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FEATURING DI GERALDINE STEEL
The third in the detective series featuring DI Geraldine Steel
Headmistress Abigail Kirby is dead. A potential witness has been murdered. And for DI Geraldine Steel, the stakes have been raised yet higher. Abigail’s teenage daughter, Lucy, is missing, believed to have run away with a girl she met online. Time is quickly running out for Geraldine before her naivety costs Lucy her life.
But with a serial killer on the loose, Geraldine’s own life is in danger, and though her Sergeant Ian Peterson makes a shocking discovery, could it be too late to save her from a dreadful fate?
Read an Extract from Dead End
ABIGAIL’S HEAD HURT. She was afraid something was wrong with her eyes. She couldn’t see anything. A heavy weight was pressing down on her chest. She fought against a feeling of nausea, and tried to turn her head but couldn’t.
‘Hello,’ she croaked. No answer. She was alone in the darkness.
It had been raining when she left the shopping centre. Her son, Ben, had been trying out for an under-fourteen football team at his new school and Abigail had promised to be there when he came home. She remembered hurrying along the street, away from the shops. Now she was lying in darkness, unable to move.
‘Hello,’ she called again. Her throat hurt and there was a strange smell. By now Abigail had realised she was in hospital, coming round from an operation. Nurses of all people should have known better than to leave her lying on her back. There was a risk she might choke to death if she were sick. She seemed to lie there for hours, drifting in and out of consciousness. ‘Hello,’ she called again. ‘Is anyone there? Please?’
The light dazzled her.
‘Am I in hospital?’ she asked. Her voice sounded far away. ‘Are you a doctor?’
‘Hello, Mrs Kirby. Mrs Abigail Kirby.’ The man smiled. ‘How are you feeling?’ He held up a syringe. Clear liquid glistened on the tip of the needle. The man leaned forward, his head framed by an aura of white light.
Abigail closed her eyes and drifted back into dreams. She woke up in darkness. ‘Doctor?’ she called. ‘Hello? Are you there? Is anyone there?’
MATTHEW KIRBY GLANCED IRRITABLY at the clock. It was half term but Abigail had gone out early as usual. She was obsessed with her work. Since her promotion to headmistress she barely seemed to spare a thought for her family. Matthew had long since forgiven her for neglecting him. He was making a life for himself, a life that didn’t include his wife, but Lucy and Ben were another matter. That betrayal was unforgivable. Ben was doing well at his new school. He had settled in straight away. Lucy was a worry.
‘It’s her age,’ Matthew’s girlfriend, Charlotte, told him. He wasn’t convinced. The upheaval of moving to the South of England when her mother changed job wasn’t ideal for a socially awkward fourteen-year-old girl.
Matthew frowned and checked the sausages before shouting from the foot of the stairs. ‘Lunch is ready!’
A moment later he heard Ben charging down the stairs. Ben’s grin faded as he caught sight of his father turning from the hob with a frying pan of sausages. ‘Where’s mum? I want to tell her –’ He stopped, registering the expression on his father’s face. ‘She’s not here, is she? She promised –’
Matthew put down the frying pan. ‘Where’s Lucy?’
Ben shrugged. ‘In her room. Where else?’ He flung himself on a chair, long limbs awry. ‘I’m starving.’
‘We’re waiting for Lucy.’
‘If I heard you, she did. She’d be here if she was hungry.’
Matthew strode out into the hall. ‘Lucy! Get down here now. Lunch is on the table!’ He swept back into the kitchen and shuffled sausages and beans onto three plates. Behind him, toast popped up.
Lucy appeared, sullen, in the doorway. ‘Aren’t we going to wait for mum?’
‘Your mother’s not here.’
‘I can see that.’ Lucy made no move to join her father and brother at the table.
‘Come and sit down,’ Matthew said. ‘Mummy’s working today.’
‘She’s always bloody working,’ Ben complained. ‘It’s Saturday.’ His chair scraped on the floor as he pulled himself closer to the table. ‘I wanted to tell her about football training.’
‘You’ll have to tell her tonight.’
‘She doesn’t want to come home. It’s his fault.’ Lucy glared at Matthew. ‘Him and his friend.’
‘Come and sit down,’ Matthew repeated in an even tone.
‘I’m not hungry.’
‘Lucy –’ he began but her feet were already pounding up the stairs.
‘All the more for us, dad,’ Ben grinned.
Matthew sat down and picked at his food while Ben shovelled beans into his mouth. After a few minutes, Matthew put down his fork. Ben listened to his father’s footsteps on the landing above. He heard knocking at Lucy’s door. Silence, followed by the muted buzz of voices. Ben stood up and helped himself to more sausages, picking out the ones that weren’t charred. By the time his father came down, Ben was seated at the table again, wiping his plate clean.
‘She never eats,’ he told his father cheerfully. ‘Any chance of seconds?’ He jumped up and began scraping the last of the beans from the pan.
‘Use a wooden spoon,’ Matthew protested. ‘You’re scratching the saucepan.’
‘I’m done.’ Ben turned round. ‘What did she mean, dad?’
‘About you and your friend. What was she talking about?’
‘Nothing. You know your sister.’ Matthew sighed. ‘What does she do up there on her own in her room all the time?’
‘She’s on the internet.’ Ben left the kitchen and raced up the stairs, two at a time. Matthew watched him go. Slim and lithe, Ben reminded Matthew of himself as a youngster. They had the same straight nose and blue eyes, an unexpected combination with their black hair. Matthew cleared the plates off the table and dumped them in the sink. Abigail could clear up when she came home or, more likely, leave it for the cleaning lady to do in the morning.
Matthew closed the kitchen door before phoning Charlotte. ‘It’s me. I’ll be over later on this afternoon. You weren’t planning on going out, were you?’
‘What time will you be round?’
‘The sooner the better.’
Matthew grinned and rang off. He threw a glance at the dirty plates in the sink then went upstairs and tapped on Ben’s door. No answer. He knocked more loudly.
Matthew looked at the clutter of clothes and school books that littered the floor of Ben’s bedroom. ‘I’m going out.’
‘OK.’ Ben turned back to his computer game.
‘I have to see someone from work.’
‘I won’t be back late but don’t wait up,’ Matthew added. Ben wasn’t listening.
‘Go away!’ Lucy shouted out as soon as Matthew knocked on her door.
‘Can I come in?’
‘Are you deaf? I said, go away!’
Gingerly, Matthew pushed the door open. Lucy was sitting at her computer, typing.
‘Lucy –’ he began.
Lucy minimised the screen and spun round, her face twisted in fury. ‘Get out of my room! You’ve got no right to come in here without permission.’
‘I just wanted to tell you I’m going out.’
‘Good. Don’t bother to come back.’ She turned her back on him and sat waiting for him to leave.
Matthew closed the door softly. His daughter’s resentment was just part of being adolescent, he told himself. He wasn’t sure how Lucy had discovered he was seeing Charlotte. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing; his children had to find out sooner or later. In the long term he knew it wouldn’t be a problem, because once they met Charlotte they were bound to like her. It would all work itself out in the end. Right now he was on his way to see her and life was good. He drove away from the house, whistling.
Abigail had moved South, taking the children with her, which meant Matthew had to go too. He had tried to explain to Charlotte that he couldn’t split his family apart so soon. He felt responsible for the children whose mother was absent even though she came home every night. The only possible solution had been for Charlotte to follow him South. She had found a job in Faversham, on the understanding that Abigail would agree to a divorce as soon as she was established in her new post.
‘Once she’s busy with her new school, she won’t worry about getting divorced. She’ll be glad to be rid of me,’ he assured Charlotte.
Only things hadn’t worked out as Matthew had planned. When Abigail had been appointed headmistress of Harchester School in Kent, Matthew had been working for a partnership of surveyors in York. Several local firms had already folded with the collapse of the building trade, and he had the impression his colleagues were relieved when he resigned after nearly twenty years with the firm. Their reaction hardly made him feel valued. It didn’t help when he had to settle for a tedious job in Faversham, where he spent most of the day biting his tongue, bored and depressed, taking instructions from a woman half his age. He wasn’t the only one who had sacrificed a career. Charlotte had given up nursing to follow him. Matthew had suggested she apply for a transfer, but she seemed happy to leave nursing.
‘I’m sick of working with blood and guts,’ she had assured him. ‘And I can earn more if I quit.’
But after all that, Abigail obstinately refused to agree to a divorce.
‘I can’t do it without her,’ he told Charlotte miserably. ‘She’s threatened to turn the children against me. She’d do it, too. You don’t know my wife.’
Charlotte was growing impatient. ‘Tell her you insist. Just do it, Matthew. Go to a lawyer and get the papers drawn up. She can’t force you to stay with her.’
Charlotte wondered whether to tell Matthew she’d received another letter from Ted, the third that week. After moving to Kent she’d thought she would finally be rid of him, but he still hadn’t given up.
‘You can’t leave,’ he had protested when she’d told him she was going. ‘You belong here with me.’
‘Ted, we went out once when we were still at school. That was years ago. There’s nothing between us. There never was and there never will be. Get over it.’ Seeing his stricken expression she had softened. ‘We can still be friends. We don’t have to fall out over this.’
‘You’re going away with him, aren’t you?’
‘He’s got nothing to do with it,’ she’d lied, annoyed again. ‘Leave me alone, Ted. My life is none of your business.’ They hadn’t spoken since that argument, but a week later the letters had begun. They would have made her uneasy if she hadn’t known Ted so well, poor stupid Ted, too soft to harm a fly. She couldn’t believe she’d ever agreed to go out with him but he’d worn her down with his persistence, and at fifteen she’d been foolishly flattered.
‘He must really like you,’ one of her school friends had said.
‘He’s a dork,’ someone else added. It hadn’t lasted long, was never a real relationship, just a few wet kisses and a hurried fumble on a park bench. Ted had been distraught when Charlotte finished it. The break up had been the source of much chatter at school. Charlotte’s girlfriends had been unanimous in advising her to stand firm.
‘It’ll only get more difficult if you let it go on.’
‘Just tell him plain and simple you don’t want to go out with him.’
‘He’ll get over it.’
But Ted hadn’t got over it. ‘I’ll wait for you,’ he’d told her.
‘You’ll have a long wait.’ She’d laughed at his intensity then relented and tried to be kind. ‘You’ll find someone else.’
‘I don’t want anyone else.’
Charlotte checked her appearance in the hall mirror as she passed it. With blonde curls and a snub nose, she looked younger than thirty-three. Twelve years older than her, with children of his own, Matthew didn’t appreciate how urgently she needed a commitment from him. Several of her friends were already mothers.
‘Just get yourself pregnant. That’ll force his hand,’ one of her friends had suggested.
‘Or you’ll end up a single mother,’ another friend pointed out.
Charlotte carried on doing what she could to persuade Matthew to leave his wife. ‘You’re miserable with her. I’ll make you happy. You deserve that much after all she’s put you through.’ She wisely avoided the subject of children. Matthew had already told her he didn’t want a second family, but Charlotte was confident everything would be fine once they were married. Only first he had to leave Abigail. She was ruining everything.
Charlotte opened the door. Matthew burst into the flat and swept her off her feet in a whirling embrace. She laughed out loud, Ted and his plaintive letters forgotten in her excitement at seeing Matthew again.
‘Has Abigail agreed?’ She saw the answer in his face, the droop of his shoulders.
‘Don’t worry,’ Matthew replied. His smile was forced. ‘We’ll be rid of her for good before too long. I promise.’ Charlotte had been listening to his promises for years. Matthew was kissing her, pressing her up against the wall. ‘It’s cold out there,’ he muttered. ‘What are you going to do to warm me up?’
I can make you a nice cup of tea?’ she suggested, laughing, as he took her by the hand and led her into the bedroom.
CRITICAL ACCLAIM for Dead End
'All the ingredients combine to make a tense, clever police whodunnit'
- Marcel Berlins, The Times [read the full review]
In Dead End, Leigh Russell's third and best novel, an unpopular headmistress is found dead with her tongue cut out. Her husband, in the midst of an affair, is the obvious suspect, but DI Geraldine Steel has doubts. The daughter of the victim's unhappy marriage goes missing, apparently to join a friend she'd met on the internet, and a man who may be an important witness in the case is blinded and killed. Steel tries to ascertain information about her own birth and takes a few tentative steps towards acquiring a lover. All the ingredients combine to make a tense, clever police whodunnit.
Marcel Berlins, The Times
'A brilliant talent in the thriller field'
- Jeffery Deaver
'Well written and chock full of surprises, this hard-hitting, edge- of-the seat instalment is yet another treat... Geraldine Steel looks set to become a household name. Highly recommended'
- Amanda C M Gillies, Euro Crime [read the full review]
'Good, old-fashioned, heart-hammering police thriller...a no-frills delivery of pure excitement'
- SAGA Magazine [read the full review]
Sometimes nothing else will do but a good, old-fashioned, heart-hammering police thriller. This is it - a no-frills delivery of pure excitement. Abigail Kirby's husband and kids assume she's at work, but then her corpse is found, with the tongue cut out. It’s another case for DI Geraldine Steel, and before the twists and turns (involving Abigail’s teenage daughter and a dodgy online friend) are done with, Geraldine will be fighting for her own life. A classic teckie that grips from the start.
'Geraldine Steel is one of Lovereading's Great Crime Sleuths - 'a classic British cop... Geraldine proves great fun and a character who grows on the reader with every successive title in the series''
- Maxim Jakubowski, lovereading.co.uk [read the full review]
'cleverly thought out, gripping and convincing... I couldn't put this book down... can't wait for the next Geraldine Steel story to come out'
- Helen M Hunt, bookersatz.blogspot.com [read the full review]
- LT, Take A Break's Fiction Feast [read the full review]
When teacher Abigail Kirbyis murdered, dI Geraldine Steel is asked to investigate. Abigail wasn't popular - her colleagues disliked her, her husband was having an affair and her children barely saw her - but who cuould hate her enough to cut out her tongue before killing her? Things take a sinister turn when a witness isblinded and murdered. But Geraldine is distracted by personal issues - and blindly walks into terrible danger herself. This is Leigh Russell's third DI Steel novel. And although some readers will guess whodunit, the premise for the serial killer's movives is an intriguing one.
LT, Take A Break's Fiction Feast
'Leigh is a great mystery writer'
- [read the full review]
More Reader Reviews
Dead End Links
First Published: 26 May 2011
Availability: Available Now
Publication Date: 26 May 2011
Availability: Available Now
Format: ebook (ePub)
Publication Date: 26 May 2011
Availability: Available Now
Format: ebook (kindle)