How Do I Rate My Books?

As you hopefully know, I have a new book coming out next week (it called The Hanging Psalm, in case you weren’t aware). Take a big breath time, it’s the start of a new series, and my publisher has just accepted the follow-up, which will be appearing in a year’s time (I know, it’s hard to think that far in advance).

When something like that happens, though, I tend to look at those titles on my bookshelf with my name on them and have a think about them. It’s very rare for me to go back and re-read any. Certainly not for pleasure; I might have forgotten the details of the plots, but not the months of work that went into each one. If you’re a writer, by the time you’ve written something, revised it, gone through the publisher’s edits and then the proofs, you’re pretty much sick of seeing it.

But I have a surprising number of books out there. Quite often it astonishes me, makes me wonder just how that happened. And it makes me wonder what I think of them in retrospect. So, it’s time for an honest assessment.

 

I started out with the Richard Nottingham books. The Broken Token took several years to see the light of day. It was finished in 2006 and finally appeared four years later. In my memory, it’s curiously poetic, as is most of the series, a style that seemed to fit the character and the times – Leeds in the 1730s, for those who don’t know. Cold Cruel Winter was named one of the Mysteries of the Year by Library Journal, something that floored me. It’s a book that came from a single fact – the trial transcripts of executed men were sometimes bound in their skin. What crime writer wouldn’t relish doing something with that? And it was where I began to explore the grey area between right and wrong. The third book, The Constant Lovers, has its points, but taking Richard out of Leeds, even if it’s just into the surrounding villages, was probably a misstep. It diffused the focus. Leeds, tight and dense, is his milieu, and he’s been back in there ever since. The standout in the series for me, though, will always be At the Dying of the Year. It was the hardest to write, the one that cut deepest into me and left me depressed for a while afterwards. But the emotions are very raw and real on every page. Even thinking about it now, I can still feel them. Returning to Richard after a few years with Free from All Danger felt like a homecoming of sorts. I’d originally intended eight books in the series. That was number seven, but it left him at the end with some share of happiness, and God knows he deserves that.

I do have a soft spot for the pair of novels featuring Lottie Armstrong (Modern Crimes and The Year of the Gun). She’s so vibrant and alive, both as a young woman and in her forties. It’s impossible not to like her. The problem is that I painted myself into a corner; it’s impossible to ever bring her back, although she seems quite happy to leave things as they are. In different ways, I’m hugely proud of them both, and particularly of Lottie. I still feel she might pop in for a cup of tea and a natter.

The Dan Markham books (Dark Briggate Blues and The New Eastgate Swing) book came after re-reading Chandler once again and wondering what a private detective novel set in the North of England would be like. I found my answers. The original is the better book, harder and more real, and it spawned a play, to my astonishment. The second certainly isn’t bad, but it doesn’t quite catch the pizazz of the first.

Then there are the anomalies – a three-book series set in medieval Chesterfield. The first came as a literal flash on inspiration, the others were harder work, and the difference shows. I lived down by there for a few years, I like the town itself and I think that shows. There’s also a pair of books set in Seattle in the 1980s and ‘90s that hardly anyone knows about – they’re only available on ebook and audiobook. But I spent twenty years in that city, a big chunk of my life, and I loved it. I was involved in music as a journalist (still am, to a small degree), and the novels, still crime, are part of that passion. You know what? I still really believe in them. They’re pretty accurate snapshots of a time and place, and the scenes that developed in the town – the way music itself was a village in a booming city.

The Dead on Leave, with Leeds in the 1930s of the Depression, was a book born out of anger at the politics around and how they seem to be a rehash of that period. It’s a one-off, it has to be, but I do like it a lot – more time might change my view, but honestly, I hope not.

And that brings me to Tom and Annabelle Harper. I’m not quite sure why, but I feel that they’re maybe my biggest achievement to date. That’s a surprise to me, given that I swore I’d never write a book set in Victorian times. Yet, in some ways they feel like the most satisfying. More complex, yet even more character-driven. And I think someone like Annabelle is the biggest gift anyone can be given. She’s not the focus of the novels, but she walks right off the page, into life. I didn’t create here – she was there, waiting for me. And what feel like the best books in the series are the ones that involve her more, in an organic way: Skin Like Silver and The Tin God. Not every book works as well as I’d hoped; in Two Bronze Pennies I don’t think I achieved what I set out to do. My ambition was greater than my skill. But maybe I’m getting there. The next book in the series, The Leaden Heart, takes place in 1899, the close of a century, and I feel I’m starting to do all my characters real justice. I’m currently working on one set in 1908, so the 20th century is already here, and I still want to take them to the end of World War I, a natural closing point for the series. I feel that I’m creating not only good crime novels, and I strive to make each one quite different, but also a portrait of a family in changing times – and also a more complete picture of Leeds.

And that’s always been the subtext, although it took me a long time to realise it. Leeds is the constant, the character always in the background, changing its shape and its character a little in each era. And I’m trying to portray that, to take the readers there, on its streets, with their smells and noises. I’m hoping to have a novel set in every decade from 1890s-1950s (maybe even the ‘60s, if inspiration arrives), to show how the place changed.

In a way, the nearest I’ve come to running after the character that is Leeds and its essence is a collection of short stories, Leeds, the Biography, even if I didn’t realise it at the time. It’s based on anecdotes, snippets of history, and folk tales, and runs from 360 CE to 1963. For the most part, they’re light tales. But one has resonance – Little Alice Musgrove. That still stands as a good story (you can probably find it online)

But with The Hanging Psalm, out next week, I’m going back to an unexplored place, Leeds in the 1820s, when the Industrial Revolution was still quite new. The Regency, although there’s very little gentility to it; better to describe it as Regency Noir. The book is still too fresh for me to asses it fairly. But I do know how electric it felt to write. So I’m hopeful it will stand the test of time in my mind…and in the meantime, I hope you’ll buy it (definitely buy it if you can!) or borrow it from the library and enjoy it.

Hanging Psalm revised

The Dead On Leave (Again)

Last month The Dead On Leave, my novel set in Leeds in 1936, was published. It’s out there, £7.99 in paperback, cheaper on ebook, and yes, I do think you should read it. It is – I hope – an honest picture of a city gripped by the Depression and trying to find its way in a country that’s changed and threatens to leave it behind.

It’s also about the rise of fascism, which didn’t make much headway in the country, thanks to the efforts of many good people, and a population that rejected it. Between those two things, it’s something of a mirror to the present – although the book doesn’t try to offer any lessons.

But it’s still a good read, if I say so myself. So tempt yourselves with a bit more of it…

1930s boar lane 2

‘You know people in the Communists, don’t you, Raven?’ Kennedy asked quietly as he put another match to his pipe.

‘Only one man, sir.’

‘Have a word with him, will you? See what he can tell you.’

‘Yes sir.’

*

He knew where he’d find Johnny Harris. Six o’clock on the dot and he’d walk under the Magnet Ales sign into the Pointer in Sheepscar. Harris worked at the boot factory near the bottom of Meanwood Road, operating the machine that attached the upper to the sole. He’d done it for so many years that his skin on his palms was as tough and callused as the boots he made and he’d never be able to scrub away the smell of leather.

Harris had fought in the war, Gallipoli first, then the trenches, from the Somme all the way to Armistice Day. He’d seen the very worst and come back to a promise of a home fit for heroes, words that were nothing more than lies. As soon as they evaporated into thin air he’d joined the Communists and stayed loyal all through the purges in Russia, never wavering in his belief, working his way up to local party secretary.

Raven had grown up with Harris’s younger brother, Paul, the pair of them at school together. The families lived a street apart; he’d known them all his life. But it was only in the last few years he’d had much to do with Johnny.

Harris was a tough man, loud, always ready to argue his point. He read a great deal, his back-to-back house on Manor Road crammed with books. All communist, all biased, but Harris believed with the true fervour and devotion of a convert.

He’d been one of the organisers of the demonstration against the Blackshirts on Holbeck Moor. Harris probably counted the violence as a victory. But Raven hadn’t come to argue the finer points of politics as he parked the Riley by the library at the bottom of Roundhay Road. He needed information.

Harris was leaning on the bar, his broad back to the room, savouring his first pint after work. Another half hour and he’d go home to his wife and two daughters and be a loving husband and father when he wasn’t doing party work. But this was his time.

‘Give him another,’ Raven told the barman. ‘I’ll have a lemonade.’

With a wary look at the policeman’s scarred face, the man nodded.

‘You must be on duty.’ Harris didn’t even raise his head. ‘You’d be on the pints otherwise.’

‘They’re slave-drivers.’ The drinks arrived. Raven raised his glass. ‘Good health.’

‘I’ll drink to that.’ Harris pushed himself upright. He had large hands and heavily muscled arms. At first glance he looked to be a big, dangerous man. But there was a twinkle at the back of his eye and usually a smile playing around his mouth. He sipped the head from the drink with a wink. ‘I’ll accept the beer because it’s depriving the capitalist state of money it might use to exploit the people.’

‘Yesterday…’ Raven began.

‘A success.’ Harris interrupted. ‘We sent them packing.’

‘I was there. I saw it.’

Harris grinned. ‘You didn’t go on your own time, I bet.’

‘Don’t be daft. I wouldn’t waste a Sunday. But someone else was there of his own volition.’

‘That body in the paper today?’ Harris asked.

‘Yes.’

‘Was he one of ours?’

‘Not at all. A fan of Mosley. He was a means test inspector.’

The man stayed quiet, tearing a soggy beermat into tiny pieces.

‘What are you suggesting, Urban?’ Harris asked quietly. ‘That we were responsible?’

‘No,’ Raven answered slowly. ‘I’m asking, that’s all. Have you heard anything?’

‘Not a dicky bird.’ He took a long sip, draining half the beer. ‘How was he killed?’

‘Strangled with an electrical cord.’ Raven saw the man flinch and his fingers tighten around the glass.

‘None of my lot would do that.’

‘You don’t know for sure, Johnny. We have to find the killer and we’re going to need help.’

Harris pursed his lips. It would be hard for him to help the authorities. It went against everything he believed. But if the killer turned out to be a party supporter and he did nothing to help…

‘I don’t see it,’ he said finally. ‘Not a communist.’

‘Someone murdered him. And it’s a cold-blooded way to die. Brutal.’ Raven finished the lemonade. ‘I’d appreciate the assistance, Johnny, but I’ll leave it to your conscience.’

‘You’re a bastard, Urban, putting me on the spot.’ He shrugged. ‘Let me ask a few questions, all right? But I’m certain it wasn’t any of my people.’

‘Thank you.’

1930s gipton estate

No car for the journey home today; the police would never be that generous. Probably for the best, anyway. He’d only end up with a curious crowd outside the house, staring at the only car on the estate. Jim Green, all the way down on Coldcotes Drive, had a motorbike, but he’d bought it as a wreck and rebuilt it himself.

Raven had to wait for one of the Lance-Corporal trams, half-dozing as it clanked along York Road.

No lights on at home, but there was the smell of cooking in the kitchen. A note on the living room table read: Gone to the pictures with Gladys. Your tea’s in the oven. At least there was food, he thought. And some peace and quiet.

He ate, then left the plate in the sink. Kettle on the hob to make a cup of tea, staring out over the garden as he drank. There was too much to think about on this case. All they had was a jumble of pieces. He couldn’t even see all of them yet.

Maybe Johnny would come up with something. If there was even anything to find. Perhaps a bobby going through the list of Benson’s claimants would find a man so torn by guilt that he confessed. Right, he thought as he looked into the growing darkness, and they’d see pigs flying over the Town Hall in the morning. This was going to be slow and difficult and it was going to be painful.

1930s albion street

The Dead on Leave (1)

Book Bargain

I don’t often put up on here that one of my books is on sale very cheaply (mostly because they aren’t, I suppose). But for once…The Dead On Leave, set in 1936 during the Depression in Leeds, when Oswald Mosley brought his Fascist Blackshirts to town and was forced to leave with his tail between his legs, with a body in his wake, is on sale as an ebook for next to nothing – 99p in the UK, $1.32 in the US.

I was surprised – the publisher hadn’t told me, and it’s evidently just for a limited time – because the paperback isn’t out until June 18.

Your regular outlets will have it, if you fancy a dip into historical crime, but the Amazon UK link is here. Make up your own mind about the cover, but don’t judge the book by it, please.

The Dead on Leave (1)

The 1930s Return, Leeds Style – The Dead On Leave

I was shocked and very pleasantly surprised by how many of you read an extract from my upcoming book last week. Right, I thought, maybe they fancy a bit more…

It’s’ 1936, and the Depression has hit Leeds hard. Oswald Mosley has brought his Blackshirts to town, and they’ve been chased off from Holbeck Moor with their tails between their legs by 30,000 Lioners. But there’s a body left behind, and Detective Sergeant Urban Raven has to find his way through the fog of politics and sorrow to discover who the killer might be.

The Dead On Leave is out in paperback on June 18, £7.99

The first man stood on his step and listened as Raven told him about the murder. He was in his sixties, with a shock of pure white hair and a thick moustache the colour of nicotine stains, with deep lines etched into his face. He spat out onto the cobbles, said, ‘About bloody time,’ and closed the door.

The next name was three houses further along Kepler Grove. A young fellow this time, with bulging frog eyes and a bouncing Adam’s apple. He looked downcast at the news, but nothing more. The same at the next few addresses. No grief. No one here was going to miss Frank Benson.

Round the corner on Gledhow Place, a man named Galloway cradled his infant daughter, heard what the sergeant had to say, then snorted.

‘You know what he was like?’ the man asked and Raven shook his head. ‘A real sod, that’s what. He’d dock you for owt. Reckoned he was God an’ all.’

‘What do you mean?’

Galloway tucked the girl’s head against his shoulder, tenderly stroking her hair.

‘About a month back, I were expecting him round. He didn’t even knock, just opened the front door and barged right in like he owned the place, looking around, checking in the cupboards and asking if there was any change in my circumstances. No how do you do, no by your leave, no respect. I told him to get hisself right out again. “My wife could have been washing at the sink, you bugger,” I said. I picked up the poker and waved it at him. That got him back outside right quick and tapping politely. “Any change in things?” he asked when I let him in. “Aye,” I said. “For the worse.” He took a glance in the pantry, and when he was leaving, he told me, “I won’t forget this.” He didn’t, neither. Someone told him I’d been making a little repairing boots and they stopped my relief. Five weeks. Still got three to go. Benson relished telling me, too.’

‘You realise you’ve just made yourself a suspect,’ Raven said, and Galloway shrugged.

‘Arrest me, then. At least you’d have to feed me in jail.’

‘Where were you yesterday?’

‘Right here. Where the hell else would I be?’

‘You’re in the clear, then.’ Not that he suspected the man; Galloway was far too open, his heart showing loud and bright on his sleeve.

He heard similar tales at other houses. Family members who’d been forced to move into lodgings because they were working and their income would cut assistance to the others.

‘The truth is that half of them haven’t moved at all, of course.’ He sat in the scullery of a house on Anderson Mount, a wooden rack in front of the range with clothes drying slowly. Ernie Haynes was a member of the National Unemployed Workers’ Movement. Thoughtful, soft spoken, in his fifties, he seemed to have given up on the idea of ever having a job again. There were plenty more in the same boat. The unemployable. ‘They stay out all the hours they can then sneak home to eat and sleep. Benson liked to try and catch them. As if it was a game.’

‘No one seems to have a good word for him.’

‘How can you, for someone like that?’ Haynes wondered.

*

boar lane 30s

‘None of them even said “poor man”,’ Noble told him as they drove back into town, along Mabgate and past the mills and factories that stood empty and forlorn. Rubbish lined the roads; no one cared. ‘Not an ounce of sympathy.’

‘He didn’t seem to have much of that himself.’

‘He’s dead, though.’

‘We all will be some day,’ Raven said. ‘That doesn’t guarantee respect.’

‘It seems wrong, that’s all.’

It was the way of the world. Nothing more. People spoke ill of the living, the dead, of everyone. They enjoyed it. Some revelled in it.

In the office, he passed Mortimer the list, telling him what they’d learned and watching him grimace.

‘We’ll need to get the bobbies onto the rest,’ Raven said. ‘There are far too many for us.’

The inspector nodded and took a piece of paper from the top of a pile.

‘The post-mortem report. Benson was strangled. Whoever it was stood behind him to do it.’

Raven thought of the thin red line on the man’s throat.

‘What did they use?’ he asked. ‘Could the doctor tell?’

‘An electrical flex, he says. He found some of that fabric they put around the wire in the wound. There was some under Benson’s fingernails, too. He must have been trying to pull the cord away from his throat.’ He shuddered. ‘Bloody awful way to go.’

It was. Slow, knowing you were going to die. It didn’t matter how many shades of a bastard Benson had been in his job, that was a terrible death.

*

Leeds 30s_2

The inspector drove as if it made him uncomfortable. He was wary, slow, too cautious by half. Going through Sheepscar, they passed a group of men in old clothes standing around a fire in a metal barrel on a corner, nowhere better to go.

‘The dead on leave,’ Mortimer said, so softly he could have been talking to himself.

‘What, sir?’

‘Something my wife heard on the wireless.’ He gave a quick smile and a shake of his head. ‘Someone was talking about all the unemployed. Said they were like the dead on leave. It struck me, that’s all.’

It was good, Raven had to agree. But it wasn’t just those without jobs. What about the fools and the cuckolds? They lived in that same sad, shifting world, too.

He glanced up the hill to Little London. That was what they called the area, but none of the streets were paved with gold. Instead, plenty of the cobbles were missing and fully half the houses were slums. Dilapidated, in need of knocking down, like so much of Leeds. Happen somebody would drag the whole city into the twentieth century before it was halfway over.

Some News…And Something New

For one week, I’m taking a break from going on about The Tin God. But I do have some news that’s related…

I’m over the moon to tell you that just yesterday I heard that my publisher loves the next book in the Tom Harper series. It’s called The Leaden Heart, and it’s very different – at least, I hope it is. It’ll be published next March in the UK.

Before that, though, there will be other things. One of them is The Dead On Leave, which will be out next month. It’s set in Leeds – of course – in the autumn of 1936 during the brief rise of British fascism under Oswald Mosley.

A week before the Battle of Cable Street in London, Mosley brought his Blackshirts to Leeds. They wanted permission to march through the Leylands, the Jewish area of the city. It was refused. Instead, they had to settle for a march out from the city centre to a rally on Holbeck Moor.

There were about a thousand of them. They were met by a crowd of about 30,000 – a beautiful mix of Communists, Jews, and people who objected to the threat fascism offered.

No guesses as to who came out victorious. But for Detective Sergeant Urban Raven (in case you’re curious about the name, I had a great uncle called Urban Bowling, and this is a faint nod to him, although he died before I was born) the duty there was just the start of things…

mosley

He was one of fifty plain clothes officers in the crowd, there to try and break up any trouble before it could become serious. They didn’t have a chance, not out here, and all of them knew it. It was like being on the terraces for a match at Elland Road. Thousands upon thousands, so close together that it was hard to move. Even more than the communists had predicted, he was certain of that. And there’d been hundreds lining the route as he walked here from town, all of them ready, all of them with anger on their faces. Mosley and his fascists were going to have a rough ride. He pitied the bobbies who had to march alongside them. He turned to Noble.

‘Well, Danny, made your will yet?’ He could see the worry in the young man’s eyes. That was good; a little fear kept you alert and alive. All around, people were stirring, shouting, singing. They had stones at their feet, an arsenal of weapons. The crowd was primed. And the Blackshirts weren’t even in sight yet.

They came soon enough, though. He could hear them long before they were in view. The clatter of marching boots on the cobbles. Even louder, the catcalls and yelling from the crowd. He glanced at Noble. The lad swallowed hard, his face pale.

‘Don’t you worry,’ Raven assured him. ‘We’ll be fine.’

He looked around, feeling the people stir. Somewhere out there the police had three sharpshooters. He just prayed they wouldn’t be needed.

*

Give Mosley some credit, he thought. The man didn’t cower behind his supporters. He strode, unafraid, at the head of the parade, back straight, looking like the aristocrat he was. Sir Oswald Mosley. A carefully tailored black uniform to match his looks, just like a film star with that little moustache.

The others were right behind him. At the front, the bugle and drum corps, their music drowned out by voices. After them, the shock troops, the I Squad, all of them smirking like thugs who’d done their share of prison time. Then the believers, most of them terrified. A spectacle of ugliness.

Time, Raven thought. It was time.

*

It started almost as soon as Mosley began to speak. He’d just announced that ‘the war on want is the war we want’ when the first stone arced through the air.

A moment’s silence as people followed it with their eyes. It landed short of the stage, catching a Blackshirt on the head. That was the signal. Suddenly the air was full of branches, cobbles prised up from the roads. Bricks. Potatoes with razor blades protruding from the skins.

Raven knew his duty. He was here to arrest those who were disturbing the peace. Sod that; he wasn’t even about to try. This lot would tear him apart if he produced his handcuffs.

Bloodlust, that was what it was. Frenzy. Missiles flew both ways. Mosley kept speaking until a stone caught him in the face and he crumpled, his guards quickly gathering around to protect him.

One of the Blackshirt musicians waded into the crowd, swinging his bugle like a weapon and cracking some heads. Too far away to reach, though. Everyone had surged forward, packed so tight that breathing was hard and movement impossible.

Noble was a good six feet away now, shoved around like flotsam by all the bodies surrounding him and looking scared. Never mind, Raven thought, he was trained, he could look after himself. The best thing they could do was try to identify the worst troublemakers. Later, once things had calmed and everyone had gone home, they could go and arrest them.

He glanced up again and the fascists were forming ranks to march away. They hadn’t lasted long. Mosley was still there, blood flowing from the cut on his face. The men and women with him looked more ragged now. Stunned, bruised, battered as they left. And the worst was yet to come.

People would be waiting on the route with stones and more. More would be up on the roofs. It was going to be brutal. Here on the moor though, he couldn’t do a damned thing about that, and he was glad to be away from it all.

Men were helping the wounded as the crowd began to disperse. Bloody handkerchiefs held to heads, a few carted off unconscious. Weapons lay strewn across the grass. It was like the aftermath of a battle. An air of silence and desolation hung over the Holbeck Moor. All those walking proudly away or just limping – women along with the men – had that curious glint of battle in their eyes. A few sat on the grass, smoking cigarettes and looking as if they weren’t sure what had happened.

His part was done. He knelt, picking twigs and small pieces of glass from the turn-ups of his trousers. Noble was talking to a man who stood cradling his wrist, nodding blankly as he spoke. Raven started to walk towards them. Then he heard the sound and stopped.

In the distance, the piercing shriek of a police whistle.

Urban Raven began to run.

Noble was younger and fitter, he had longer legs. He sprinted, following the sound. All Raven could do was trail behind, panting. On the road, the protestors had already faded away like smoke. He could hear angry shouts in the distance, but they might almost be in another county. He breathed hard, keeping Noble in sight as he pounded along before turning onto a street with a Bile Beans advertisement fading on the end of the gable. No motor cars around here, he thought. Tram or shank’s mare, that was the choice. A bicycle for the fortunate ones.

People had gathered around a squat brick building. The privies. All the houses here would share outdoor toilets. Breathless, he shouldered his way through the crowd, watching the anger and insults vanish as soon as they saw his face.

A harried constable was trying to keep everyone back. There was dust on his uniform and a small cut on his cheek above a thin moustache. The tall helmet had a dent in the high crown. Caught up in the march, Raven thought.

‘What is it?’

‘At the back, sir.’ He straightened to attention and started to raise his arm for a salute. The sergeant waved it away and marched past, Noble right on his heels.

The body lay in the tight, stinking space between the back of the privy and a brick wall. It must have been dragged there. A man, just beginning to run to fat, he could see that much. One arm was raised, covering his face.

He could pick out the Burton’s label in the suit. Decent leather soles on his shoes, not worn through to holes. Not rich then, but not poor either; someone in work. And murdered. Absolutely no doubt about that.

‘Get that uniformed copper,’ Raven ordered. ‘If this is his beat, he might know who this is.’ Noble seemed rooted to the spot, staring at the corpse. Of course, his first murder. Death might be common, but killing was rare. There’d been three in Raven’s fifteen years on the force. Four now, he corrected himself. He gave Noble a nudge. ‘Copper,’ he said. ‘After that, find a police box and call it in. Tell them we need the crew out here.’

‘Sorry, Sarge.’

Alone, he squatted, trying for a better look at the body. They couldn’t move him until the evidence boys had been out to take their photographs and measurements and he couldn’t reach the pockets to find a wallet. Damn.

Raven breathed through his mouth, small gulps of air, trying to ignore the stench. There had been places like this every day when he walked the beat, but he’d forgotten how bad they stank.

‘You wanted me, sir?’ the bobby asked.

‘Yes.’ He stood. ‘Is this your manor?’

‘No, Sarge. I’m PC 7862, Jones, over in Beeston. They just had me here for the Blackshirts.’ A tiny glimmer of envy in his voice as he said the name.

‘Have you ever seen this man before?’

The constable squinted and swallowed, Adam’s apple bobbing hard before he shook his head.

‘I don’t think so, sir. Can’t see his face properly but he doesn’t look familiar.’

‘Good. You stay here and keep them all at bay.’ Raven glanced at the wall. ‘Better watch that, too, or there’ll be boys over it before you can say Jack Robinson.’