RACE TO DEATH
A DI IAN PETERSON INVESTIGATION
Second in the new series featuring DI Ian Peterson
'Moments before, he had been enjoying a day out at the races. Now he could be dying…. As he fell a loud wind roared past his ears, indistinguishable from the roar of the crowd. The race was over'.
A man plummets to his death during the York Races. Suicide or murder? Newly-promoted DI Ian Peterson is plunged into a complex and high-profile case, and as the body count increases, the pressure mounts for his team to solve the crimes quickly.
But the killer is following the investigation far more keenly than Ian realises and time is running out as the case suddenly gets a lot closer to home...
Read an Extract from Race to Death
DOWNING THE DREGS OF his third pint, Adrian fell into conversation with an official in a uniform green jacket and matching tie.
‘This is our first visit to York Races.’ Adrian waved his free hand in the direction of the Knavesmire Racetrack. ‘I once had a girlfriend who came from York but that’s as close as I’ve been to the place. We’ve been to Kempton Park, but we’ve not been here before.’
The other man paused in his stride and nodded, apparently paying attention. Adrian tried to size him up. As a local, familiar with the track, he might be able to offer a few useful hints, if Adrian could gain his confidence. It would have been easier to judge the situation if he was sober. He wished Vivien was beside him. With her good looks they might have stood a chance of coaxing a decent tip out of the bloke, but Vivien had gone on ahead with Adrian’s brother.
‘I mean,’ Adrian went on expansively, ‘we’re no experts, far from it. We like a bit of a flutter though. My brother just won a tidy little sum. Lucky bastard. So,’ he leaned forward, swaying slightly, ‘you’re in the know. Any tips for a beginner?’
He winked at the steward who just smiled and wished Adrian luck before turning away.
Another man came and hovered beside him, wearing the same uniform green jacket. He was studying the crowd up ahead so Adrian couldn’t see much of his face, only a light bushy beard and the frames of his gold-rimmed spectacles.
‘Your first visit here?’ the steward asked.
Adrian said it was.
‘You after a tip, sir?’
Adrian laughed and said it would be nice. The official suggested Adrian check out the view from the Shirley Heights Bar.
‘Take the lift up to the fifth floor of the Ebor Stand and look out from the balcony. It’s well worth a visit. You won’t regret it.’
He knew that wasn’t the kind of tip Adrian was hoping for.
Disappointed, Adrian hurried off to catch up with his wife. Eventually he found her standing outside one of the champagne bars. He paused to admire her for a moment.
‘He’s gone to blow some of his winnings on a glass of champagne. You’d better go after him if you want one. He’ll probably get a bottle. He said we should have the best.’
‘You’ve got the best right here,’ Adrian replied, thumping his chest with one hand.
He threw his other arm round her white shoulders, grumbling cheerfully that his brother was showing off again. ‘Him and his money,’ he added a trifle enviously. It was all right for Charles. He didn’t have a wife to support.
It was no surprise when Vivien refused to accompany him up to the Shirley Heights Bar.
‘In these shoes,’ she protested, laughing, ‘you must be joking.’
She tossed her head, flicking her long blonde hair across her bare shoulder. Adrian could never understand why his wife chose to wear uncomfortable shoes, the heels so high she struggled to walk at all. It was amazing she hadn’t done herself an injury.
‘I’ll stay here and wait for Charles. But you go up if you want to. I’d rather keep my feet on the ground, and drink champagne.’
‘Suit yourself. I’ll be back before he gets through that queue.’
Adrian walked past a list of former winners displayed on a glass board beneath a sign in huge chrome letters: ‘Ebor Stand’. He looked back when he reached the entrance of the elegant glass and brick construction that towered above the walkway. He couldn’t see Vivien or his brother in the mêlée. Facing the entrance was a cabinet packed with trophies, photographs and other memorabilia of famous horses. To his right images of jockeys on horseback had been etched onto a glass wall. He crossed a smart hallway. As he made his way round the corner to find the lifts, the sense of luxury continued. The lift had carpeted floor, wooden walls and a large mirror. Vivien would have liked that.
Shirley Heights Bar was packed. There was a queue of people for the bar itself, which was all wood and chrome and shiny black surfaces, modern and classy. He had drunk too much already, and the day had barely begun. Turning, he made his way out through large glass doors onto a spacious balcony. People were seated at small chrome tables, enjoying the view. It was a cheerful scene, everyone in their Sunday best intent on having a good time. Which was what he should have been doing, downstairs with Viv and Charles. Still, now he was up here it would be daft not to look at the view. He might catch a glimpse of his wife, far below. He wondered if she was looking up, hoping to see him, high above the ground.
Leaning on the thick chrome bar that ran around the edge of the balcony, he gazed down at the forecourt. To his left the brick wall of the Ebor building obscured the view towards the racetrack. A few inches in front of him a chest high reinforced glass barrier surrounded the balcony. Below that, pots of flowers masked the view immediately beneath him. He looked up across the car park and the Knavesmire to the city, a mile or so in the distance, where he thought he could make out the Minster rising above the rooftops. Looking to his right he saw a tall clock tower looming over the vista. There was a flurry of movement behind him as everyone on the balcony began making their way inside. In the bar ubiquitous screens displayed the action. The next race was about to begin. Above the cacophony an excited commentator was shouting from the monitors.
Turning, Adrian found his way blocked by the steward who had recommended the view to him.
‘I’m going to the bar,’ he said. ‘If I can just get past you –’
The other man didn’t budge. ‘If you go to the corner, you get a great view of the clock tower.’
‘I saw it,’ Adrian muttered.
All the same he looked round, not wishing to be rude. As he did so, he felt a sharp prick on his neck.
‘Ouch! I’ve been stung!’
He turned back. The face in front of him looked fuzzy. His throat felt as though it was closing up. Fumbling to loosen his tie, he realised he had drunk far too much. His fingers wouldn’t work properly. He opened his mouth to cry out, but his lips seemed to be frozen. His tongue felt thick. He tried to move his head. It was fixed, his neck rigid. Barely conscious, he felt someone grip him tightly under his arms.
His relief at being helped turned to anger. The steward was wasting valuable time. Adrian needed urgent medical attention. He had suffered a stroke, or an anaphylactic reaction to an insect bite. Moments before, he had been enjoying a day out at the races. Now he could be dying. Someone he dimly recognised was lifting him off the ground. With eyes stuck wide open, he registered a beard and gold-rimmed glasses. He was being held upright, propped against the railing. With a jolt he felt himself hoisted upwards and pushed forwards, in danger of slithering helplessly over the edge. He wanted to scream, but he couldn’t move or call out.
As he fell a loud wind roared past his ears, indistinguishable from the roar of the crowd. The race was over.
PEOPLE WERE MILLING ABOUT chatting, laughing, queuing and drinking. Women in party frocks and smart suited men mingled with grave punters, all there to chance their luck on the horses. Adrian had gone to look at the view from the fifth floor, leaving Vivien with Charles who had gone to buy a bottle of champagne. The two brothers had left her on her own for ages, standing alone in the chattering crowd. At first she didn’t mind. With so many gorgeous dresses to look at, it was like watching a fashion show. After a while she grew anxious, afraid that Adrian and Charles would never find her again. Nervously she searched the assembled throng, looking for a familiar face. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves except her. At last she spotted Charles pushing through the crowd towards her. She looked away to hide her relief. Although she was pleased to see him, she was embarrassed watching him barge past other people to reach her, as though he was afraid to leave her by herself. He hadn’t minded abandoning her earlier.
He joined her, red-faced and out of breath. Three champagne flutes jiggled precariously in his grasp as he wiped his damp forehead with his sleeve, grumbling about the toilets and the queue for drinks. Raising her glass to take a first sip, she was vaguely aware of a commotion behind her. A shrill scream rang in her ear, reverberating painfully inside her head. At the same time, people started jostling one another violently all around her. Someone jogged her arm and she dropped her glass. It shattered on the ground. She barely noticed its contents fizz and splash her shoes, because by then Charles had grabbed her by the elbow to drag her away from the disturbance. One of her shoes fell off as she stumbled after him. Pausing only briefly in his stride, he heaved her bodily off the ground, with one arm. Carrying her at his side, he forged his way through the crowd that was surging past them towards the source of the tumult.
‘Don’t look round!’ he yelled at her.
Nearby she heard someone sobbing.
Reaching the edge of the crowd he put her down. Everyone around them seemed to be talking at once. An authoritative voice was yelling above the din. Vivien couldn’t make out what he was saying. Other voices nearby clamoured in a disjointed chorus.
‘Oh my God!’
‘Did you see that?’
‘From the balcony on the top floor.’
‘Dropped like a stone.’
‘He needs help.’
‘Is there a doctor here?’
‘It’s too late for that.’
As if losing a shoe wasn’t bad enough, Vivien noticed for the first time that her frock was spattered with champagne. She swore. Straightening up, she felt her face blush with shame. A man had fallen from a balcony. There was no need for her to see past the crowd of onlookers to know he must be dead or at least badly injured. Blood was probably still oozing from his shattered skull, and she was concerned about having her dress dry cleaned. With a shudder, she glanced around. No one was paying her any attention.
In the mêlée, security guards began shepherding spectators over to the side of the terrace where Vivien was standing behind Charles. Holding his arm for support, she pulled off her shoe. The area where the man had fallen was speedily cordoned off, watched over by a team of security guards. Unceremoniously corralled together, the crowd all seemed to be talking. Once the initial shock had worn off, the mood of the onlookers became irascible.
‘How long are we going to be kept here like this?’ a drunken voice yelled.
A chorus of complaints broke out.
‘We paid good money to come here today.’
‘I’m sorry, sir, but there’s nothing we can do about it right now,’ a policeman answered firmly. ‘I’m afraid no one is allowed to leave until we’ve had a chance to speak to you all.’
‘Well, go on then, speak up.’
‘We need to speak to each of you individually, sir,’ the copper replied stolidly.
Vivien moved to one side of Charles, but there was nothing to see. Several uniformed police officers had gathered around the body, masking it from view. A burly man was running and bellowing, waving his arms vehemently to intercept two security guards who had almost reached the entrance to the Ebor building. Above the sporadic din, Vivien could just about make out the orders he was barking.
‘Don’t go in. No one is to go inside the building until we get the green light. Guard all the exits. Don’t let anyone in.’
A security guard started forward as two men emerged from the building. Just then, several people surged forward in front of Vivien, blocking her view.
Adrian had been gone for about an hour. She searched the crowd in front of her but it was impossible to find anyone in this scrum. At her side, Charles leaned down and yelled in her ear.
‘Are you all right?’
‘I’m fine. Have you seen Adrian?’
Instead of answering, he seized her by the arm and began pulling her towards the front of the crowd. Awkwardly she hobbled after him, worried about broken glass, or her toes being trodden on.
‘Stop pushing,’ a man growled.
Other voices joined in. ‘We all want to see what’s going on.’
Ignoring the chorus of protests, Charles carried on shouldering his way through the throng. He dragged her over to a uniformed policeman, where he loosened his hold on her. The two men had a hurried conversation. As Charles was speaking, the policeman turned to stare at Vivien. Unnerved by the intensity of his gaze, she felt a tremor of fear.
The two men fell silent when she stepped forward to hear what they were saying. Charles stared fixedly at something over her shoulder. The constable shifted uneasily from one foot to the other.
‘What’s happened?’ The words rose hysterically in her throat. ‘Something’s happened to Adrian, hasn’t it? Has he – did he – is it him? I want to see.’
‘Are you sure?’ Charles asked gently. ‘You don’t have to do this, you know. I’m his brother. I can do it.’
He hesitated before answering. ‘They need someone to have a look at the man who fell from the balcony and confirm if it’s Adrian or not.’
He couldn’t meet her eye. They both knew.
CRITICAL ACCLAIM for Race To Death
'Leigh Russell weaves a fascinating tale that had me completely foxed. Whilst the mystery is tantalising the characters also fascinate, so clearly are they drawn.'
- Mystery People [read the full review]
'Fast-paced and unrelenting, and with more than enough twists to keep the most demanding reader entertained, Race to Death certainly doesn't disappoint! 4.5/5*'
- Claire H, clairelovestoread [read the full review]
'4 out of 5 stars'
- Morgen Bailey [read the full review]
'Leigh Russell never fails to have me glued to her plots and the writing is so good you just carry on reading and really don't want to put the book down.'
'This will be in the top ten books for the summer'
'This book is definitely a page turner'
More Reader Reviews
'You will not be able to put it down.'
'Compelling reading which found me devouring it in one sitting'
'This is the kind of book that you want to race through to find out how it comes out so it felt like a bit of a rollercoaster ride with the speed picking up in the last quarter.'
'an enjoyable easy read, well written with good characters and interesting throughout.'
'Its action packed, fast paced, fully of intrigue, suspense, edge of seat reading and time is running out, will our intrepid detective be able to crack the case in time. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - A MUST READ'
'As a reader, you are quite literally in a ‘race’ to complete this book'
Publication Date: 24 September 2014
Availability: Available Now
Publication Date: 29 May 2014
Availability: Available Now
Format: ebook (ePub)
Publication Date: 29 May 2014
Availability: Available Now
Format: ebook (kindle)