‘The latest unflinching and heart-racing thriller from S. J. Butler, the author of Between the Lines.
Perfect for fans of M. W. Craven and Robert Bryndza‘
– Deadly Lesson
Deadly Lesson by S. J. Butler published with Headline Accent July 22nd 2021 and is described by Tony Parsons as ‘high-octane crime fiction‘.
S. J. has kindly provided an extract for you all today to give you an idea of what to expect in this new thriller and to hopefully whet your appetite for more! Please do enjoy…
[ About the Book ]
When a dead body is discovered in a house near the university, Detective Chief Inspector Jack Hogan and his team are left baffled by the viciousness of the assault. And with very little to go on, the questions quickly mount up.
But, when another victim turns up with the same distinguishing mark etched on their skin – one that links the victims to an anarchist group – it becomes clear that a depraved and calculating serial killer is at large.
With the murderer always one step ahead, time is of the essence and DCI Hogan must act fast before another life is taken.
[ Extract ]
A fresh, crisp, sunny morning: the kind you want to wrap yourself up in, drink hot, steamy, sweet, tea, whilst watching your breath slowly rising, each gulp making you warm inside as the sun hits the side of your face. The terraced streets alive with sounds of activity, gates squeaking, then clanging shut, children shouting, dogs barking; the early part of the day when you expect nothing bad to happen. The potential of another day – a new experience, the beginning of a chapter. That was how it should have been, could have been if only you’d stayed in bed.
‘Is here fine?’ Sally said, pulling up outside the run-down launderette.
‘Couldn’t have done better myself,’ said Tom cheekily, taking off his seat belt and checking his hair in the passenger mirror. ‘What was that song you were playing?’ he added casually, pushing his greasy fringe off his face with a flick of his head.
‘Pulp: ‘Common People’.’
‘Can I borrow it a sec?’ he asked as she nodded, still dabbing at a wet fleck of mascara in the corner of her eye.
‘Haven’t moved on to CDs yet then?’ He almost snatched the piece of musical plastic from her outstretched freckled hand.
‘No, I’ll stick with the cassettes for now – only just replaced all me LPs,’ she added, hoping he’d soon get out of the car as she removed the last trace of stray make-up from her eye.
‘Won’t be a minute,’ he said, placing the tape in his Walkman and then stuffing it down the front of his trousers as he got out and gave her a wink and wave.
Glancing back at the waiting car he quickly disappeared down the alleyway beside the launderette. As he did a noisy black mass of crows and jackdaws took flight in an untidy cluster, squawking and arguing as they rose and fell on the wind, no doubt complaining at Tom’s sudden entrance into their world.
Spying a phone box a few yards away, Sally grabbed a few coins from her bag and made a dash for it, mistakenly racing against a man with a dog who she was sure was going to make a call before her, but walked on by.
‘Pete, it’s Sally, I didn’t wake you up this morning, did I?’ she began breathlessly. ‘I tried to creep out,’ she added, fumbling with the receiver.
‘No, I’m fine, Sal, slept in till twelve.’
She loved the way he called her Sal; loved his accent too. It seemed as if everyone at university either wanted to sound Northern or London – his was definitely the latter. It was as if all the posh kids had jumped ship and squashed themselves into Oxford and Cambridge.
‘Shall I come around tonight?’ she enquired affectionately.
‘Yeah, come round.’ Pete wasn’t one for talking and it was one of the many things which attracted her to him. ‘Where are you now?’ he asked sleepily, still waking up to the world of daytime living.
‘I’m driving up to East Ham to see Sarah. Oh, and I’m dropping that Tom bloke off in Stratford,’ she added casually, feeling that she should at least mention it.
‘Oh, right,’ said Pete in his usual laid-back way, ‘the one at Jean’s party.’ In truth he’d paid little attention to Tom at the party and only remembered him saying something about Social-Darwinism which wasn’t very interesting and a bit contrived. Apart from that he’d seemed an alright type of guy.
‘Rio Bravo is on in a bit,’ said Pete, who was clearly flicking between channels.
‘So, I’ll see you tonight then,’ she said, eventually having gone over the other finer details of her morning and more of his TV-watching schedule.
‘I love you too. Bye, Sal.’
Where the fuck is he? Sally thought now safely back in the car and desperately needing a pee, to see Sarah, and get back to Pete before nightfall. Looking at her watch and noting that twenty minutes had already passed she cursed her travelling companion once more as she pressed her hands deep between her legs.
‘Sorry about that,’ said Tom appearing out of nowhere, throwing himself down in the passenger seat with what appeared to be his T-shirt rolled up in a plastic carrier bag. ‘Me mate’s gran was there, and she wouldn’t stop yakking,’ he added, pushing the bag deep into his hoodie and zipping it up quickly.
‘No, problem,’ she lied, starting up the engine with urgency and trying not to think of her bursting bladder. ‘Shit!’ Suddenly defeated she turned off the ignition, ‘I’m sorry Tom, I’ve got to go and pee.’
‘Go, down the alley, no one takes that short cut,’ he said casually, his smile returning. ‘Go on,’ he added sensing her trepidation, ‘no one will see yer.’
‘Is it safe?’
‘Of course, it is. I’ll keep a look out for yer. Go on!’ he repeated in a playful tone, nearly pushing her out the door.
‘OK, but don’t move; stay there; promise?’
‘Promise; cross my heart.’
Once he was sure that she was safely out of sight, he reached over to the back seat, grabbed her handbag, and began sifting through its contents. Finding her purse, he opened it; nothing, only money he didn’t need; a photograph of the boyfriend, and her driver’s licence. Further down her bag there were a few strayTampax and some chewing gum. Glancing up nervously at the alley he continued. Bingo: a telephone bill. Scanning the information for a brief second, he had it all: full name; telephone number, and address. Placing everything neatly back in the bag he looked up and saw her flushed face move into the light of day as the already excited jackdaws swooped overhead, battering and clattering one another like an undisciplined gang of psycho-bandits, as Sally too looked up to see the commotion. In that split second, he had the bag placed safely on the back seat and was now intently reading the back of the Pulp cassette as she opened the door and got in.
‘Hey, you were supposed to be watching the alley, yer daft git,’ she said, smiling again in an attempt to hide her embarrassment.
‘I was, you just didn’t see me.’ He wanted to say, but I saw you, though thought it sounded a bit creepy. ‘Brilliant album,’ he said putting the returned item back in its case.’
She was about to say that he could borrow it, but decided not to, when she thought about all the tapes and LPs she’d lent to friends over the years and not got back.
‘Funny creatures,’ he said nodding towards the birds, who were now landing on each other’s heads, scrapping over some imaginary feast.
‘Loud,’ she replied.
‘I reckon those ones there, the smaller birds with the grey hoods,’ he began pointing at the jackdaws, ‘they’re embarrassed by the crows.’
‘Well, the din they’re making is like a record being played loud and backwards,’ Sally said as she turned on the ignition and the birds flew off again.
Moving on now with certainty and the need to be rid of her travelling companion firmly on her must-do list, she drove seamlessly and effortlessly towards her destination.
‘Don’t you think that it’s strange how birds are given negative labels?’
‘What?’ She really was tiring of the birds now.
‘I mean an unkindness of ravens or a clattering of jackdaws, and of course a murder of crows, not a good advertisement really – you really wouldn’t want to be a bird.’
‘I suppose not,’ she replied, finding it hard to concentrate on driving and wishing he would just stop. Relieved to be seeing more signs for Stratford, she took the town centre exit.
The earlier part of the journey hadn’t been so easy. Before the sudden detour, she had nearly run over a drunk in Whitechapel who’d stepped out into the road, sending his shopping trolley of belongings spinning to the other side of the street as the wino shook his fist and pressed his filthy, beery face against the glass of the driver’s side, smearing snot its entire length as Sally screeched to a halt.
‘Where did you learn to drive like that?’ had been Tom’s un-helpful response as she pulled cautiously away, only for the car to stall again, which seemed to happen every time she touched the brake.
‘There must be something wrong with the shitty thing!’
‘Or maybe the London roads – you could blame the roads,’ Tom had added sarcastically.
Well, as roads went, there probably wasn’t one as long and straight as the Mile End one. From Whitechapel to Bow, there wasn’t a curve or squiggle to be found. Take the traffic and wandering drunks out of the equation, it was the perfect road for a learner.
‘I think I’m getting the hang of it now,’ she’d said ironically, managing a smile which seemed to temporarily calm things down a little.
‘You must be the only student in London with a car; didn’t have you down as a posh bird!’ he’d laughed.
She’d ignored the bird jibe – knew it was deliberate. ‘Oh, yeah, mad about me pony riding and hockey,’ Sally had replied dryly, her unsullied northern accent reverberating through the yellow Fiat Panda which now roared with new-found enthusiasm past the Globe pub, skimming the pavement and ironing out a dead pigeon, as they jumped the lights at Mile End tube station.
Purchase Link ~ Deadly Lesson
[ Bio ]
S. J. Butler lives and works in County Mayo, Ireland.
Between the Lines was his debut novel, published 6th August 2020. Deadly Lessons has just published July 22nd 2021. Both with Headline Accent.
Twitter ~ @SJButler7
Instagram ~ s.j.butler08