes imaginable?

Detective Inspector Matthew Adams is slowly picking up the pieces from a case that nearly cost him the lives of his entire family and his own sanity too. On the surface, he seems to be moving on, but he drinks to forget – and when he closes his eyes, the nightmares still come.

But the past is the past – or is it? Because the evil Patrick Sullivan might be out of the picture, but there’s somebody who is just as intent on making Matthew’s life hell, and they’re doing it in the cruelest way possible.

When Matthew finds himself accused of a horrific and violent crime, will his family stand by him? And will he even be around to help when his new enemy goes after them as well?”

I am delighted to be showcasing two terrific crime thriller novels from a truly lovely author today.  Books one and two in Sheryl Browne’s gripping new crime series featuring DI Matthew Adams were both published by Choc Lit last month and are available in eBook format.

Today, in order to tempt you into adding these beauties to your TBR, I have a brilliant extract from the first book in the series, After She’s Gone.  So grab a cuppa and make yourself comfy…

After She’s Gone
‘Not very gentlemanly, keeping ladies hanging around, Adams, is it?’ Patrick watched with interest, as the copper turned a pale shade of white. Reeling on his feet, he was, poor sod. He actually looked as if he might pass out. Didn’t take him long to recover himself, though. Patrick watched on as Adams pulled himself up, bracing his shoulders in that bloody annoying Bruce Willis nothing-gets-to-me way he had. It obviously did though. He might be trying to keep a grip, but the little tic going in his cheek was a dead giveaway. Patrick had noticed it when Adams had paid him a visit in the nick. Seen it many times, when the pathetic little runt had tried to stand up to him as a kid. Most recently, before the bastard had kicked him to the floor like a dog, for which the copper was about to get payback. Oh, yes, his fuse was lit all right. The man was a ticking time bomb, far too reactive to be on the force, in Patrick’s humble opinion.

Patrick barely had time to free himself of the girl before the copper exploded.

‘You fucking animal!’ he seethed, lunging towards him.

But Patrick was ready. ‘Down!’ He levelled the shotgun, ready to blast Adams to kingdom come if he didn’t back off.

Clearly realising he might be at a disadvantage, Adams stopped, his expression pure thunder, his chest heaving. Oh, dear. Was that a little wheeze Patrick could hear in there? Quietly amused, he noted how Adams was struggling to control his breathing, another giveaway as to the copper’s high state of anxiety. Patrick probably knew the signs better than Adams did.

‘I said, down, Adams.’ Lowering the gun, Patrick indicated the floor, which is where he wanted Adams. No one, but no one, constantly refers to Patrick Sullivan as an animal and gets away with it.

‘Unless you want your wife and Snow White to see your blood splattered all over the walls, that is?’

Adams didn’t budge. Taking slow breaths, he stayed exactly where he was, his fist clenched at his side and in his eyes … pure murder. Patrick felt the tiniest flicker of apprehension run through him.

‘We can play the waiting game if you like, Adams.’ He made sure to hold his gaze. ‘But I’m not sure your good lady will be very keen on the idea. Are you?’

Patrick’s gaze flicked in the direction of the man’s wife.

‘Do it,’ he ordered. ‘Face front and get down on your knees, copper, if you value her life.’

‘You bastard.’ Adams took another laboured breath and ran his hands over his face. Then, glancing heavenward, finally, he did as instructed.

Got him, Patrick thought, hugely satisfied that the copper seemed to be getting the message. Patrick had the upper hand now. This time, it would be Adams defenceless on the floor, while he broke his fucking jaw. Quid pro quo, as far as Patrick was concerned.

***

I hope that’s piqued your interest.  I can’t wait to make a start on these two; everything about them appeals to me!

After She’s Gone and Sins of the Father by Sheryl Browne were published in the UK by Choc Lit in February 2017 and are available in eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

copy-of-copy-of-smith-sons-1

Sheryl-Browne03-RD-copy-215x300 (1).jpgSheryl Browne brings you edgy, sexy contemporary fiction and psychological thrillers.

A member of the Crime Writers’ Association, Romantic Novelists’ Association and awarded a Red Ribbon by The Wishing Shelf Book Awards, Sheryl has several books published and two short stories in Birmingham City University anthologies, where she completed her MA in Creative Writing.

Recommended to the publisher by the WH Smith Travel fiction buyer, Sheryl’s contemporary fiction comes to you from multi-award winning Choc Lit.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon | Amazon US | Pinterest | Choc Lit |

#BlogTour | #Extract: Death Games by Chris Simms (@SimmsComment) @LOCrime #SpicerIsBack

death games cover.jpgWill your next move be your last?

Manchester: an injured survivor from a motorway pile-up flees the scene, leaving behind evidence that a terror attack is being planned…

Jon Spicer, newly trained as a Specialist Firearms Officer, has joined Manchester police’s Counter Terrorism Unit. Thrown out of his previous department and demoted to Detective Constable, he is being kept in the force only because he’ll take on the most dangerous of jobs.

Iona Khan is struggling to find respect and recognition in the male-dominated Counter Terrorism Unit. Her mind might be sharp, but many of her colleagues value physical strength above anything else.

As the investigation quickly snowballs, Spicer and Khan are thrown together. The two officers must learn to trust each other – and fast. Because in this chase, any wrong move could be your last.”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the Death Games blog tour.  Death Games is the eighth book in the Jon Spicer series and was published earlier this week on 1st February. Congratulations Chris!  I was over the moon when Jo at Life of Cri.me asked me to join Chris’s tour – there was no way I was going to refuse one of my favourite crime bloggers!

I have to admit that Chris Simms is a new author to me but his books sound just my cup of tea.  And I have a heck of a lot of catching up to do (did I mention that this is the 8th book in the series??).  Today I have an extract from Death Games to share with you.  So without further ado…

Ten minutes later, they were all kitted up. Helmets with visors and leather neckguards, full limb protection, reinforced gloves, attack vests, tasers, batons and handcuffs. Jon knew the gear added a few inches of bulk to them all; they were a fearsome sight.

Hugh Lambert squared up to his raid partner and announced in a low voice, ‘I feel epic.’

‘You, Mr Lambert,’ the other man replied, ‘are so Money Supermarket.’

Pockets of laughter around the group.

‘Any movement in the target property?’ the search co-ordinator, an inspector Jon hadn’t met before, asked.

Iona was over by the monitor showing the live feed from the camera car. ‘Nothing, Sir.’

‘OK, no sound now, lads.’ He lifted a radio and spoke more quietly. ‘Ian, have you swept it yet?’ He listened for a few seconds before replying. ‘Roger that.’ He turned to the group. ‘Listen up, a faint reading in the room across the corridor; that’s first door on the right. The one with a window out onto the street. Who’s Raid One?’

Hugh Lambert and his partner raised their hands.

‘Right. It’s your room. Could be a cat, could be someone in a sleeping bag, could be electrical equipment: just be aware. Shall we get this done?’

Their van came to halt thirty metres from 17a. Because curtains in the property were all drawn, they didn’t need a covert approach. Instead, they jogged along the pavement, the two officers at the front carrying a Double Wam. Larger than an Enforcer, the Double Wam needed two officers to swing it and delivered something closer to fifteen tons of energy to any surface it connected with.

The raid team started to line up in their pairs. Seeing the battering ram being readied, Jon stepped forward. It was the first rule of a forced entry and one pumped-up officers frequently forgot: try the door handle. Locked. ‘Worth a go,’ he whispered and stepped back alongside Kieran.

The Wam officers raised the battering ram again. They looked at each other and gave a simultaneous nod. A signal to the rest of the team. Jon’s mouth felt dry. Adrenaline had made his eyes feel too big for their sockets. Knees slightly flexed, he rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet, just like the rest of the group. If anyone was unfortunate enough to be in the corridor beyond the door, they were getting it. Big time.

The Double Wam was swung slowly back and then rapidly forward. The door flew in with a huge crash. ‘Breach! Stand clear!’ the Wam officers screamed, jumping out the way.

Lambert and his partner piled through the doorway. ‘Police! Stand still! Police! Stand still!’

Wow!  Doesn’t that sound good?!  I can’t wait to read this book (along with the first seven in the series!)  My thanks once again to Jo and Chris for asking me to be a part of the Death Games blog tour.

Death Games by Chris Simms was published in the UK on 1st February 2017 and is available in eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

blog-tour-flyer-2

copy-of-copy-of-smith-sons-1

1014case-files-versionChris Simms has worked in airports, nightclubs, post offices and telesales centres. He now lives in Marple, near Manchester, with his wife and four children. He still works as a freelance copywriter for advertising agencies in the city.

Along with nominations for the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year award and Crime Writers’ Association Daggers (for his novels and short stories), Chris was selected by Waterstones as one of their ‘25 Authors For The Future’.

Author Links: Website | Twitter |

 

#BlogTour | #Extract: Uncoiled Lies by Liz Mistry (@LizCrimeWarp) @BloodhoundBook

uncoiled-lies-coverMurder. Love. Corruption. DI Angus McGuire and the team are back and have their work cut out. 

Murdered prostitutes and a turf war between local gangsters takes the investigation into Bradford’s Immigrant communities where tensions run high.

To make matters worse McGuire is juggling an illicit relationship with his boss’s daughter and has fraught family relations.

Who is The Old Man?

What is the link between three dead prostitutes and a long forgotten murder?

Will McGuire and his team get the answers they want or is the uncomfortable truth much closer to home?

I’m very excited to be part of Liz Mistry’s Uncoiled Lies blog tour today.  Back in August I took part in Liz’s tour for her debut novel, Unquiet Souls, and Liz very kindly wrote a brilliant guest post about why crime does it for her.  If you’re new to the blog, or would just like a recap then please click here.

Anyhoo, back to the here and now and Liz’s brilliant new novel.  Today is publication day for Uncoiled Lies so before I do anything else I would like to wish author Liz Mistry and publisher Bloodhound Books a very happy book birthday!

I have an extract from Uncoiled Lies to pique your interest today and leave you wanting more.  So without further ado, let’s have a read and meet Shahid Khan…

 ‘Pick up for fuck’s sake!’ Shahid Khan paced the floor in front of his desk, phone tight to his ear.

When the number he’d dialled went to voicemail yet again, he turned and flung it, scattering the paperwork from his desk onto the floor. With a growl, he kicked the chair that stood nearby.

Anger reverberated through every muscle and laboured pants wracked his body as he tried to control himself. Why wasn’t she picking up? She’d promised him she’d phone at nine. What was she playing at? Shahid didn’t know who he was most angry with – her for letting him down or himself for caring so fucking much. He’d vowed never to let a woman have the sort of hold on him that Millie Green had once had on his dad. When she’d dumped him, and who could blame her after the way he treated her, his dad had been devastated and now here he was dangling on the end of the phone like an idiot. He took a deep breath, bit his lip and reminded himself that Trixie wasn’t like Millie and he was certainly nothing like his dad, but still the anger bubbled in his chest. He knew he’d have to do something about it before he exploded.

‘Fuck!’ He spat the word into the empty room and strode over to the annex in the corner where his punch bag hung – a hulk of malevolent shiny black leather, dangling in ominous silence, lit by a single spotlight casting its shadow over the real oak floor. Not bothering with the boxing gloves that lay on a shelf beside his weights, he thumped a bare-fisted one-two-one rhythm into the bag making it swing widely, forcing him to jump on the balls of his toes to avoid being hit on the rebound… again… faster.

After two minutes of pummelling, he was panting, sweat dripping from his brow. He stopped to catch his breath, relaxed his shoulders and looked at his bloodied knuckles. How many times had his trainer told him always to use the gloves? He flexed his fists, savouring the stinging stretch that made more blood ooze over his hands and gather in the creases between his fingers. Breathing steadier, he walked to the sink, flicked the cold tap on and watched as the water splashed his blood in abstract patterns onto the pristine ceramic – like one of the paint blot paintings Imti used to bring home from school when he was a kid. He smiled remembering how, in the absence of his dad’s loving presence and, with his step-mum’s indifference like a weight on his shoulders, he’d hugged the boy and carefully pinned Imti’s proud offerings all over the kitchen. He’d lost his sister years ago, but he wasn’t going to lose his baby brother – not a bloody chance!

***

Sounds so good!  I have a copy of Uncoiled Lies on my TBR so watch out for a review coming your way soon.

Uncoiled Lies by Liz Mistry was published in the UK by Bloodhound Books on 26th January 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads | Bloodhound Books |

uncoiled-lies-blog-tour-banner

copy-of-copy-of-smith-sons-1

lizAs well as writing crime fiction, Liz is co-founder of and main contributor to The Crime Warp blog, which reviews all areas of crime fiction, interviews crime authors and participates in blog tours.  She is the main publicist for the blog, using social media to promote our presence.

Liz is an ex teacher who has taught in inner city Bradford schools for over twenty years.  Her husband of 27 years is Indian and they have three children.  They live in inner city Bradford and Liz likes to use the rich tapestry of her life in Bradford, combined with her Scottish heritage, in her writing.

She is currently completing her dissertation for an MA in creative writing at Leeds Trinity University and hopes to graduate in December with a distinction.

Author Links:Facebook | Twitter | Blog |