Leigh Russell: Deathly Affair

Today I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour for Deathly Affair. I am sharing an extract with thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me on the blog tour and to No Exit Press for providing the extract.

Blurb:

The new novel in the million-copy selling Detective Geraldine Steel series

When a homeless man is found strangled to death, Detective Sergeant Geraldine Steel is caught off guard by the cold-blooded nature of the crime. A second murder suggests the existence of a killer whose motive is as elusive as he is dangerous.

In an investigation plagued by police scepticism, only Geraldine is relentless in her pursuit of the truth. As she is forced down unexpected avenues into the lives of three people caught in a toxic triangle of love and deceit, she discovers there is more to this case than any of them could have imagined.

For fans of Martina Cole, Mel Sherratt and LJ Ross.

Extract:

Chapter 2

The next morning she was woken by her phone ringing before her alarm went off.

‘Oh, bloody hell,’ she grumbled. ‘Hello? Hello?’

Still listening to the message, she switched on the light and grabbed her clothes with her free hand.

‘OK,’ she replied, scrambling into her jeans, ‘I’m on my way now.’

Her colleague, Detective Inspector Ian Peterson, arrived at the location in the centre of the city at the same time as Geraldine. Together they approached the cordon. Without exchanging a word they pulled on protective clothing and followed the common approach path to the crime scene. A dead body had been discovered by a postman on an early morning round in the doorway of an empty shop in Coney Street which ran alongside the river, not far from York Minster.

Shivering, Geraldine gazed down at the hump of ragged clothing that concealed a corpse. The lower part of the dead man’s face was covered by a grizzled beard and his lips were concealed beneath a straggly moustache. Above a large nose, dark eyes glared blindly up at them.

‘He looks like a tramp,’ Ian grunted, turning away.

Geraldine suppressed a sigh. Having worked as Ian’s mentor when he was still a young sergeant, she was possibly his only colleague who was aware of the queasiness he experienced when viewing corpses. Without mentioning the subject, she did her best to protect him from the need to attend post mortems. But she could not shelter him from the brutal ugliness of crime scenes.

‘He hasn’t got any form of identification, only a few pounds in coins in one pocket, and an empty beer bottle in the other,’ a scene of crime officer said. ‘But you’re right. He looks as though he might be homeless.’

Geraldine nodded. The stench of death masked any other smell from the body, but he was certainly filthy, his fingernails black with grime, his face speckled with dirt.

‘What did he die of?’ Ian asked.

He refrained from wondering aloud why the major crime unit would be summoned to investigate an old hobo who had no doubt drunk himself to death, but Geraldine thought his voice seemed to imply the question. She hoped she had misinterpreted his tone.

‘He was strangled,’ a scene of crime officer replied quietly.

‘I suppose it’s too much to hope the killer used his bare hands?’ Geraldine asked.

Craning her neck to peer under the rough sleeper’s collar, she saw a short section of a red band around his throat. Ian must have noticed it too because he muttered something inaudible under his breath.

‘Who the hell would bother to do that – to him?’ the scene of crime officer asked.

Something in the dismissive tone of his voice prompted another officer to add, ‘And why are we spending so much time and effort on him?’

Geraldine glared at her colleagues, too angry to trust herself to respond. Unwashed and homeless, the dead man had been a human being. Any one of the officers there might have become homeless had their lives panned out differently. Drugs, legal or controlled, could render anyone dysfunctional, and the decline into penury was often swift and unforgiving. If her work had taught her anything, she had come to understand that the boundary between coping with life and falling apart was flimsier than most people realised. This tramp’s murder deserved the full attention of the authorities, no less than any other victim. Justice had to be indiscriminate, like death.

She kept her indignation to herself, determined to channel her anger into finding the killer. A cordon had been set up and the forensic tent was expected imminently. Although the weather was fine, being outside they needed to protect any evidence at the scene from the threat of deterioration and contamination. In the few moments that would elapse before the forensic tent arrived, Geraldine focused on the scene, doing her best to ignore the white-coated forensic officers and uniformed police who were guarding the cordon. She had stood in such a position many times before, but the visceral thrill she experienced never lessened. Her colleagues’ offhand reaction to the body made her uneasy, and she wondered whether the rest of the team could be relied on to devote their usual level of attention to detail at this particular crime scene.

‘Do you think they’ll be thorough –’ she began, and paused.

‘What? Who are you talking about?’ Ian replied.

His terse response reminded her of his discomfort when viewing the dead, a handicap for a detective that he had worked hard to overcome.

‘Nothing,’ she muttered. ‘Don’t worry about it. I’m sure everything will be fine.’

Ian gave her a curious glance. ‘Not for him, it won’t.’

     The next morning she was woken by her phone ringing before her alarm went off. 

     ‘Oh, bloody hell,’ she grumbled. ‘Hello? Hello?’

     Still listening to the message, she switched on the light and grabbed her clothes with her free hand.

     ‘OK,’ she replied, scrambling into her jeans, ‘I’m on my way now.’

   Her colleague, Detective Inspector Ian Peterson, arrived at the location in the centre of the city at the same time as Geraldine. Together they approached the cordon. Without exchanging a word they pulled on protective clothing and followed the common approach path to the crime scene. A dead body had been discovered by a postman on an early morning round in the doorway of an empty shop in Coney Street which ran alongside the river, not far from York Minster.     

     Shivering, Geraldine gazed down at the hump of ragged clothing that concealed a corpse. The lower part of the dead man’s face was covered by a grizzled beard and his lips were concealed beneath a straggly moustache. Above a large nose, dark eyes glared blindly up at them.

     ‘He looks like a tramp,’ Ian grunted, turning away.

     Geraldine suppressed a sigh. Having worked as Ian’s mentor when he was still a young sergeant, she was possibly his only colleague who was aware of the queasiness he experienced when viewing corpses. Without mentioning the subject, she did her best to protect him from the need to attend post mortems. But she could not shelter him from the brutal ugliness of crime scenes.

     ‘He hasn’t got any form of identification, only a few pounds in coins in one pocket, and an empty beer bottle in the other,’ a scene of crime officer said. ‘But you’re right. He looks as though he might be homeless.’

     Geraldine nodded. The stench of death masked any other smell from the body, but he was certainly filthy, his fingernails black with grime, his face speckled with dirt.

     ‘What did he die of?’ Ian asked.

     He refrained from wondering aloud why the major crime unit would be summoned to investigate an old hobo who had no doubt drunk himself to death, but Geraldine thought his voice seemed to imply the question. She hoped she had misinterpreted his tone.

     ‘He was strangled,’ a scene of crime officer replied quietly.

     ‘I suppose it’s too much to hope the killer used his bare hands?’ Geraldine asked.

     Craning her neck to peer under the rough sleeper’s collar, she saw a short section of a red band around his throat. Ian must have noticed it too because he muttered something inaudible under his breath.

     ‘Who the hell would bother to do that – to him?’ the scene of crime officer asked.

     Something in the dismissive tone of his voice prompted another officer to add, ‘And why are we spending so much time and effort on him?’

     Geraldine glared at her colleagues, too angry to trust herself to respond. Unwashed and homeless, the dead man had been a human being. Any one of the officers there might have become homeless had their lives panned out differently. Drugs, legal or controlled, could render anyone dysfunctional, and the decline into penury was often swift and unforgiving. If her work had taught her anything, she had come to understand that the boundary between coping with life and falling apart was flimsier than most people realised. This tramp’s murder deserved the full attention of the authorities, no less than any other victim. Justice had to be indiscriminate, like death.

    She kept her indignation to herself, determined to channel her anger into finding the killer. A cordon had been set up and the forensic tent was expected imminently. Although the weather was fine, being outside they needed to protect any evidence at the scene from the threat of deterioration and contamination. In the few moments that would elapse before the forensic tent arrived, Geraldine focused on the scene, doing her best to ignore the white-coated forensic officers and uniformed police who were guarding the cordon. She had stood in such a position many times before, but the visceral thrill she experienced never lessened. Her colleagues’ offhand reaction to the body made her uneasy, and she wondered whether the rest of the team could be relied on to devote their usual level of attention to detail at this particular crime scene.

     ‘Do you think they’ll be thorough –’ she began, and paused.

     ‘What? Who are you talking about?’ Ian replied.

     His terse response reminded her of his discomfort when viewing the dead, a handicap for a detective that he had worked hard to overcome.

     ‘Nothing,’ she muttered. ‘Don’t worry about it. I’m sure everything will be fine.’

     Ian gave her a curious glance. ‘Not for him, it won’t.’

***

Deathly Affair is available from Amazon

You can follow the rest of the blog tour here;

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