FEATURING DI GERALDINE STEEL
*EBOOK INCLUDES A FREE KILLER CHRISTMAS SHORT STORY - AVAILABLE FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY*
With so many potential victims to choose from, there would be many deaths. He was spoiled for choice, really, but he was determined to take his time and select his targets carefully. Only by controlling his feelings could he maintain his success. He smiled to himself. If he was clever, he would never have to stop. And he was clever. He was very clever. Far too clever to be caught.
Geraldine Steel is back for her tenth case. Reunited in York with her former sergeant, Ian Peterson, she discovers that her tendency to bend the rules has consequences. The tables have turned, and now he’s the boss.
When two people are murdered, their only connection lies buried in the past. As police search for the elusive killer, another body is discovered. Pursuing her first investigation in York, Geraldine struggles to solve the confusing case. How can she expose the killer, and rescue her shattered reputation, when all the witnesses are being murdered?
Read an extract from the opening of Class Murder
He never forgot the first time the cat brought a bird into the house. A small brown creature, its wings were still flapping although its eyes were glazed above a beak that hung open. Warning him not to go anywhere near the dying bird, his mother chased the cat outside. He must have been about six or seven, young enough to obey his mother’s command without question. Returning to the kitchen, she explained that the cat had intended to bring her a present.
‘We feed Billy,’ she went on, ‘but it’s still a generous gesture. He could have kept the bird for himself. That’s his way of showing us he loves us. Cats aren’t like people.’
Her last comment had puzzled him. Of course he knew that cats weren’t like people. They had four legs, for a start, and they ouldn’t talk. Another time, the cat brought in a dead mouse. His mother scooped it up in a wad of newspaper, leaving a streak of blood on the lino. After cleaning the floor and washing her hands, she turned to him with a sour expression on her face.
‘Don’t be upset with Billy,’ she said. ‘He was bringing us a present.’
Far from upset, he had been intrigued and vaguely excited at the enormity of what Billy had done.
It was a hot summer, with blazing days that seemed to stretch out endlessly, a childhood summer where he fell asleep before the sun set, and woke to see it rising in the sky. Crouching in dry grass behind the garden shed, he spent weeks devising a box with a lid that snapped shut as soon as a frail stick holding it open was dislodged. Discovering that his homemade contraption had succeeded was one of the highlights of his early childhood. His breath caught in his throat when he first saw the box was shut. Concealed beneath a hedge behind the garden shed, he was pretty sure no one else would have stumbled on it. Only a small animal could have set off the mechanism that snapped the box shut.
His hands trembled with excitement as he picked it up. There was no sound from inside the box, no frantic scuttling of tiny feet, no outraged squawking from a trapped creature. Dreading that he would open it only to find it empty, he lifted the lid a fraction and peered inside. There was no movement in the box. He slid the lid across another fraction and cried out at the sight of a tiny beady black eye glaring up at him.
Slamming the lid shut, he collapsed on the ground, laughing hysterically. It was a while before he calmed down enough to consider his next move. He wanted to be brave and kill the mouse with his bare hands, but he was afraid of being bitten. Apart from the pain, mice carried all sorts of disgusting diseases. Sitting on the ground behind the shed, feeling the dry grass prickly against his bare legs, he weighed up his various options.
In the end he chose to kill it with a stick, pressing down against the creature’s head until something cracked with a minute jolt rather than a sound. Spellbound, he watched a thin trickle of blood seep into the untreated wood. He couldn’t explain what was happening, but he understood that something significant was taking place through a process he himself had initiated with his own hands inside a box he had made.
His mother’s reaction when he handed her a dead mouse had been his first letdown in a life filled with disappointment.
‘It’s a present for you,’ he told her proudly. ‘I killed it myself.’
Her scream seemed to pierce his head. He was so shocked he dropped the mouse, which landed on the floor with a faint thud. Such a small sound for a dead body. His father came running into the kitchen. When his mother had recovered sufficiently to recount what had happened, his father scrubbed his hands before taking him into the living room and sitting him down.
‘Where did you find the mouse?’ he asked, his grey eyes sharp with concern.
‘I trapped it,’ he muttered, already less confident about boasting of his exploit.
‘You mean you found it?’
He shook his head.
‘Tell me exactly what happened.’
Pride in his accomplishment overcame his reticence as he recounted how he had set a trap in the garden and, after many attempts, had finally succeeded in catching a mouse.
‘And the animal was dead when you found it?’
Something in his father’s manner warned him to be cautious.
‘Sort of,’ he hedged.
‘So you finished it off to put it out of its misery?’
He nodded. It was a weird way of describing his experience but even at such a young age he could sense it might be best to conceal his feelings. Later that day he heard his father explaining to his mother that he had wanted to end the creature’s suffering.
‘He said it was a present for me,’ she replied in an odd stiff voice. ‘He told me he killed it himself.’ She burst into tears. ‘If he had a little brother or sister to keep him company, he wouldn’t be trying to copy Billy.’
He had often overheard his parents talking about wanting to give him a brother or sister. For some reason they were unable to do that. That was one of the disappointments of their lives but if they had bothered to ask him, he would have told them he was pleased not to have a noisy baby grabbing his toys, and hogging his parents’ attention. They were better off as they were.
He never told either of his parents that the mouse had not only been alive, but completely unharmed, when he had caught it.
He hadn’t expected the tiny creature to die so slowly. The memory made him smile. That, at least, hadn’t been a disappointment.
The estate agent was apologetic about the state of the house.
‘The paintwork needs touching up and the wallpaper’s seen better days, but you can soon…’
‘The wallpaper’s not important,’ he interrupted with an impatient wave of his hand.
Clearly heartened by his potential client’s response, the estate agent continued. ‘You’re going to want to redecorate wherever you go. The windows will need replacing, eventually, but that’s been taken into account in the asking price.’
The state of the house must have put a lot of buyers off. The agent tapped the window sill with one manicured fingernail finger as he spoke. Behind his fake grin his eyes were bright, alert to any sign of interest.
‘The vendor might be persuaded to make a further reduction for a quick sale. It’s been on the market for a while, at a higher price. He’s only recently agreed to lower the asking price, so you’ve come along at just the right time. Once you’ve replaced the old windows with double glazed units, you’ll hardly hear the trains going by.’
He nodded, but he wasn’t really listening to the estate agent’s chatter as he stood gazing out of the back window. The railway ran along the end of the garden. Beyond a thin screen of birch trees, trains travelled in a cutting below the level of the garden.
‘You can’t hear the trains at all from the front of the house, and it’s a very quiet street, even during the day,’ the estate agent assured him.
The house was set back from the road, with a high privet hedge shielding the front yard.
‘It’s very quiet,’ the agent insisted, rubbing his white hands together and leaning forward, eager to close the sale. ‘Once you’ve fixed the windows and seen to the damp, all you need to do is change the wallpaper and put a lick of paint around the place and it’s going to look very nice indeed. You’ve got good sized rooms here. It’s a real bargain. You won’t find anything else this spacious at the price, not around here.’
He gave another nod to indicate he was listening.
‘A lot of people like to buy a place that needs a bit of attention,’ the agent continued, as though afraid the opportunity to sell the property would vanish the instant he stopped talking. ‘It means you can have it however you want.’
‘That’s true.’ He didn’t mention that he was in no hurry to decorate. Peeling wallpaper didn’t bother him. What attracted him was something very different: a garden that wasn’t overlooked from any direction. He waited a moment, telling the agent he wanted to hear a train go past the end of the garden. In reality, he wasn’t interested in how much noise the trains made, only in whether their windows travelled below the level of his fence. He had to be sure he couldn’t be seen by passengers rattling past.
The transaction was straightforward. He had already found a buyer for the house he had inherited from his parents. Moving in, he settled into his own private routine, content in his solitude. His demands were modest: to be left alone to pursue his hobby free from interference. Since he was a child he had listened to other people grumbling about their lot. Sometimes their complaints intrigued him. Mostly they amused him. The solution was so obvious. They just had to take whatever they wanted. He did.
Of course most people weren’t as clever as him, and he had been fortunate in having a mother who was easy to manipulate. His father had been more difficult. In the end the situation at home had become untenable. There couldn’t be two of them in charge. But there had been a solution. There always was. He had laid his plans carefully for a very long time, watching and waiting, until at last the chance had presented itself. He found things usually worked out that way for someone who had the guts to seize opportunities when they came along. He had discovered he had the requisite courage quite early on in his life. It still made him smile when he remembered it. Everyone had been very sympathetic towards his mother, and very kind to him. They had all believed the fall had been an accident. No one had suspected a ten-year-old boy had been responsible for his father’s death.
Over the years that followed he had honed his skill, so he knew what he was doing. The difficult part was to manage it without being caught. Once again, his patience served himwell. He watched and waited until she was alone in her flat before slipping on his gloves and ringing the bell. His crude disguise of fake glasses, moustache and beard, were enough to mask his identity from the security cameras in her block. It was a simple matter to talk his way into her flat by convincing her he had been called to fix a dripping pipe because residents in the flat below had complained to the landlord that a leak was causing a damp patch on their ceiling.
‘No one said anything to us about it,’ the girl remonstrated.
He raised his eyebrows in feigned surprise. ‘The landlord arranged it with your flatmate. It’s not my fault if she forgot to tell you. But your landlord’s going to hold you responsible for any further damage, if you refuse to let me in to fix it. It’s no skin off my nose.’ He gave a careless shrug. ‘Let’s hope your floor doesn’t collapse.’
He almost smiled on seeing her worried frown. She believed every word of his story.
‘You’d better come in, then,’ she said.
He had come prepared, but he didn’t have to use his own weapon. The minute he walked into the kitchen he spotted a set of sharp knives on the worktop. A murder weapon that was already to hand would leave fewer clues for the police to follow up. As soon as she turned away he reached for the longest blade.
‘Can I make you a cup of tea?’ she asked, turning back to face him.
Without answering, he raised his arm and struck her a powerful blow in the middle of her chest. He felt the blade slide in and stop as it hit bone. Her blue eyes widened in shock and her mouth gaped open ready to scream, as he drew the knife out. Blood soaked her sweatshirt, cascading on to the floor. Before she could make a sound, with one swift movement he sliced across her mouth. Blood dripped from a macabre semblance of a grin that split her face. She staggered back against the worktop. Lunging forward, he slashed at her chest repeatedly, hoping the police would infer she had been killed by someone in a jealous rage, someone who knew her. A strange gurgling issued from her bloody lips as she sank to the floor, her sweatshirt drenched with blood. While he stood watching, fascinated, he barely noticed the knife slide from his grasp, the handle slippery with blood.
Whipping off his gloves, he pulled on a clean pair and bundled the wet ones into a plastic bag inside his rucksack, along with his bloody mac and trainers. There was no point in washing any of them. Traces of her blood would remain in the garments, and cling to the pipes of whatever washing machine he used, and to the seams and internal fabric of his shoes. Nor would he attempt to destroy the telltale clothes. Every time he moved them he risked leaving a trail for the police to follow, instead of which they would stay in the plastic bag, safely locked away where no one would ever find them. Too many killers were caught because they attempted to destroy evidence. That was stupid, because forensic examination could detect microscopic traces of blood and DNA invisible outside of laboratory conditions. Far better to leave no clues.
Driving back to his lock-up garage, he started to plan his next outing.
CRITICAL ACCLAIM for Class Murder
' - Howard Linskey
'I thoroughly enjoyed Class Murder which held me so enthralled from start to finish I read it in one sitting, unable to put it down.'
'Different city, different circumstances but good to see Ian and Geraldine working together again'
'Magic read. I absolutely love this series.'
More Reader Reviews
'Once again Leigh Russell has produced an exciting action-packed thriller which kept me reading long after the lights were out and everyone was asleep. The characters were convincing and the storyline gripping, ending with a cliffhanging conclusion.'
'This is a gripping crime thriller and the author delivers her usual formula to keep the reader riveted right to the last page.'
'This is a good book...I am looking forward to see where Geraldine goes from here'
'Gritty police thriller,with two separate storylines. Good, interesting characters who interact well.'
'I enjoyed this one and wouldn’t hesitate to pick up another Geraldine Steel mystery.'
'This is an absorbing and compelling serial killer read that explores the mind and motive of a killer, and how the police work to track down that killer.'
'This book is told from several points of view and is very well written. An excellent plot, good pace and a very unexpected ending.'
'An enjoyable and neat read!'
'I loved this book and my only disappointment is that I have to wait for the next one!'
'The thing I love about Leigh Russell’s books is the fact that there are so many aspects to the plot but they all slot together like a perfectly formed jigsaw puzzle. The characters are so well crafted, the settings are so vividly described and the killer, well wow!'
'Class Murder has a modern day feel of Agatha Christie just when I thought I knew who the killer was.... BOOM the author would throw in another twist. I was hooked from start to finish, I simply couldn't put it down.'
'Russell at her very best and Steel crying out to be turned into a TV series. I loved this book as much as any of the previous 8 out of 9 that I've read. I really can't wait for number 11.'
'Leigh’s writing is highly engaging, she pulls you into the story without effort. Class Murder was a really enjoyable read.'
'I really didn't see all that coming. It really was the book that kept on giving, but all actually pretty credible at the end of the day.'
'There were a few twists that I didn’t see coming but it was a gripping read and I couldn’t put it down. I can’t wait for book 11 in the series'
'Class Murder is a well written, easy to read page-turner about a series of murders. There is an unforeseen twist at the end of the novel which adds to the excitement.'
'I found the interweaving of Geraldine’s story with that of the perpetrator and the victims very effective for allowing the narrative to unfold in a natural way.'
'I can't think back to when I first started reading Leigh Russell's books, but having devoured everything she's written, I have never been disappointed!'
'This is a fantastic story that kept me gripped throughout. The chapters from the killer’s point of view were especially chilling.'
'Class Murder was just the type of gripping and gutsy police thriller I have come to expect from the very accomplished and devious mind of author Leigh Russell'
Publication Date: 29 Mar 2018
Availability: Not Yet Published
Publication Date: 7 Dec 2017
Availability: Order Now
Format: ebook (ePub)
Publication Date: 7 Dec 2017
Availability: Order Now
Format: ebook (kindle)