Posted in Author Interview

The Last Thread by Ray Britain #AuthorPost

I’m starting the week with something special this week. Ray Britain a former Police Officer published his first book in the DCI Doug Stirling series yesterday, The Last Thread arriving a little ahead of the original schedule. I will of course be reviewing the book very soon, but in the meantime I will hand over to Ray to tell you more. I’m sure I won’t be the only crime fiction lover who will be excited to read a book from someone in the know!


Accused of pushing a boy to his death in a failed suicide intervention, DCI Doug Stirling is suspended from duty. Attacked in the media and haunted by the boy’s smile as he let go of Stirling’s hand, he must look on helplessly as an incompetent colleague intent on destroying him investigates the boy’s death, supported by the vindictive Deputy Chief Constable, McDonald.

Weeks later, an anonymous call leads the police to a remote location and the discovery of a burnt out car containing the body of an unidentified man who has been savagely murdered. Short of experienced senior investigators, ACC Steph Tanner has no choice but to take a professional risk. Throwing Stirling the lifeline he needs to restore his reputation, Tanner appoints him as SIO to lead the investigation.

But with no witnesses, no forensic evidence and more theories than investigators, Stirling’s investigation has far too many ‘loose threads’ as he uncovers a complex, interwoven history of deception, betrayal and sadistic relationships. Was the victim connected to the crime scene? Is the murder as complex as it appears? Or is there a simpler explanation?
Still traumatised by the boy’s death and with time the enemy, does Stirling still have what it takes to bring the killer, or killers, to justice before McDonald intervenes?

Things are already difficult enough when DC Helen Williams joins the investigation, a determined woman who seems intent on rekindling their past relationship. And is Ayesha, the beautiful lawyer Stirling has grown fond of, connected to the murder somehow? Amazon


Interview with Ray Britain

Author of ‘The Last Thread’
ISBN: 978-1-9998122-0-1 (Amazon)

So, who is Ray Britain?

A fair question. I was a police officer in the United Kingdom with a varied career in uniform and detective roles and completed my career in a high rank, but the investigation of crime and the camaraderie amongst detectives remained my preference. As a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) I led complex crime investigations, some of which engaged discreet national capabilities. For many years I was also a police Negotiator.

Okay, so why the pen name?

For reasons of personal and family security I use the pen name of Ray Britain because, over the years, I locked up many criminals but not all of them seemed to understand it was their actions that led to their imprisonment. Also, as my career progressed I was increasingly involved in discreet, national law enforcement capabilities which I cannot discuss. (The Official Secrets Act still applies!)

You were a police negotiator?

Yes. The full title is Hostage & Crisis Intervention Negotiator. In the UK it’s a voluntary role, over and above the ‘day job’ – one’s day to day responsibilities – and often meant being ‘called out’ of a warm bed to support police colleagues faced with a variety of difficult situations.

Such as?

That’s one of the attractions of the role, you never knew what your next deployment might be. Often, it was negotiating with someone to surrender to armed officers and avoid being killed. More frequently, it was negotiating with people intent on taking their own lives. Less often it was to negotiate the release of hostages being held at gunpoint or other weapons. In the UK, except for a relatively small number of highly trained specialist firearms officers, police officers perform their duties unarmed. One of the few countries in the world still to do so, and long may it continue.

Tell us about your principle character, DCI Douglas Stirling?

Doug Stirling is a thoughtful, reflective character, notoriously private with an intriguing, untold back story. He expects his people to work hard but works harder still. Stirling is easily drawn to intelligent, interesting women which can cause complications if his private life conflicts with the demands of his professional responsibilities. Women find Stirling attractive and interesting but can be frustrated by his reserve and his avoidance of emotional commitment.

And the lead female characters?

There are four prominent female characters, all with strong personalities. The book contains adult themes but to say more would spoil the story.

Why did you write ‘The Last Thread’?

I’ve always wanted to write a book and the common advice is to stick with what you know. There were other reasons too. As a professional investigator, I’m often frustrated by the inaccurate and improbable representation of crime investigation in the many television dramas that enter our homes each evening. Whatever the complexity of the crime, they are solved within impossible time frames with the most sophisticated technology seemingly always available. It provides entertainment, of course, but frequently misleads and raises public expectation beyond what is always achievable, in reality. Like all aspects of the public sector, the police service is cash strapped and must operate within tight, and tightening budgets.

How accurate is your story to real investigations?

Very! From the need to work with limited resources, often with dated equipment and in accommodation that’s often inadequate or well past it’s ‘best by’ date, right down to aspects of internal and external political pressures that any SIO can expect to work with in leading his or her investigation.

What’s the story behind your latest book?

Everything is drawn from my professional experiences, or as observed through the investigations of colleagues. Apart from drawing on memories of my Father, my characters are fictitious but they are informed by some of the people I’ve had the privilege to work alongside.

So where can I buy The Last Thread?

It’s available as an eBook at both Amazon and Smashwords.

What was the best and worst part of writing?

The best part is getting the story out of my head and onto the page, plotting its twists and turns and the red herrings to make it interesting for the reader. The worst bit is editing and proof reading! However, it allowed me to strip out irrelevant stuff and, hopefully, made it a better read.

How did you approach the cover design?

I wanted something that was moody, hinted at the sinister theme of the story line and made the reader curious to find out more. I found a local photographer I could work with and, together, we constructed the image you see. I hope you like it as much as I do.

What do you read for pleasure?

I like good crime fiction that reflects real world and is grounded in reality. Some plots are so fantastical that I don’t complete the book. I like biographies too as other people’s lives interest me.

What is your e-reading device of choice?
A Kindle.

What are you working on next?

I have several story lines and plots already mind-mapped out and will resume writing once I’ve got ‘The Last Thread’ out to market. As an Indie author, I’ve found there’s a lot of work involved in getting your work published to market and in marketing your brand. Having said that, I’m finding it a fascinating and stimulating experience.

What motivated you to become an indie author?

The ease of getting your work out there, rather than writing endlessly to mainstream publishers which seems to be the experience of many. But, there’s a hell of a lot of work after that in getting yourself noticed.

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

I really enjoy walking, the higher, the better. My first love is the Lake District with the French Alps a close second. In the winter, I try to get away skiing with some friends. And reading, of course, is a wonderful pastime.

How long were you in the police for, and where?

For over thirty years in a police service in the Midlands region of the UK. Police services in the UK are typically based on traditional county lines.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Only to say thank you. I hope your readers will try the book and do please leave a review.

Thank you so much for taking the time out to visit Cleopatra Loves Books.

To find out more here are all the links you need!

Amazon UK

Posted in Author Interview

Q & A session with Robert Thorogood

Killing of Polly Carter jacket (email(

I was delighted to be asked to be part of this blog tour and especially pleased to be allowed to ask the creator of Death In Paradise. Robert Thorogood, a few questions.

This series has a very special place in my heart; when Owen returned home at the beginning of this year we instigated a complicated point system for the entire series with awards made for Victim, Perpetrator and method of killing with a sliding scale for how early these were identified. Needless to say it got totally silly with certain people guessing as soon as each episode started, and other’s making schoolboy errors for not having watched the previous week’s trailer closely! I will be watching the fifth series in 2016 without him but with fond memories and of course I will use my best detective skills to ensure I win.

In the meantime there was The Killing of Polly Carter to enjoy where I pitted my wits against this ingenious puzzle – you can read my review here.


1. Where did you get the inspiration from for Death in Paradise?

It’s actually a rather sad answer, because I came up with the idea in 2007 after the Pakistani cricket coach Bob Woolmer died under suspicious circumstances in the Caribbean. Following his death, the Met Police in London decided that the local Caribbean coppers weren’t up to running the murder enquiry (Mr Woolmer was a British Citizen) and so they sent out a British Policeman to head up the investigation. As soon as I read that, it was like a lightbulb going off in me head. ‘A British Copper goes to the Caribbean to solve murders…?’

2. You came to success relatively late in life after years of dreaming of writing for television; how close were you to giving up?

I certainly was ‘relatively late’! But it’s a hard question to answer in that I was still selling scripts (to both the BBC, ITV and independent film companies) in the years before I got Death in Paradise greenlit, it’s just that nothing I was writing was getting made. In truth, I think that my ‘career’ at the time (such as it was) was more appropriate for someone in their mid-twenties rather than someone in their mid-thirties, and I know this for sure: without my wife’s support — both emotional and financial—over the years, I’d certainly have had to give up long before… so I’m eternally grateful to her.

3. The Killing of Polly Carter is the second in a three book deal with MIRA, how does writing a book compare to writing for television? Which do you prefer?

There are huge differences between writing a book and writing a TV episode. The main one is that when you’re working in TV, it’s very much a team effort, whereas when you’re writing a book you are on your own for months at a time. Which is both liberating and terrifying. What’s more, when you’re coming up with a TV script, you’re very much tied to what we can afford to film, who we can manage to cast — all the ‘real world’ problems that coming with shooting a script in the real world. Whereas the joy of a novel is that you only have to write a sentence and you can conjure anything into existence. (For example, the idea for the murder in Polly Carter was one I’d had for some time, but we couldn’t work out how we could film the necessary cliffs and bay at the heart of the story seeing as there no such cliffs or bay on the island of Guadeloupe where we film the series).
And finally, the real joy of a novel is that it allows the author access to his or her character’s internal thoughts, and this has been the single most enjoyable upside of writing a novel rather than a TV script: in a novel I can explore Richard’s grumpy take on the world in far greater detail.

4. The Killing of Polly Carter features a formerly successful model, did you take inspiration from anyone real? If so are you prepared to tell us who or perhaps give us a cryptic clue?

Ha ha! I wouldn’t really like to say who I based it on — although there’s certainly elements of Kate Moss at her most nihilistic kicking around in there. In truth, I chose to set this book in the world of modelling because I needed the victim to be famous, rich, unstable, and now fed up with life. So that’s the real reason why I made the victim a supermodel. It felt like the sort of character who’d get into the sorts of mess I needed her to get into to help me ‘sell’ the story.

5. In The Killing of Polly Carter I thought I’d cracked it early on only to find I was on totally the wrong track; how long do you spend working out a credible mystery with plenty of red herrings?

It’s so lovely to hear that your theory about who the killer was incorrect. That’s after all what I’m hoping to achieve when I write the book! As to how long it takes to create a story with all the necessary twists, turns, reveals and surprises…?! Well, it takes months and months of plotting and thinking and writing. Just hundreds (and thousands?) of hours of work. For this book, I didn’t even start writing the first sentence until I had a fully-detailed synopsis of every single moment that had to happen… which ended up being a 45-page document! It is tough plotting a murder mystery novel, but very satisfying once it’s done.

6. What I love about Death in Paradise and the two books you’ve written featuring Richard Poole on the Caribbean island of Saint-Marie is the traditional feel to the mysteries. I’ve read that you are a fan of Agatha Christie and wondered which of her novels is your favourite, and why?

I am a MASSIVE fan of Agatha Christie, and I’m sure that my list of favourite novels is very similar to anyone else’s: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd of course; and Death on the Nile, Evil Under the Sun and And Then There Were None. But the truth is that there’s no such thing as a bad Agatha Christie novel. Even in the ‘less good’ books, there’s always something that is startlingly impressive. For example, I re-read the Tommy and Tuppence ‘N or M’ last year. It’s an enjoyable but patchy read, but there’s one glorious misdirection in it (when a passing beggar woman steals a baby) that is pure murder mystery genius… and no-one else could have come up with it apart from Agatha.

7. Richard Poole often gets his flashes of inspiration from the most unlikely of sources, one lightbulb moment in The Killing of Polly Carter was particularly brilliant and obscure, which points to a writer with a wealth of knowledge about all sorts of interesting subjects. Do you start with the solution and work in the clues afterwards? Or do you have some facts that you want inserted and build the solution around them?

I think I know what you’re referring to when you say that there’s an obscure source in the book! (And yes, it is very obscure, isn’t it?). But this is such a lovely question, thank you for asking it, and the answer is simple, really: for the last 5-6 years I’ve been working full time as a murder mystery writer, so I’m always bumping into odd bits of information or forensic breakthroughs or etc. etc. online that I think might be useful in an episode one day. So, whenever I find anything interesting, I make a note of it, and then, before I start writing a book or an episode, I go to my scrapbook of hundreds of half-thoughts, clues and oddities and see what I can weave into the story. So yes, I come up with the ‘fun’ bits first and then, if I can make it work in the story it goes in… otherwise it stays in my scrapbook waiting to be used for another day.

8. Where do you do your writing? I imagine you in front of a big picture of a Caribbean beach with perhaps a toy iguana for company? Am I close?

Ha ha! The tragic truth is that I write in a tiny shed in the garden that’s half full of lawnmowers, old camping equipment and broken furniture. So, the only view I have is of the pine cladding I put on the walls in front of me. And the only window I have is a tiny little strip of Perspex that I can’t see through because it’s directly behind me. In fact, when I’m sitting in my chair at my desk, I can touch all four walls of my (half-an-) office… and yet I’ve come to love it over the years. I think that writers should never get ideas above their station, and it’s very hard to do that when you don’t even have a whole shed to work in!
In fact, here’s a panorama photo of ‘my’ side of the shed taken from one of the corners. You can see the little window that’s behind me (with green curtains bought from a charity shop), the lovely self-built pine cladding on the walls with all my various notes stuck to it (and my Series 1 framed poster)…. And the red thermal curtain I hung to keep the heat in (and to stop me seeing the lawnmower and junk that’s in the other half of the shed).

Shed view

9. What book would you recommend to me? And why?
Oh gosh, I don’t know! Looking through your website, you read wider and better than I do, so can I please ask you the same question? What book would you recommend?

Well that was a bit of a cheat but… well I’m always up for a book recommendation and the latest book on my book pushing mission is a debut novel that is much darker than yours but also extremely well plotted – the book I recommend is The Hidden Legacy by G.J. Minnett – to find out more, read my review!

Thank you Robert Thorogood for answering my questions – The Killing of Polly Carter is published by MIRA on the 3 December 2015 – don’t miss out!

Posted in Author Interview

Interview with Alan Veale, Author of The Murder Tree

The Murder Tree

The Murder Tree introduces an unlikely pair of  heroes: the American daughter of a wealthy businessman and a Manchester-born  librarian working in Glasgow. Each have their share of domestic strife to deal  with, while sharing a thirst to find out the truth about a 150 year-old murder. But deaths are still taking place today as far afield as New York, and trying  to dig through the roots of this unique family tree becomes more hazardous than  either Chrissie or Billie could imagine.

It was a particularly bright but quiet morning on Anderston Quay, yet still too early for the day shift to begin their labours around the harbour. The sun was ascending leisurely above the tenement houses to the south and east of the Clyde, polishing away the gloom of the previous night and casting long shadowy fingers from a multitude of ships’ masts that towered over the cobbled old wharf. Stately schooners grunted in sullen protest at their less wholesome neighbours as the river’s brackish waters reached the ebb, and nuzzled the wooden hulls against each other. Like a forest of elm trees in a winter wind, the tangle of spars and lines swayed to their own peculiar rhythm as the rooted vessels rode fretfully under their cabled restraints, murmuring their protests at the turning tide.
Another sound approached from the north: soles of leather slapping against unyielding cobblestones, tripping a little unsteadily under the impatient progress of their mistress. The slight figure of a young woman, curiously hunched forward under a light grey woollen cloak, rounded the corner of Finnieston Street and blinked against the sun’s dramatic appearance.

When did you first become aware of the Sandyford murder?

I first got to hear the story around November 1992. I was taking a short coach holiday in Scotland and I’d taken a book to read with me – ‘Heaven Knows Who’ by Christianna Brand, which gave a contemporary account of the trial of Jessie McLachlan, and the events leading up to it. This was one of two books that had recently been passed on to me by an elderly friend of my then wife’s family who was losing her eyesight. She was a lovely Geordie lady named Chrissie MacPherson, who died long before I came to write the novel, but that should explain the choice of name for my main character, and the dedication at the beginning of ‘The Murder Tree’.

I always wonder how an author chooses the character’s names and this is one of the best answers I’ve heard.

What prompted you to turn this historical crime into a book?Alan Veale -small photo

Christianna Brand’s version of events read to me like a good old-fashioned mystery story – with a surprising twist at the end. I had written several scripts for the stage, and my creative instincts told me that the story of Jessie McLachlan could be given a fresh treatment. The problem was that I did not feel it was right for the theatre. I had recently performed in a play written by Jeffrey Archer that featured a trial and the background events preceding it. Unfortunately I did not feel that his story worked well in that medium, and I was put off going down the same route. A visit to Glasgow and the murder scene the following year helped to form the outline of the plot that was to become ‘The Murder Tree’, but somehow I felt that a screenplay would be easier to work on than a novel. How wrong I was! I kept making notes and working on scenes, and bringing them in and out of a drawer many times over the next two decades. But it wasn’t until my children were older, divorce had lost its sting, and I had taken early retirement from the Civil Service that I decided the time was right to use my notes to create a novel.

 Did you prefer writing the present day parts or the historical sections? Jessie

I think the correct answer to that one would be the present day scenes. But I say that simply because they were in part easier to write. I have a busy imagination, and it can be fun playing God and have the power of life and death over the characters I create. Also, Glasgow as a backdrop to the present day inspired me to feel comfortable about the places I took those characters. It really is a fascinating city, and whenever I have been there I have been greeted by so many friendly faces. There is no evidence of the pictures painted by the television series of ‘Taggart’, and I could imagine Chrissie and Billie walking those streets without any feeling of threat – other than from the past…

But I also like a challenge – otherwise ‘The Murder Tree’ would never have been written! Selecting the relevant scenes from the past was certainly that. I was mindful of a need to be as accurate as possible about the nineteenth century incidents, as anyone reading my book with a historical knowledge might have cause to complain if I had misrepresented the facts for artistic licence. I was also aware that I should not be too heavy on the detail from the past, so I tried to keep the court scene as tight as possible, without losing the inference of culpability against Old James Fleming. The dialogue on this occasion was largely adapted (and anglicised) from the original trial notes as recorded by William Roughead.Fleming

I am one of those readers who pick up on historical inaccuracies but as far as I was concerned you did a fantastic job of keeping the past authentic.

I imagine there was a lot of research needed since this book was based on an actual event, did you do all of this first or was it done while you were writing?

On reflection, I would think it was around fifty-fifty. It is true to say that I spent around twenty years with this project getting a dust off now and then, usually to re-read material, and then to work on a plot outline or consider re-writing a particular scene. I also visited both Glasgow and Edinburgh during that time, and collated photographs with other documents I felt might serve some purpose.

But once I had made the decision that this was going to be a novel, the work began in earnest. I had time on my hands and a healthier bank balance, so I took the research very seriously. Again I visited the murder scene itself, and made the longer trip to Inverness. I felt it necessary to visit the key scenes in person so that my descriptions were as complete as possible. Even a short holiday in New York came in useful.

How long did it take to write The Murder Tree?  Did you set yourself a writing schedule, if so what did this look like?

It took longer than I thought it would! But then I should qualify that because this was such a steep learning curve for me. Writing a novel was more technically demanding than I expected, and while I actively looked for help and advice, at the end I still had to find a way of re-writing scenes that at one time I had felt sure were pretty near perfect. They weren’t of course. Ernest Hemingway is often quoted as saying “The first draft of anything is shit”, and he was right! In real terms it probably took me around a year to complete that first draft, and then another twelve months re-writing it. Once I was absolutely sure I had got it as tight as it could be I sent it off to a professional copy-editor for final ‘tweaking’. She then sent it back with a long list of recommendations for further re-writes… And she was right to do so – on the whole. Once I had taken on board most of her comments (including a good helping of praise), I was ready to publish.

No – there once was an effort to have some kind of schedule, but it was impossible to stick to while juggling other duties involving work and teenage children!

Is Billie based on anyone you know?  He is a fascinating man and the perfect person to pair up with Chrissie!

Ah, there’s the rub… The short answer is yes, but I’ll give you the long answer first!

To begin with, you have to remember that my original outline for ‘The Murder Tree’ started off as a screenplay, and unlike books, such scripts rely heavily on dialogue. If I had started off writing a novel I might have let Chrissie be a more dominant main character, and followed events principally from her point of view. A book can do that because it allows us inside a character’s head, but I was accustomed to writing dialogue to tell a story, so I was committed to giving my female lead a male counterpart who would act as her foil, and prospective romantic interest.

With the medium of film or television in mind I started out visualising actors that I felt might suit the characters I had created, thus helping me to work through a scene in my head that I could then write about. In my early drafts I imagined Billie to be a Scot, and the first actor that sprang to mind was Robbie Coltrane. I think that was where the smoking element came from, because Robbie was playing a chain-smoking character in ‘Cracker’ at the time. Some of his style of humour is also still evident.

But certain elements were not right. Size matters. As I re-visited my plot and the characters therein I found that I needed both Michael and Edward Fersen to be big men. For me, I needed a contrast to complete the picture, so Billie had to be physically around average height or below. Bye-bye Robbie!

Billie’s part became more important as the plot developed over time. I found myself using my own experiences to shape this man’s personality. I was a Mancunian, so why not make Billie more like me? There was no reason why an Englishman might not work and live in Glasgow, so there was my answer – I built Billie’s character around myself – and found the whole story that much easier to write!  Physically there are some differences: I am nearly six feet tall, and around sixteen years older than Billie, plus I don’t smoke, and have never worked in a library. But I’ve haunted several!

What a brilliant insight into this wonderful character.  Now you’ve mentioned  Robbie Coltrane and Cracker I can see the connection in the sense of humour which was one of the points that made me love the character so much, plus I as a child I wanted to work in a library, but that was before I realised you couldn’t sit and read the books all day!

Are there any villains in your family tree? I have done a little research on my family and haven’t turned up anyone remotely criminal, much to my disappointment!

None that I’m aware of, Cleo! But it’s a subject that holds out so many possibilities, don’t you think? The television series ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ has dug up many curious family skeletons, and somehow it does seem disappointing if we only find that our ancestors led rather simple, blameless lives. During my library talks about ‘The Murder Tree’ I do ask my audience to consider how they might feel if they researched their own family tree and came up with a potential connection to a murder story such as Jessie’s from 1862. If you put yourself into Chrissie’s situation, how would you react?

I know it probably would be quite unnerving, to put it mildly, but I do wish my ancestors had done something exciting.  The most interesting character was a taxidermist in rural Essex who wrote long letters to the local paper!!  I watch Who Do You Think You Are? avidly because I find the unfolding of a past that at best the descendants have an inkling about, amazing. 

What made you come up with the concept of a website to complement the book? I really enjoyed reading this and felt unlike similar ideas your website actually adds something to the reading experience, you can’t beat the pictures of the actual house where Jessie was killed!

Basement Plan

I attended a writers’ festival in York in 2012, and one of the authors I met there had written a book on self-publishing, which I bought as the concept made a lot of sense to me.  I am fairly hopeless at new technology myself, but one of the recommendations he made was to create a website to promote my work. I appreciated how relevant such a suggestion was in today’s competitive environment, and a personal friend of mine made a living designing these things, so it seemed the obvious way to go. I also realised that a website would allow me to provide so much more detail about the original crime than I could feature in my novel, and also to add the little biographies that I had created for my characters during the writing process. Some of the readers of my earlier drafts commented that the names, dates and numbers of characters described could be quite confusing, and therefore it made sense to provide a separate source of reference using a dedicated website. The designer is Mirandi Van Staden, who also did an excellent job in creating the book cover from my own description.

If after all Alan’s answers to my questions above you are still wondering whether you will enjoy this book visit the website The Murder Tree and see what it is all about.  As I read this book on kindle I didn’t realise there was a website until the end, and I’m not sure quite what made me check it out, but I’m glad I did!

Now onto my most important question as someone who has read The Murder Tree:

You hinted in your comment to me that there was going to be another book; is it going to feature any of the same characters?  I think I may be a little in love with Billie Vane.

A second novel is in the early stages of research and plotting, and because the feedback from ‘The Murder Tree’ has been 99.9% positive, I feel it makes sense for book number two to have some continuity. So yes, two (and possibly three) of the characters will make a second appearance. The subject will again be an historical mystery and investigation (based on a true story), and this time the central character will be Billie Vane! (You heard it here first…)

Well on that very happy note I want to thank you for providing wonderfully informative answers to all my questions!

Here is a taster of what a happens when Chrissie’s father is flying across the Atlantic,  before her life is altered forever….

His attention shifted to the small video screen set into the seat in front of him. Another reminder of the chaos that had just entered his life: a representation of the northern hemisphere, framed in a touch screen box, gave a course across the Atlantic for all one hundred and eighty two passengers presently in Economy Class. Alternating with an on-screen message of welcome from Continental Airlines was a reminder of the miscellany of entertainment channels awaiting the passengers aboard Flight CO17. Fersen shook his head in resignation and raised his hand in front of him, idly considering if he should simply turn the damn thing off altogether.
But then the picture on screen changed as if part way through a movie, the image now displaying a city street with elegant Georgian buildings, proudly flanked at ground level by iron railings. Into view in the foreground came a plodding horse shackled to a two-wheeled cart, with a man and a young lad of about fourteen at the traces. Their clothing was old-fashioned: simple work-shirts and trousers with heavy boots, while the young lad also appeared to be wearing an apron. At the back of the cart sat several large metal churns, a couple of wooden crates, and some enamel jugs. Fersen watched in fascination as the lad leapt off the cart, grabbed a heavy jug off the back, and climbed the steps to ring the bell of a stone-fronted building with a heavy front door. The screen in front of him was too small for much detail, but he thought he could just make out the number 17 etched in gold leaf onto a glazed panel above the door.
Then it felt as if turbulence had hit his ribcage. The city street scene was clearly depicted on all three monitors in front of him: a triple image that brought shock recognition of the house Fersen had left in anger just a few hours ago.
Beads of sweat now leaked from every pore. He sat transfixed while the focus gradually shifted past the cart, past the boy as he stood waiting patiently on the steps, and on to the handle of the door itself. Now oblivious to the detritus of the twenty first century that surrounded him, Fersen was totally absorbed by a parallel world of long ago – yet still so familiar. He caught his breath as the door swung open, and witnessed the look of surprise on the milk-boy’s face. Framed in the doorway stood the corpse-like image of an old man: a stooped figure in a black coat, waistcoat and winged collar. The face filled the screen, cold black eyes that looked directly into Fersen’s heart while the thin lips moved silently. He stared back, his own mouth moving in a similar pattern. A spasm of pain surged through his upper body and his hands clutched the left side of his chest. He squeezed his eyelids together in a vain attempt to shut out the images on screen. But then his mouth was forced to open wider as his lungs made a futile bid to function without oxygen.

The Murder Tree – Amazon UK

The Murder Tree – Amazon US