Extract | The Last Lie by Alex Lake

Category: Extract

The Last Lie


Get an exclusive first glimpse at bestselling author Alex Lake’s pacy new psychological thriller, The Last Lie. Out on 27th December!



The woman driving the car knew better than to stop for hitchhikers. Maybe, decades ago, she would have considered it. Things were different then. People had good intentions. Kids were polite, and respectful to adults. They didn’t hang around the streets wearing hoodies and intimidating passers-by. A hitchhiker would, more than likely, be in search of nothing other than a lift to their destination. So yes, she might have picked one up years ago.

But only in the right circumstances. If she was with someone. And it was daylight. And the hitchhiker looked respectable.

Even back then she would never have picked someone up alone, at night, on a quiet road through deserted countryside, a road lined by half-bent trees and high hedges.

And she wasn’t about to start now.

It was still awkward, though. You didn’t want to acknowledge the person as you passed them because that meant acknowledging you were not generous enough to help them out. It was like passing a beggar on the street; you didn’t want to look at them, didn’t want to have the embarrassment of saying ‘no’ when they asked for money. So you marched on, eyes forward, as though they weren’t even there.

It was easy on a busy street with other people around, other things to look at, but on a country road at night? It was much harder. There was nothing to pretend you’d been distracted by. It was obvious you would have noticed the hitchhiker. You couldn’t not.

Who was, she saw as she approached, a young woman. At least she thought so, from a distance. Long hair, slight build. For a moment her resolve wavered – maybe she would pick her up, she shouldn’t be out here alone – but then she stiffened. She’d heard of this kind of trick: put an innocent, unthreatening woman out there and then, when the driver stopped, a thug – or gang of thugs – would jump out, steal the car and leave her there, alone.

Or worse. Raped. Dead.

She got ready to swerve in case the young woman jumped or stumbled into the road. That was another trick she’d heard about. Or maybe she was drunk. It wouldn’t be a surprise. Nowadays young women got drunk all the time, out in town centres that were no-go areas at night, vomit-streaked war zones populated by feral youths intent on fighting and drinking and having sex with each other.

The hitchhiker’s head turned towards the sound of the car. She raised her hand. It was a curiously weak movement. Hesitant. Tentative. Fearful, almost. The woman driving the car shook her head. She was definitely not stopping. The girl was probably on drugs, as well as drunk.

And then the beam of the headlights lit her up and the woman driving the car let out a sharp gasp.

The hitchhiker was a young woman, in her late twenties, or maybe early thirties.

She was also completely naked.

But that wasn’t the most shocking thing about her.

The most shocking thing was that the woman driving the car recognized her.

It took her a few moments to realize where from, and then she gasped again.

She wasn’t a hitchhiker – although there was no doubt she needed a lift – she was something completely different.

She braked, coming to a halt a few metres past the young woman, then opened her door.

The young woman stared at her, her eyes wide and unseeing. Her hair was matted, and she was streaked with dirt. She took a step towards the car, and the driver flinched, glancing around to see if there was anyone hiding in the shadows.

There was nothing. Just the hedges and the moon and the silence of the night.

She looked back at the young woman.

‘Are you—’ she said, then paused. ‘Are you her?’





Claire Daniels stood on the tiled floor of the bathroom and stared into the mirror. She studied the face that looked back at her. She recognized every feature and freckle and contour. She had seen them a thousand times. More. Many thousands. The face belonged to her. It was utterly familiar.

And yet, in a few minutes, she might be a totally new person.

From time to time a person could change in an instant into someone new. It had happened to her twice: the day her mum died and the day she met Alfie. Once for bad, once for good. And today – this morning – it might be about to happen a third time.

That first time was awful. Beyond awful. She was fourteen and had just walked in from Lacrosse practice after school. Her best friend Jodie’s mum had brought her home and on the way back she had asked if they wanted to go to a Coldplay concert, on their own. Jodie’s mum said she would drop them off and pick them up but they could watch the concert without any adults present.

Thank you, Mrs Pierce, Claire said. That would be amazing.

Call me Angie, Jodie’s mum said. But you need to clear it with your parents.

Which was what Claire had been planning to do when she ran into the house. Her dad would be at work, but she could hear the television in the living room, which was where her mum would be.

She was there, all right, slumped on the cream leather sofa in the living room. At first Claire had thought she was sleeping, but then she noticed the trickle of blood coming from her nostril and the vomit on her jeans and the glassy-eyed stare into nowhere.

She was dead. Claire knew it as soon as she saw her, but that didn’t stop her slapping then hugging then slapping her to wake her up. What followed was a whirl she had never been able to put in order however many times she had thought about it. She’d called her dad and then it was sirens, medics, police officers. A doctor had given her something and she’d gone to bed, only to wake up the next day to the same horror.

Her mother never gave permission for Claire to go to the Coldplay concert. She never gave permission for anything else ever again.

Heroin, her dad told her a few days later. Her mum had overdosed, an addiction from her twenties that she’d managed to beat down had come roaring back in her forties and burned her out.

It snuffed out Claire, too. Left her hollow. When she looked at herself in the mirror she saw someone else. Someone lost, unsmiling, changed. There was a gap at the centre of her, a gap that was only filled when she met Alfie. She remembered getting home after their first date, a date that had begun as an afternoon coffee and grown into dinner and drinks and a night-time walk through central London. She’d glimpsed herself in the mirror. Something about her reflection had caught her eye and she’d paused, and looked again, and seen a new woman. Seen herself again.

And she knew she had changed in the space of that night, had started to emerge from the hole her mum’s death had left her in.

Started. Even after three years of marriage – three happy years – there was still something missing. And hopefully that final piece of the puzzle would be in place any minute. If it went as she hoped, she’d look in the mirror and see, once again, a new person.

A mother.

At least, a mother-to-be.

A mother who would not overdose on heroin and leave her daughter alone. A mother who would love and cherish her child, her children. A mother who would heal her own wounds by making sure she didn’t inflict them on her children.

And then she’d go and wake up her husband, the man who had made her feel warm and safe and whole from the moment they’d met and every moment since, and tell him that she was pregnant. After all these months trying, finally, they were going to be parents, going to have new titles, new roles.

Claire and Alfie, daughter and son, wife and husband.

Mum and dad.

She blinked, and opened the bathroom cabinet. She took out a pregnancy test. It was the first of a packet of two. She’d bought them nine months earlier in anticipation of needing them sooner, but her period had come, on time, month after month. She and Alfie did everything right: they had sex constantly when she was ovulating, and plenty besides, but it didn’t matter. Inevitably at the appointed time she started to feel bloated and lethargic and then her period arrived.

But not this month. This month she was two days late. Two whole days. She knew there could be many reasons why, but she didn’t care.

She was pregnant. She felt it.

And it was her birthday this weekend. She had drinks planned after work – it was a Friday – and then a party at her dad’s house on Saturday. It was the perfect present. It all hung together. It was too right not to be true.

She took the test from the cardboard and sat on the toilet. She positioned it between her legs and a few seconds later a stream of warm urine ran over the white plastic. She left it there until the stream stopped and then placed it by the sink. She didn’t look at it; the line she craved could take a minute or so to show up and she wanted to give it every opportunity.

She washed her hands, her heart racing and her stomach tight. She pictured herself walking into their bedroom and shaking Alfie awake. Telling him the news. Watching him smile. No – she stopped herself. She shouldn’t get carried away. Her dad called it the commentators’ curse: just when a commentator was saying how some football team was about to score or some player was playing well, something bad would happen.

But this was it; she was sure of it. There’d be a line and she’d be pregnant and even if it didn’t work out, if there was a problem of some sort, she’d know she could get pregnant, and even that would be enough, would be better than the doubt and worry and anguish of wondering if it would ever happen.

She picked up the pregnancy test. Turned it around. Let her eyes travel to the end where the little window contained—


No line. Not the faintest imprint of a line.

She shook it. She put it down next to the sink and waited a minute or two. Then she picked it up again.

No line.

She pressed the pedal at the base of the bin and flipped the lid open. She looked one last time – to be sure – and then threw the test, the negative test, into the trash. She’d ask Alfie to take it out later. She didn’t want to. She didn’t want any reminder of her failure.



Alfie Daniels lay in bed listening to his wife move around in the bathroom. He knew what she was doing, despite the fact she’d said nothing. He knew when her period was due and he knew it hadn’t come because Claire had not walked into the living room with tears in her eyes or sent him a text message with sad emojis saying she had her period.

For nine months he had hugged her each time and prom­ised her it would happen eventually, only to watch her hope build through the month and be dashed again.

And now she was late and he could tell she was convinced that this was it. For the last two days he had watched her move from a state of quiet introspection to nervous excite­ment. She thought she was pregnant.

If she’d told him, he would have suggested not getting her hopes up, but it was too late for that now. Her hopes were flying high and turning into dreams of the future and there was only one thing that would bring them down.

Which, from the sound of things, had just happened. There was no cry of excitement or rush of steps to come and tell him the good news. Only the thud of the bathroom door closing and a slow, heavy tread towards the bedroom.

The door opened and she came in. She stood by their bed, her face set and unsmiling.

‘Hey,’ he said. ‘What’s the matter?’

‘My period was late. I took a test.’

Alfie sat up on his elbows. ‘And?’

Tears formed in her eyes and rolled down her cheeks. She shook her head.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said, and held out his arms. ‘Come here.’

‘No,’ she said. ‘I want to be alone. I’m going to have a shower.’

‘I don’t think so. Not before a hug.’

‘I’m OK.’

‘It’s not for you. It’s for me. I’m disappointed too.’

It was clearly the wrong thing to say. Her lips quivered and tears welled in her eyes. She let out a loud, wracking sob then slumped on the edge of the bed and buried her face in his neck.

‘I tried not to hope,’ she said. ‘I told myself not to get my hopes up, but it’s impossible. I want this so much.’

‘Me too,’ he said. ‘And it’ll happen. It takes time for lots of people.’

I know,’ she replied. ‘But what if we’re the ones who it never happens for? What then?’

‘We’re a long way from that,’ Alfie said. ‘A long way.’

‘But what if?’ Claire said. ‘What if we can’t have kids?’

‘Don’t think like that.’

She nodded. ‘I won’t. I’m going to have a shower.’


When she came back her eyes were red.

‘You not feeling too good?’ Alfie said.

‘I was sure I was pregnant this time,’ she said. ‘I felt different, somehow. And I’ve been so regular. I don’t know why my period would suddenly be late.’

‘Stress can do that,’ Alfie said. ‘This is a difficult time for you. For us.’

She wiped a tear from her eyes. ‘I can’t stop crying. It’s the sense of loss. Even though I wasn’t pregnant – so there was nothing to lose – I’d let myself think I was, and I was already imagining a future with us as parents. And now it’s gone.’

‘Only for now,’ Alfie said. ‘We’ll get there in the end, I know it.’

He held her tight, then sat up.

‘I have to get ready for work,’ he said. ‘I’ve got an early meeting.’


In the bathroom, Alfie stripped off. He looked in the full-length mirror. He flexed his pectoral muscles, then turned sideways and admired his flat abdominals. His chest and back were waxed and smooth, unlike the thick, brown hair on his scalp. He kept himself in shape; the only thing he couldn’t do anything about were the pock-marks on his face, the scars left by the acne he’d suffered from as a teenager.

He turned on the shower and stepped in. He let the hot water run over him. He washed his hair, massaging the shampoo into his scalp. The shampoo he used cost over thirty pounds a bottle, but it was worth it. According to his hair stylist, he had the kind of hair that movie stars had. He could be a hair model, she said, and it was worth paying the extra for good shampoo. So he treated himself.

And besides, they could afford it. Claire’s dad was both rich and generous.

When he was finished, he wrapped a towel around his waist and grabbed his razor. As he started to shave the bath­room door opened.

‘Would you take out the bin?’ Claire said. ‘The test is in there. I don’t want to go near it.’

Alfie nodded. ‘OK.’

‘And thanks,’ she said. ‘For being so supportive. I’m lucky to have you. And we’ll be pregnant, one day.’

He smiled. ‘We will. I know we will.’

She closed the door and the smile fell from his face. He looked at himself in the mirror and shook his head.

Stupid bitch.

She wanted him to take out the bin. Of course she did. She was too infantile to deal with a negative pregnancy test so she needed him to deal with it for her, like it was a fucking python or something. It was pathetic.

It was typical of her.

As was the way she used ‘we’ instead of ‘I’. ‘We’ll be pregnant, one day.’ He hated that ‘we’. Hated the cloying, saccharine refusal to accept the biological truth of the situ­ation: it was her who would be pregnant, not him.

The irony – and he took great pleasure in it – was that, whatever words she used, she was wrong. They – she – wouldn’t be pregnant any time soon. Ever, in fact.

Because what she didn’t know was that her husband had no intention of having children. They were the last thing he wanted. There were many reasons why, but the main one was because the arrival of kids would render all his careful plans redundant.

They would tie him to the simpering bitch forever, and there was no way he was letting that happen.

But she couldn’t find out he didn’t want them. Not yet, at any rate. He still needed her for a while, which was why he had never mentioned – and did not plan to – the reason why she would not be getting pregnant any time soon.

Her husband had had a vasectomy.

He’d had it done a year after they married – almost exactly two years earlier, now – when she had started talking about having kids in earnest. He’d gone to see the doctor, told him what he wanted – the doctor was surprised given how young he was and had tried to talk him out of it, but he had referred him nonetheless – and then, one morning, Alfie had gone to the hospital and had the operation.

He’d been back at his desk the same afternoon. He was a bit sore, but it was OK.

And it would remain his little secret.

He glanced at the bin. The negative pregnancy test lay there, pointing at him, accusing him.

‘Fuck you,’ he said, then wiped the shaving cream from his face.


The Last Lie is out on 27th December. Pre-order here.

Extract | While You Sleep by Stephanie Merritt

Category: Extract

While You Sleep




It begins, they say, with a woman screaming.

You can’t tell at first if it’s pleasure or pain, or that tricky place where the two meet; you’re almost embarrassed to hear it, but if you listen closer it comes to sound more like anguish, a lament torn from the heart: like an animal cry of loss, or defiance, or fury, carried across the cove from cliff to cliff on the salt wind.

If you stand on the beach with your back to the sea, they’ll tell you, looking up at the McBride house, you might catch, behind tall windows on the first floor, the fleetest shift of a shadow. All the rooms dark through glass; not even the flicker of a candle, only the shape that shivers at that same window and vanishes, quick as breath, under the broken reflections of clouds and moon. They’ll say the woman’s keening grows louder as the gale seeks unprotected corners of the house, swirls around the pointed gables, shakes the weathervane on the turret and rattles the attic windows in their frames. But listen again; when the wind drops, there is nothing but the wild sea, and the occasional drawn-out moans of the seals beyond the headland.

Only on certain nights, the islanders will tell incomers; when the moon is high and the air whipped up like the white-peaked waves in the bay. Be patient and you might hear her. Plenty will swear to it.


The two boys crouch by a ridge of rocks at the foot of the cliff, watching the house. It is still half a ruin; naked beams poke into the moonlit sky like the ribs of some great flayed beast. They hesitate, each waiting for the other to move. They have come this far to test the old stories, they can’t lose face now. The summer night is mild and clear; too balmy for ghosts. They are girding themselves when the screaming starts. They turn to one another in astonishment; fear makes them giggle.

‘Let’s go,’ whispers the nimble, ginger boy. He has his phone in his hand, ready to capture it on film.

But his companion has frozen to the spot, stricken, his eyes stretched wide and fixed on the house.

‘Come on, we’ll miss it.’

The heavier boy retreats a few paces, shaking his head.

The ginger one hesitates, his lip curling with scorn. ‘Pussy.’

He sets off over the sand and marram grass to the half-open door, his phone held out at arm’s length. Left behind on the beach, his friend watches him disappear into the shadows.

The waves break and retreat, over and over, dragging layers of shingle into the restless water. A new scream echoes across the beach, a child’s cry this time. The last traces of light ebb from the sky and behind the windows of the McBride house there is nothing but solid darkness.



On a remote Scottish island, the McBride house stands guard over its secrets. A century ago, a young widow and her son died mysteriously there; just last year a local boy, visiting for a dare, disappeared without a trace.

For Zoe Adams, newly arrived from America, the house offers a refuge from her failing marriage. But her peaceful retreat is disrupted by strange and disturbing events: night-time intrusions; unknown voices; a constant sense of being watched.

The locals want her to believe that these incidents are echoes of the McBrides’ dark past. Zoe is convinced the danger is closer at hand, and all too real – but can she uncover the truth before she is silenced?


This Halloween read the chilling, unputdownable thriller that will send shivers up your spine! OUT NOW and only £2.99 in eBook.


Our Spookiest Reads

Category: Favourites

With Halloween just around the corner, we’ve put together our edit of seriously spooky reads. Bestselling psychological thriller While You Sleep is sure to give you chills, and prepare for a sleepless night or two with the truly terrifying serial killer thriller Stalker. Don’t miss out on our pacy debut of the season Forget Me Not – which you can nab in ebook for just 99p!


While You Sleep by Stephanie Merritt

While You Sleep packshot

A house full of secrets. A woman alone at night. A threat that lurks in the shadows.

The McBride house lies on a remote Scottish island, isolated and abandoned. A century ago, a young widow and her son died mysteriously there. Last year, a local boy – visiting for a dare – disappeared without a trace.

For Zoe Adams, the house offers an escape from her failing marriage. But when night falls, her peaceful retreat is disrupted—scratches at the door, strange voices—and Zoe is convinced she is being watched.

The locals tell Zoe the incidents are merely echoes of the house’s dark past. Zoe is sure the danger is all too real—but can she uncover the truth before she is silenced?


The Quaker by Liam McIlvanney

The Quaker packshot

His name fills the streets with fear…

Glasgow, 1969. In the grip of the worst winter for years, the city is brought to its knees by a killer who hunts in the shadows: the Quaker. He takes his next victim – the third woman from the same nightclub – and dumps her in the street like rubbish.

The police are left chasing a ghost, with no new leads and no hope of catching their prey. DI McCormack, a talented young detective from the Highlands, is ordered to join the investigation. But his arrival is met with anger from a group of officers on the brink of despair. Soon he learns just how difficult life can be for an outsider.

When another woman is found murdered in a tenement flat, it’s clear the case is by no means over. From ruined backstreets to the dark heart of Glasgow, McCormack follows a trail of secrets that will change the city – and his life – forever…


Forget Me Not by A.M. Taylor

Forget Me Not ebook

What happened to Nora?

When Maddie met Nora, their friendship felt as easy as breathing. And when Nora disappeared, all the air went with her. Without her best friend, Maddie’s life became impossible.

Ten years later, Nora is still missing and Maddie is still searching. People have been questioned. People have even been accused. But no one has found Nora.

Then, in the same spot where Nora went missing, the murdered body of Nora’s little sister is found. Convinced this is no coincidence, Maddie resolves to uncover the killer and find Nora – dead or alive.

But will she be able to cope, when she learns what really happened to Nora…?


Stalker by Lars Kepler
Stalker packshot

You thought you were alone. Think again.

A film arrives at Stockholm’s National Crime Investigation Department showing a woman in her own home, plainly unaware she is being watched. The police don’t take it seriously … until she is found murdered.

When the next video arrives, Detective Margot Silverman frantically attempts to identify the victim. But it’s already too late. Because at the time the video was sent, the killer was already inside their house…

Soon Stockholm is in the grip of terror. Who will the Stalker target next?


The Hangman’s Hold by Michael Wood

The Hangman's Hold packshot

There’s a killer in your house. He knows your darkest secrets. And he is closer than you think.

The Hangman waits in the darkness. He’ll make you pay for all the crimes you have tried desperately to forget.

DCI Matilda Darke is running out of time. Fear is spreading throughout the city. As the body count rises, Matilda is targeted and her most trusted colleagues fall under suspicion.

Can she keep those closest to her from harm? Or is it already too late?


In A Cottage In A Wood by Cass Green

In a Cottage in a Wood

Her dream home will become her worst nightmare…

Late one night, Neve comes across a troubled woman called Isabelle on Waterloo Bridge. Isabelle forces a parcel into Neve’s hands and jumps to her death into the icy Thames below.

Two weeks later, as Neve’s wreck of a life in London collapses, an unexpected lifeline falls into her lap – a charming cottage in Cornwall left to her by Isabelle, the woman on the bridge. The solution to all her problems.

But when Neve arrives, alone in the dark woods late one night, she finds a sinister-looking bungalow with bars across its windows. And the house of her dreams quickly becomes her worst nightmare – a house hiding a twisted secret that will change her life forever…