Blood Relations by J. Woollcott was just published as an Ebook August 12th with Level Best Books and is the second novel featuring DS Ryan McBride, following on from A Nice Place to Die
I am delighted to able to share an extract with you all today from Blood Relations, with details about the book and of course the all important purchase link!
[ About Blood Relations ]
Belfast, Northern Ireland: early spring 2017. Retired Chief Inspector Patrick Mullan is found brutally murdered in his bed. Detective Sergeant Ryan McBride and his partner Detective Sergeant Billy Lamont are called to his desolate country home to investigate. In their inquiry, they discover a man whose career with the Police Service of Northern Ireland was overshadowed by violence and corruption.
Is the killer someone from Mullan’s past, or his present?
And who hated the man enough to kill him twice?
Ryan and Billy once again face a complex investigation with wit and intelligence, all set in Belfast and the richly atmospheric countryside around it.
[ Extract ]
MONDAY, APRIL 24, 2017
Detective Sergeant Ryan McBride stared into Mullan’s bedroom,
the metallic smell of old blood stronger here. Prisha Hill, the
supervising crime scene investigator, laid her hand on his arm.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Prisha said. “Have you?”
“No,” Ryan said. “No, I haven’t.”
Fifteen minutes earlier, arriving at the scene, Ryan roared past several patrol
cars cluttering up the grass verge in front of Hungry Hall, a decaying country
house outside Antrim. A few constables stood talking by their vehicles. He
jammed on the breaks, pulled into the driveway then backed up. Saw them
glance over, a bit edgy now. A stocky woman officer with short dark hair
curling under her cap leaned against a car beside two male constables, both
tall and pale. Ryan lowered his window, getting a whiff of country air,
manure, cut grass, and peat.
“Word to the wise.” He flashed his warrant card. “I’m Detective Sergeant
McBride, Senior Investigating Officer.” He nodded towards the house.
“That’s a crime scene. You’re supposed to be protecting it, not standing
around chatting like a bunch of schoolgirls. Next time anyone tries to enter
this driveway, ask for ID, unless you fully know who it is.”
Their faces closed up with anger and embarrassment.
Ryan held up his hand. “That’s one of ours lying dead up there, a retired
senior officer. If you let Chief Inspector Girvan drive past you like I did, it
won’t just be a bollocking you get; it’ll be school-safety visits. Understand
The woman broke from the group and walked over.
“Sorry, we just assumed, you know, by the way, you hammered in. But
you’re right; we should have stopped you.” She nodded over to one of the
constables, shuffling his feet by the car door. “Frank there knows the son,
Andrew Mullan. Went to primary school with him. He’s right and upset.
We didn’t see the victim, but one of the other fellas up there did and was
At the house, Ryan’s partner, DS Billy Lamont, was talking to a crime-scene
tech while struggling into a white Tyvek suit and trying to tuck his messy
brown curls under a hood. Billy stood a little shorter than Ryan at just under
six feet. He had light grey eyes in a pale, freckled face. He lifted his hand in
One of the crime-scene guys threw Ryan a suit and booties. He had his
own gloves, and he hopped along, trying to tug on the booties as they headed
for the front of the house.
“Grim sort of a place, eh?” Billy said as they approached the door.
Hungry Hall stood four square and solid enough on an acre of land; Ryan
noticed the stonework, originally painted white, now had a grey, mossy
tinge. A feeling of disuse, almost abandonment, lingered. The day didn’t
help, either; overcast and sullen with low clouds.
“Who found him?”
“The cleaning lady. She’s waiting in the kitchen.”
They stopped at the door and looked in. The main hall was large, gloomy,
and cold. Crime-scene officers bustled about. Even so, the place felt desolate.
Ryan couldn’t put his finger on it. He shivered.
“Jesus, it’s freezing in here.”
“That’s a desperate smell.” Billy unzipped his suit a bit and pulled his
hanky out, holding it to his nose.
Ryan picked up the scent of blood, along with rubbish, rotting food, and
dust in the air.
“How often did this cleaning lady come?” he asked Billy. Billy, his partner
of over three years, was quick to pick up all kinds of information at scenes.
“Not blooming often enough, you ask me.”
“Hello.” A slim woman in her fifties approached them. A CSI in a blue
suit, she carried a metal case and had shoved a pair of plastic glasses on top
of her hood. She had dark, almost black eyes and sallow skin. In need of a
bit of sun, Ryan thought. Like me.
“I’m Prisha Hill,” she said, nodding behind her as she spoke. “I oversee this
bunch. I was just on the phone to my boss, and he said you two were a couple
of comedians. Well, I’ll tell you this for nothing. You won’t be laughing when
you get upstairs.” She hesitated. “DS Calvert, the local detective sergeant
here, has been called away, but he got things started before he left.”
Ryan and Billy had been pulled into this investigation by their boss, Chief
Inspector Girvan. They usually worked closer to Belfast. “Okay then, Prisha,
lead the way. Is Alice the pathologist?”
“No.” She shook her head and smiled as they moved on, acknowledging
their Senior Pathologist, Dr. Wallace McAllister’s nickname. “He’s on
holiday in Wales, so we have his deputy coming. Dr. Mervyn Wheeler.
Good man, I’ve worked with him before.”
“Oh, yes,” Ryan said with a quick smile. They had almost reached the
first-floor landing. “I know Mervyn.”
The scene in the bedroom was shocking. Blood everywhere, even on the
ceiling. Prisha followed Ryan’s gaze.
“Jesus, that’s a lot of rage….”
Prisha nodded. “I know, right? And the victim, being one of ours—a
retired Chief Inspector, for God’s sake, Dr. Wheeler understands this will
be a priority. He should be here any minute.” She hesitated for a moment.
“Don’t take too long, Detectives. He prefers a quiet room to work in.” She
turned to leave.
“Thanks,” Ryan called after her. They stood for a moment, just looking.
“Mervyn’s getting as bad as Alice with all his little fussy habits,” Ryan said.
“Who has fussy habits?”
Ryan turned and nodded to the white-clad figure standing in the hall. Dr
Mervyn Wheeler. Jolly, rotund, and ginger-haired, his easy-going exterior
hid a sharp mind.
“Oh, hello, Mervyn, about bloody time.”
Ryan had shared a flat for a while with Mervyn when they were both
at Queen’s, Ryan studying law while Mervyn studied medicine. They had
co-existed fairly amiably, considering their differences. Or perhaps, Ryan
thought, because of them.
Mervyn hesitated at the bedroom door, like the others before him.
“My God, it looks like the Red Wedding in here. Hi-ya Ryan.”
“Bit of respect, Mervyn, wouldn’t go unnoticed.”
“Fuck off, Ryan. Bit of respect, my arse.”
“So,” Ryan said. “I know you like a bit of peace and quiet to work, so we’re
going to have a quick recce around, leave you to it…”
They left the bedroom and walked along the hall, entering a box room
with a few cupboards pushed to the far wall and a single bed with a bare
“It’s almost as if no one lived here. What a bleak house,” Billy said,
shuddering a little.
“Nice to see your English ‘A’ Levels coming in handy there, Billy.”
“Bleak House, Dickens.”
“Oh that.” Billy crossed to the window and looked out. “I never read the
whole thing, too long.”
“Yet you finished Lord of the Rings.”
“Different thing, altogether.”
It was, and Ryan left it. He opened a couple of closet doors and peered in.
Empty except for wire hangers jangling on a rod. The scent of mothballs
“It looks like Mullan hardly used these rooms,” Billy said as they continued
up the hall.
Ryan stopped. “That was awful, that bedroom. Wasn’t it?”
“Yes, it was. Really bad.”
They both stood for a moment. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget it,” Ryan said.
“No, me neither.”
A white-clad technician peered out of Mullan’s bedroom, saw them there,
and shouted over. “Come on back, Detectives. Dr. Wheeler wants to share.”
“Ah, there you are. Couple of things.” Mervyn stood in the blood-drenched
room and beckoned them in.
Ryan looked at the body again. Mullan was dressed in boxers. He was
a mess of blood. The sheets were soaked in it, all semi-dry now. Mullan’s
heart had pumped arterial blood onto the nearby wall and around the room.
An overturned lamp base had fallen at the side of the bed, and a whiskey
bottle lay in the middle of a brown stain on the carpet. The room smelled
ripe, a mixture of blood and drink and other things Ryan didn’t want to
“He thrashed about a lot,” Ryan said.
“Yes, indeed,” Mervyn replied. “He must have had a powerful will to live,”
“Because he was killed twice.”
Purchase Link ~ Blood Relations
[ Bio ]
J. Woollcott is a Canadian author born in Belfast, N. Ireland. She is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers and BCAD, University of Ulster. Her first book, A Nice Place to Die won the RWA Daphne du Maurier Award, was short-listed in the Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence and was a Silver Falchion Award finalist at Killer Nashville 2023.
Twitter ~ @JoyceWoollcott