Extract | Don’t Turn Around by Amanda Brooke

Category: Extract

 

To celebrate the publication of Amanda Brooke’s page-turning thriller, Don’t Turn Around, here is an exclusive sneak peek at the opening chapter!

 

Prologue

The Confession

The rhythmic slap of my ballet shoes against the linoleum-covered steps echoes down the stairwell. As my pace slows, my head droops and my gaze falls onto the worn and familiar treads that lead to the seventh floor and home. I know each and every scuff mark, every chip of paint, and even the crumpled tissues and sweet wrappers discarded by my thoughtless neighbours are familiar to me. Unlike my apartment block’s gleaming city-centre exterior, its spine has an air of abandonment. The stairwell is rarely used and less frequently cleaned, and there have been times when I’ve taken it upon myself to return with rubber gloves and a bin bag, but no more. Believe me, I’ve tried, but nothing I do ever makes a difference.

My legs are trembling by the time I reach my floor and I take a moment to catch my breath. Drawn to the window with its view of the Liverpool waterfront, I follow the line of docks until they’re rudely interrupted by the modern edifice of a thirteen-storey office block that sits awkwardly between Canning Dock and the Pier Head. This is Mann Island, and although it hasn’t been an island for centuries, the place where I work certainly looks stranded next to the iconic outlines of the Port of Liverpool, Cunard and Liver Buildings. The Three Graces had been basking in the afterglow of a crisp autumn day when I’d set off on the short trek home along the Strand, but the world has darkened since, and the Graces have been reduced to silhouettes, pockmarked with yellow, fluorescent lights. As I step back from the window, my eyes refocus and I catch my reflection.

The apparition floating beyond the sheet of glass is weighed down by the heavy houndstooth woollen jacket hanging off her shoulders. Her round face is framed by straggly mouse-brown hair and a severe fringe that’s become frayed from her exertions. Her complexion is pale against the starless night and there’s no spark in her eyes. The fight has left her.

I don’t recognise this woman captured by the failing light, or perhaps I do. There’s something about her that reminds me of Meg. My cousin’s hair was a similar shade although you would describe hers as golden, and she never hid behind a fringe. Meg was bold, and yet the hopelessness in the face that stares back at me immediately brings her to mind.

I retreat to the exit door only to stop when I hear a noise. The soft squeak of a rubber sole on linoleum came from the floor above, or I think it did. The world falls silent again and I’m about to dismiss the crawling sensation that I’m being watched when—

‘Hello, Jen.’

Instinctively, I grab the safety bar but I don’t open the door because I’ve already recognised the deep voice that sent a jolt of terror down my spine. The fact that he’s here shouldn’t surprise me, and I know it won’t matter if I run away, or stand and fight. He’s already won.

I turn my head slowly but he stops me.

‘Don’t turn around.’

Keeping my head to the side, I stare at the window with its mirror image of the landing behind me. No figure appears from the shadows, no hand reaches out to wrap around my neck.

‘What is this? Don’t you have the guts to face me?’ I ask, my voice surprisingly calm.

There’s a pause and when he replies, he sounds closer. ‘If I thought it was going to be easy, we would have had this conversation ten years ago.’

‘This conversation?’ I ask. ‘If it’s a confession you’re planning, I’m not the one you should be talking to. It’s Meg’s parents who deserve answers.’

‘Ruth and Geoff don’t need to hear what I have to say.’

‘I suppose you’re going to tell me you’ve been protecting them all these years.’

‘Not only them.’

My laugh catches in my dry throat. ‘Oh, I see. You’ve been protecting me too.’

‘If Meg had wanted you to know everything, she’d have told you everything.’

‘Maybe she tried,’ I reply as I picture a torn scrap of yellow lined paper. Meg’s suicide note, or at least a remnant of it.

‘No, she didn’t,’ he says with finality. ‘Christ, Jen, didn’t you know her at all?’

‘She was my best friend. Of course I knew her!’ I tell him, raising my voice to camouflage the doubt.

‘Not like I did,’ he says in a whisper.

A door swings open three flights down and shrieks of laughter ricochet off the walls as a group of raucous, and possibly drunken friends race to the ground floor. Their giddiness reminds me of times lost, but I can’t trust my memories. How many of Meg’s smiles were a disguise for unfathomable pain?

When another door slams shut and stillness returns, I hear the whisper of stealthy footfalls. I scan the reflection of the empty landing and glimpse movement on the small section of the stairs that are visible to me. I spy a pair of black boots and legs clad in dark jeans. I twist my body towards him.

‘I said, don’t turn around.’

‘Why?’

‘Because I can’t . . .’ He curses under his breath. ‘I won’t do this if you’re looking at me.’

 

Don’t Turn Around is out now in paperback! Continue reading here

Q&A with author Jason LaPier #VirtualVoyager

Category: Interview

Welcome to #VirtualVoyager Week! Don’t worry, you haven’t stumbled onto the wrong blog. Our pals over at Voyager are hosting a week long celebration of their digital authors, and when they approached us with a thriller with ‘police… but in space’ we had to get involved. So hop aboard to the first day of #VirtualVoyager. We have an exclusive Q&A with Jason Lapier the author Unexpected Rain.

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In a domed city on a planet orbiting Barnard’s Star, a recently hired maintenance man named Kane has just committed murder. 

Minutes later, the airlocks on the neighbourhood block are opened and the murderer is asphyxiated along with thirty-one innocent residents. 

Jax, the lowly dome operator on duty at the time, is accused of mass homicide and faced with a mound of impossible evidence against him. 

His only ally is Runstom, the rogue police officer charged with transporting him to a secure off-world facility. The pair must risk everything to prove Jax didn’t commit the atrocity and uncover the truth before they both wind up dead.

 

 

What drew you to the world of suspense?
I grew up on science fiction, but I’ve always had a taste for darker films no matter the genre. Movies like Chinatown are where I got my first taste of noir detective, with my all-time favourite being the noir-sci-fi crossover Blade Runner. Once I got old enough to expand my reading selections beyond sci-fi/fantasy, I started to mix more mystery/suspense into my library. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson was one of my gateways, as well as Henning Mankell. There are a lot of authors that aren’t necessarily ‘mystery’, but fall between the worlds of the weird, the dark, and the suspenseful that I just devour, from Haruki Murakami to Chuck Palahniuk to Cormac McCarthy.

Tell us about your new book. Jason LaPier Author Image
In the distant future of Unexpected Rain, planets outside our solar system are colonized, primarily using advanced dome technology. Life inside these domes is safe and fairly bland, which is why the local police are in over their heads when an entire block is murdered. The for-hire organization Modern Policing and Peacekeeping comes in with detectives and officers, quickly pinning the crime on life-support operator ‘Jax’ Jackson. Only one lowly officer, Stanford Runstom, believes Jax is innocent. When given the chance, Runstom risks everything to help Jax go on the run so they can criss-cross the galaxy in search of the real killer.

Is there a lot of research that goes into your books?
The setting of Unexpected Rain is several hundred years into the future, and high-speed travel has allowed the human race to visit and populate star systems nearest to our solar system. I try to keep techno/science-babble under control in the narrative, but as this is sci-fi, it’s in there. Most of the research I’ve done is around exoplanets (planets around stars outside of our solar system) and the properties of various moons, especially those in orbit around gas giants. In the last several years, real-world expeditions with space probes such as Galileo and Cassini have revealed all kinds of interesting discoveries about the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

Additionally, I’m a software engineer by trade, and so a lot of my day-to-day observations inform some of the underpinnings of my future world. I love to play with the disconnect between the designs of engineers and the real-world usage of their efforts by consumers.

What author (besides yourself) do you think that everyone should read?
In the world of thrillers, I really loved Gun Machine by Warren Ellis. It’s dark and creepy and at times has a twisted sense of humour – it’s right up my alley. On the weirder side of things, I’m going with Jeff VanderMeer all the way. The Southern Reach trilogy, which just came out last year, is destined to become a classic. It describes this intense ecological anomaly and the expeditions that attempt to probe it. Each of the three books has a very different literary style, but all of them are creepy and mind-bending. VanderMeer’s other offerings include Finch, which is a great noir-weird tale crossover, and Wonderbook, his book on writing, which should be required reading for any genre author, and even of a few non-genre writers.

Favourite thing to do aside from writing:
I live in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, so I do a lot of hiking, gardening, cooking, and drinking. I also love my job as a software architect because it requires a combination of logic and creativity, and a combination of big-picture vision and attention to detail. Coincidentally, I suppose these same skills translate pretty well to the art of writing.

Advice for someone considering a career in writing:
I’m here to say it’s possible to become a published author while working a day job. It’s just my take, but I believe that pulling this double-duty gives me a little more artistic freedom because I’m not relying on that tenuous author income to make a living. In other words, I feel less pressure to ‘write to the market’. It also means I can use writing as a creative outlet, and that’s something I’m very grateful to have – in fact, I’ve come to depend on it – and because of that, I never run out of passion for writing. It re-energizes me.

What’s your poison?
I’m a coffee-snob in the morning – fair trade, locally roasted beans, all that. When it comes to alcohol, I love my whiskey, pinot noir, and, most of all, microbrew: lagers when the sun’s out, hoppy ale in the fall, and dark-as-motor-oil porters and stouts in the winter.

 

UNEXPECTED RAIN is available here! You can follow the author on Twitter @JasonWLaPier and at http://jasonwlapier.com/

Happy Publication Day to Dolores Redondo, Lauren Beukes, and C.L. Taylor!

Category: News

We are very happy to announce we have not one, not two, but THREE book publications to celebrate today!

THE INVISIBLE GUARDIAN by Dolores Redondo
http://hyperurl.co/InvisibleGuardianHB
First time it’s been published in the UK, this Spanish bestseller has taken Europe by storm. Myth versus reality, masterful storytelling reveals a killer at large in a remote Basque Country valley.

BROKEN MONSTERS by Lauren Beukes
http://smarturl.it/BrokenMonstersPB
The paperback to the book Los Angeles Times called ‘Captivating … defies the standard tropes of the serial killer genre.’ From the author that brought you SHINING GIRLS–In the city that’s become a symbol for the death of the American dream, a nightmare killer is unravelling reality.

THE LIE by Cally Taylor (Avon Books UK)
http://ow.ly/LTW57
We’ve had lots of exclusive content from THE LIE running this week on Killer Reads. In case you missed it–
Read the extract: http://t.co/Ngbr8d8Npb
Q&A with the author: http://ow.ly/LTVKm
A Day in the Life: ow.ly/LGviC

Let us know if you’ve read any of these or if you’re adding any to your TO-READ list!