Stalker extract

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Take a peak at a chilling extract from Lars Kepler’s brand new thriller, Stalker

The camera glides slowly through the last of the dark garden and stops right outside the window, swaying slightly as if it were floating on water.

‘She’d see him if she just looked up,’ Margot whispers, feeling her heart beat faster in her chest.

The light from the room reaches beyond the leaves of a rosebush, casting a slight flare across the top of the lens.

Adam is sitting with his hand over his mouth.

The woman pulls her vest off, tosses it onto the chair, then stands for a moment in her washed-out underwear and stained bra, looking over at the mobile phone charging on the bedside table beside a glass of water. Her thighs are tense and pumped with blood after her run, and the top of the jogging pants has left a red line across her stomach.

There are no tattoos or visible scars on her body, just faint white stretch-marks from a pregnancy.

The  room  looks  like  millions  of  other  bedrooms.  There’s nothing worth even trying to trace.

The camera trembles, then pulls back.

The woman takes the glass of water from the bedside table and puts it to her mouth, then the film ends abruptly.

‘Bloody hell, bloody hell,’ Margot repeats irritably. ‘Nothing, not a sodding thing.’

‘Let’s watch it again,’ Adam says quickly.

‘We can watch it a thousand times,’ Margot says, rolling her chair further back. ‘Go on, what the hell, go ahead, but it’s not going to give us a fucking thing.’

‘I can see a lot of things, I can see—’

‘You can see a detached house, twentieth-century, some fruit trees, roses, triple-glazed windows, a forty-two-inch television, Ben  &  Jerry’s  ice  cream,’  she  says,  gesturing  towards  the computer.

It hasn’t struck her before, the way we’re so similar to each other. Seen through a window, a broad spectrum of Swedes conform to the same pattern, to the point of being interchangeable. From the outside we appear to live exactly the same way, we look the same, do the same things, own the same objects.

‘This  is  totally  fucked  up,’  Adam  says  angrily.  ‘Why  is  he posting these films? What the hell does he want?’

Margot glances out of the small window, where the black treetops of Kronoberg Park are silhouetted against the hazy glow of the city.

‘There’s no doubt that this is a serial killer,’ she says. ‘All we can do is put together a preliminary profile, so we can—’

‘How does that help her?’ Adam interrupts, running one hand through his hair. ‘He’s standing outside her window and you’re talking about offender profiling!’

‘It might help the next one.’

‘What the fuck?’ Adam says. ‘We’ve got to—’

‘Just shut up for a minute,’ Margot interrupts, and picks up her phone.

‘Shut up yourself,’ Adam says, raising his voice. ‘I’ve got every right to say what I think. Haven’t I? I think we should get the papers to publish this woman’s picture on their websites.’

‘Adam, listen . . . much as we’d like to be able to identify her,  we’ve  got  nothing  to  go  on,’  Margot  says.  ‘I’ll  talk  to Forensics, but I doubt they’re going to find anything more than they did last time.’

‘But if we circulate her picture to—’

‘I haven’t got time for your nonsense now,’ she snaps. ‘Think for a minute . . . Everything suggests he’s uploaded the clip directly from her garden, so of course there’s a theoretical chance of saving her.’

‘That’s exactly what I’m saying!’

‘But five minutes have already passed, and that’s a long time to be standing outside a window.’

Adam  leans  forward  and  stares  at  her.  His  tired  eyes  are bloodshot and his hair is on end.

‘Are we just going to give up, then?’

‘This is a matter of urgency, but we have to think clearly,’ she replies.

‘Good,’ he says, still sounding annoyed.

‘The perpetrator is brimming with confidence, he knows he’s way ahead of us,’ Margot explains quickly as she picks up the last slice of pizza. ‘But the better we get to know him . . .’

‘Get to know him? Fine, but that’s not really what I’m thinking right now,’ Adam says, wiping sweat from under his nose. ‘We couldn’t trace the previous film, we didn’t find anything at the scene, and we won’t be able to trace this film either.’

‘We’re unlikely to get any forensic evidence, but we can try to pin him down by analysing the films and the brutality of his MO,’ Margot replies, as she feels the baby move inside her.

‘What have we really seen so far, what has he shown us, and what’s he seeing?’

‘A woman who’s been for a run, and is now eating ice cream and watching television,’ Adam says tentatively.

‘What does that tell us about the murderer?’

‘That he likes women who eat ice cream . . . I don’t know,’ Adam sighs, and hides his face in his hands.

‘Come on, now.’

‘Sorry, but—’

‘I’m thinking about the fact that the murderer uploads a film showing the period leading up to the murder,’ Margot says. ‘He takes his time, enjoys the moment, and . . . he wants to show us the women alive, wants to preserve them alive on film. Maybe it’s the living he’s interested in.’

‘A voyeur,’ Adam says, feeling his arms prick with discomfort.

‘A stalker,’ she whispers.

‘Tell me how to filter the list of creeps who’ve been let out of  prison  or  psychiatric  care,’  Adam  says,  as  he  logs  into  the intranet.

‘A   rapist,   violent   rape,   someone   with   obsessive   fixation disorder.’

He types quickly, clicks the mouse, types some more. ‘Too many results,’ he says. ‘Time’s running out.’

‘Try the first victim’s name.’

‘No results,’ he sighs, tearing his hair.

‘A  serial  rapist  who’s  been  treated,  possibly  chemically castrated,’ Margot says, thinking out loud.

‘We need to check the databases against each other, but that will take too long,’ he says, getting up from his chair. ‘This isn’t working. What the hell are we going to do?’

‘She’s dead,’ Margot sighs, then leans back. ‘She might have a few minutes left, but . . .’

‘I don’t know if I can handle this,’ Adam says. ‘We can see her, we can see her face, her home . . . Christ, we can see right into her life, but we can’t find out who she is until she’s dead and someone finds her body.’

Want to read more? Stalker is OUT NOW

Who killed Helen Fields?

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Author of Perfect Remains, Helen Fields, has gone missing. Each haunting episode was revealed day by day during the Perfect Remains blog tour on the Avon Channel. Over ten days her video diary documented the moment before she went missing. Watch for clues. Can you tell who’s behind this?

 

OUT NOW  – Amazon HarperCollins

On a remote Highland mountain, the body of Elaine Buxton is burning. All that will be left to identify the respected lawyer are her teeth and a fragment of clothing.

In the concealed back room of a house in Edinburgh, the real Elaine Buxton screams into the darkness…

Detective Inspector Luc Callanach has barely set foot in his new office when Elaine’s missing persons case is escalated to a murder investigation. Having left behind a promising career at Interpol, he’s eager to prove himself to his new team. But Edinburgh, he discovers, is a long way from Lyon, and Elaine’s killer has covered his tracks with meticulous care.

Extract from Michael Wood’s A Room Full of Killers

Category: Extract

In just over a week, Michael Wood’s A Room Full of Killers, the third gripping crime novel in the DCI Matilda Darke series, publishes in ebook. But we have an exclusive sneak peek just for you!

A Room Full of Killers

 

Prologue

Manchester. Tuesday, 7 January 2014

 

I was in agony. The pain was immense. I couldn’t believe it. I looked across at the alarm clock and saw that it was just after 1:30 a.m., and I hadn’t been to sleep yet. How could I when all I wanted to do was vomit everything I’d ever eaten.

I managed to roll out of bed and practically crawled to the bathroom. I made it to the toilet just in time. The sick was never-ending. I honestly thought I was going to bring up an organ. There was so much of it. It was like that scene from The Exorcist.

I must have woken my sister, Ruby, because I looked up to wipe my mouth and she was standing in the doorway. She had her hands on her hips and a serious look on her face like she was going to tell me off. If I hadn’t felt like I was dying I would have laughed. How could she try and look mean and threatening when she was wearing Hello Kitty pyjamas?

‘Could you be any louder about it?’

‘Sorry, Ruby, did I wake you?’

‘No, I always go for a walk around this time.’ She looked at her wrist as if there was a watch there.

‘Sorry. I don’t think I should have reheated that curry I had for my tea.’

‘Have you made yourself sick so you don’t have to go to school in the morning?’

‘No. Why would I do that?’

‘Because I heard you telling Dad you hadn’t done your science homework.’

‘I’ve not made myself sick, Ruby. Go back to bed.’

I managed to pick myself up off the floor, although I felt dizzy and the sweat was pouring off me. I had to steady myself against the wall. I was shaking and hot but I felt cold at the same time. I had no idea a chicken korma could cause such agony.

‘Do you want me to wake up Mum and Dad?’

‘No. It’s OK. I think I’ll go downstairs and see if we’ve got anything to settle my stomach.’

‘OK.’

‘Are you going back to bed?’

‘Yes,’ she said, folding her arms.

‘Go on then.’

‘I’m waiting until you’ve gone downstairs. I don’t want you to fall.’

I went to go downstairs and kept looking back at Ruby, who wasn’t moving. I knew what she was going to do. I would have made some kind of sarcastic remark but I was frightened of opening my mouth and being sick again, because Dad had just polished the floorboards. He’d kill me if I splattered regurgitated korma all over them.

I was halfway down the stairs when I heard Ruby tap on Mum and Dad’s bedroom door. ‘Mum, I had that dream again. Can I come in with you and Dad?’

I smiled to myself. Ruby had promised that she’d sleep in her own bed all through the night. It was her New Year’s resolution yet she’d broken it within three days. She hated sleeping on her own, God knows why.

As soon as I opened the door to the kitchen, Max jumped out of his basket, tail wagging, and thought I wanted to play with him. He started jumping on his back legs. As much as I loved the little dude, playing with a Fox Terrier at two o’clock in the morning was not my idea of fun. He ran over to the back door so I let him out.

I left the door open while I looked for something to take. Dad suffered really badly with his stomach. He only had to look at a jar of beetroot and he got indigestion. He was bound to have something that could stop my stomach doing somersaults.

I found a small tub of Andrews Salts and made myself up a glass. I swigged it back in one gulp and shuddered at the taste. It was nasty.

Max came running back into the kitchen with a tennis ball in his mouth and dropped it at my feet. I wasn’t going outside to play fetch in the garden. It was bloody freezing out there. I made him go back to his bed, locked the back door and went into the living room. I didn’t have the strength to walk up the stairs.

I curled up on the sofa, pulled the blanket around me and tried to get comfortable. Whatever was in that medicine seemed to be working as there was no gurgling sound coming from my stomach. I wasn’t shaking as much either.

I was shattered. I looked at the clock – 02:15. I’d never been up this late before in my life. I was just nodding off when Max came in and licked my face. He lay down in front of me on the floor. He could tell I was ill and was looking after me, bless him. He was snoring in seconds. I wish I could fall asleep so quickly.

 

04:50

 

Max started licking my hand and barking. I briefly opened my eyes but, as it was still dark, I nudged Max away and pulled the blanket over my head. If he wanted to go out again he’d have to wait. I was finally warm and comfortable.

Another bark. This time he was nuzzling my hand and trying to pull the blanket off me with his teeth. He may be a cute dog and able to get away with a lot of things, but there was no way I was getting up for him now.

‘Max,’ I whispered loudly. ‘You’ll wake everyone up. Go to sleep. Now!’

I waited. I heard him groan, walk around in a circle a few times then drop to the floor. Thank God for that.

 

05:05

 

It seemed like only minutes later that he started fussing me again. He was yapping, barking, tugging at the blanket, and licking my face. I threw the blanket off me and stood up to turn on the living room light. I can’t remember what I was saying to Max but as soon as the room lit up I saw exactly why he’d been behaving so oddly.

There was a leak coming through the light fitting in the middle of the room. It didn’t make sense. The bathroom was above the kitchen, not the living room. My eyes adjusted. Shit! It wasn’t water pooling on the coffee table. It wasn’t water dripping and splashing all over the cream carpet. It was blood. I looked up at the light; the surrounding ceiling was a mass of blood. It was dripping down, splattering against the glass, bouncing off and soaking the carpet. This wasn’t real. It couldn’t be. I was having a nightmare caused by my fever, surely.

Max barked. I looked down at him and he was speckled with blood. His paws were covered in it. Oh my God. This wasn’t happening. Surely, I was running a fever from all the vomiting and having a nightmare.

I ran out of the living room and up the stairs, two at a time. ‘Mum, Dad, wake up,’ I called out. It was pitch-black and still early so my voice echoed around the house. I didn’t care if I woke up the whole street.

I knocked on their door but didn’t wait for a reply. I grabbed the handle and pushed. I flicked the light switch on.

‘Mum … ’

That was the moment everything stopped. My life ended right at that second as I looked into my parents’ bedroom and saw a scene of horror. All I could see was red. The walls, the ceiling, the floor, everything was covered in red. Huge sprays of blood covered every surface.

I could feel my heart pounding hard in my chest as if it was about to erupt. No. This wasn’t happening. It couldn’t be real.

I walked further into the room and looked at the bed, trying to make sense of what my eyes were seeing, but my brain hadn’t caught up yet. The bed was a tangled mess of limbs and everything was dripping. It was like a scene from a torture porn film. I didn’t know if anybody was on the bed or not. Then I saw it. Dad had given Mum a really expensive watch for Christmas, just a week or so earlier. She’d loved it and spent most of Christmas Day staring at her wrist. She was still wearing it but the face was smashed. Her arm was covered in blood, but it wasn’t attached to her body. I swallowed hard to keep the bile from rising in my throat. I saw Dad’s leg with the Manchester City football shield tattoo. Like Mum’s arm it was splattered with blood. And there, in the middle of the bed, I saw the worst horror of all: the blood-stained white face of Hello Kitty winking at me.