Review: The Redeemers by Ace Atkins

 

Title: The Redeemers {Quinn Colson #5}

Author: Ace Atkins

Published: GP Putnam July 2015

Status: Read from July 24th – 27th, 2015   – I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Review to come

He is only in his early thirties, but now Quinn Colson is jobless—voted out of office as sheriff of Tibbehah County, Mississippi, thanks to the machinations of county kingpin Johnny Stagg. He has offers, in bigger and better places, but before he goes, he’s got one more job to do—bring down Stagg’s criminal operations for good.
At least that’s the plan. But in the middle of the long, hot summer, a trio of criminals stage a bold, wall-smashing break-in at the home of a local lumber mill owner, making off with a million dollars in cash from his safe, which is curious, because the mill owner is wealthy—but not that wealthy. None of this has anything to do with Colson, but during the investigation, two men are killed, one of them the new sheriff. His friend, acting sheriff Lillie Virgil, and a dangerous former flame, Anna Lee Stevens, both ask him to step in, and reluctantly he does, only to discover that that safe contained more than just money—it held secrets.
Secrets that could either save Colson—or destroy him once and for all.”

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Review: The Hand That Feeds You by AJ Rich

 

Title: The Hand That Feeds You

Author: AJ Rich

Published: Simon & Schuster July 2015

Status: Read from July 23rd-24th, 2015 – I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Review to come

Morgan’s life seems to be settled – she is completing her thesis on victim psychology and newly engaged to Bennett, a man more possessive than those she has dated in the past, but also more chivalrous and passionate.
But she returns from class one day to find Bennett savagely killed, and her dogs – a Great Pyrenees, and two pit bulls she was fostering – circling the body, covered in blood. Everything she holds dear in life is taken away from her in an instant.
Devastated and traumatised, Morgan tries to locate Bennett’s parents to tell them about their son’s death. Only then does she begin to discover layer after layer of deceit. Bennett is not the man she thought he was. And she is not the only woman now in immense danger …”

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Review: The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham

 

Title: The Night Ferry

Author: Michael Robotham

Published: Mulholland Books July 2015

Status: Read from July 18-19 – I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Review to come

“Struggling detective Alisha Barba is trying to get her life back on track after almost being crippled by a murder suspect. Now on her feet again she receives a desperate plea from an old school friend, who is eight months pregnant and in trouble. On the night they arrange to meet, her friend is run down and killed by a car and Alisha discovers the first in a series of haunting and tragic deceptions.
Determined to uncover the truth, she embarks upon a dangerous journey that will take her from the East End of London’s to Amsterdam’s murky red light district and into a violent underworld of sex trafficking, slavery and exploitation.”

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Blog Tour: A Time To Run by J.M. Peace

 

jm-peace-c-sheree-tomlinson-webI’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for debut novelist J.M. Peace today, introducing A Time To Run. 

An avid reader and writer from an early age, JM Peace wanted to be a writer. So she studied journalism figuring this would be a way of turning a passion into a job. Her career as a print journalist failed after a single year, and the experience completely sucked the joy out of writing for her. So she took a complete change of direction and became a police officer. Over the past 15 years, she has served throughout south-east Queensland in a variety of different capacities, including Intelligence and CIB. After her children were born, the dangers and stresses of the job made it unappealing. In the search for a new career path, she returned to her childhood dream. Carving a spare hour out of every day, she wrote the manuscript for A Time To Run whilst juggling her family commitments, police work and running a household. Jay currently lives on the Sunshine Coast with her partner, wrangling her two cheeky children, a badly behaved dog and an anti-social cockatiel.

Set in the Queensland bush, A Time to Run is a tense, gritty crime thriller featuring a cop-turned-victim and a chilling serial killer.

A GRUESOME GAME
A madman is kidnapping women to hunt them for sport.
A FRANTIC SEARCH
Detective Janine Postlewaite leads the investigation into the disappearance of Samantha Willis, determined not to let another innocent die on her watch.
A SHOCKING TWIST
The killer’s newest prey isn’t like the others. Sammi is a cop. And she refuses to be his victim.
A RUN FOR YOUR LIFE”

Please read on to learn more about J.M Peace and A Time to Run

*****

Why a Serial Killer?

My book involves a serial killer. I feel somehow inadequate by saying this. It seems like a bit of a cliché – that one murder is not enough these days, that you have to raise the body count. But it was the way the story unfolded and I’d like to explain why.

In my early twenties, I went backpacking around the world travelling solo a lot of the time. Yes, I used to hitchhike (shh, don’t tell my mum), and I put myself into some astoundingly stupid situations. If the wrong person had found me at the wrong time, things could have turned out very badly for me. It was before the days of email and global interconnectivity. I don’t know how long it would have been before I would have been reported as ‘missing’.

ivanmilat

Ivan Milat convicted of the Belangalo State Forest Murders

This was around about the same time that backpackers were being dispatched in Belanglo State Forest. When I got home nearly four years later, I read a bit about the Belanglo crimes. This is where the seed of the idea for this story began, with this question – what if it had been me? What if I had naively climbed into the wrong car and been taken out to some secluded forest by a psychopath? What would I have done? Could I have possibly survived it?

The story bounced around in my head for years. I used to dream up all sorts of possibilities. Could I have killed him? How? How could I have escaped? Who could find me? Could I trust them? These musings were still going on when became a police officer. This added a dimension to my ponderings. Would being a police officer give me an edge with my imaginary madman? What sort of advantage? What had I learnt as a cop which could help me?

After a few failed attempts at writing children’s stories, I realised I should be writing crime. And in a bit of a light bulb moment, I realised this story that I had been prodding at for years was the one I should write. It was just a matter of choosing which storyline was most engaging and believable. And so A Time To Run was born. The plot was pretty much in place before I even sat down at a keyboard. As I wrote the dual storylines of the abduction and the investigation, I’d switch between my backpacker experiences and my police officer experiences. But the question I’d ask myself was the same – “what would I do?”

I’ve written the sequel to this book and the plot for a third in the series exists. The body count is steadily dropping with each subsequent book. The serial killer idea has been done now and it’s not one I intend on revisiting. But this was how A Time To Run came into existence.

*****

Want to know more? Follow the tour!

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Review: Fast and Loose by Nicholas J Johnson

 

Title: Fast and Loose

Author: Nicholas J Johnson

Published: Simon & Schuster July 2015

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Status: Read from July 11 to 15, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the author/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Fast and Loose is an entertaining sequel to Nicholas J Johnson’s first novel, Chasing The Ace.

It begins around a year after Joel Fitch, a young, wannabe grifter, and Richard Mordecai, his world-weary con ‘artiste’ mentor, have parted ways. Joel has fled Melbourne and is sharing a flat with his father in Sydney when he is identified by a former mark, tabloid news producer Danny Hemming. Hemming, angling for a promotion, blackmails Joel into starring in a series of on camera exposé’s, showing the public how easily they can be conned by an accomplished swindler. But whom exactly is conning who?

“Victors. Villains. Victims. Once you figure out which one your target is, the rest falls into place.”

As the novel unfolds from the alternating perspectives of Joel and Danny, you can never be sure where the truth really lies in this fast paced story of secrets, betrayal, swindles and surprises.

Joel, who claims to have retired, seems to be floundering, as Hemming, chasing ratings, demands ever increasingly ‘flashy’ stings, progressing from conning university students in a mystery shopper scam, to swindling a bunch of drug dealers and exposing an insider trader scheme, in which Joel’s dad is involved.

There is action, humour, suspense and plenty of twists in the complex plot. The ‘cons’ are clever, and a little scary. The author draws on his own knowledge and experience as an expert on fraud and deception to show just how easily people can be fooled, and how often we deceive ourselves.

Though Fast and Loose can be read as a stand alone, I’d recommend reading Chasing the Ace first. A quick and entertaining novel, I enjoyed Fast and Loose…you believe me, don’t you?

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Review: Friday On My Mind by Nicci French

Title: Friday On My Mind {Frieda Klein #5}

Author: Nicci French

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin July 2015

Read an Extract

Status: Read on July 11, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

I launched into Friday On My Mind, book five of the Freida Klein series by Nicci French, directly after finishing Thursday’s Children.

Fast paced and tense this is another page turning installment of the series. In Friday On My Mind, Frieda is accused of murder when the body of her ex lover, Sandy is found floating in the Thames, his throat slit. While the police focus their investigation on Frieda, she immediately suspects her obsessive stalker, Dean Reeve, is responsible and unable to convince the police of her innocence, goes on the run, determined to expose the killer and clear her name.

Frieda is of course expecting her search for evidence will lead her to prove Dean Reeve is alive and culpable, but as she delves into Sandy’s recent past, she begins to wonder if someone else could be responsible. In her methodical and fearless way Frieda insinuates into the lives of those closest to Sandy, doggedly hunting his killer all while trying to keep a low profile but as the mystery unfolds a shocking twist proves the murderer is closer than she thinks. Even though Frieda manages to stay one step ahead of the police, a reckoning with the killer has consequences for all of them, both deadly and unexpected.

“‘That’s part of Freida’s problem. She doesn’t want to get off. She wants the truth.'”

Though Frieda is determined to protect her loyal friends from the fall out of the case, they rally to support her, even when it puts them at risk of prosecution. Karlsson in particular faces trouble when he defends Freida against the vindictive police commissioner and his pet psychiatrist. Josef shrugs off threats of deportation, doing everything he can to aid Frieda’s fight, and even the emotionally fragile Sasha doesn’t hesitate to offer her refuge.

“‘I just follow where the evidence leads me, and in this case the evidence suggests that where Frieda Klein goes a trail of chaos follows. What her precise role in this happens to be has always been difficult to pin down. As you will probably discover, Frieda Klein also has some strange associates. How these things happen, I don’t pretend to know, but they happen, and they continue to happen'”

I’m looking forward to learning what happens next.

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Review: Thursday’s Children by Nicci French

 

Title: Thursday’s Children

Author: Nicci French

Published: Michael Joseph Penguin March 2014

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Status:  Read from July 09 to 11, 2015 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

The fourth book by Nicci French (the pseudonym for husband and wife team Nicci Gerard and Sean French) to feature Frieda Klein forces the enigmatic psychotherapist to confront the demons of her own past when an old classmate begs her to help her troubled daughter.

“Don’t think of telling anyone sweetheart. Nobody will believe you.”

When fifteen year old Becky reveals she was raped in her own bed, Frieda is stunned by the similarities to her own experience as a teenager, twenty three years before. Compelled to investigate the link, Frieda returns to her hometown of Braxton where she reconnects with her both her estranged mother, and her high school peer group in search of answers.

Thursday’s Children is another enjoyable psychological thriller offering plenty of drama and intrigue as Frieda tracks down a murderous rapist who has evaded detection for more than two decades.

The setting of Thursday’s Children is also an opportunity for the author to expose the roots of Frieda’s cold and reserved demeanour, often remarked upon by readers. When Frieda returns to Braxton she reluctantly visits her mother, and her interaction with the woman who raised her provides important insight into the psychotherapist’s personality.

“‘There are things I’ve run away from all my life. My father’s death. My rape. Things that happened after. But it seems as though I’ve run in a perfect circle and I’m back with it again. In the thick of it.'”

While Freida grapples with her past, her loyal friends, Josef, Reuben, and Karlsson among them, rally to support her, even though Frieda is as always determinated to go it alone. The only element of the storyline that had me puzzled was Frieda’s seemingly sudden rejection of Sandy, I could guess at the psychology of it but it was rather abrupt and I still can’t quite make sense of it.

Unsurprisingly, in the background of Thursday’s Children, lurks Dean Reeve, the murderous sociopath obsessed with Frieda. He is never far from Freida’s awareness and as the series is at the midway point, a final confrontation between the pair approaches.

I couldn’t recommend Thursday’s Child as a stand alone read but for fans of the Frieda Klein series, it is an unmissable installment. I’m excited to move straight on to book 5, Friday On My Mind.

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Review: The Forsaken by Ace Atkins

 

Title: The Forsaken { Quinn Colson #4}

Author: Ace Atkins

Published: Corsair: Murdoch Books June 2015

Status: Read from June 21 to 22, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

This is the fourth installment of Ace Atkin’s crime fiction series featuring former Army Ranger Quinn Colson, now Sheriff of Tebbehah County in rural northeast Mississippi.

The Forsaken begins a few short months after the tornado that devastated the county as Quinn and his deputy, Lillie, are faced with possible charges for the dramatic confrontation in The Broken Places that left a corrupt sheriff and his deputy from another county dead, and over $200,000 in cash from a decades old armoured car robbery missing.

It’s no surprise that Johnny Stagg is behind the investigation into the shooting but his motive is. It seems Stagg’s past is about to catch up with him and, needing Colson on his side for this particular battle, he has concocted an elaborate scheme to ensure Quinn’s support.

Doing his best to ignore Stagg’s machinations, which isn’t doing his chances for re-election as Sheriff any good, Colson is drawn into investigating a decades old cold case involving the rape and murder of a young girl, and the subsequent lynching of the black man accused of committing the crime. Finding evidence that the man was innocent, Colson is determined to identify the men and bring the members of the lynching party to justice.

The narrative moves between the past and the present, and once again, Colson’s professional and personal life become tangled when he learns that both his uncle, the former town Sheriff, and his absentee father, were most likely involved in the crime.

As I have come to expect, the dialogue is genuine, the humour quick and there is enough action to keep things interesting. The rural setting is well drawn and the details authentic. The characters are terrifically well drawn, often deeply flawed but interesting and nuanced.

Though The Forsaken could conceivably be read as a stand alone, I wouldn’t recommend it as familiarity with the primary characters and their history adds depth to the story. I continue to enjoy this gritty series and I’m looking forward to reading The Redeemers.

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Review: The Unbroken Line by Alex Hammond

 

 

Title: The Unbroken Line {Will Harris #2}

Author: Alex Hammond

Published: Viking Penguin Au June 2015

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Status: Read from June 21 to 24, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Unbroken Line is Alex Hammond’s second legal thriller featuring defence lawyer Will Harris, following on from his Ned Kelly Award nominated debut, Blood Witness.

Will is still dealing with both the personal and professional consequences of the events in Blood Witness, when he and girlfriend Eva are brutally attacked by two masked men. They have a message for Will from their anonymous employer – back off. Angry and confused, Will has no idea what the men are referring to, but now he is determined to find out, and unwittingly becomes the target of a deadly conspiracy, headed by Melbourne’s elite.

With a well crafted and complex plot, The Unbroken Line is a fast paced story of corruption, violence, conspiracy and vengeance. As Will searches for answers to the attack on he and Eva, he must also defend his new law firm partner, barrister Chris Miller, when he is arrested for negligent homicide, prevent a judge’s teenage son from being charged with manslaughter, and repay his debt to the Ivanics family, all whilst under investigation by the Legal Commissioner for ethics breaches related to his actions in Blood Witness. With some surprising twists, Hammond reveals the links between these seemingly unrelated threads developing an exciting multi-layered storyline.

Will is an appealing protagoinist, flawed but intelligent, with a strong sense of justice. Under siege professionally, Will is faring no better in his personal life. He is still struggling to recover from the debilitating physical effects of the vicious stabbing that left him near dead in Blood Witness, and Eva, traumatised and scarred by the masked men’s attack, flee’s to New York. Though The Unbroken Line could be read as a stand alone, I’d recommend readers begin with Blood Witness, which establishes his relationships with Eva, Chris and several of the other other characters that appear in both novels.

I enjoyed The Unbroken Line, it is a well crafted and gripping legal thriller. Perfect for fans of John Grisham and Michael Connelly.

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Feature Excerpt: The Unbroken Line by Alex Hammond

Alex Hammond was born in South Africa and emigrated to Australia with his family as a child. He graduated in Law/Arts from Melbourne University in 2001 and worked for several leading law firms. Although, ultimately, the law didn’t take, he was exposed to many of the superstitions and sects of the profession and found himself fascinated by the culture, passion and grey moral world that lawyers inhabit.

The Unbroken Line is Alex Hammond’s second stand alone novel legal thriller featuring Melbourne lawyer Will Harris, following on from his Ned Kelly Award nominated debut, Blood Witness.

The violence of the past casts a long shadow – a dark legacy with lethal consequences.
When defence lawyer Will Harris is attacked by masked men with a clear message to back off, he has no choice but to listen. If only he knew what they were talking about.
Under siege as his fledgling law firm struggles to get off the ground, Will agrees to defend the troubled son of a family friend. But the case is far from clear-cut, and the ethical boundaries murky. Instead of clawing his way out of trouble, Will finds he’s sinking ever deeper.
At the same time, his search for his attackers unearths an unexpected source that points him towards Melbourne’s corridors of power. But motives, let alone proofs, are hard to find. It is only when those close to him are threatened that Will realises how near he is to the deadly truth.”

 My review of The Unbroken Line can be seen HERE, but first please read on for an excerpt of this exciting new thriller.

The Unbroken Line – Excerpt

 © published with permission from Penguin Australia

One

It had been six weeks, almost to the day, since he’d had a drink. Remembering the last glass summoned images of that desperate night – the blade glinting under streetlights before it rose again, steaming with his blood in the winter air.
Will Harris took another sip from the champagne Eva had ordered for them.
‘It must feel good to be out of that wheelchair,’ Eva said, no doubt seeing the veil of memory descend across his face.
The restaurant had been Eva’s idea – a date to reboot the fraught circumstances of their meeting; a balance against her holding his wounds closed until the ambulance had arrived.
‘Adversity may have a way of bringing people together,’ she said, ‘but more often it fucks them up.’
Will nodded. ‘It does. No changing the way we met,’ he said. ‘Just what we do from here.’
Earlier they had watched as the setting sun bathed orange light over the pale gums that grew along the banks of the Yarra. From their place above the canopy they could see the turgid water as it traced its way through the wealthy suburbs towards the darkening city and on, again, into the black inevitability of the ocean.
With the arrival of dusk a low line of bats had emerged into the air and even now, as they waited for dessert, the procession continued.
Around Will, the other diners were talking and eating artfully arranged meals on oversized plates lying on bright, starched tablecloths. He drained the glass in his hand and focused his attention on the woman sitting in front of him. Her dark hair was lifted up off her shoulders while her fringe was swept into a wave. Her olive skin contrasted with her yellow silk dress. Its low neckline suggested something of the tone she’d set for the evening.
She smiled at him. He could bask in her warm gaze forever. To simply sit here, with her – that would be reward enough, for everything he had overcome. And yet he couldn’t help himself from speculating, from fantasising: the two of them carrying her boxes into his apartment; her hand clutching his at her first major exhibition; drunk nights and late mornings as the world was reduced to the circumference of their arms.
‘So let’s cut to the chase, champ,’ Eva said, clearing the glassware in front of her so she could reach a hand out to his. As she leant for- wards the light from the candles glowed in her eyes. Her lips parted, revealing the gentle upward curve at the edges of her mouth.
‘Now that you’re out of that wheelchair and able to drive a girl to a fancy dinner, is it safe to say you’re officially ‘able-bodied’?’ she whispered.
He leant in towards her, tensing his stomach muscles to ease the pain where the scars were still healing.
‘Oh, absolutely. I would say that I’m well on my way to a full recovery.’
‘Because I wouldn’t want to set you back. Given how fragile you are.’
Will felt something touch the inside of his thigh. Her foot. Freed from its stiletto it was sliding up the inside of his leg.
‘It’s been a long time, Will Harris. And it’s a terrible thing when a woman has to wait. Injured or not, there are repercussions.’
‘That’s completely understandable, of course. A man would have to make amends to a woman in this situation.’
‘Oh, you don’t know the half of it. Amends are barely the beginning.’ Her foot tapped on him as though she were distracted by some other thought. ‘Glad to see that I have your full attention.’ Eva winked.
‘Hey, Eva?’
‘Yes?’
‘Why are we whispering?’
‘I don’t know. Because it’s seductive?’ She broke into laughter.
‘What’s wrong with you?’ He grinned back at her.
‘You should have worked that out long before now.’
A waiter arrived beside their table with the dessert. ‘Coconut sago with caramelised mango and salted caramel semifreddo.’
‘Thanks,’ said Will, trying not to blush as Eva’s toes drummed across his erection.
‘One other thing, sir,’ the waiter said. ‘The chef was wondering if he could get a photo with you both? He’s thrilled to have you here.’
‘Sure,’ Will said. ‘On our way out?’
‘If that’s convenient?’
‘No problem,’ Will replied. ‘Could I grab an espresso? Sorry, two,’ he corrected, as Eva held up two fingers.
‘Of course, sir.’
Will paused until the waiter was out of earshot. ‘Those things still make me feel uncomfortable.’
‘The photos? You’ll be fine,’ Eva said between spoonfuls. ‘People will forget soon enough. Or you could just say no.’
‘But that feels rude.’
‘Then enjoy it. You deserve it. You brought justice to a murdered girl, caught her killer, gave her family peace.’
‘That’s not how I remember it. You’re leaving yourself out of that story.’
‘Meh. I was just along for the ride.’
‘Well, I hope they bring me my jacket first. I don’t really need to be standing there with a hard-on immortalised on their Facebook page.’
‘What a terrible dilemma,’ Eva said, smiling.

As they crossed the car park, Will had to struggle to keep up. Even though he’d performed his exercises daily, moving was still a painful effort. His physiotherapist had reiterated to him the seriousness of the damage – his abdominal wall had been significantly traumatised; with his core injured, he would find even basic movements challenging. Although he was out of the wheelchair it would be months before he could start to think about any strenuous activity. As Eva swayed in front of him, her dress gripping the contours of her body, it occurred to Will that even though he’d spent so many hours with her, grieved with her, almost died beside her, he was deeply nervous about the raw, animal truth of their compatibility.
Eva leant back against Will’s car, yellow outlined against the British racing green of the vintage Jag.
She pulled him forwards by the lapels, her body softening as she kissed him on the lips, her tongue penetrating deep into his mouth. He could taste the ethanol on her breath, smell the heady perfume that rose up from her to envelop him.
‘Fuck,’ she said, eventually pulling away. ‘I’ve been wanting to do that ever since we started dinner.’
‘Does that count for amends?’
‘It’s a start. I need you to take me home and fuck me.’
Will kissed her again as he pulled the car door open. Eva drew herself away from him and slid into the passenger seat. He moved as quickly as he could to the driver’s side and got in.
‘Are you okay to drive?’ she said, fastening her seatbelt.
‘I’m good.’
Will started the engine and Eva tucked her legs under her, turning towards him and placing her arm around his neck. He took them out of the car park and onto the road.
To their left was a steep bank leading down to the Yarra. A lone vessel, a party barge, drifted down the river. Flashing lights silhouetted its revellers and lit up the craft like a garish lantern on the dark water. To their right were old mill stacks, decaying warehouses and other modern ruins. With the streetlights passing overhead and Eva’s head leaning against his shoulder, Will felt at peace. He’d almost forgotten what this satisfied calm felt like. Eva started to hum to herself as he merged into the traffic that led to the Domain Tunnel.
A black SUV crept out from behind Will and accelerated towards the tunnel, trying to overtake him. He slowed the Jag to let it pass.
Eva stroked the side of his face, stopping when he turned his head away from her.
‘What’s up?’ she said, no longer humming.
Will looked into his side mirror at the SUV closing in. Something was off about the driver and the passenger sitting next to him.
They were both wearing black balaclavas.
‘Eva. Sit up.’
‘What is it?’ she asked, straightening in her seat.
‘Something’s wrong,’ he said, pulling the Jag into the passing lane and accelerating.
Eva looked over her shoulder at the SUV.
‘Shit, Will.’
He pushed the accelerator to the floor and swerved the Jag around a slow-moving hatchback.
‘How do you know they have anything to do with us?’
‘I don’t.’
But it’s the only possible explanation, he thought.
The SUV returned to their rear-view mirror, keeping pace with the old Jag. The tunnel entrance was drawing closer.
No turn-offs.
‘Jesus, Will, they’re still there.’
His hands were shaking. ‘Hold on.’
Will weaved around another car as the tunnel enveloped them. The bright strip lights raced overhead as the car started to shudder, mirroring the shaking of Will’s hands on the steering wheel.
The SUV was closer now, despite his best efforts. With a pounding inevitability it was closing in.
Will looked up ahead. Traffic was thin in the tunnel. He pushed the Jag to its limit, cresting 140 kilometres an hour. All he could hear was the noise from the engine and Eva as she shouted, ‘On the right!’
The SUV was just behind them. A truck was looming in front of them. They were about to be boxed in. Will’s foot was on the floor; the accelerator had nothing left to give. The SUV hustled forwards, its black bonnet glistening under the tunnel lights.
Not enough.
Will pulled the Jag around the truck with millimetres to spare.
The SUV hit the back of the Jag. The shuddering movement thrust Will and Eva forwards, seatbelts straining against the collision. Will’s hands tightened around the wheel as he struggled to keep the car on the road.
The truck whipped past them and Will had to swerve hard to avoid hitting a taxi. Its passengers stared dumbstruck as he hurtled past.
The SUV lurched forwards and touched the rear right panel of the Jag.
Eva was staring straight ahead.
The tunnel exit.
Almost there.
The SUV hit the Jag again. The car rocked and Will fought the wheel as it started to oversteer. A second thud as metal now caught on metal. Both cars were jammed together.
He slammed on the brake, hoping to tear them loose. The larger vehicle rammed them sideways, the concrete of the tunnel wall shredding the Jag’s passenger side. Its windows burst, shattering glass throughout the car. The Jag spun free from the SUV and turned side-on to the road, tyres stripping rubber.
They came to a violent, shuddering halt across the lane.
The SUV stopped 30 metres away. Its doors opened and the men stepped out.
‘Eva?’ Will’s voice broke as he spoke. ‘Eva, are you okay?’
She uncurled herself from the passenger seat, shaking shards of safety glass from her hair. She looked back up at him, bleeding from a cut in her forehead.
Will tried to shove the buckled car door. It didn’t budge. Steel locked on steel.
‘Eva, are you okay?’
‘I think so. You?’
‘Hard to tell. But I’m moving.’
The men were jogging now. Closing the distance.
From the road behind them the horns of stationary cars were blaring. The red warning lights of an accident in the tunnel flickered into life.
Eva pushed the door open and got unsteadily to her feet. Will clenched his jaw as he dragged himself through the shattered remnants of his side window. Pain shot through him as his stomach clenched around old wounds. It was as though razor wire had twisted down his torso.
He slipped as he stood. Oil and radiator fluid had flooded over the ground.
Will grabbed Eva by the hand and they started to run.
The men began to sprint.
Will had never seen anyone move so fast. Before they had even taken five steps the men were on them.
It took only seconds and his head smacked on the concrete. With blurred vision came memory loss – adrenaline and pain confusing the exact circumstances of his hitting the ground. All he knew was that dark eyes stared down at him through a black balaclava. The man was kneeling on Will’s chest.
‘Got your attention?’ the man barked.
‘Yes,’ Will spat.
‘Back off. This is your only warning.’
‘Back off what?’
A latex-covered hand hit hard and flat across his face.
‘Back off.’
‘I don’t know —’
The hand again. This time a fist.
Between the concrete and the blow Will didn’t know what had happened. His eyes rolled back into his head. He’d been KO’ed in the boxing ring before but never like this. The back of his head felt as though it had been engulfed by the ground while the warmth of his own blood was now flooding across his face.
Turning his head sideways, Will saw Eva in the arms of the second man. He felt like broken lead.
Slowly and deliberately the other man dragged the blade of a knife down both of Eva’s cheeks. At first it was as though nothing had happened but as the seconds passed, thin lines of deep red began to appear, giving way to a full flow.
Eva didn’t scream. Not at first. Only when she touched her face and her hands came back glistening.
Both men turned and ran. Beneath the warning lights a crowd had gathered. They all watched as Eva’s dress turned from yellow to red.

***

The Unbroken Line is available to purchase from

Penguin Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AUvia Booko

Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

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