Thursday, March 10, 2016

Meet My Friend and Creepy Thriller Author Brian L Porter


I’m happy to host my good friend and now my collaborator Brian L Porter. I’ve known Brian for many years, we’ve read, edited, and enjoyed each other’s books, and I’d like you to meet Brian here. 

Writing under three different names, Brian is an Amazon best selling author, with five best sellers to his name, so far, titles as follows: His new Mersey Mystery Series is proving his most popular and successful yet, with each book set in his home town of Liverpool on the River Mersey, hence the titles. 

With Diana Rubino 

He has recently created a wonderfully creepy and unique serial killer, Doctor Severus Black who will feature in a new co-written historical novel in partnership with Diana Rubino… SHARING HAMILTON.  

Best sellers:

Lest We Forget, (As Brian L Porter), an evocative collection of remembrance poetry.

Alistair the Alligator, (As Harry Porter), a pre-school children’s book, illustrated by Sharon Lewis.

Charlie the Caterpillar, (As Harry Porter), also for pre-school readers, illustrated by Bonnie Pelton.

Wolf, (As Harry Porter), a young adult/teens adventure story.

Of Aztecs and Conquistadors, (As Juan Pablo Jalisco), a superb collection of romantic poetry with a Latin American theme, which has just topped the Amazon charts for the 4th time in the USA, with three appearances at #1 in the UK and Canada.
 

Awards

He was the winner of The Preditors & Editors readers poll for Best Author Award, 2009, and a number of his books have also received awards as follows:

A Study in Red – The Secret Journal of Jack the Ripper, Preditors & Editors Best Thriller Novel Award, 2008.

Requiem for the Ripper, Preditors & Editors Best Thriller Novel Award, 2010.

Glastonbury, Preditors & Editors Best Mystery Novel Award, 2010.

Tilly’s Tale, (As Harry Porter), Preditors & Editors Best Children’s Book Award, 2009. Also won the award for best artwork.
 

The movies

All Brian’s novels plus his short story collection, After Armageddon have been signed for movie adaptation in a franchise deal with ThunderBall Films, including his most recent releases, the highly successful A Mersey Killing, and All Saints, Murder on the Mersey, released in February 2016.

Brian has also become thoroughly integrated into the movie business since his first involvement with Thunderball Films LLC and is now also an Associate Producer and Co-Producer on a number of developing movies, as well as being a screenwriter for many of the movies soon to be released by Thunderball.

You can find information on the works of Harry Porter and Juan Pablo Jalisco on their individual book pages at Amazon.

He is a dedicated dog lover and rescuer and he and his wife share their home with a number of rescued dogs.

Finding Brian's books 
 
Brian's Amazon Author Page

 The majority of his titles are available from: http://www.creativia.org/brian-l-porter.html

Information on Brian’s Jack the Ripper trilogy of novels and on Pestilence can be found at http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/eAuthor.php?Name=Brian%20L.%20Porter

 
THE MERSEY MYSTERIES SPECIAL OFFER

Through March 14th, the first two books in this thrilling new crime novel series are available for only 99 cents each (99p if you're in the UK).

 
About the books:
 

A MERSEY KILLING   

A skeleton and a missing woman. A doomed romance. A mystery spanning two generations.



Liverpool, 1961. A group of young men come together seeking fame and fortune, as the fledgling sounds of the Swinging Sixties take root in the city. Very soon, Liverpool will become synonymous with the groups and music that will shape a generation.

Liverpool, 1999. Skeletal remains found in the docklands lead Detective Inspector Andy Ross and Sergeant Izzie Drake into a journey through time, as the investigation takes them back to early days of the Mersey Beat.

Whose bones laid beneath the mud of the River Mersey for over thirty years, and what links them to a young woman, missing for the entire time?

A Mersey Killing, the first book in Brian L. Porter's Mersey Murder Mysteries series, is a crime story deeply rooted in the early days of rock n'roll.

 
What they're saying about the book:
 

"A Mersey Killing is fab." - John Gill

"A Mersey Killing brings the 60s back to life, vividly terrific." - Angela Henson

 
Excerpt

Clarissa Drake stood looking down, maybe thirty feet or so, towards the bottom of the old, dried up dock. Turning to the young man beside her, she spoke quietly, as she shivered in the early morning mist that drifted across the landscape from the nearby River Mersey.

“You know, Derek, if I didn’t know better, I’d say he looks pleased to see us.”

Before the young man could reply, a deep voice from behind them made them both jump slightly.

“Now then, Izzie, how many times have I told you about that sense of humour of yours?”

Turning to face the man behind the voice, Detective Sergeant Clarissa, (Izzie) Drake, found herself staring into the eyes of her boss, Detective Inspector Andy Ross. Detective Constable Derek McClennan stood beside her, trying to make himself look small and insignificant in an effort to avoid the wrath of the D.I. Ross in fact, despite his words, had an almost imperceptible grin on his face as he looked sternly at his sergeant.

“I’m sorry sir, but you know how it always affects me, seeing something like this. I’m just trying to lighten the moment a bit, if you know what I mean.”

The tall, swarthy-skinned Inspector took a step forward and looked down at the sight that had brought them here in the first place, the grinning rictus of the skull certainly looking to all intents and purposes appearing, as Izzie intimated, pleased to be revealed from its long incarceration in the clinging mud that had only now decided to reveal its macabre secret. Ross knew it had to have been there a long time, as the small wharf and dockside had been abandoned for many years and only now, in the course of urban renovation and improvement, had the collective mass of mud and detritus of years of neglect been slowly cleared away until the discovery of the remains brought all work to a halt. He turned to face the sergeant and the young detective constable who remained rooted to the spot beside her.

“Right then, let’s get on with it. Izzie, try not to assign or assume gender until the doc has examined the remains, as well, OK?”

Izzie nodded.

“And constable?” Ross looked into the eyes of the young detective.

“Sir?”

“I’m not going to chew your head off for standing next to the sergeant while she makes frivolous comments, so no need to look like you’re about to be sent back to uniform, okay?”

“Yes, sir, okay sir, I mean thank you sir.”

“How long you been in the detective division, lad?”

“Six months, sir.”

“Lots to learn, my boy, lots to learn. Now, let’s get on with the job.”

“Right sir,” McClennan replied, following Izzie as she began the descent of the iron-runged ladder that down to the muddy and rank smelling river bed below.

Ross quickly followed the two until all three stood quietly looking at the recently revealed skeletal remains that lay half in and half out of the mostly hard-packed surface of the ground that would once have been the bed of a busy and thriving riverside wharf.

The detectives too care not to approach too close to the remains, not wanting to disturb the scene before the medical examiner had had the opportunity to inspect the scene.

“Anyone know who the duty M.E. is?” Ross asked of no-one in particular.

Izzie Blake provided him with the answer.

“One of the paramedics up there said it’s Fat Willy, sir.”

Ross groaned. The nickname Blake used referred to Doctor William Nugent, a brilliant but terribly overweight police surgeon, an expert in forensic pathology, whose unfortunate weight problems had provided the members of Merseyside Constabulary with the excuse to make jokes at his expense, always behind his back of course. A rather dour Scot, the doctor’s accent contrasted with the predominantly local Liverpool accent possessed by most of the local constabulary, some of whom found it difficult to keep up with the doctor’s words at times, though he seemed to have no difficulty with the Liverpudlian accent, having lived in the city for as many years as anyone could remember. Nugent was also something of a stickler for the rules and Ross knew he’d better be on his toes and not cause any disturbance to the scene before him, lest he incur the wrath of the good doctor. Ross held both arms out to his sides, as though indicating an invisible barrier.

“Right, people, no-one gets any closer than this until the doctor arrives. Now, tell me what you see. You first, Sergeant.”

Izzie Drake peered down at the skeletal remains and paused, as she gathered her thoughts. The skull and upper body were for the most part, fully exposed with the abdominal area still covered by a think layer of mud and silt, and the lower legs and feet also exposed to the chill morning air.

“Well, sir, looks to me as though the body has laid there for some time. If you look at the wall of the dock above us, we can see that the mud and silt must have reached up at least ten feet before the workmen started on the reclamation job.”

Ross looked up, nodding his agreement with his sergeant, also taking time to notice the faded lettering on the side of the disused brick built warehouse, which read “Cole and Sons” Importers, many of the letters now indistinct and barely readable. He made a mental note to check how long the warehouse had lain empty and whether Cole and Sons had been the last company to have used the facility. Izzie continued.

“Whoever the victim is, or was, must have lain buried beneath the mud and silt for years, to have ended up so deep.”

“Agreed,” said Ross. “Go on, what else?”

“I’d lay odds on the fact this is a suspicious death. I just don’t see anyone dying of natural causes and not being reported missing or nobody having the faintest clue where he or she was last seen, that kind of thing.”

McLennan butted in.

“Unless the victim had a heart attack, or slipped and fell in the water all those years ago, no witnesses, and was just never found.”

“Well done, constable,” said Ross. “That’s good thinking. We may have to do a massive trawl of the missing person records once the doc gives us an idea of how long the remains have been down here. Anything else, Lizzie?”

“Not yet, sir. I think we need to get the doctor’s opinion before we begin formulating our own theories.”

As if on cue a large figure appeared on the dockside above, followed by the booming voice of Doctor Nugent.

“Well now, Inspector Ross. Ah see you’ve got something interesting for me this  morning?”

“Morning Doctor. Yes. Been here a while, I’d say, but I’d appreciate your professional opinion before we jump to conclusions.”

“Aye, well, it’s good to hear you’re learning a thing or two. I take it no-one’s disturbed the remains?”

“No, we’ve stayed well back to give you an undisturbed area around the victim.”

“Aye, well, I’d better be comin’ doon then, eh? Francis, come on man, and bring your camera.”

As if by magic the diminutive figure of Francis Lees, the pathologist’s assistant appeared at his side, looking down at the death scene.

“What the hell are you waiting for man? Get doon the ladder there and wait for me at the bottom. And make sure to catch me if I slip on those old rusty rung.”

The detectives looked at each other and smiled. The thought of Nugent’s bulk falling from the ladder on to the hapless Lees gave them a moment of humour in the midst of their other wise grim task. The thought that Nugent’s weight would probably force poor Lees’s body into the mud and silt, suffocating the poor man, made him think they may end up with two bodies to remove from the dock before the day was out.

Lees quickly made his way down the ladder and dutifully stood almost to attention, his camera slung over his shoulder, as Nugent ponderously made his way down the rusting ladder, thankfully arriving safely at the bottom less than a minute after his assistant. Ross couldn’t help but admire the way the pathologist, despite his bulk, managed to make his was down the ladder almost gracefully, and without any apparent difficulty.

“Now, let’s see what we’ve got, eh?” said Nugent as he and Lees began their own examination of the scene. Lees camera flashed incessantly as he photographed the partially revealed skeletal remains from every possible angle. Nugent knelt in the mud beside the skeleton and began a close examination. Ross, knowing the doctor’s routine all too well, couldn’t resist a quick question.

“See anything yet that might help us, Doctor?”

“Sshhh,” Nugent urged.

“Does he think the corpse is going to talk to him?” McLennan whispered quietly to Izzie.

“Ah heard that, young man,” Nugent snapped at the young detective. “Ah like tae work in peace if you don’t have any objections.”

“Of course, Doctor, sorry,” said McLennan, blushing visibly.

“Aye, well, anyway, in response to your question, Inspector Ross, I do believe I have something for you.”

“Already, Doctor?”

“Aye, already, but it doesn’t take a genius in this case to ascertain that, in my humble opinion, you’ll be looking for a murderer I think.”

Ross and Izzie Drake looked at each other, exchanging knowing glances. Both knew instinctively this was going to be a potentially long and difficult case to crack.

“How can you be sure so quickly?” he asked the pathologist.

“Aye, well, I dinna think this hole in the skull got here by accident.”

Nugent beckoned the inspector closer and pointed to the rear of the skull, which he’d raised carefully just clear of the mud. There, the two men looked closely at the gaping hole in the back of the skull, larger than would have been left by a bullet but still conversant with some form of blunt force trauma.

“Couldn’t that have been caused by an accident, Doc?”

“Under certain circumstances, it may have been, Inspector Ross, but not in this case, I think.”

“Why so certain?” asked the policeman.

Nugent pointed to a point about twelve inches to the right of the skull. Ross could see that the doctor, in the course of his close examination had uncovered the unmistakable form of a hammer.

“I’ll wager a month’s salary that yon hammer is your murder weapon, Inspector,” said Nugent. “There’s some staining on the hammer head that may be blood, and the shape and size of the hammer head would appear to match the shape of the wound in this poor unfortunate soul’s head. I’ll be able to confirm it when we get the remains back to the lab, but for now, I’m satisfied you have a murder on your hands. No chance of fingerprints after so long, I’m afraid, which leads me to the bad news that I believe the remains have possibly lain here for a long time, years in fact.”

“Any idea of gender?” asked Izzie Drake.

“Not yet, Sergeant, but looking at the size of the feet, I’d hazard a guess at male,” Nugent replied. “Inspector, I dinna want to disturb the remains too much where they lie at present. Can you arrange for team to dig out the entire area surrounding the skeleton and transport the lot back to my lab? I can carry out a thorough examination there and give you as much information as the deceased is willing to reveal to me.”

Ross groaned inwardly. It would be a massive task to remove the remains from their resting place, mud and all, without disturbing or destroying the skeleton, but at least once it was out of the way he and his team could carry out an intensive search of the surrounding area for clues at the identity of the victim or to the full nature of the crime. At least the thought that this was indeed the murder site might make his task a little simpler, no need to go searching the length of the river bank for miles in both directions.

“I’ll make the arrangements, Doc. Please, once you get the remains to your lab…”

“I know, Inspector. You’d like my findings as soon as possible.”

“Thanks, yes, Doc. I know it’s not as if I can see a quick solution to this one, but anything we can do to find out who this was, and when the murder occurred, might just help us bring a killer to justice.”

“I wish you luck, Inspector, I really do,” Nugent said as he rose from his position and beckoned Lees to follow him, and the pair began the ascent up the ladder back up to the dockside.

“Anything to add, constable?” Ross directed the question at McLennan.

“Just a question really, sir.”

“OK, ask away.”

“Well sir, this dock or wharf or whatever the correct term is, was once connected to the Mersey by that channel, right?” McLennan pointed along the narrow channel along which the ships would have approached the dock from the river, unloaded at the dockside and then turned round in the basin they now stood in before heading back out to the Mersey.

“Right,” said Ross, so what’s the question?”

“It’s just that I don’t see how they could block off the whole River Mersey so they could drain the dock and the channel, sir. How the heck did they manage it?”

“Good question, McLennan and I’m glad to see you’re thinking about this. I’m no engineer but I think you’ll find they drive large metal pilings into the river bed, erect some sort of temporary dam, then use massive pumps of some sort to drain the water from this side. When it’s dry, they can then build the new reinforced river bank you now see at the end of the channel, thus re-directing the flow of the Mersey. They must have done this many times during all the redevelopment of the dock area, because I know there are a hell of a lot of these old inlets and channels that had to closed off to the river before the developers could start work on their so-called urban redevelopment and improvement of the old dock area.”

“Right, sir, I see. I was just trying to work out if the clearing of the channel might have any bearing on the timing of the death of the victim.”

“Good thought, constable, but of course, it could have happened any time when the dock was still operational or after closure as far as my thinking goes. But listen, keep thinking lad, okay? That’s what a good detective does, all the time, lots of thinking, mainly small points but then one day you just might hit on something important. The other thing we need to consider is that the body was carried here by the tide and simply washed up here. The actual murder site and original dump site could be almost anywhere.”

McLennan smiled, pleased the inspector had listened to his points and didn’t think he was wasting his time, but wishes he’d thought of the inspector’s last point.

Ross next took out his mobile phone, and spent the next few minutes making arrangement for a specialist recovery team to attend the scene and remove the remains and the surrounding mud and silt in one large excavation, for transportation to the forensic lab, in order for Doctor Nugent to carry out what Ross knew would be a painstaking examination. There wasn’t much they could do for the present, not until the remains had been removed and they had the opportunity to carry out a detailed examination of the surrounding area. Ross knew he’d have to call in a few uniformed officers as well as the embers of his own team of detectives, and his own boss, Detective Chief Inspector Harry Porteous wouldn’t be best pleased at the overtime bill that would probably ensue from a case that on the surface, at least, appeared to offer little offer of a quick and easy solution.

“Well,” said Izzie as she and Ross stood staring at the remains, McLennan having been dispatched by Ross to begin the arrangements to have the remains carefully removed and taken to the lab.

“Well indeed, Sergeant,” Ross replied, thoughtfully. “Well, indeed.”

 

 
ALL SAINTS, MURDER ON THE MERSEY  

The second book in Brian L Porter’s Mersey Mystery series. 

What is the link between bloody graveyard murders, a former mental asylum, a young girl’s suicide and an enigmatic priest?



 
The Liverpool murder investigation unit runs into a series of horrific murders, which begins as the horribly mutilated body of Matthew Remington is found in the graveyard of St. Matthew’s Church. Soon after, the body of Mark Proctor is found similarly dispatched in St. Mark's churchyard.

Detective Inspector Andy Ross and Sergeant Izzie Drake must lead their team in a race against time to prevent further atrocities, but what links the dead men with an old mental hospital, now an orphanage, and the scarcely reported suicide of a teenage girl?

Somehow, all clues seem to point towards the enigmatic priest, Father Gerald Byrne, who has recently returned to the city of his birth. Can it be possible that the events that took place thirty years ago in Speke Hill Orphanage are connected to the murders?


Early reviews:
 

"Buried secrets never stay buried for ever- what a stunning sequel!" - N. Welburn

"A stunner with suspense that crescendos." - Mary Deal

 
Excerpt

Norris Green, Liverpool, 3 Months Later

 

Detective Inspector Andy Ross pulled the unmarked police Mondeo to a halt, its right side wheels pulled up on the pavement outside St. Matthew’s Church in Norris Green in an effort to avoid restricting the traffic flow along Brewer Street. The Norris Green housing estate, built on land donated to the council by the Norris family, was unusual in that the original bequest of the land included the stipulation that no public house be built on the land. To this day, that instruction has been adhered to, meaning residents of Norris Green have to venture further afield to obtain whatever alcoholic stimulation they require. 

There were already two police patrol cars parked on the street, together with another pool car identical to his own which he knew would have brought his assistant, Sergeant Clarissa, (Izzie) Drake and Detective Constable Derek McLennan to the scene as well as an ambulance and the green Volvo he recognised as that belonging to Dr. William (Fat Willy, but don’t tell him that) Nugent, the overly rotund but eminently brilliant pathologist who served as the city’s senior medical examiner. Blue and white police crime scene tape had already been strategically placed across the wide double gated entrance to the churchyard, with an attendant uniformed constable on guard to prevent unwanted sightseers trying to gatecrash the crime scene. 

Ross silently cursed the court case that had demanded his appearance at nine a.m that morning. The trial of a serial mugger who had almost killed his twelfth and last victim before being almost comically apprehended by the off-duty Andy Ross had been suddenly curtailed when the accused changed his plea from not-guilty to guilty, thus relieving Ross of the need to hang around the court building waiting to give evidence. As soon as he exited the court and turned on his mobile phone, Ross received word of the “incident” involving a body being discovered in St. Matthew’s churchyard from his squad’s collator, D.C. Paul Ferris. The fact that he would now probably be the last to arrive on the scene did little to improve his humour after what he considered a wasted and fruitless start to his day. 

Luckily for him, the uniformed constable on duty at the gates recognised the detective inspector and with a brief, “Good morning, sir,” waved Ross through after lifting the crime scene tape for the detective to pass beneath. Ross had no need to ask the constable where to go. He simply followed his nose along the path that led around the church itself, in the direction of the noise of voices and activity in the graveyard that stood to the rear of the church. 

As he neared the scene, Ross could see Dr. Nugent on his knees, his assistant, Francis Lees beside him, both men obviously intent on carrying out their initial examination of the body of the unfortunate victim. Sergeant Drake and Constable McLennan were in attendance, standing just behind the doctor and Lees, while three uniformed constables stood further back from the scene, each man bearing what Ross could only describe as a disturbed look upon their faces. 

Seeing him drawing near, Izzie Drake broke away from her position and walked briskly towards him. 

“Morning, sir. I’m afraid we’ve got a bad one today.” 

“Hmm, well, there are never any good ones when it comes to murder, are there, Sergeant.” 

“I know sir, I’m sorry, I just meant…” 

“Forget it, Izzie. My apologies. I’m just in a foul temper after wasting my time at the damn court this morning.”

“I know, sir. Ferris told me when he called to let me know you were on the way. Damn shame, wasting your time like that, but, at least Phillip Downes won’t be troubling the courts again for a few years after he’s sentenced.” 

“Very true,” Ross replied. “Now, come on, what have we got here?” 

“It’s bloody gruesome, sir, and that’s the truth. Poor Derek threw up almost as soon as we got here, as well as one of the uniformed lads. Bet they both wish they hadn’t eaten a hearty breakfast this morning. Come on, sir, best you see for yourself.”  

Ross nodded and the two detectives walked slowly towards the location of the body that had necessitated the appearance of the Murder Investigation Team at the scene. 

Sensing their approach, William Nugent turned and looked up from his kneeling position as he greeted Ross in his variable Glaswegian accent. Ross always thought of the word “variable” when it came to Nugent’s speech as the more upset or irate he became, the more guttural and broad his accent became, even after spending most of his working life in the city of Liverpool. 

“A late start this morning, eh, Detective Inspector?” he chided, though Ross knew the pathologist would have been made well aware of the circumstances surrounding his delay in attending the death scene. Ignoring Nugent’s obvious attempt at a witty remark, Ross replied, in a total business-like tone. 

“Yes, indeed, Doctor. I take it you’ve been here long enough to carry out at least a cursory examination of the victim?” 

“Aye, well, you could say that, I suppose. Ye’d best come and take a look for yourself, but I’m warning ye, it’s not a pretty site. Francis, please step away and allow the Inspector and the Sergeant to get a good look at the poor soul, would ye?” he said to his tall, thin assistant, whom many of Ross’s team though of as being almost as cadaverous in his appearance as some of the bodies they were forced to deal with in the commission of their jobs.  

“Oh, my God,” Ross exclaimed as he drew closer to the scene, Drake slightly behind and to the side of him. 

“I told you, sir,” his sergeant said, quietly. 

“Yes, but this…this is, well, nothing short of bloody monstrous. What the hell happened to the poor bastard?”

William Nugent spoke up in reply from behind the inspector. 

“Well, at first glance,” he spoke almost reverently, “the victim, a man I’d put in his mid-to late fifties by the way, has been almost totally eviscerated. As you can see, the poor sod’s intestines have been removed and draped across the headstone of the grave on which his body lies, and his other major organs, liver, kidneys, spleen and heart are neatly arranged around the body, almost as though the killer had laid them out for us in readiness for a post-mortem examination. But, and if you look closely, you’ll see the worst part of all this, Inspector, your killer removed the victim’s penis, and then stuffed it down the poor bugger’s throat. Oh yes, one more thing, he also removed the victim’s tongue, though I cannae find it anywhere up to this point in time. The killer may have taken it with him, a trophy of his handiwork, perhaps. Of course, that’s more in your pervue than mine, I’m simply surmising.” 

Ross couldn’t help himself. He visibly gagged as he took in the blood-drenched scene that lay before him. The naked body of the unfortunate victim lay across the gravelled top of a grave, and as Nugent had indicated, the intestines had been draped across the headstone that stood at the head of the grave, the internal organs dripping blood as they lay in the gradually warming sunshine around the sides of the grave. From what he could make out, the look on the dead man’s face was one of total fear and horror. 

Ross gulped hard, and turned his face from the scene. Hardened detective he may have been, but this definitely was “a bad one”, as Izzie Drake had called it, and he was hardly surprised that the uniformed constable and his own detective constable had felt the urge to be sick at the sight that they’d stumbled onto when they’d arrived at the scene. 

“Tell me Doctor, can you say whether these…er, these mutilations were carried out while the victim was alive or dead, and what may have been the actual cause of death? I know that sounds stupid, but would one particular injury the victim sustained have been enough to cause death, or was this a prolonged and sadistic attack by some kind of pervert, perhaps?” 

“Ah wish I could tell ye, Inspector, but, it’s too early for me to say and you know I dinna like to speculate on these matters. We’ll have to wait until we get what’s left of yon laddie to the morgue and I can carry out a detailed examination. For now, I think we can say without much doubt that the cause of death was exsanguination, though which wound, or wounds wee the fatal blow, well, I just cannae say.” 

“Any identification, his clothes, any personal items, were they found?” 

“Not a thing,” Nugent replied. “As far as I can tell, he was left here naked as he is now. Whoever did this, and he’s a sadistic bastard I can tell you for free, made sure he took the poor man’s clothes and any identification he was carrying with him when he dumped the poor sod here.” 

“Thank you Doc,” said Ross, turning to his sergeant who was by now visibly pale at being in close proximity to the remains of the victim for so long.  

“Who found him, Izzie?” 

“The poor bloody priest, Father Michael Donovan. He entered the churchyard through the rear gate and was making his way along the path towards the church when he almost literally stumbled over the body. Apparently, he threw up too, over there.” 

Izzie pointed to a grave two places along from where the victim lay. At least the priest hadn’t contaminated the crime scene. 

“I’m not surprised.” Ross grimaced. “And where is the good Father now, may I ask?” 

“Last seen in his church, praying as though his life depended upon it, sir.” 

“Right then, let’s go and have a word with Father Donovan.”

 

#

 
Terrible, simply terrible, that poor, poor man,” Father Donovan wept openly, his head in his hands as he sat in one of the pews at the front of his church, five minutes later, speaking to Ross and Drake who sat either side of the visibly shaking priest. 

“It must have been an awful shock for you, Father,” said Ross, sympathetically. 

“It was indeed, Detective Inspector. I mean, there I was, enjoying this beautiful sunny morning, whistling to myself, All Things Bright and Beautiful of all things, and then, all of a sudden he was there, lying on that grave, virtually in pieces, I tell you, in pieces.” 

Izzie Drake, placed a comforting hand on the priest’s right arm in an effort to calm him. 

“Father, you need to calm down a little,” she said, quietly.  

“Just take your time and try to recall everything that happened as you walked along the path from the time you passed through the gate until the moment you found the victim.” 

“Please, Father, it’s very important,” Ross added, grateful to his sergeant for using her feminine compassion to reach out to the shaking priest. 

Michael Donovan took a couple of deep breaths, closing his eyes as he attempted to compose himself and recall the terrible events of earlier that morning. Finally, opening his eyes, he spoke in a faltering voice. 

“Well, Inspector, it was just after eight o’clock. I’m sure of the time because I always leave the manse which is just behind the church, at eight precisely. I like to come to church when it’s peaceful and quiet and pray for a while in solitude. I hold a morning mass at nine, you see, and, oh, it was just awful seeing your officers turning my parishioners away as they arrived for the service,” he rambled for a moment. 

“It’s alright, Father. I know you’re in shock, so just take your time. Now, it was just gone eight o’clock, you say?” 

The priest gathered himself together again and went on with his statement. 

“The sun was shining and it was already quite warm. I heard a blackbird singing and looked up and saw him perched on the wall that runs along the north side of the churchyard. I remember smiling to my self and began whistling the tune of All things bright and beautiful. I didn’t stop to watch the bird as I wanted those few precious minutes of contemplative prayer to myself, you see.” 

Ross nodded but didn’t interrupt. 

“The path winds its way around the church as you’ve probably seen, in a sort of S pattern, I suppose you’d call it and as I came round the corner of the church onto the straightish part of the path that leads to the main doors, I saw something ahead of me on one of the graves. At first I thought it might be the work of vandals, the Lord knows we get enough of that sort of thing round here, or maybe someone had dumped a load of old rubbish on the grave, in an act of blatant sacrilege. I slowed down as I got closer and it was then, when I was just a couple of yards away that I realised what I was seeing. I know it sounds stupid, but the first thing I did was wonder if I might be of some help to the man but when I got even closer I saw the terrible, monstrous things that had been done to him and I’m ashamed to say I…I...well, I’d just finished breakfast before I came out, you see, and I couldn’t help myself. I staggered over to one of the adjacent graves and was awfully sick, I’m afraid. I’ve never in all my life seen anything like it, you see, and I pray to God I’ll never see the likes again as long as I live.” 

“You’ve nothing to apologise for, Father,” said Ross. “Two experienced police officers have been sick out there as well. We’re all human and none of us should ever have to see such things.” 

“But sadly, you do, don’t you, inspector?” 

Ross nodded, but still remained silent, allowing the priest to speak and hopefully recall any small details he may have noticed when he discovered the body.  

“There was blood everywhere, Inspector, so much blood. And then, I saw the other things, you know the, the…” 

“It’s alright, Father, I know what you saw, but tell me, from the time you entered the churchyard until you found the victim, did you see or hear anything else, or any other people, perhaps?” 

“Not a soul, no. To be honest, if there had been anyone lurking around, I might not have seen them. I was so focussed on the sunny morning and the birdsong. But I’m still pretty certain there was nobody else around.” 

“Now, and perhaps most importantly, I know you probably only got a quick look at the victim, Father, but did you recognise him? Is he known to you at all, either as a parishioner or maybe just someone you’ve seen in the area at all?” 

“Yes, it was only a quick look, Inspector. Nobody could possibly have stood staring at that poor man, but I saw enough to know he wasn’t anyone I know. I’m sorry. I can’t help you there.” 

Father Donovan’s face paled again at the thought of the sight he’d witnessed in his churchyard and he fell silent for a few seconds. Izzie Drake spoke in her quiet voice again. 

“I know this is pretty much a rhetorical question, Father, but we have to ask…er, you didn’t touch anything at all before calling the police did you?” 

Donovan looked aghast at the mere thought of having done so as he replied. 

“Sergeant, I most certainly did not. What kind of man do you think I am? A person would have to be very sick in the head to want to mess around with what I saw out there. I simply tried to compose myself and then ran as fast as I could into the church where I rang 999 from my little office in there. Then I waited at the church gates for the police to arrive and to keep anyone from entering the grounds until your people got here.” 

“And a very good thing you did, Father,” said Ross. “It wouldn’t have done for anyone else to come wandering in and be confronted with the sight of the poor man out there.”

There being little else the priest could tell them, the two detectives left the church, with Father Donovan again on his knees praying before the altar, and moved back into the daylight, where by now the forensic experts of the Crime Scenes Unit had arrived and were busy searching and examining the crime scene and surrounding area.

Ross spoke briefly with Constables Knight and Riley, the first officers to respond to the emergency call, who confirmed they’d arrived on the scene, assessed the situation and immediately called for C.I.D. assistance, and a second squad car of officers to help secure the area, realising the gravity of the situation they’d found. Ross commended both men and then returned to speak to William Nugent, who, together with his assistant, Lees, was packing up his instruments and accoutrements as the body and associated parts were being carefully loaded into a body bag ready for transportation to the morgue, having been fingerprinted where it lay in the hope of identifying the victim, and once at the morgue, he’d carry out a full post-mortem in an effort to determine exactly what had happened to the deceased.

“Anything else to report, Doc?” Ross asked as he drew closer to the pathologist.

“Nothing that I can tell you at present, Inspector. Ye’ll get ma full report as soon as possible, like always. Let me get back to the mortuary with the poor man and I can get on with ma job.”

“A preliminary report will suffice for now, Doc, as soon as you can. This case is likely to generate some nasty headlines if the press gets hold of it, so I’d like to move as fast as I can to find the sick bastard who did this.”

“Aye, well, I’ll give you a call later today, if I can, and if you and your sergeant care to come along in the morning, I’ll schedule the full post mortem examination for nine a.m. if that’ll suit you, Inspector?”

“Perfect, thank you Doc,” Ross replied, standing aside to let the Doctor and his assistant pass. Ross next spent five minutes talking to Miles Booker, the senior Crime Scenes Officer who was leading the examination of the area around the body. Booker would ensure his team combed every blade of overgrown grass, every sliver of granite chips, every nook or cranny where a minute piece of trace evidence might have been deposited. As he broke away from Booker, Detective Constable McLennan walked up to Ross. McLennan shared the same post-vomiting complexion to the uniformed constable and Father Donovan.

“You alright, Derek?” asked Ross. 

“Yes, thank you sir,” McLennan replied. “It was just a bit more then my stomach could stand, seeing what the killer did to that poor man.”

“No need to apologise, Derek. We’re all human, after all. None of us should have to see things like that. Sadly, it’s our job when some bastard decides to make a mess of someone in that way. Now, do you have anything for me, anything we can use?”

“Not really, sir. I’ve spoken at length to the two constables who were the first attenders. They’re both adamant there was no one around in the churchyard when they arrived, and neither of them saw anyone acting furtively or suspicious out on the streets as they arrived in response to the emergency call from Father Donovan.”

“Alright Derek, Sergeant Drake and I will be heading back to headquarters soon. I’ll arrange for Sam to join you out here in a minute. Then I want the two of you to take charge of the scene, until the crime scene boys have done their thing, and then, make a quick sweep of the area, talk to some of the nearest residents in the hope someone may have seen or heard something. I’m going to organise a team of uniforms to carry out a house to house inquiry in a half-mile radius of the church, but something tells me we’re going to come up empty handed. And, Derek?”

“Sir?”

“Get one of those constables at the gate to arrange to seal off the back gate too.”

“You’re lucky nobody’s blundered through there so far.”

“Right, sir. I’ll get on it right away.”

As they spoke, Miles Booker walked up to the detectives a small cellophane evidence bag in his hand.  

“Got something for me, Miles?” Ross asked.

 “Not sure,” said the Crime Scene Investigator. “One of my lads came up with this,” and he held the bag up, close enough for Ross and Drake to see a small silver coloured key inside.

“A key,” said Drake.

“Hey, ten out of ten, Sergeant.” Booker grinned.

“But a key to what?” Drake persisted, “and how do we know it belonged to the victim?”

“That’s just it, you see,” said the C.S.I. “We don’t, at least not yet. Maybe, once we have his fingerprints, we may get lucky and find they match the print we found on the key.” He smiled.

 “Ah, so you do have a print?” Ross asked.

“Yes, and a pretty good one, looks like most of a thumb print, you know, from when someone held the key to insert it into a lock.”

“Looks like the sort of key that fits, a safety deposit box, or maybe an airport or railway left luggage locker,” said Drake.

“Can I see it, please?” asked Derek McLennan. Booker passed the bag containing the key to the detective constable who scrutinised it carefully for a few seconds before passing it back to him.

“Sir,” said McLennan, turning to Ross, “I think we’ll find that it is a locker key but not for a left luggage locker at the airport or from a station.”

“Alright Derek, let’s have it. What’s your theory?”

 “I think it’s from the Halewood Plant, sir.”

“The car factory? What makes you think that?”

“Well sir, the cellophane makes it hard to see, but there are a series of four numbers on one side of the key. My brother-in-law works at Halewood, sir and he has a key just like that on his car key ring. I’ve seen it when he’s let me use his car once or twice. The way the numbers are etched into the key looks just like this one.”

“So, we may have a clue after all. Well done, young Derek,” said Ross.

“Thanks, sir,” McLennan replied.

“Yes, well, that’s assuming the key belonged to the victim, isn’t it?” said Miles Booker.

“Very true, Miles,” Ross agreed. “Any way you can tell us more that might help?”

“Sorry, Andy, not a thing. If the fingerprint matches your man over there, okay, if not, you’re going to be hard pressed to discover if it belonged to him or not.”

“We can show his photo to employees at Halewood, see if anyone recognises him,” said Izzie Drake.

“Yes, well, bearing in mind what he’s got stuffed in his mouth, I wish you luck with that one.”

“I’m sure Doctor Nugent can make him look presentable enough for us to get a photo likeness we can show around,” Drake responded. 

“Of course, just me joking around, Sergeant.” 

“Could be easier than that, sir, Sarge,” McLennan interjected again.

“How’s that, then Derek?” asked Drake.

“The numbers on the key,” he replied. “They’ll refer to a specific numbered locker, and that locker will be allocated to an equally specific employee. Simple logic really.”

“Yes, of course, well done Derek,” said Ross.

Andy Ross had learned to come to rely on young Derek McLennan in the three years he’d served with him. The young man had developed from a hesitant, awkward young D.C. into a clever, confident and reliable member of Ross’s team, with a quick mind and an even temperament when working under pressure, not a bad thing when faced with some of the cases the team was called upon to handle. Ross recalled the first major case the young detective had worked on with him, when the skeleton of a long time dead pop guitarist had surfaced in the mud of an old dried up dock in the city, sparking one of Ross’s strangest and perhaps most tragic cases to date, which resulted in the ultimate suicide of a woman who’d spent over thirty years of her life officially listed as “missing”. That case had been the foundation on which Derek McLennan had gradually forged his career and now, Ross knew he could rely on the man’s intuitive skills as well as his quick, intelligent mind.

 Ross and Drake left soon afterwards, and made their way to the city mortuary, where they knew William Nugent would by now be carrying an initial examination of the victim’s remains. Ross had questions that needed answers and for the moment the only man who could help him was the rather obese pathologist. 


 
The next book in the Mersey Mystery Series, A Mersey Maiden will be coming soon. As usual, there's something of a play on words in the title, so please, expect the unexpected.

 


About A MERSEY MAIDEN

 
Aaron Decker, an American studying at the University of Liverpool has turned his hand to the typically English sport of cricket, utilising the skills he’d learned as a pitcher in his homeland, to become a very useful fast bowler and opening batsman.

Soon after starring in a close encounter with the rival university of Manchester, Aaron is found bludgeoned to death, the murder weapon? His own cricket bat!

The authorities, knowing the case could be a very sensitive issue due to Aaron’s father being a middle-ranking U.S politician, assign the specialist Murder Investigation Unit headed by Detective Inspector Andy Ross to the inquiry into Aaron’s death. 

Is it possible the murder was committed by a cricketing rival, jealous of Aaron’s success since joining the varsity team? Or, does the case have greater, hidden political implications? Why is Aaron’s girlfriend afraid? Does she see herself as another potential victim? Was the victim involved in matters far removed from the gentlemanly sport of cricket?  

Andy Ross, his sergeant, Izzie Drake and their team must unravel a labyrinthine case in order to solve the murder, during which time a second killing takes place, and the pressure from above to reach a conclusion to the case intensifies.  

For our American cousins, the title, A Mersey Maiden refers to a cricketing term, whereby if a bowler concludes an “over”, a series of six consecutive balls to the batsman, with no runs being scored, it is referred to as A Maiden Over.
 

A Mersey Maiden will be followed by A Mersey Mariner and A Mersey Ferry Tale
 



About A MERSEY MARINER  

The Alexandra Rose sailed into the Mersey Estuary accompanied by an all enveloping fog. The doleful tone of the ship's foghorn announced her presence to any ships in the close vicinity. A slow passage of just over three weeks had brought the ageing cargo liner, its crew and small complement of passengers on a slow voyage across the Atlantic from Rio and the ship itself appeared tired and weary from the journey. Captain George Gideon rang the telegraph, signalling 'All Stop' and the Alexandra Rose's diesels ceased their rhythmic throbbing as the ship slowly came to a halt and Gideon awaited the arrival of the Mersey Pilot Boat to escort the ship into port.

Gideon dispatched his second officer, Robert Gray to inform the passengers of the short delay in entering port. Soon afterwards Gray returned to the bridge to inform the captain that one of their passengers lay dead in his cabin.

With no readily visible signs of violence on the body and the ship's doctor suspecting foul play, Gideon informed the port authorities who in turn notified Merseyside Police.

So begins one of Detective Andy Ross's most baffling cases, as the dead man was travelling alone and appeared to have no connections to any of the other passengers or crew of the Alexandra Rose. When a second body, a crew member from the unfortunate Alexandra Rose is discovered in similar circumstances a week later in a local hotel, Ross and his assistant, Sergeant Clarissa (Izzie) Drake must deploy all their investigative talents in an effort to untangle the web of mystery surrounding the two deaths.

A Mersey Mariner is the fourth book in the Mersey Mystery series, featuring Detective Inspector Andy Ross Ross, Sergeant Izzie Drake and their specialist murder investigation team. 
 


About A MERSEY FERRY TALE

Made eternally famous by the sixties pop song “Ferry Cross the Mersey” by Gerry and the Pacemakers, many people still see the ubiquitous ferry boats that ply their trade across the River Mersey as an iconic part of the city’s lasting heritage. Nowadays, the ferries are more of a tourist attraction than a practical river crossing vehicle since the advent of the Mersey Tunnels that now carry road traffic under the river, rather than over it. 

When in 2003, one of the ferries is late returning from a sightseeing cruise along the river, at first there seems little need to worry. Engine failure, communications breakdown, fog, all are possible reasons for the delayed arrival at the pier head.

Soon, however, a more sinister reason for the non-arrival of Woodleigh at the ferry terminal is discovered as a short radio transmission from the ferry informs the owners that the ferry has been hijacked! At first, no one seems able to take the situation seriously: no one would surely hijack a Mersey Ferry. What possible motive could lie behind this supposedly insane act of piracy on the River Mersey? What do they want? Where can they go?

When the hijackers announce that they have executed one of the passengers, Inspector Andy Ross, Sergeant Izzie Drake and the rest of the Merseyside Police’s Murder Investigation Team find themselves embroiled in the strangest and most surreal case any of them can remember being involved with.

 

 

 

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