A series of bizarre suicides leads Detective Inspector Silas Quinn to revisit his own troubled past …
June, 1914. A young man is mauled to death by a polar bear at London Zoo. Shortly afterwards, another young man leaps to his death from a notorious Suicide Bridge. Two seemingly unconnected deaths – and yet there are similarities.
Following a third attempted suicide, DI Silas Quinn knows he must uncover the link between the three men if he is to discover what caused them to take their own lives. The one tangible piece of evidence is a card found in each of the victims’ possession, depicting a crudely-drawn red hand. What does it signify? To find the answers, Quinn must revisit his own dark past. But can he keep his sanity in the process?
Quinn ran out on to Lower Clapton Road.The faces of the living that he now confronted were sullen and bewildered.They shied away from him as the dead never did.A running man,a man out of breath,a man exerting himself in the commission of some urgent act,was no doubt a object of suspicion on these parts,if not fear.Either he was a villain running from a crime or a Policeman in hot pursuit.Both were equally to be shunned.
The traffic was thin.A horse-drawn Collier`s cart on its rounds headed away from.him into Mare Street.A delivery van passed it moving in the opposite direction.It's engine strained noisily against unseen forces intent on holding it back.There was something plucky about its determined progress,which seemed against all the odds somehow.Quinn was hypnotized by its approach.It was only when it had passed him that he thought perhaps he should have flagged it down and requisitioned it.The next vehicle he saw,he would.
But the road was now empty.He regretted not keeping the taxi waiting on the meter.But even though it was not his money that he would be spending,he baulked at the extravagance of it.
The Georgian facades of the houses around Clapton Square enticed him with their air of village England.If only one could live in a house like that,on good terms with one's neighbours,terms of understanding and tact,where nothing was said because nothing needed to be said.Quinn felt a pang of nostalgia for a life he had never lived.A life of pipes and slippers and well-set fires.Where the hardest puzzle he had to solve was The Times crossword.And the greatest drama was someone's leaving the lid off the butter dish.He might indulge his fancy by imagining himself a wife! How about that! A wife for Quinn! He couldn't picture her face.Conveniently for his poor imagination she was in the next room,busy with....whatever it was that wives did.Her perfume wafted to him,chorused by her contented trilling.She had a good singing voice,it seems-that was an unexpected delight.And although he couldn't see her,he knew she was pretty without being threateningly so,and comfortably proportioned.
Most of all,she put up with him.
There might even be a couple of children,one boy,one girl,though the girl was rather tomboyish,which he approved of enormously.They were pestering him to put down his pipe and paper,to exchange his slippers for shoes,take them out into the square to sail their model yacht on the pond.But Quinn could see that in reality there was no pond on Clapton Square.So wherever this fantasy life was located,it was not here.
The steady rumble of a motor drew his gaze,again in the Mare Street direction,A long black vehicle was speeding towards him.It was larger than a car,but not as big as a van.Quinn ran out into the road and stop facing it with his hands raised above his head.He crossed and uncrossed his arms slowly several times.For a long time,it seemed the driver hadn't seen him,because he showed no sign of slowing down.Then,eventually,he gave several angry honks on the horn.At the last moment,when he was less than twenty yards from Quinn,he slammed on the brakes and skidded to a halt,spinning the vehicle forty degrees.
The driver leapt out,his face ashen.
"Are you mad?"
Quinn produced his warrant card."I am Detective Inspector Quinn of the Special Crimes Department.I need you to drive me to Guy`s Hospital.If you refuse to do so,I am empowered to arrest you for obstructing the course of justice."
The driver held up two black-gloved hands in a placatory manner."All right,all right.There's no need for that.It's just I've got to get her back to the shop for a bit of a polish.I've got another funeral at twelve."
It was only now that Quinn took in that the vehicle was a motorized hearse.He also.appreciated the driver`s formal mourning attire,though his black swallow-tale jacket was oddly set off by a tweed flat cap.Another man sat in the passenger seat with two black top hats dressed with black crepe ribbon on his lap.
"It won't take long.Guy`s isn't far from here and the traffic is light.
Quinn went round to the passenger side.The other undertaker glowered back at him resentfully.
"He'll have to get out."
In the event,the other man lay down in the back.of the hearse,in the space reserved for the coffin.It was left to Quinn to sit with the toppers on his lap.
The driver seemed to relish the licence to speed that Quinn`s presence legitimized.He no doubt chafed at the necessity to drive at funeral pace for at least half of every journey.The man in the back slid from side to side as they took the corners.He grumbled"Have a care!"everytime he collided with the interior,and "Have a blinking care" whenever he was made to bump over one of the brackets designed for holding the coffin in place.
Quinn touched the mahogany detailing on the dashboard."I haven't seen many of these motor hearses."
"We still have the horse-drawn variety.Naturally some of our clients prefer those."
Quinn wondered how a dead man could prefer anything.
R. N. Morris is the author of eight historical crime novels.
His first, A Gentle Axe, was published by Faber and Faber in 2007. Set in St Petersburg in the nineteenth century, it features Porfiry Petrovich, the investigating magistrate from Dostoevsky’s great novel, Crime and Punishment. The book was published in many countries, including Russia. He followed that up with A Vengeful Longing, which was shortlisted for the Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award (as the CWA Gold Dagger was briefly known). A Razor Wrapped in Silk came next, followed by The Cleansing Flames, which was nominated for the Ellis Peters Historical Novel Dagger.
The Silas Quinn series of novels, set in London in 1914, began with Summon Up The Blood, followed by The Mannequin House, The Dark Palace and now The Red Hand of Fury, published on 31 March, 2018.
Taking Comfort is a standalone contemporary novel, written as Roger Morris.
He also wrote the libretto to the opera When The Flame Dies, composed by Ed Hughes.
PUBLICATION DATE : 30th March 2018
PUBLISHER : Severn House Publishers Ltd
GENRE : Historical Police Procedural