Today it is my great pleasure to be taking part in the Bloody Scotland blog tour celebrating all of the books longlisted for this year’s McIlvanney prize. While there can sadly only be one winner, there are some absolutely cracking books being featured over the next two weeks, so make sure to keep up with the tour as we count down to the main event.
I have a brilliant extract to share with you all from Neil Broadfoot’s No Man’s Land, the first in a brand new series featuring Close Protection Specialist, Connor Fraser. Here’s what the book is all about:
About the Book
War is coming to No-Man’s Land, and Connor Fraser will be ready.Available From: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Google Play | Apple Books
A mutilated body is found dumped at Cowane’s Hospital in the heart of historic Stirling. For DCI Malcolm Ford it’s like nothing he’s every seen before, the savagery of the crime making him want to catch the murderer before he strikes again. For reporter Donna Blake it’s a shot at the big time, a chance to get her career back on track and prove all the doubters wrong. But for close protection specialist Connor Fraser it’s merely a grisly distraction from the day job.
But then a bloodied and broken corpse is found, this time in the shadow of the Wallace Monument – and with it, a message. One Connor has received before, during his time as a police officer in Belfast.
With Ford facing mounting political and public pressure to make an arrest and quell fears the murders are somehow connected to heightened post-Brexit tensions, Connor is drawn into a race against time to stop another murder. But to do so, he must question old loyalties, confront his past and unravel a mystery that some would sacrifice anything – and anyone – to protect.
From Dundee International Book Prize and Bloody Scotland book of the year nominee Neil Broadfoot comes No Man’s Land, the first in the white-knuckle Connor Fraser series.
From The Book
The splash-back from the toilet bowl peppered cold water across his burning face. It only increased the roiling in his guts and he retched again, vomit made acid by the vodka he had drunk earlier to steady his nerves spattering the bowl. He felt his pulse hammer in his temples, vision pulsing in time with his heart. Drew a shaking hand across his mouth as he took ragged, hitching breaths. Fought for control, screwed his eyes shut, dark sparks dancing across his vision, and focused on his breathing. Then, in that darkness, the memory. That call. Cold. Remote. Businesslike.
His eyes snapped open and he doubled over once more as his empty stomach spasmed. He felt an incredible pressure build in his head, as though it were about to explode. Dimly, he hoped it would. After a moment, he collapsed, chest heaving, his back against the wall of the office en-suite.
At first, he had thought he would be okay. The call had come just after eleven a.m., directly to an anonymous pre-paid mobile to which only the caller had the number. The message had been, like the voice, cold and efficient, with just a hint of something darker beneath the cultured tones.
‘It’s done. Check the news. You should be very happy.’
The call ended before he could say anything. Not that he could speak at that moment. He stared at the phone, a suddenly alien thing in his hand that radiated a numbing cold. He nodded and cleared his throat, horrified at the tickle of laughter that bubbled inside him, then stole a glance at his office door and his assistant, who sat just beyond.
He pocketed the phone, smoothed the lines of his suit and walked to the door, his face contorting into a well-rehearsed smile. It wasn’t hard. He’d been living behind a mask for the last twenty-five years.
‘I’ve got a conference call on some casework,’ he said, in the measured tone he had perfected years ago. ‘Can you hold all calls and see I’m not disturbed, please?’
‘Of course,’ Margaret said, blinking up at him from behind thick glasses. She had been beautiful when they met – young, vibrant, flawless. Now the years had etched thin lines into her waxy skin, twisted
her elegant hands into gnarled twigs and slackened a jaw that had once been firm. He used to lust after her. Now he pitied her.
He retreated into his office, made sure the blinds were angled for privacy, then went to the cupboard beneath the wall-mounted TV. He took out the bottle of vodka and one of the crystal tumblers stacked neatly beside it. Poured a large measure, took bottle and glass back to his desk, loosened his tie and gazed dumbly around the room. The enormity of what had happened seemed to scream at him in the silence. It’s done.
He felt the numbness recede, like the tide going out on a forgotten beach, as panic rose. He took another mouthful of vodka and held it in his mouth for a moment, willing it to burn away the rising terror.
He swallowed, spotted the TV remote on his desk and watched his hand drift to it as though it wasn’t connected to him. It’s done. Check the news.
He didn’t want to. To see it splashed across the TV would make this nightmare real. Of course he had had no choice, been forced to act by the greed, short-sightedness and self-serving arrogance of others but still . . . It’s done. Check the news.
He stabbed at the remote. The TV flared into life and he turned the volume down. It defaulted to the internal TV channel: a floridfaced man with bad teeth and worse hair was lecturing a sparse, uninterested audience on a topic only he was interested in. He flicked to the news channel and his breath caught when he saw the caption:
‘Breaking news: murder in Stirling.’
A striking woman with perfect make-up, her expression grave, spoke into the camera: ‘. . . was made at approximately six o’clock this morning. Police have confirmed this was a sustained and brutal attack.’
He fumbled for his glass, felt the veneer of control crack as the camera cut to the police tape strung across the entrance to Cowane’s Hospital, the white SOCO tents visible just beyond. The camerapulled back, the reporter taking full frame.
‘I understand the post-mortem examination will begin shortly, to ascertain both cause of death and the identity of the victim.’
With that, the dam broke and the terror surged. He lurched for the en-suite, the vomit exploding out of him almost before he’d had the chance to raise the toilet seat. It was as though his body was trying to expel not just the vodka but a lifetime of guilt and lies. Now he slumped in front of the toilet in the office he had given so much for, the office that had ultimately led to the death of the man on the screen. The man who, as the reporter had just said, would shortly be identified. The man who would not be the last to die in Stirling in the days to come.
An extract taken from: No Man’s Land (Little Brown) by Neil Broadfoot
Longlisted for The McIlvanney Prize 2019. Winner to be announced at the Bloody Scotland opening night reception on Friday 20 September. For festival tickets and information http://www.bloodyscotland.com
This is Broadfoot’s best to date, a thriller that delivers the thrills: energetic, breathlessly pacey and keeping you guessing till the end — Craig Russell
Great set of characters, wonderfully grisly and grim, and a cracking pace. Top stuff! — James Oswald
A deliciously twisty thriller that never lets up the pace. Thrills, spills, chills and kills — Donna Moore
A frantic, pacy read with a compelling hero — Steve Cavanagh
An author on the top of his game * Crime Fiction Lover *
About the Author
Neil Broadfoot worked as a journalist for 15 years at both national and local newspapers, including The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Evening News, covering some of the biggest stories of the day. A poacher turned gamekeeper, he has since moved into communications: providing media relations advice for a variety of organisations, from emergency services to high-profile sporting clubs in Scotland.
Neil is married to Fiona and a father to two girls, meaning he’s completely outnumbered in his own home. He lives in Dunfermline, the setting for his first job as a local reporter. Falling Fast, which was shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize, is his first novel.
His new Stirling-set series, which begins with No Man’s Land and features close protection expert Connor Fraser, has been hailed as “tense, fast moving and bloody” and “atmospheric twisty and explosive”. The sequel, No Place To Die, is out in hardback in September.
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About Bloody Scotland
Bloody Scotland is Scotland’s International Crime Writing Festival, providing a showcase for the best crime writing from Scotland and the world, unique in that it was set up by a group of Scottish crime writers in 2012. The festival uses a number of atmospheric, historic venues in Stirling’s Old Town setting it apart from other literary festivals. Full information & tickets at www.bloodyscotland.com