Friday, 25 September 2020

Have a sneak-peek between the covers of Gordon Doherty's fabulous book — Empires of Bronze: Thunder at Kadesh #HistoricalFiction @GordonDoherty

 






Empires of Bronze

Thunder at Kadesh

By Gordon Doherty

 

It will be the cruellest war ever waged, and the Gods will gather to watch…

1275 BC: Tensions between the Hittite and Egyptian Empires erupt and the two great superpowers mobilise for all-out war. Horns blare across the Hittite northlands and the dunes of Egypt rumble with the din of drums as each gathers an army of unprecedented size. Both set their eyes upon the border between their domains, and the first and most important target: a desert city whose name will toll through history. Kadesh!

Prince Hattu has lived in torment for years, plagued by the memory of his wife’s murder. Thoughts of her poisoner, Volca the Sherden – for so long safe and distant by Pharaoh Ramesses’ side – have sullied his dreams, blackened his waking hours and driven him to commit the darkest of deeds. Now that war is here, he at last has the chance to confront his nemesis and have his vengeance.

But as the ancient world goes to war, Hattu will learn that the cold, sweet kiss of revenge comes at a terrible price.


Excerpt

A Hittite ox-wagon swayed along the Way of Horus, heading deeper and deeper into Egyptian lands. Viceroy Talmi, tall as a pine, stood with one foot up on the driver’s bench, his silver-black hair – gathered in a tight ball atop his head – juddering in time with the wagon, his eyes narrowed and constantly scanning the enemy realm.

Virgin sand hugged both sides of the ancient road, stretching off to the horizon where the pale dunes met the cobalt sky in a chimeral ribbon of heat. It was a strange and suffocating sight. Even here under the vehicle’s thin linen canopy, he could feel the sun’s blistering glare on the back of his neck. Worse, the air was hot and still as a tomb – the motion of the wagon stirring not even the merest cooling breeze – and his sky-blue robe clung to him, heavy with sweat since dawn.

His parched lips moved without sound as he inwardly rehearsed the carefully-crafted proposal that he would soon put to one of the two most powerful men in the world. A proposal that might save the world. The rehearsal halted abruptly, his thoughts caught like a fly in a spider’s web on this stark truth. He felt the enormity of it all crawling over him, gathering around his throat like a strangler’s hands…

‘This heat, it is like a trick of the Gods,’ a voice croaked behind him, mercifully breaking his thoughts. ‘These southern lands are no place for a Hittite. I’m cooking like a crab.’

Talmi twisted to see his brutish bodyguard, Kantuzili, sweeping sweat from his face and bare chest. The young man’s flattened nose and shaggy mane of black hair gave him the look of a lion, and he could fight like one too.

‘Give me the ice-cold waterfalls and windy mountains of the north,’ the young soldier moaned. ‘A chilled barley beer and a whore to rub cold oil into my skin.’

‘When we return to the halls of Halpa, young sword,’ Talmi smiled, ‘I will grant you a bathing pool brimming with beer.’

He tried to return to his rehearsals, but he could feel Kantuzili’s gaze fixed on him, like a child studying an older relative’s age-lines. ‘They say you were with Prince Hattu all those years ago, on the Retenu expedition that caused all this. When Prince Hattu slew the old Pharaoh’s son, Chaset?’

Talmi felt a wry, inner smile rise, recalling his younger days when things had seemed so black and white. ‘Eighteen years ago, young sword, when I was your age and you were but a child, many things happened which should not have happened.’ Memories scampered across his mind: of the Egyptian trap in the Valley of Bones, when Pharaoh Seti, bereaved and enraged by the loss of the loathsome Chaset, had almost obliterated Prince Hattu’s small Hittite band, including Talmi and his men. He recalled the blood, the screaming, the raining arrows, the moment he and Prince Hattu had been pressed up, back-to-back, waiting for death. And then… the escape. ‘But this started long, long ago. Long before Prince Hattu’s expedition, before even the time of our fathers and grandfathers. It began the moment the Hittite and Egyptian Empires first swelled and pressed up like great millstones against the land of Retenu, each desperate to make that middle-ground and its precious tin routes their own. If anything, both have done well to avoid war for so many centuries…’

Kantuzili peered southwards, massaging the blue eye tattoo on his thumb. ‘The new Pharaoh, Ramesses,’ he said with a tune of hope, ‘he will agree to a lasting peace… won’t he?’

Talmi did not reply. Ramesses had been there in the Valley of Bones. A mere boy, driving Seti’s chariot. What had he grown to become? Once more, he began to mouth his rehearsal.

The wagon rumbled on through the great sand sea during the early afternoon. When the track bent southwest, everything changed. The silvery heat mirage ahead bulged, and a mighty shape emerged like a whale suddenly rising from a calm ocean.

‘Goddess Arinniti,’ Kantuzili gasped, rising, clutching Talmi and the driver’s shoulders and staring at the enormous baked-mud bastion ahead, at its soaring towers and monumental pylon gates, thickly patrolled by black-wigged archers. A sparkling moat hugged the foot of the walls like a jewelled collar.

‘Tjaru Fortress,’ Talmi said quietly, eyes narrowing, ‘Pharaoh’s royal armoury and stepping-stone into Retenu.’ A tap-tap of hammers and chisels rang out from within its thick walls – the noise of industry, of the great military factory in Tjaru’s vast grounds. Talmi and Kantuzili stared at the sea of soldiers serried on a dusty parade area north of the fortress: block after block of veteran spearmen and archers, fawn-skinned, clad in bronze headdresses and linen kilts. They marched, turned, twisted, roared and rushed to and fro in mock combat to the rising wail of horns and booming drums. Thousands upon thousands of them, and Talmi knew this was but a scrap of the manpower Pharaoh Ramesses had raised. Rumours were widespread of intense recruitment at Elephantine Fortress far to the south, swelling his three great armies. Some even said Ramesses was constructing a fourth army. There were also whispers of a great chariot factory at Memphis, producing four immense fleets of war-cars to speed alongside each of the armies. An empire prepared. A prelude to war.

A stony-faced Tjaru watchman stepped out from the shadow of the fortress and approached the wagon with a trio of comrades, regarding them with baleful, kohl-lined eyes. Talmi showed the watchman the tablet he carried and the Hittite royal seal upon it. The sentries let them through – but insisted on an escort of twenty menfyt spearmen. These burly Egyptian veterans jogged alongside the wagon, their pale blue and white linen headdresses bobbing in time, their hands never far from the hilts of their khopesh swords. An escort not to protect the Hittite embassy, but to watch them carefully for any signs of treachery.

‘It is them. The Wretched Fallen Ones,’ Talmi heard one Egyptian soldier whisper to a comrade, ‘the cowsons of the north.’

They did not know that Prince Hattu had taught him their tongue, Talmi realised.

‘They clamber across rocks like flies, and eat raw meat in the snow like wolves,’ spat another.

‘What do you think Mighty Pharaoh will do with them?’ said a third. The one he asked merely cast a sly glance back at Talmi, then looked away with the beginnings of a smirk…

Pick up your copy of
Empires of Bronze

Add Empires of Bronze to your 'to-read' list on 




Gordon Doherty


I'm a Scottish writer, addicted to reading and writing historical fiction. My love of history was first kindled by visits to the misty Roman ruins of Britain and the sun-baked antiquities of Turkey and Greece.

 My expeditions since have taken me all over the world and back and forth through time (metaphorically, at least), allowing me to write tales of the later Roman Empire, Byzantium, Classical Greece and even the distant Bronze Age.

Connect with Gordon:

Publication Date: 24th September 2020
Publisher: www.gordondoherty.co.uk
Page Length: 464 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction






Thursday, 24 September 2020

Become a #BlogTour Host with The Coffee Pot Book Club #BlogTours #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalRomance

 Do you love Blogging and talking about Historical Fiction?




The Coffee Pot Book Club is looking for Historical Fiction bloggers just like you to become blog hosts for our tours.

If you like to read, review or simply talk about Historical Fiction on your blog, then why not become a blog host for The Coffee Pot Book Club?

Benefits:

·       You will meet some fabulous authors and their books.
·       You will have a chance to read and review some wonderful books.
·  You will be part of a team of like-minded individuals (who all love Historical Fiction).
·       *If you are a Historical Fiction author and are also a Coffee Pot Tour Host, you will receive 20% of the prices of the Coffee Pot Tours.
·       You will receive a really cool Coffee Pot Tour Host badge to add to the sidebar of your blog.

If you are interested in becoming a tour host or would like more information, then please contact Mary Anne HERE! 



* Terms and Conditions apply.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Welcome to Day #6 of the blog tour for Drake: Tudor Corsair #HistoricalFiction #SirFrancisDrake #CoffeePotBookClub @ADarnGoodRead @tonyriches

 



Drake - Tudor Corsair

(The Elizabethan Series Book 1)

By Tony Riches


 

1564

 

Devon sailor Francis Drake sets out on a journey of adventure.

 

Drake learns of routes used to transport Spanish silver and gold, and risks his life in an audacious plan to steal a fortune.

 

Queen Elizabeth is intrigued by Drake and secretly encourages his piracy. Her unlikely champion becomes a national hero, sailing around the world in the Golden Hind and attacking the Spanish fleet.

 

King Philip of Spain has enough of Drake’s plunder and orders an armada to threaten the future of England.

 

Today, we are stopping over on

A Darn Good Read for a fabulous review.

 

Click HERE!




Have a sneak-peek between the covers of Cara Delvin's fabulous book — The Trouble We Keep #WesternRomance #Romance @CaraDevlinBooks

 






The Trouble We Keep

A Second Chance Western Romance
By Cara Devlin

A broken promise brought her West.

A willful heart will fight to keep her there.


Newly pregnant, alone, and a fugitive from the law, Emma Wheat has run out of time.


Though her brother promised to send for her from one of the mining boomtowns out west, he never did. And now, after doing whatever it took to survive on her own—no matter how shameful—Emma has no choice but to flee on a westward train, bound for her brother’s last known location.


What she finds in Williams, Arizona only stokes more questions. Surly saloon owner Dean Morelli claims Emma’s brother robbed him and ran—and he’s not so certain Emma is any more trustworthy. But Dean isn’t all bluster and gloom. The longer Emma stays on to find her brother and prove his innocence, the more willing Dean is to show her his softer side—though her secrets continue to stand between them.


Emma knew escaping her past wouldn’t be easy. When the man she fears most steps off a train and threatens the new life she’s building, she’ll have to trust in herself, and in the kind of love she never dreamed possible, in order to face her future.


Praise for The Trouble We Keep



“Excellent writing here and tip top research … a nice exploration of the human spirit and tenacity.”

Rachel McMillan, author of The London Restoration

Excerpt



The pretty, brown-haired girl from the night before was called Brianna. She lingered at the massive crock of peanuts in the kitchen, slowly filling a few empty baskets for the barroom tables while stealing glances toward the sink where I stood with my arms elbow deep in soapy water. Throughout the evening, I’d heard a few of the other barmaids—Velma, Marty, and another girl whose name I couldn’t remember—call her that, and I was glad to have a name to go with the only girl so far who had smiled at me. A genuine, curious smile. And I suspected she was hanging around the kitchen, taking her sweet time with the peanuts, in order to speak to me.

Her dark, curly hair hung loosely around her shoulders, which was made only more indecent by the fact that they were bare. Her white frilly, capped sleeves fell just below her shoulders. I’d seen more flesh exposed than that, but still…this girl seemed so young and innocent with the way her big, doe-like eyes kept peeking up at me from her now overfilled peanut basket. I couldn’t help but think that she didn’t belong here anymore than I had belonged at Ms. Lewis’s.
 
“I think you have enough,” I said before dipping a tall ale glass in the rinse water and then setting it on the drying rack.

Brianna’s hand froze mid-scoop, and she let the peanuts roll back down her palm and into the crock again. She brushed her hands together, a shy smile creeping across her red cheeks.

“I think you’re right,” she said. “Sorry. I got distracted, which shouldn’t surprise me none, since I feel like I’m always getting distracted by one thing or another.”

She let out a sweet laugh and picked up the baskets, heaped with peanut shells.

“What’s distracting you?” I asked. She paused, her eyebrows raised as if surprised I’d asked. After three conversations today that had ended in total frustration, I was ready to speak to someone who posed no threat. 

“Oh, it ain’t nothing, really.” She propped a peanut basket against each of her curved hips. “It’s just that…well, I heard you talking yesterday, and you sounded like you was from the east.”

I scrubbed out another glass and nodded. “Washington, D.C.”

Brianna gave a small gasp and loosened her grip on the peanut baskets. The crest of each heap avalanched, and shells scattered over the floorboards.

“Are you all right?” I set the glass back in the sudsy water and went to help her clean up.

We were both crouched down and reaching for shells when Dean kicked open the swinging door and came in with another flat rack of glasses.

“What the—” Dean growled. “Brianna, what the hell? You’ve been in here filling those baskets for five minutes. Come on, those guys out there need salt. The thirstier they are, the more they drink. Now let’s go.”

Brianna stood so fast she ended up spilling another layer of peanuts. I straightened up and helped her steady her arms before she whipped through the kitchen and out into the barroom. I pinned Dean with an exasperated glare before going back to the sink. 

He set the rack down with more vigor than necessary. “What’s that look supposed to mean? The two of you’ve been in here running your gums the whole time, am I right?”

“No, you aren’t right, believe it or not.” I snatched back up the glass I’d been scrubbing, also with more vigor than necessary.

“Brianna was only trying to talk to me. You didn’t have to yell at her for it.”

Dean snorted. “What would she want to talk to you about?”

I hated the way he acted as if whatever I said was trivial. That I was trivial. The cloth squeaked along the inside of the glass tumbler as I scrubbed harder.

“Is it so impossible to believe that someone might want to speak to me? That someone might want to actually be nice and ask me where I’m from?”

His dark brows pinched together as he lowered his chin and pressed his lips thin. I realized I’d stopped washing the glass in order to glare at him again, so I quickly turned back to the soapy water and the glass in my clenched palm. 

“Never mind,” I murmured. “You don’t have the luxury of giving a damn about anyone but yourself.” I glanced up at him. “Or so I’m told.”

My cheeks, already hot with frustration, warmed with more heat. Ladies don’t use foul language. I had made so many mistakes today.

Dean stood by the sink, his hands on the hips of his dark brown canvas trousers, the pockets of his stained waist apron hanging low with money. My own string purse was tied out of sight, around my thigh. I didn’t dare leave it behind in my room.

“You have a sharp memory. Lucky me.” His humorless sarcasm pricked under my skin.

I ignored him and rinsed the tumbler, then set it on the drying rack with the others.

“Where are you from?” Dean finally said.

“You don’t care.”

“I’m asking, aren’t I?”

“Don’t bother.” I grabbed another glass from the new rack he’d brought in. “You don’t need to pretend.”

Dean slammed his fist down onto the counter. The vibration caused the last dried tumbler to tip off the drying rack and break on the countertop. “Just tell me where you’re from already.”

Another urge to shout right back at Dean bubbled to the surface, but I pressed it back. Angry men were dangerous. I’d learned that with Joe McGalvern. Just the thought of him brought up a flare of sweat between my shoulder blades. 

I reached for the shards of glass and frowned when my hand shook.

“Washington,” I answered softly, tensing my hand to stop its trembling. I hissed as one of the shards pierced my palm. I opened my hand, the shards falling to the counter again. A short slice beaded with blood.

Dean swore under his breath and took one of the clean linen towels from a stack next to the sink.

“Give me your hand,” he said.

“I can take care of it myself,” I replied, reaching for the towel.

He gritted his jaw and gave me the towel. As I dabbed at the blood, Dean picked up the shards and tossed them into the trash.

“I’m sorry,” he said softly. So quietly it took me a moment to understand what he’d said.

“For what?”

“Shouting,” he answered. I bit the inside of my lip. So then, he’d seen my hand shaking. “I have a temper.”

I brought my palm up to inspect the newest wound. “So I’ve noticed.”

“I’m working on it.”

Maybe he was. But what was it to me? 

“Territory?” he asked.

I turned for the trashcan behind me. “What?”

“Washington territory? Or D.C.?”

I closed my palm around the towel, and I winced at the pain. “The capitol.”

Dean’s eyes shifted toward the barroom. He’d been in here for longer than he’d planned, most likely. And what did it matter to him where I was from?

“Do you have a bandage?” I asked.

He nodded and with his hands still on his hips, hooked his chin toward the barroom. “Out here.”

I followed him, though his sudden silence was confusing. Was he just contrite for shouting at me? Velma was behind the bar, serving drinks in his absence. I didn’t know what to make of him as he reached under the long counter and grabbed a tin box. He extended the box to me, and with the towel still wrapped around my injured hand, I took it and turned for the kitchen door.

“Emma?” 

The male voice stopped me in my tracks. I whipped around and saw the banker from Williams Savings & Loan sliding an elbow onto the glossy wood. He grinned, though his golden brows were pressed together in confusion.

“We met earlier today,” he said when I continued to gape at him.

“Yes, I remember,” I said, fumbling with the dented tin box Dean had given me. How on earth would a woman be able to forget a face so handsome?

Dean took one of the dozens of shot glasses from a rack under the bar and slammed it onto the counter next to the banker’s arm. “Was this before or after you twisted your ankle?” he asked to me.

“Before,” I bit out, instantly irritated. 

The banker leaned forward, as if to peer at my injured ankle. “Are you all right?”

“She’s fine.” Dean braced his hand on the counter, his muscled arm blocking the banker’s view. “What do you want?”

The banker straightened and tugged the brim of his hat. Apparently, men didn’t need to take them off inside a place like Grant’s Pass.

“A proper introduction,” he replied, still looking at me. “I’m afraid I failed at that earlier. I’m Adam Kelly.”

Dean peered over his shoulder at me, eyebrow raised. I ignored him, my cheeks warming.
“Emma Leigh Wheat,” I said, pausing between my two first names.

Adam grinned. “Yes, I know.”

I blushed harder. “Of course. Right.”

Dean slid his arm from the counter and turned, slowly, to face me. I expected a barked order to get back to work. Instead, a thunderous expression darkened his eyes and flared his nostrils.

“Wheat?” he said.

I’d already told him my last name. Hadn’t I?  

He took my arm and spun me around on his way to the kitchen door. “Come with me,” he said, tugging me along. I nearly tripped over my own feet as we went through the swinging door. He yanked me to a stop, looking ready to breathe fire. “Your last name’s Wheat? And you’re from D.C.?”

I clutched the tin box to my chest. “This is you working on your temper?”

“You got a brother?” he asked, ignoring the jab.

My muscles went soft, and I lowered the tin box. “Jimmy. Do you know him?”

He took a few steps back and raked his hand through his hair.

The kitchen door swung open and the banker, Adam Kelly, entered. His had his hands raised as if Dean were aiming a pistol at him. The black glare he sent the banker made me think he was considering it.

“Get out of here, Kelly. Employees only.”

Adam huffed a laugh. But then his humor vanished. He winced. “You work here?” he asked me. 

“I’m washing dishes,” I replied.

“Not anymore,” Dean said, still looking as if he was chewing a piece of leather. “You’re fired.”

I gaped at him. “I’m fired? What for?”

“For being related to that lying, no-good thief. Your brother broke into my safe and stole every last penny I had in there.”


Pick up your copy of


The Trouble We Keep


Add The Trouble We Keep to 


your 'to-read' list on


 

Goodreads




Cara Devlin



Cara is an author, history lover, and Netflix junkie. She loves to read and write across genres but has a particular fascination with historical fiction—especially when romance is involved. Her newest book, THE TROUBLE WE KEEP, is a romantic historical fiction novel set in 1901 Arizona. When she’s not writing, she’s either freelance editing, driving her kids everywhere, burning at least one side of a grilled cheese, or forgetting to fold a basket of laundry.


Connect with Cara:







Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Welcome to Day #1 of the blog tour for The Sign of the Blood (A Dangerous Emperor, Book #1) by Laurence O'Bryan #BlogTour #BookReview @LPOBryan @Beatric09625662

 



The Sign of the Blood

(A Dangerous Emperor, Book #1)

By Laurence O'Bryan



The first Christian emperor faces ruthless enemies on his journey to power.

Cool mist settles over the legion advancing toward the Persian army. Constantine, the son of an emperor, the Roman officer leading the attack, tells his men to halt - something is wrong.

Before long, the battle rages. He frees a slave named Juliana. She is half Persian and half Roman. As they are pursued to Britannia over land and sea, he learns that she can see the future - his future.

It is 306A.D., long before Constantine the Great converted to Christianity and became the first Christian emperor.

To ensure he survives, he must eliminate his enemies. But who must die first? The priestess, Sybellina, who joined them in Rome and practices dark and seductive magic? Or the brutal legion commanders who surround his father? Or, as Juliana suspects, are those who want him dead even closer?

A gripping historical novel about Constantine’s bloody rise to power, the woman who helped him, and the real reason he supported a persecuted Christian minority, a decision which changed the world into the one we know. 


Today we are stopping over on Candlelight Reading for a fabulous review. 



Click HERE!










 

Take a sneak-peek between the coves of Claire Evan's fabulous book — The Graves of Whitechapel #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalThriller @claireevans113

 





The Graves of Whitechapel

By Claire Evans



In the gripping new novel by the author of The Fourteenth Letter, a lawyer in Victorian London must find a man he got off a murder charge - and who seems to have killed again . . .

Victorian London, 1882. Five years ago, crusading lawyer Cage Lackmann successfully defended Moses Pickering against a charge of murder. Now, a body is found bearing all the disturbing hallmarks of that victim - and Pickering is missing. Did Cage free a brutal murderer?

Cage's reputation is in tatters, and worse, he is implicated in this new murder by the bitter detective who led the first failed case. Left with no other alternative, Cage must find Pickering to prove his innocence.

His increasingly desperate search takes him back to the past, to a woman he never thought to see again, and down into a warren of lies and betrayals concealed beneath Holland Park mansions and the mean streets of Whitechapel - where a murderer, heartbreak and revenge lie in wait.



Excerpt

 


Detective Jack Cross filled the doorway, silhouetted against the icy sun. Cage wrapped his arms about his chest as he shivered. ‘What is the meaning of this?’ The words sounded false even to him. The high dudgeon of a respectable man, his privacy grossly invaded.

The detective ignored his question and crossed the threshold. The constables that followed behind him seemed agitated, ready for something. This was bad. ‘Right, lads. You know what you’re looking for, so go and look.’

 

The three men immediately sprang into action. Two of them left the room to explore the rest of the house while the third remained in the office, opening drawers and cabinets and rifling through the contents.

 

Cage ran a hand through his hair. ‘You have a warrant?’

 

Cross snapped a piece of paper in Cage’s face before flinging himself into the chair behind the desk. ‘Light the fire, Lackmann. It’s freezing in here. We may be some time.’

 

The questions crowded in, but Cage knelt by the fire, aware that it was a submissive pose to strike before the dominating form of Jack Cross. Cage didn’t pretend to fight those kinds of battles, not with men like Cross, who could snap his neck like a chicken’s if he wanted to. And Jack Cross had always wanted to.

 

Cage took his time with the fire, making a show if it, of how composed he was, despite the stamp of boots from overhead as the search continued. Cross remained silent, too, looking pleased with himself, even though he clearly had a secret he was burning to share. Cage didn’t like other people’s secrets any more than his own. He stood up. Cross wasn’t going to spill until Cage showed an interest.

 

‘So, want to tell me what you’re looking for? Maybe I can help.’

 

‘It’s all there.’ Cross nodded towards the warrant on Cage’s desk. He wasn’t going to make this easy.

 

Cage picked up the paper and pulled a chair towards the fire, bumping into the constable as he did so. ‘My apologies.’ Ridiculous, in his own house, for God’s sake.

 

Cross ordered the man to search the small scullery at the back, leaving the two of them alone as Cage read through the warrant documentation, a licence to search the Whitechapel chambers of one Micajah Lackmann. Everything was in order, although the purpose of the search was stated merely as ‘Missing Person.’ Cage frowned when he saw the judge’s signature: Henry Jacobs. After yesterday’s win, Jacobs would not have been easily persuaded to sign this, not without just cause. Cage read the warrant once more, slowly this time, hoping a more original question would occur to him than the glaringly obvious, but it didn’t.

 

‘So, who’s missing?’

 

‘Moses Pickering.’

 

Cage nodded, although he had no idea why. He turned back to the fire. It was beginning to take, but he grabbed the poker from its hook and prodded the smouldering pile anyway. ‘I haven’t seen Moses Pickering for five years.’

 

‘I thought you’d say that.’

 

‘You don’t believe me.’

 

‘Actually,’ said Cross, leaning forward across the desk, as if he owned the place, ‘I think that’s entirely possible.’

 

‘Then why are you here, Jack?’ Cage looked around at the open drawers, papers dropped carelessly to the floor. ‘Did you imagine I had him neatly filed away under P?’

 

When Cross smiled, his mouth turned downwards. It reminded Cage just how much this man hated him. In the silence, the hate was all there was.

 

Cage stooped to collect some of the papers from the floor. ‘Why are you looking for Pickering?’ He shuffled the documents into some kind of order, pretending to look at them. ‘A missing person is beneath you, surely.’

 

Cross produced a slim envelope from somewhere within his thick wool coat and slapped it on the desk. He was enjoying laying this trail of breadcrumbs and leading Cage by the nose. Cage picked up the envelope and felt within, pulling out a half dozen or so of what must have been freshly printed photographs, the chemicals still emitting a thick odour.

 

Cage looked at the first one, a stark image of a small attic bedroom. He could make out a wooden floor, a stool on its side and an unmade single bed, sheets and pillows piled on top. A small leaded window cast a grid of light across the scene; the rest was in shadow. ‘What is this?’ he asked, bored of the policeman’s games now. He wanted that pot of tea, then more wine maybe.

 

Cross shrugged. ‘A crime scene.’

 

Cage asked, genuinely curious, ‘You are using photographers now?’

 

‘Obviously. The twentieth century is on its way, Lackmann. Even at Scotland Yard.’

 

Cage turned to the second photograph. The camera had been moved a yard or so to the right, and now Cage could see a lower leg protruding from the far side of the bed, the foot twisted at an awkward angle. It meant only one thing. Cage stared at the photograph for some time, arranging his thoughts.

 

‘There’s more to see, Lackmann. Don’t spare yourself.’

 

Cage needed to sit down. He returned to the fire and looked at the next photograph in the pile. A body laid out on the floor, a sheet twisted loosely around it, an abundance of fair hair obscuring the head from the camera’s position at the base of the bed. In the next photograph, the hair had been gently pulled back, revealing a delicate nose and a darkly painted mouth beneath. The camera had moved in close for this shot, leaving its tripod behind. The image was alarmingly detailed. Cage could see the open pores on the girl’s skin, and the ends of her hair beginning to fray. A part of Cage’s brain marvelled at the technology. But the other part of his brain had snagged on something in this picture of a dead young woman. Something wasn’t right. When he realised what it was, he turned quickly to the last photograph, and the truth caught in his lungs.

 

Before him was a vulgar close-up of the face he had glimpsed in the previous image. The blonde hair lay off to one side, replaced by short black tufts. The dark lashes, lined with kohl, cast butterfly shadows on the white skin beneath, and around the mouth, with its perfectly painted Cupid’s bow, was an unmistakable rash of barely-there stubble.

 

Now he understood why Cross was here, and why Jacobs had signed that warrant.

 

He shuffled the photographs back into the envelope. ‘You think Pickering did this?’

 

Cross actually laughed. ‘Of course not. Why would I connect two dead fifteen-year-old boys, found five years apart, painted like whores, wearing identical wigs and strangled to death in their own beds? What a ridiculous notion, Lackmann.’

 

‘Pickering was found innocent.’

 

Cross was in his face immediately. ‘Then why has the weaselly bastard disappeared, eh?’

 


 

Pick up your copy of

The Graves of Whitechapel

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Claire Evans



Claire Evans divides her time between writing and her job as Chief Operating Officer at Two Brothers Pictures Ltd, the television production company behind Fleabag, Liar and Baptiste.

 

She lives in London with her partner.