Thank you for hosting me today, Gwen. I’m here to launch a psychopathic serial killer upon an unsuspecting world. All my romantic suspense books include crime, so it seemed the next logical step to move into Police Procedural. I am indebted to John Nicholl, best-selling author in the genre, for his help and encouragement, and to his son-in-law who works in the London Metropolitan Police.
The setting had to be London. I live in County Durham, North-East England, but the only time I set a book here, the lead character promptly made it impossible for him to stay. London, with its theatres and music venues is my second home... or it is when we don’t have Covid19. Note: the disease is ignored in Shattered Lives. I have read books where it’s used very cleverly, but rarely. I read to escape... and it dates the book. Anyway, enough of me. Let's go to the Book Blurb.
Ralph Thyme, an addicted gambler and his wealthy grandmother’s only acknowledged heir, discovers he has an elder sister, Olivia, who was sold at birth. Suppose Olivia discovers her true identity and claims half the inheritance he craves? How far will he go to eliminate the threat?
Olivia escaped childhood sexual abuse. Despite horrific memories, nightmares, and fear, she is determined to save a stranger’s little girl from the same fate, and the solution she offers takes all her courage... and then some.
DCI Croft investigates a heinous case of rape, murder, and mutilation. Next to die, are a private detective and his pretty daughter... and then another woman... and another. Can DCI Croft identify and capture a psychopathic killer hell-bent on eliminating anyone who stands in his way before he murders his sister... or is it already too late for Olivia?
DCI Croft made for the incident room uniform had dedicated to the serial killer murders. A map had been drawn on one of the whiteboards and marked with the exact location of everything found in George Street. Another displayed the places items had been discovered during the fingertip search of Jubilee Park. He pointed from the boards to the table holding bagged items they knew were Joanna’s. ‘Handbag, mobile, gloves, shoe, two pieces of a broken shoe, scraps of her fur coat, knickers, and other clothes including the coat, are all here. Should we be looking harder at the rest, Pringle?’
‘A lot of it points to druggies using Jubilee Park, sir, and Mr Taylor said Joanna tested clean. I’ve instructed Inspector Kapdi to increase patrols to include the park. It’s possible a dealer has found out it’s a well-hidden outlet away from the powerful mobsters. We know who rules the roost in Garton South, and so will the little men trying to edge their way into the market.’
No wonder his detective sergeant had been promoted to a DS post earlier than most who passed the exam. He handled uniformed inspectors so well they were hardly aware of his hands on the reins. ‘It’s Patrick’s report that worries me. He confirmed death by strangulation, but the rest of his findings don’t add up with the Offender Profile. Mrs Ryan is convinced all the murders were committed by the same psychopath.’
‘Joanna was brutally raped by a man wearing a condom, sir.’
‘Rape is always forceful. Our killer has never taken hair as a trophy. A lock was pulled out by the roots, but Joanna’s fingers and thumbs were left intact.’
Pringle frowned. ‘We saw that and hoped we’d get DNA from under her nails. Judging by her scattered belongings, she fought.’
‘I’m certain she did. Pringle, would you say Joanna was a girl who cared about her looks?’
‘Her clothes were stylish and expensive, so yes.’
He rubbed his forehead. ‘Patrick found evidence that she bit her nails, but they were filed smooth.’
He’d been lucky, or Mirelle might have been married before they met. ‘My wife used to bite her nails, but so many lads complained about her scratching them, she painted on stuff that tasted revolting, and it worked.’
‘Joanna wasn’t even wearing nail varnish, sir.’
‘Mirelle said she didn’t. It drew attention to her jagged claws. Any other makeup, except waterproof mascara, would have washed off Joanna. Pringle, I think we’re looking for a different killer. Ours –’
‘Doesn’t chase women, and he likes a warm room, even when he paid a hooker, or agreed to pay one presumably, since Bo Critz took him to her flat.’
Pringle’s instructions to Inspector Kapdi about patrolling Jubilee Park in case it was being used by a drug pusher clattered in his brain. ‘Suppose Joanna knew something about a drug dealer, and he knew she knew? A copycat killing would shut her up and leave the police to assume it was yet another by the man who murdered the others.’
‘Except it wasn’t a true copycat, sir.’
‘Maybe he read that the killer likes trophies and didn’t take on board the media reports that they were always the same – digit tips and the ring finger. He knew the danger of us finding DNA, dumping the body in moving water. But for getting entangled in a tree, Joanna could have been in the Thames before she was found, if ever, and it would explain why he was wearing latex gloves. An opportunist rapist is hardly likely to carry them about.’
‘Both men, if there are two, must be on the police database to worry about DNA.’
‘Even Hal knows DNA can secure a conviction.’ He managed a grin. ‘He watches crime dramas on TV. Pringle, a drug dealer’s DNA might well be on record, but a man with no convictions wouldn’t be, and if we’re right about our killer being young...’
‘Trophies are all he’s interested in, and ring fingers attract him, sir. He didn’t remove Erik Hamsa’s, but he doused him in so much water Mr Taylor found no DNA, even under his fingernails. More water than the females, I mean.’
‘Hamsa almost certainly didn’t scratch. He fought his killer with a weapon of some sort, and it must have connected with clothing – new clothes – forensics found no DNA. To my mind, that confirms Hamsa saw him raping Patsy, and the monster is only interested in mementos from women.’ He eyed the whiteboards gloomily. ‘It’s a different killer, Pringle.’
‘The Garton Gazette is calling Joanna the serial killer’s fourth female victim.’
He knew, and that the Chief Super was furious. ‘Arresting Joanna’s murderer and making charges stick would spike their guns. Top priority, Pringle.’
“Sarah Stuart has created a complex and realistic world in which multiple stories merge into one as we not only follow DCI Croft but also a defending lawyer, the killer’s intended victim, and the killer himself. While the killer’s identity is not a secret to us, the complex way all of the stories intertwine makes for an elaborate web of intriguing narratives. I especially enjoyed how the characters’ personal and professional lives blended together – sometimes unknowingly to the characters themselves – making for a believable yet terrifying experience. With some of the most shocking and heinous crimes, Shattered Lives is undoubtedly one of the most memorable thrillers I have ever read.”
Shattered Lives is available as an eBook or in print. http://getbook.at/ShatteredLives
Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/Sarah-Stuart/e/B00MA9XLHI