Today I’m joining the blog tour for The Syndrome. I’m sharing an extract from the book with thanks to Zoe O’Farrell for inviting me on the tour and to the publisher for my copy of the extract.
What is the difference between dedication and obsession?
While investigating the murder of two known offenders with connections to a notorious, recently escaped London drug trafficker, the Scotland Yard forensic team headed by DCI Eric Shaw becomes involved in a child abuse case. A nurse had accused a mother of a series of violent, feverish attacks on her ten-year-old son, Jimmy. The woman would exasperate the condition of her child to draw the attention and compassion of health workers at the hospital.
Eric learned of this accusation by chance because he is dating Catherine Foulger, the paediatrician looking after the child. She is an old flame, and he is seeing her again in the hope of putting some order back in his life after discovering the identity of the serial killer nicknamed Black Death.
But this is a relationship his former partner Adele Pennington, still working as an investigator in Forensic Services, has not really accepted.
DCI Eric Shaw returns.
This book is written in British English.
It wasn’t working. Guilt was still devouring him from within. Nothing would quench its hunger. Ever.
His eyes landed on the few objects scattered on the desk. A phone, a printer, a mouse, a keyboard and a computer monitor, a folder with a few sheets sticking out from it. A photograph frame tipped over forward.
Before he could stop himself from doing it, he picked it up. In the picture faded by long exposure to light, four young people on an athletic track smiled.
It’d been taken during a university sporting event. He couldn’t remember which one. It was an amateur event though, a different way to spend a Sunday and distract yourself from study stress. One of their fellow students had called his name. He had turned, smiling, expecting to be captured on film. The other three, instead, were distracted. Catherine was stretching, bent in an almost impossible position, and just looked up at the camera. Caught by surprise, she was even more beautiful than he remembered her at that time. Madeleine was laughing, turning to Jean-Michel, whose gesticulating hands were blurred. The sports clothing and the surrounding location would make it difficult, for anyone who didn’t know them, to give a temporal location for that shot, except for Madeleine’s poofy hair, which unlike that of the other girl wasn’t tied up and shouted “eighties”.
His mobile phone vibrated in his pocket. He couldn’t answer. He was elsewhere.
As though a record had started to play, at first from afar and then getting closer and closer, the notes of “Radio Ga Ga” came to life in Eric’s mind. But although belonging to that time in the past, they had nothing to do with that day.
He shut his eyes, and it was like being in that car, eleven years later, in 1995. The same song was playing on the car radio that Madeleine, behind the wheel, had turned up loud to cover Jean-Michel’s words. The latter, sitting on the back seat, was leaning forward to inveigh against her. It was pouring rain outside, as though the whole sky had opened to emphasise the drama of that lethal quarrel.
Eric could feel inside him the same sense of powerlessness of that time, when in the passenger seat he’d tried to calm things down to no avail, while struggling himself to keep the teensiest bit of calm, threatened by the continuous jerks of the vehicle. He’d opened the window to reduce the misting of the windscreen, but that hadn’t improved the view too much. Yet Madeleine kept driving so crazily, with sudden accelerations and braking, making high-speed manoeuvres that would’ve been dangerous even if the road surface had been dry and she in a more fitting condition to take the wheel.
The ifs crowded his mind: if he hadn’t got in the car, if he had taken away her key, if he’d got out when Jean-Michel arrived, if he’d stayed home. A grim foreboding sat upon his chest. And a stain on the windscreen, bigger and bigger.
Only it wasn’t a stain.
He seemed to feel the impact on his body again and the safety belt holding him in his seat, almost marking his flesh, when he opened his eyes and found himself in the surgery. The photograph frame was still in his hands, but the image was blurred, like it was still raining.
He put the object back on the desk and wiped away his tears, slowly. His crying was loosening the grip that seized his soul. The fingers of guilt spread, letting his heart slip away.
Being still alive was a punishment he’d paid for twenty-one years. It had marked the rest of his life, had undermined his relationship with Crystal since the beginning, then their marriage, and had led him into the abyss.
Syndrome is available from Amazon.
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