Tag Archives: crime

The Tattooed Hand

Murphy sat back and rubbed his eyes, as though that would enable him to see the kid across the table in a new light.  Hard to believe this skinny, preppy streak of piss could rip a man to pieces with his bare hands but hey, here we are.

Hard but not impossible.

“Come on, kid.  Save us both a lot of time and effort.  It’ll go easier on you if you co-operate.  Make your confession.  You killed that guy; time to admit it.”

Beside the kid, a lawyer shook his head and put a finger to his lips.

“Kid?” Murphy prompted.  “We got the guy’s blood on your hands.”

The kid looked at his lap where his hands, clean now, were wrapped the one over the other.  He looked up and met the detective’s gaze.

“I already told you, I was walking past the alley when some guy rushed out, knocked me over and ran off.  That must have been how I got the blood on me and – there’s – this.”

He uncovered his hand and held it up.  Murphy took in the intricate design: a mountain of gaping, grinning skulls, with a sword at the summit.

“Nice ink,” he said flatly.  “Where’d you get it?”

“I – don’t remember.”

“Drunken night out, was it?  Wake up next day with a headache and a bunch of regrets?”

“No – no, I – don’t drink.  I’d never seen it before until your officers cleaned me up.  It was there.  Under the blood.”

Murphy’s eyes darted to the lawyer, whose pursed lips suggested the kid might be going for an insanity plea.

“That tattoo looks pretty old to me, kid.  Some of the lines are smudged and faded.”

It was true – but at the top of the pile, several of the skulls were sharp and pristine as if they had been recently added.

“I keep telling you, I don’t know how I got it.  It just – showed up.”

The lawyer leaned toward his client and murmured something the kid apparently didn’t like hearing.  In a flash, the kid leaped to his feet, his tattooed hand seized the lawyer’s throat and crushed his windpipe.  He discarded the body; the lawyer’s chin struck the table on its way to the floor.  Murphy was quick to react: he sprang back, drawing his gun.

“You better stay back, kid.  Don’t make things no worse for you.”

Uniformed cops burst in.  They grabbed the kid’s arms but he kicked out, knocking Murphy’s gun across the room.

“Your turn now, detective,” the kid cried out as he was dragged away.  “It’s your turn now!”

Murphy stooped to pick up his gun and was startled to see the kid’s tattoo blossom on the back of his hand, like blood seeping through a bandage.  At the top of the pile grinned another newly-added skull.

skulls tattoo

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New book on the loose!

Very pleased to announce the publication of my twentieth novel, the seventh case for Dedley detectives Brough and Miller, ZORILLA AT LARGE!

With an escaped animal and a serial killer on the loose, Brough, Miller and the rest of the Serious Crimes Division have never been busier. Meanwhile, foul-mouthed Chief Inspector Wheeler is swearier than ever, faced with the toughest decision of her career. The Dedley detectives are back in their seventh – and funniest – investigation.

large zorilla at largeBuy the book!

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New Book out now

I am very proud to announce the publication of my fifteenth novel COFFIN DODGERS – the fifth case for Dedley detectives Brough and Miller.

When the recently departed start getting up and walking around Dedley, the detectives of the Serious Crimes division are plunged into their most gruesome case so far. Meanwhile, Brough and his boyfriend hit a rough patch and Miller is laid low by a mysterious illness. With shocks and surprises along the way, this darkly funny story is the fifth Brough and Miller investigation, the fourth sequel to Blood & Breakfast.

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New Brough & Miller coming soon

The fourth case for Dedley detectives Brough & Miller, MURDER ON THE KNEES, is coming soon.  When members of the town’s foremost amateur dramatics society start dropping like flies, the Serious Crimes division is brought in to investigate in quite possibly their funniest whodunit to date.

Watch this space for news of its publication.

Meanwhile, catch up with previous cases here.

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Brough & Miller’s new case – a peek at my work-in-progress

Here’s a sneaky peek at the opening of my current work-in-progress, the third investigation for the detectives Brough and Miller.  Like Blood & Breakfast and Grey Ladies, it is set in Dedley, the fictionalised version of my home town, but the narrative also takes us to other locations as the full story of Brough’s past comes to light…

“And stay out!”

The landlord of the Barge Inn gave the drunk another shove for good measure.  The quicker this nuisance was away from the premises the better.  Business would not suffer; this particular berk did most of his drinking before he even set foot in the bar and then would nurse half a pint of mild all night, pestering the other patrons to keep him topped up.  No, Andy Adams considered, I don’t need the likes of him in my pub.

The nuisance collided with a folding sign that advertised ‘pub grub’.  The sign collapsed and the drunkard along with it.  Adams swore and went back indoors where the nicer people were waiting to be served.

Desmond Smith’s drunken state meant he was unable to feel injuries to anything other than his pride; he extricated himself from the sign, kicking it away and yelping as though he was being attacked by a Punch and Judy crocodile.  He managed to get himself reasonably vertical.  The lights from the pub windows seemed to be spinning like a Ferris wheel.   Desmond Smith found the contents of his stomach swishing around in sympathy with this display.  But he would never throw up; he considered that a waste of alcohol.  He steadied himself against the low wall that edged the bridge over the canal that separated the Barge from the B road.  A wave of grief overwhelmed him, buckling his legs anew.  To be barred from the Barge!  His favourite hostelry!  Its picturesque canalside setting.  Its buxom barmaids.  Its gullible clientele.

He belched loudly.  It resonated in the night air, momentarily drowning out the sounds of happy drinking bastards in the pub.

Well, fuggem, Desmond Smith grumbled.  Fuggem all.

He patted himself down, hoping to find a packet of cigarettes in one of his pockets, forgetting he had given up years ago.  Health reasons.  Bah.  Bollocks to it.  It was enough to drive a man to drink.

Drink!  Excellent idea!

And what a stroke of luck!  There’s a pub!  And not just any old pub but his favourite.

He took a step towards the Barge and wobbled on the spot, suspecting there was something about recent history he should be taking into consideration.  He stared balefully at the pub, willing it to keep still long enough for him to have a fighting chance of getting through the door.

On the low, sloped roof above the restaurant extension, flames sprang up.  A pair of small golden shapes.  Desmond Smith watched in fascination.  Another pair of fiery shapes appeared about a yard away from the first.  And then a third pair, a yard away from the second… The fourth pair appeared on the higher roof of the main building, the fifth by the chimneystack.  Desmond Smith staggered backwards trying to anticipate where a sixth pair of flames might materialise.

Unfortunately for him, he never saw them.  He backed onto the arch on the bridge.   The backs of his thighs struck the low wall.  He toppled over backwards and into the greasy water of the Dedley canal.  No one saw this accident just as no one saw the mysterious apparitions on the roof.  The drinkers tottering home after closing time all crossed the bridge in darkness, laughing, chatting and singing as the mood struck them.

It was only the next morning in the light of day when Andy Adams came out to tidy around the smokers’ picnic tables that he became aware of the body floating face downwards under the bridge.

Shit me, he thought, recognising the clothes.

He rang the police.

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More work for Brough & Miller

I am currently working on the third book in the series of crime thriller comedies that began with Blood & Breakfast.  That book was influenced, loosely, by the fad for Nordic Noir.  I’d read a Jo Nesbo.  I’d watched The Killing.  Rather than try to emulate them, I was inspired to use elements from the genre to create my own kind of story.  I’ve never been to Scandinavia – much as I’d love to go – so I set the book in a fictionalised version of my home town (Dudley) and added some Nordic elements for flavour.  And so there are references to Norse mythology (even the bed and breakfast hotel is named for Yggdrasil, the Ash Tree) and the character of Anfred was inspired by Eurovision Champion, Alexander Rybak!

I didn’t envisage the book would be the first in a series, but as it took shape, the pair of detectives became more prominent and I became more attached to them.  I wanted to give them another outing and so Grey Ladies was born.  This is a different kind of case for Brough and Miller – I think it’s important, especially with a series, not to keep writing the same book over and over again.  I’m keeping this very much in mind as I work on their third, as yet untitled, case.

I’m also striving to make each book a stand-alone story, so they can be read in any order.  But rather than having their lives reset at the beginning of each book, Brough and Miller go through life-changing experiences.  I am currently reading Let it Bleed, a Rebus novel by Ian Rankin.  There are several books before and after this one, and it’s clear the Inspector has an ongoing story as well as all the cases he tackles.  I prefer this approach to the Scooby Doo model where nothing changes about the characters (not even their clothes) and the stories are identical. If you read the Brough and Miller stories in order, you meet them as I met them.  If you dip in and out of the series, I don’t think you’re missing anything – I just hope if you read one, you’ll want to read the others too.

crimescene

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BLOOD & BREAKFAST available now!

When American scholar Cassidy Whitlow arrives in a West Midlands town to complete her thesis on the psychology of murder she finds herself caught up in a series of bizarre and grisly deaths. Who is responsible? The proprietors of her Bed & Breakfast hotel seem to know more than they are letting on – and what about the charming but mysterious beer salesman from Norway? Detective Inspector Brough and his sidekick D S Miller are baffled as each killing takes a darker and increasingly inexplicable turn. This comic thriller will keep you guessing and keep you laughing. Skal!

I tried my hand at a different genre with this one.  With Nordic Noir currently popular I thought it would be amusing to transpose the location from Scandinavia to my home town of Dudley (fictionalised as ‘Dedley’).

 

Buy the book!

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Trailer: BLOOD AND BREAKFAST

Here’s a promo I made for my forthcoming comedy/crime thriller set in a fictionalised version of my home town.

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