A village isolated by a severe storm, and a young officer, alone and out of her depth. A troubled priest is brutally murdered, leaving behind a journal of the residents’ confessional secrets; secrets certain people would have preferred he took to the grave.
As word spreads, the pressure rises as the eyes of the town watch her every move. With no forensic team, no support and a savage killer hiding in a turbulent town, is PC Sarah Gladstone up to the task?
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The crime fiction genre is full of exceptional storytellers. Unfortunately, a lot of them are rigidly anchored to tired archetypes and tropes. I was a police officer for nine years and, although the job certainly does have its characters, I’m happy to say we’re not all womanising, drunk, ex-army divorcees.
I started this series because I wanted to tell a crime story from a fresh, new perspective. The story follows Sarah Gladstone, a married mother of two, trying to juggle family life and starting a daunting new career as a police officer. Telling the story through the eyes of a new officer opens up interesting angles that can’t be explored when a more experienced detective is at the helm.
It was a difficult decision to try something new, and I suppose I won’t know for a while whether it was the right move or not. There’s a lot to be said for treading the well-worn path, but I know I wouldn’t have been satisfied doing so.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
To me, good crime fiction shines a light on society. When a fictional murderer kills, they’re really asking questions. Questions about the norms and values the deceased represents. With the world disrupted, the detectives arrive to try and restore the status quo and makes sense of it all.
I wanted to write about detectives who represented us a little more. After all, they’re the ones posing the questions we want to ask. Sarah isn’t cocky, ‘dysfunctionally cool’ or a ‘kickass female character’ (sigh). She’s uncertain, unsure and doing the best she can. I think that’s how a lot of us feel in the modern world. We’re the most well-informed generation ever to exist, but we’re still riddled with self-doubt, anxieties and have difficulty being vulnerable and open about it all.
The plunge was easier than the pull. The serrated edge caught the flaps of skin on the way out. It wasn’t the nature of the blade; he’d chosen specific tools for the torture and wasn’t about to skimp on the final cut. Most would have picked the sharpest. The sharpest would allow smooth entry both into and out of the body. He’d used the sharpest on the torso; four quick stabs just above the waist and one to pierce his side. No water; only blood. This final task required a specific tool and he’d chosen a bread knife. It’d been used for that too; winter soups with a rustic loaf, hearty bacon sandwiches in the family home. Use only a little pressure, move it back and forth, letting the edge do the work. That was the easy way to do it, but this wasn’t about the easy way.
The smell of burning paper rose from the corners of the room. Birdsong welcomed another morning; the last daybreak one of them would see. He lay there, still alive, hands clasped in the hope the birds would carry his prayer to the Lord. The birds were too busy singing. The squirrels? They carried nuts for their loved ones and had no space for the prayers of the dying. Weeks of rain had drowned the Earth so deep in water that it needed all the prayers for itself and had none to spare for the man of the cloth, bleeding on his back in a strange and unfamiliar room.
He mumbled in pain. He’d been writhing too, but the short, sharp stabs soon stopped that. The mumbles grew louder and louder as the pulls followed the plunges. His legs were warm with blood, his body cold, as his spirit left to go to rest wherever his life’s decisions had led. The mumbles stopped; blood formed on the stitches that held his mouth together.
The body had to be moved, the room cleaned and normality returned. He shook the blade in a cross shape over his victim’s body, flicking blood from his grey hair to his waist and from shoulder to shoulder. He tossed the knife on the pile with the other tools. He cuffed the dead body’s wrists and bound its ankles in tie wraps, before wrapping it in towels to soak up the blood. Letting it bleed out here would take too much time; time he didn’t have. The storm had lifted and within hours the town would be back to normal, a strong, close-knit community pulling together to help the flood victims. He changed his gloves and rolled the towelled body onto a tarpaulin sheet and tied it at both ends. All he needed to do now was get it to the car without being seen.
Darryl Donaghue is an ex-Detective from London, England. His short stories have been published in The Pygmy Giant, Spinetinglers and Dreamcatcher magazine. In 2014, he moved to Seoul to teach and write novels.
His first novel, A Journal of Sin, was released on Amazon in December 2014.
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