Today it is my great pleasure to be joining the blog tour for The Body on the Shore by Nick Louth. Thanks to Ellie Pilcher at Canelo for inviting me to take part. I have a great extract to share with you all, but first let’s see what the book is all about.
About the Book
A killer is at work in the supposedly-safe commuter belt. DCI Gillard needs answers, fast…
Promising architect Peter Young is shot dead at his desk. DCI Craig Gillard is quickly on the scene, looking at what appears to be a brutal and highly professional hit: two bullets, fired with ice-cold calm.
Gillard knows that the most crucial question in solving the crime is one word: Why? Two weeks later, on the Lincolnshire coast, another body is found on a windswept beach. In this case there is no identity for the young man, just a curious brand burned into his neck….
As the mystery deepens Gillard is plunged into a case without answers, finding himself up against dark forces, people who believe in only two things: blood and a warped code of honour. This time lives are on the line, children’s lives – and his own.
Written at breakneck pace with a jaw-dropping twist you won’t see coming, the suspense-filled second DCI Gillard crime thriller is perfect for fans of Robert Bryndza, Patricia Gibney and Faith Martin.
The Body on the Shore
A damp Friday morning in January, and in the south-west London suburb of Kingston upon Thames the rush hour was at its peak. Karen Davies was running a little late. She would normally be at her desk by 8 a.m., but rain had slowed the traffic to a crawl and she was still three miles away from the office in Roosevelt Avenue, between Surbiton and Esher. It was 8.13 a.m. when she nosed her Nissan Micra into the last available slot in the small car park behind the building where she worked. She had only been working as a receptionist in the architectural practice of Hampton, Deedes, Gooding for two weeks, but she already felt that her new life was going well. She had rented an eighth-floor studio flat in Kingston, expensive but manageable, with a glimpse of the Thames. She felt much safer here than in her old home in Cape Town. She had read about a wave of stabbings in the capital, bag- and phone-snatchers on mopeds, but most of that was in inner-city areas, and still a fraction of what occurred in South Africa. Here in the Surrey commuter belt, the worst problems seemed to be traffic congestion, the continually miserable weather, and some Londoners who seemed less friendly than she had hoped.
Fortunately that wasn’t true of Hampton, Deedes, Gooding. The office was full of really engaging people, especially Peter Young. He was her favourite of the three junior partners. Always at his desk first, usually by eight o’clock, he always had a pot of coffee ready for others as they arrived. He was a handsome man in his late 20s with a shock of wavy blond hair, which contrasted nicely with his chiselled dark features and big brown eyes. Sadly, for Karen, Peter was firmly taken: a happily married man with two gorgeous children and a beautiful Peruvian wife. The family portrait on his desk looked like something from a fashion magazine. Peter always wore dazzling white shirts without a tie, tight blue jeans and highly polished shoes. Now she felt ready for a boyfriend, she would have to expand her horizons beyond work.
Karen jogged up the stairs to the first floor and let herself in. The smell of coffee filtered into her nostrils as she shrugged off her coat, shook the rain off and hung it in the closet by her desk. As she filled her mug from the still-hot coffee jug, she called out to Peter and asked him if he wanted a refill.
It was probably ten minutes later after she’d logged on, checked for any urgent emails and gathered the post that she walked into Peter’s office, coffee in hand. What she saw there made her scream loud enough to raise the dead.
Craig Gillard was the on-call detective chief inspector for that day, but as the shift didn’t begin until 9 a.m. he had taken the opportunity for a pre-work swim at the local leisure centre. He’d had the fast central lane of the pool to himself for the first hour, but now even on front crawl with tumble turns, he knew he wasn’t going to be able to finish his second kilometre. Heaving himself out, he went to the communal showers, finding the one reliably hot spigot to stand under as he considered his day. It had been a good week, his second with no boss as DCS ‘Radar’ Dobbs was still on leave of absence, and the vacancy for assistant chief constable was still unfilled. That had left him free to tackle the spate of moped robberies which had now spread out from Croydon into Surrey’s leafier suburbs. An arrest had been made in last Thursday’s knifing at Fast Chicken, and two were awaiting sentencing for a door-to-door fraud in Chipstead. That all made it a pretty successful week. As he walked to his locker, towelling his hair dry, he remembered he was taking Sam out for a meal tonight. It was the first anniversary of his marriage proposal, and he’d found a delightful Turkish restaurant in Carshalton, which had got great reviews.
But before he got there, he heard the buzz of his phone. Amplified by the metal of the locker, it sounded like some gigantic angry insect trapped in a cocoa tin. His gut instinct told him, even before he answered, that this wasn’t going to be the quiet and easy day he’d wanted, and that the long-planned anniversary was going to be put on ice.
An hour later, DCI Craig Gillard stood on the threshold of Peter Young’s office. Hampton, Deedes, Gooding, or HDG+ according to the sign outside, was now a scene of carnage. The architect was slumped face down over his drawing desk as if he was asleep, with one arm stretched out. The drawing he’d been working on was creased underneath his body, the tracing paper flecked with blood, and his desktop computer screen was tipped over on its back. The wall behind him, originally white, was sprayed crimson, at first glance like some piece of conceptual art applied with a flick from an over-filled brush. Gory runnels had made their way down to the skirting board.
The young constable who’d been first on the scene looked as sick as a dog. No wonder: even Gillard, with years of experience of murder and assault had never seen anything as heartlessly clinical as this. For PC Niall Weston, who only qualified from police college at Hendon a month ago and lived just round the corner, it was probably overwhelming. Weston had just happened to be walking past HDG+ on his way to get a bus into London for a training session when a hysterical woman burst out of the offices yelling for help.
Looking to his left Gillard could see two neat bullet holes, just over four inches apart, through both panes in the huge double-glazed window, with just an inch-wide circle of frosting around the holes. Young’s office looked over Roosevelt Avenue, one of the main roads through the suburb, and traffic noise was now filtering in through those twin fissures.
He’d have to wait for CSI before entering the room. He hadn’t let the paramedics in either. When they remonstrated with him he simply pointed to a thumb-sized lump of mauve matter that lay on the edge of the architect’s last drawing. ‘That’s a piece of his brain,’ he said. Fortunately, young Weston, having seen the victim was dead, hadn’t been in either. He’d remembered his crime scene course and secured the area as best he could until help arrived.
Gillard wouldn’t be able to tell for certain for a while, but if Young had been sitting as he was now, the holes in the glass would have been about level with his head, indicating that he couldn’t have been shot from street level. However, if he had been standing and then fallen back into his seat, which was unlikely but possible, then perhaps he was. The blood spatters on the wall were low enough to indicate the former trajectory. He couldn’t see for certain without entering the room where in that bloodstain the bullets had buried themselves. Establishing that would probably decide the debate very quickly.
The detective steepled his hands on either side of his nose and took several deep breaths to adjust to the enormity of his task. The ‘golden hour’, that important first hour after a crime is committed, was over. If this was a professional job, the perpetrators would be long gone. The evidence in front of him was safe, so the first priority was to get into the building across the street from which the shots may have been fired. He radioed in for backup and instructed Weston to get some tape to seal off the pavement outside. Gillard exited HDG+, passing a bewildered group of architects on the pavement behind the bus stop who were waiting vainly to begin the day’s work. He crossed the broad tree-lined Roosevelt Avenue at the zebra crossing and approached the shops opposite. If the assumed trajectory was correct, the only possible sites for firing the weapon were two first-floor flats, one above a kebab house and the other above a tattoo parlour.
There were two street doorways which looked like they reached the flats. The kebab house was closed, and the tattoo parlour just opening. Gillard bided his time awaiting the uniform backup which would be required to make these buildings two more potential crime scenes. While he waited he looked at the man who was moving about inside the tattoo parlour. He was a thickset fellow in his 40s with a moustache and a complicated razor-cut hairstyle. He had a sleeveless leather jacket which displayed his very large, muscular arms, decorated in an incredibly ornate monochrome. Gillard couldn’t help wondering how much, if any, of it he been able to do himself.
Sirens heralded the arrival of two carloads of uniformed police and a CSI van. Gillard directed half of them to secure the flats and shops opposite the scene of the killing, locate keyholders and stop anyone entering or leaving. The uniforms were told not to enter either flat. He radioed in and asked for someone to contact the local authority for any CCTV of the area.
The tattooist stood in the doorway of the shop, looking past the female PC who had come to speak to him, and instead asked Gillard: ‘What happened?’
‘We are investigating a serious incident opposite,’ the PC said, speaking to the tattooist’s ear. He continued to ignore her.
‘She will tell you anything you need to know at this stage,’ Gillard responded and turned away. ‘But can I ask you, do you know the people who live upstairs?’
‘Above me,’ he said pointing skyward. ‘There’s a young couple. I did a butterfly on her shoulder a couple of months ago.’
‘What about next door?’
‘I think it’s family from the kebab place.’
A male PC had rung both the doorbells and got no reply.
Within half an hour the uniforms had located the owner of the kebab shop, the landlord who owned the flat above the tattoo parlour and, by telephone, the couple who lived there. Gillard was joined by Detective Inspector Claire Mulholland and Detective Constable Colin Hodges, who’d already got the Surrey Borough of Elmbridge to put together all of its Roosevelt Avenue CCTV footage for the last 24 hours. The back entrances into both properties had been secured and all that remained was to enter them. ‘Do you think there is anyone still in there?’ asked Mulholland.
‘No,’ he replied. ‘This looks like a hit. I can’t see any chance of the perpetrator still being around.’ He looked in at the uniformed police officer, a stocky woman who he thought was called Yvonne. She was sitting in a barber’s-style chair opposite the tattooist and taking a statement. Gillard had already established that the tattooist had neither seen nor heard anything suspicious since arriving at the shop half an hour ago. In fact, nobody that the police had so far talked to claimed to have heard a shot. If it was silenced, that would further support the idea of it being a professional hit.
Well, I don’t know about you but that’s sure got me intrigued. If you’d like to read the rest of the book then it’s available now from the following retailers:
About the Author
Nick Louth is a best-selling thriller writer, award-winning financial journalist and an investment commentator. A 1979 graduate of the London School of Economics, he went on to become a Reuters foreign correspondent in 1987. It was an experience at a medical conference in Amsterdam in 1992, while working for Reuters, that gave him the inspiration for Bite, which was self-published in 2007 and went on to become the UK No. 1 Kindle best-seller for several weeks in 2014 before being snapped up by Sphere. It has sold a third of a million copies, and been translated into six languages.
Freelance since 1998, he has been a regular contributor to the Financial Times, Investors Chronicle and Money Observer, and has published seven other books. Nick Louth is married and lives in Lincolnshire.
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