Russ Thomas: Firewatching

Today I’m pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for Firewatching. I’m sharing an extract with thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me on the blog tour and to the publisher for providing the extract.



A body is found bricked into the walls of a house. From the state of the hands, it’s clear they were buried alive and had tried to claw their way out before they died. Soon, the victim is linked to a missing person’s case and DS Adam Tyler is called.


As the sole representative of South Yorkshire’s Cold Case Review Unit, Tyler recognises his role for what it is – a means of keeping him out of the way following an ‘incident’. When this case falls in his lap, he grabs the opportunity to fix his stagnating career.


When he discovers he has a connection to the case that hopelessly compromises him, he makes the snap decision not to tell his superiors. With such a brutal and sadistic murder to unpick, Tyler must move carefully to find out the truth, without destroying the case or himself.

Meanwhile, someone in the city knows exactly what happened to the body. Someone who is watching Adam closely. Someone with an unhealthy affinity with fire . . .

A taut investigative thriller bursting with character and tension, introducing an enigmatic, fresh lead detective unlike any you have met before – Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler – for fans of Adrian McKinty, Tana French, Steve Cavanagh and Sharon Bolton.


The man with the scar on his cheek looks down from the window of the apartment building and wonders if someone has thrown a blanket over Sheffield. Summer has swaddled the city in a haze reminiscent of the smogs of its industrial heritage. Sunlight is funnelled through rows of terraced houses just as molten iron once sludged and pooled in the blast furnaces and steel mills of the Don Valley. It spills down from the hills and through the parks, weaving its way between the trunks of trees and out onto the ring road.

From several storeys below the man hears the deep bass rumble of music. The latest addition to a chain of real-ale pubs. This city, with its proud tradition of industry and purpose, now courts only leisure. Productivity turned to idleness, he thinks. And the devil makes work for idle hands.

He turns to look back at the estate agent standing nervously behind him. He looks over the open-plan living room the agent just referred to as ‘a blank canvas’. Whitewashed walls, not so much as a hint of magnolia; the cheapest kind of laminate flooring, all spongy underfoot where the surface hasn’t been prepared properly. The man wonders if they even bothered to clean away the blood before they laid it.

The flat is unbearably hot, the air so thick he can taste it. He feels the sun pushing in through the south-facing glass, the heat rising up from the apartments beneath. He wonders what it would be like to live here. Like being buried alive, he imagines. Still, at least it would be cheap to run.

The estate agent struggles to hide his nerves. He smiles too much. And his eyes flick constantly towards the bedroom, betraying the fact he knows full well the history of his ‘one-bed pied-à-terre’.

The agent finally meets the man’s eye, doing his best to avoid the scar. ‘Of course,’ he says artfully, ‘the rooms are much larger than you usually get in this type of property.’ He crosses to the window and looks out for himself. ‘And the views . . .’ He seems content to leave it at that, unwilling perhaps to push his luck.

The man ignores him and heads straight to the door that opens into the bedroom. He has to push hard against the spring-loaded mechanism and he imagines the room wants to keep him out. His pulse quickens. He half-expects to see the tableau as he remembers it – walls coated in arterial blood, the girl lying splayed across the futon, her head bent unnaturally backwards, her dark, lifeless eyes staring up, pleading with him for help. The organs. Laid out in neat little piles around the room, liver, kidneys, spleen; like choice cuts in a butcher’s window.

But there are only the same whitewashed plaster walls, the same uneven faux-wood flooring. It has been a little over three years since the butcher came for the girl in this flat, and now she lies in the Abbey Lane Cemetery, her innards restored.

The man feels a fat bead of sweat launch itself from his armpit and streak down his right-hand side. He resists the urge to scratch it away. The fire-door pushes back against his outstretched arm.

Behind him, the estate agent clears his throat. ‘En-suite?’ he says faintly.

But the man doesn’t bother to look. He’s seen enough. He’s disappointed, though he never really expected to find anything after all this time. He tarries now, only out of some perverse pleasure he takes in discomforting the agent. He steps back into the living room, allowing the bedroom door to shut them out. ‘Eighty-five thousand,’ he says, as though giving it some serious consideration. And then he realises he actually is considering it. He needs a new place and it really is a good buy.

The estate agent nods encouragingly and echoes his thoughts: ‘I doubt you’ll find better at this price.’

The agent’s opportunism irritates him. ‘So what’s the catch?’ he asks.

The obsequious salesman wrings his hands and the man with the scar remembers the warm, clammy palm he was forced to shake when he arrived.

‘The owner wants a quick sale. It’s been on the market for some time now.’ The agent glances once, quickly, at the bedroom door. ‘I understand the vendor is open to offers . . .’

‘I’ll give it some thought,’ he says. A good deal is a good deal, after all. If he could get past the fact a woman was once gutted in his bedroom. Could he get past that? Perhaps, for the right price.

Back downstairs the agent leaves him at the entrance to the building with another sweaty handshake. ‘I’ll call you towards the weekend then,’ he says. ‘Give you a chance to give it some serious consideration.’

‘You do that.’

The agent begins to turn and then, almost as an afterthought, says, ‘Sorry, remind me what the name was again?’

‘Tyler,’ says the man with the scar. ‘Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler.’

The ever-present grin on the estate agent’s face finally slips. His hand falls away to his side and he wipes his damp fingers down the right leg of his trousers. He turns and hurries away to his car.

Now Tyler is the one smiling, the scar tugging at the corner of his mouth.


Firewatching is available from Amazon.

You can follow the rest of the blog tour here:







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