The Red And The Grey – Chapter 1

The Red And The Grey is a novel plotted by Patrick Wilson and written by Mark Wilson and Patrick Wilson. Coming autumn, 2019.

The following excerpt is unedited and is copyright to Mark Wilson and Patrick Wilson Copyright, 2019.

red moon during night time

Photo by Pedro Figueras on Pexels.com

 

Chapter 1

 

Hitting The Target

 

“Like this, Alfie.”

Shifting the young squirrel’s hold, Brielle loosened his right hand, rotating his entire grip, and then his left, pinching his fingers tighter around the bark cradle of the hand-made catapult.

“Try it now,” she instructed him gently.

 

Taking a step back, she whispered to him, willing the small kit on. “Breathe, and release.”

A second later she watched the Alfie’s chest deflate and his forearms tense as he drew tension into the weapon.

Alfie had already attempted seven shots, compared to three that most of his classmates had taken, to hit the target. Small for his age, he had crafted a gorgeous catapult from willow twigs and stretchy vines. One of the finest Brielle had seen for a kit his age. His hands, despite dogged hours of practice, still struggled to summon the strength needed to make best use of his superb weapon.

Brielle held her own breath willing the kit on. Alfie’s gaze narrowed.

Clunk.

His class mates, cheered and all tension disappeared from the small kit’s body. Ears twitching, he turned to look up at his teacher.

“Thanks, Mrs Tearmann,” he grinned.

 

Brielle offered him a smile of her own. Placing her arm around him, she drew him closer that only he might hear her words.

“Determination, Alfie. And focus,” she whispered. Behind her, Brielle’s own children mouthed the mantra, affectionately mocking their mother.

 She had repeated the mantra to the group countless times over weeks. Weeks in which the little kit had steadfastly practiced despite so many failures.

Alfie nodded silently. Basking in his little victory.

 

“Not bad for a runt!”

Brielle whipped her head around to admonish the owner of the gruff voice.

Locking her eyes on their guard, Lars, she bored them into the Grey.

Beside her, Alfie’s little body sagged, his elation at his small triumph crushed.

“Mind your own business, Lars,” Brielle instructed the Grey.

She bobbed a nod down at Alfie. “Any one of these kits is a better shot than you are.”

Lars, lounging on a mossy tree stump beside his partner, waved her off lazily. “Greys don’t need those ridiculous weapons. “Above it, we are,” Lars grinned.

Infuriated by his casual disdain, Brielle felt heat rise in her cheeks and ears.

“Incapable, is what Greys are,” Brielle replied.

 

Lars rose to his feet, covering the ground between them faster than Brielle could follow the movement. Finding the large Grey stood over her, pressing his bulk against her chest, Brielle ignored her instincts to back away. She lifted her chin and pushed right back with her full weight.

The kits in her class gasped. “You’ve no right to…”

Lars silenced her with a lightning fast slap to her cheek that sent the Red sprawling to the forest floor.

Dazed, Brielle struggled focus her eyes, but sensed that Tod had placed himself between her and the Grey. Forcing her eyes to obey, Brielle cast her glance over the kits in her class. Most of them had stayed back. Her eldest daughter, Chase, stood, her arms wide, corralling and comforting the younger Reds. Chase’s little sister, Bendis, amongst them.

Lars, on his hind legs, had risen up to his full height, assessing Tod as he stood glaring up at the Grey. Eyes darting from Brielle to Tod, Lars’ face broke into a mocking grin.

“Brave for a Red, boy.”

Enraged, Tod dashed at the Grey, right arm cocked to deliver a blow.

Lars laughed loudly as he delivered a brutal right fist into the kit’s face.

Tod’s nose crumpled under the grey’s fist. Flung back several feet by the impact, the young Red landed on his back next to his mother.

“Or simply stupid,” Lars sneered, looking over his shoulder for approval from his fellow guard.

Glor, an older grey on duty with Lars, who remained laid on the tree stump, showed only a passing interest in Lars’’ scuffle, offering the junior guard a half-hearted smile.

Still partly-stunned, Brielle rolled Tod over that she might see her son’s face. Moving Tod’s hands from his nose, Brielle found her son bloodied; his eyes tear and hate-filled. The kit was furious, but he was also petrified.

Placing both of her hands on his cheeks, she told him, “Calm, Tod. Today’s not the day.” Observing him, Brielle watched the fire in his eyes dim slightly.

Rising to her feet, she rounded on Lars.

“He’s only ten years old, for maker’s sake!”

The same disdainful grin playing on his lips, Lars cocked his head, regarding the young downed Red.

“Big for a ten year old,” he noted with amusement. “Big enough square up to a Grey, he’s big enough to learn that it’s a bad idea,” he informed Brielle.

Moving his eyes down Brielle’s body, Lars cocked an eyebrow. His expression, playful, his eyes bottomless in their scorn.

“You darker Reds think that just because you resemble us, you can take liberties. Remember your place. You’re beneath us.”

Lars jutted his chin toward Tod. “Teach your kit some manners. Or I’ll do it for you.”

Waving her off with a hand, Lars turned away from the teacher, returning to his spot on the tree stump.

Staring after the Grey, Brielle took several moments to rein in her anger, before turning back to her son. Crouching on one knee, she helped Tod to sit up.

“Pinch your nose here,” she instructed him, placing his fingers at the correct spot. “It will clot in a few minutes

Brielle’s eyes flicked up to meet those of her eldest daughter. Well doneshe nodded, silently conveying her thanks to Chase for caring for the younger kits in her class.

Returning her attention to Tod, she helped the young Red to his feet.

“Steady….”

 

A chilling scream-bark broke into her intended words.

Lars and Glor shot to their feet. Noses sniffing at the gentle breeze, ears rotating to locate the direction of the scream.

“Pine martens, Lars” said, his voice low. Glor nodded once and both Greys tore up the bank of an oak, leaving the group of Reds alone in the clearing.

 

Instinctively, Brielle’s class of Reds gathered around her and Tod. Tod pinched harder at his nose with one hand, the other subconsciously, uselessly wiping at the blood on his chest fur.

 

Assisting Chase in gathering her class around her, Brielle whispered, “They smell the blood.”

 

 

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Russian Roulette by Keith Nixon – Review.

Book Description:


A reluctant investigator, a sordid English seaside town, a criminal underbelly.

Trouble has a habit of seeking out Konstantin, whether he wants it or not. Starting from the moment he arrives in the seedy seaside town of Margate where he’s supposed to be in hiding from his ex-employers. All Konstantin wants is to keep his head down and be left alone. But it’s not to be. People have their problems and Konstantin can’t help but get involved.

Konstantin has to overcome the drug dealer, the loan shark and a Liverpudlian gangster. Then there’s the so-called good guys, the councilors and lawyers who are worse than the criminals. Enter Fidelity Brown, aka Plastic Fantastic, a dominatrix who has her own mélange of secrets and lies, and nightclub owner Ken who’s connected to all the wrong people. Both help Konstantin solve the cases dropped on his doorstep.

Cue deception, murder, mayhem as the Russian settles into his new life. Margate will never be the same again. And neither will Konstantin…

Meet the enigmatic Konstantin, a man with a dark history and darker future in the start of a unique crime thriller series laced with a healthy dose of black humour. Pick up Russian Roulette to find out what all the fuss is about.  

My Review:

When you pick up a Keith Nixon book, you know that you’re guaranteed two things:

1) Intelligently concise, tight writing.
2) A hugely entertaining read.

Keith Nixon gives the reader a flashing glance into the world he introduced us to in his debut, The Fix, and treats us to another glimpse of his great creation, Konstantin. 

Keith’s irreverent, engaging writing style is perfectly paced for a novella featuring this character. Nixon’s sentence structure- short blasts of thoughts and deed- lend an urgency to the action and his story barrels along with not a whiff of fluff as a result.

Excellent work from Mr N, and in many ways superior to the source material, The Fix, which I loved also.

When I grow up, I want to write like Keith

You can find Keith and his books at Amazon US and U.K.

Avian by Emma Pullar – Review.

The Blurb:

CENTRAL IS LOSING ITS GRIP ON THE CITIZENS OF GALE CITY.

Megan Skyla, who refused to play by Central’s rules and become a surrogate for her masters, has thrown the city into chaos. Corrupting those around her, she and her friends are forced into hiding – hunted by Central, the evil rulers of Gale City. Skyla’s desperate attempts to keep everyone alive ends when they’re kidnapped by feuding gangs.

Skyla cuts a deal and then betrays both gangs. Now there is nowhere left to run. It’s the desert or die. Her best friend, Crow, thinks she still wants to find a way to cure the Morbian masters of their obesity and finish what she started.

But Skyla has other plans. She’s sure there are settlements in the desert, there must be something out there … and there is. Something terrible.

Skyla is about to find out there’s more than one way to bring about change but one truth remains … Central must be destroyed in order to ensure her survival. There is no other way.

My review:

First off, I have to say, the covers in this series are truly gorgeous.

Avian is a worthy follow-up to Skeletal.

Pullar continues to impress with her creativity and her skill in subverting any expectations her readers may have.

Good character development and solid plotting, shoves the characters through Pullar’s darkly-invigorating world.

Pullar’s writing has progressed from book one, leaving behind the little foibles and bad habits of the debut writer, a visibly more confident author can be seen stretching her skills with this latest entry.

Great stuff.

Available is available now from Bloodhound Books and from Amazon.

The Hammer Falls by Andrew Barrett – Review.i

The Hammer Falls Blurb:

Some secrets, no matter how well buried, refuse to die.

When the remains of a woman are found in a burnt-out car, Eddie Collins reluctantly teams up with his enemy, DI Benson, to untangle the knot of lies behind this apparent suicide.

In the midst of all this, Eddie’s life grows more complicated by the day; his perfect relationship is suffocating him. As a CSI in the Major Crime Unit, he is also being forced to accept a promotion that he doesn’t want, leading a team that he can’t control or tolerate.

Even when the mystery is solved, proving it turns out to be deadly..

My Review:

Barrett is back with his signature detective in the next instalment of the series. A strong follow-on from the previous books, Barrett’s writing has developed and his characters along with it.

More humour, better characterisation, actual character growth and another solid plot line that fans of the genre will doubtless enjoy.

Links:

Contact: andrew@andrewbarrett.co.uk

Website: http://www.andrewbarrett.co.uk/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AndrewBarrettUK

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AndrewBarrett.author

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/andrewbarrettauthor/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/andrewbarrettauthor

Amazon.co.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Andrew-Barrett/e/B0055888Q0/

Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Andrew-Barrett/e/B0055888Q0/

No Time To Die by Andrew Barrett – Review.

Book Description:

When CSI Eddie Collins finds a dead woman in his house, he thinks life can’t get any worse, until a violent gang ties his hands together and puts a gun to his head. And this time there’s no way out.

Operation Domino is the investigation into gang boss, Slade Crosby, and his connection to an undercover officer’s death. But tampered evidence kills the investigation’s progress, and with Eddie gone, Slade is in the clear.

There’s only one way to get Slade in cuffs, but it won’t be easy…

My Review:

This is my first read of one of Barrett’s books.

Written in third-person, past-tense throughout, No Time To Die utilises a nice mix of short chapter/long chapter, pacing the novel nicely. Hitting all the beats readers of this type of novel expect, whilst displaying an unusual level of authenticity, the novel is a solid entry into the genre.

Displaying good technical skill, the writer is clearly seasoned and unafraid to take the odd risk in plot line and narrative.

With its familiar structure, whilst delivering a pacey read, No Time To Die will please readers of this type of novel.

No Time To Die is available now from Amazon.

Pressure by Betsy Reavley – Review

The Book:

When the submarine departed, none of the ten people on board knew it would turn into a nightmare.

Trapped on the sunken vessel on the bottom of the ocean and unable to escape, one of them is discovered dead. The tension escalates as the survivors realise there is a murderer among them, who is preparing to strike again and again…

With mounting desperation, people begin to turn on each other. While they struggle to identify who is responsible, each must contend with their own past, the claustrophobia and the secrets they are hiding.

But who is who?  And which of them will be next to die?

Below the surface, the pressure is building and time is running out…

My Review:

This is my first Betsy Reavley novel and Pressure is one hell of an introduction to her work.

The basic premise of Pressure is a variation on the ‘trapped together, one of us is a murderer’ type. The novel succeeds in immersing the reader in a too-tight setting, conveying very realistically the confines of both the submarine and the options available to its characters. In some parts the novel feels like an old siege movie in the ilk of Assault on Precinct 13 or Escape from New York, in that the overwhelming inability to leave, to even breathe, is ever-present for the characters and the reader.

Where Reavley’s novel differs, is in Pressure, the enemy is very much within, with the multiple threats of oxygen deprivation, close quarters and a murderer pressing in on the cast from all sides at all times. For me, the novel smacked of very modern, snarky slasher movies, isolated, alone, being hunted, but displayed all the char also of an old fashioned, set-in-a-manor whodunit.

The plotting is excellent and the pacing spot-on. A deep sense of foreboding and growing peril permeates the entire novel. Where Reavley excels though, is in her characterisation and the manner in which she conveys her characters emotions, virtues, flaws, vulnerability and cruelty.

Infinitely complex and viscerally-authentic, Reavley characters are fucked-up, heroic, cowardly and complex. Reavley’s use of shifting POV and narrative styles is skilfully-utilised and gave true life to the characters.

The POV shifts continuously, rotating through more than a few persons. I’m rarely a fan of this type of POV shifting, but Reavley has succeeded in altering the POV from person to person, whilst still maintaining the relentless flow and forward momentum of the narrative. This is not an easy thing to do, but when it works, Christ it really works, and Reavley utilized this device perfectly, bringing a tangible sense of immersion, unstoppable forward-momentum and augmented tension.

The shifting POV also served to heighten the impact of the roulette wheel of who the reader has deduced is the killer.

Reavley also plays around with her narrative style; switching between first-person, past tense and present tense to differentiate the flashbacks from the main narrative.

This also worked well and kept the separate sections distinct for the reader.

The highlight of the book for me was the sections placed throughout told form the POV of The Child. Extremely dark, gruelling really, these short interludes acted as intermezzi and demonstrated the depth of the author’s understanding of human suffering and our capacity for foulness and endurance. I wanted more of The Child, but also dreaded having to return to their pitiable world. These Interludes, for me, elevate Pressure, taking a good read and converting it into a great one.

Containing elements of a Thriller, at times dabbling into Horror, Pressure is an uncomfortable read, but hugely entertaining, which is a bit fucked up and entirely magnificent.  

Pressure is available now at Amazon and from Bloodhound Books.