Gripping mysteries that twist and turn!


Disgraced Detective Dave Slater is stuck on gardening leave, down in the quiet Hampshire town of Tinton, with just one last chance to redeem himself.

He must search for mousy young journalist Ruth Thornhill. Months ago, she vanished from her home, her London job, her life. But the Met don’t want to know.

Now Slater’s boss slips him the file, asking him to investigate discreetly, with the help of an unlikely new assistant. Bedraggled fifty-something Detective Norman Norman.

Norman may not be the fittest or the strongest. And, lord knows, he’s not the youngest. But he knows how to use his head and follow his instincts. And he might just be the ally that Slater needs.

The deeper Slater digs into the missing woman’s many secrets, the more he realizes, someone out there doesn’t want her found.

And they’ll stop at nothing to keep Slater from the truth.

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The author has approached the whole 'detective' thing with a wonderfully light and deft touch. The story is engaging, the characters very likeable and there is an undercurrent of humour that I very much enjoyed.


In the dark gloom of the early hours, with lights extinguished, the estate car reversed slowly off the main road into a narrow side-street and then continued to creep on down to the riverside, where it finally stopped at the top of an old, disused, slipway.

A man, dressed from head to toe in black, emerged from the car and made his way stealthily to the back. There was a loud, metallic, pop as the hatch opened, followed by a hiss as it glided upwards. Shocked by the apparent loudness of the noise, he froze and held his breath.

After what seemed an eternity, he began to relax. It seemed no one had heard the noise, so he began the business of removing what appeared to be a roll of carpet from the back of the car. It was roughly six feet long and was bound with string around the middle and over each end.

Somehow it seemed to have grown heavier on the journey and it was much harder to get it out of the car than it had been to put it in. In no time, he was sweating profusely from his efforts. 

He eventually gave up trying to carry the carpet and settled for dragging it from the car and down the slipway. In the darkness, he didn’t notice the string was being loosened as it caught and snagged on the rough concrete.

Finally, he reached the river’s edge and there was a faint splash as he dropped the end he was holding into the water. Then he stepped back to the other end, dropped to his knees, and launched the carpet into the river like a torpedo. In the dim, murky, glow from the distant streetlights on the far bank, he could just about see it bobbing along on the surface as it floated out into the river and the current began to carry it away. 

He watched with great satisfaction as it began to gather speed and was drawn out towards the middle without sinking. He had thought carefully about this – if it sank too soon it might be visible when the tide went out, so he had taken great care to make sure it floated long enough to reach the middle before it became waterlogged and sank.

He stood watching the slowly sinking package until it was lost from sight in the darkness, then made his way back to the car. After carefully easing the hatch shut, he climbed into the driver’s seat and started the engine. As he crawled back along the lane, the lights of a passing car flashed past, and his confidence began to waver once more. 

Not for the first time, he wondered how on earth he had been foolish enough to allow himself to be drawn into this situation. It was like the worst sort of nightmare, but, he also realised, it was too late for regrets. There could be no turning back now.

As the man turned onto the main road and switched his headlights on, the now waterlogged roll of carpet reached the middle of the river and disappeared below the surface, just as was intended.

The tide was in full flow now, and the fierce current had begun to work at the loosening string. Over the next half hour, the roll of carpet was dragged and bumped along the bottom, and in the process, the string was further loosened, and the carpet was almost unrolled. 

It was quite possible that, in a day or two, the precious contents within could work loose and be carried away by the tidal current, and from there anything could happen…

Chapter One

Detective Sergeant Dave Slater itched and scratched at the unruly stubble on his chin. To say he felt aggrieved would be something of an understatement. He was currently on so-called ‘gardening leave’, which sounded as though it should be quite enjoyable, but, in reality, it was a euphemism for ‘suspended from duty pending investigation’. He had been tending his garden for two weeks now and he was bored out of his mind.

It’s not as if there was anything in particular to investigate. The simple truth was that an operation had been both poorly planned and badly executed, which, coupled with some very bad luck involving an unexpected dustcart and an idiot police driver, had resulted in their failure to apprehend the villain they had under surveillance.

The whole fiasco was a team effort, and Slater thought if anyone should have been singled out for blame it should have been DI Jimmy Jones of the Serious Crime Unit, who had been parachuted in from London to take control of the operation. But Jones was one of those fast-tracked rising stars, so he was never in any danger of carrying the can for his own incompetence. 

In fact, it had been embarrassing to see how quickly everyone from the SCU had gazed in the direction of Jones’ finger, pointing straight at Dave Slater. The unfortunate Slater had swiftly been nominated as the official sacrificial lamb.

They had very conveniently overlooked the fact that even if the operation had gone as smoothly as a Rolls Royce, they still wouldn’t have got their man. He seemed to have been aware of everything they were doing and stayed one step ahead of them the whole time. It was quite clear to Dave Slater that the guy either had a crystal ball or, more likely, he had a man on the inside feeding him information the whole time.

In Slater’s opinion, what they should have been investigating was the amazing coincidence of how a London-based criminal who had never been to Tinton before in his life had managed to keep ahead of an operation being led by a DI brought in from London for this one operation. His point being that Tinton had never suffered from the effects of a leak before. 

But, of course, it was less politically sensitive to just lay the blame on the local officer thrust in at the deep end to help run an operation he wasn’t trained for, and ignore the possibility that a favourite, rising star might not actually be all he was supposed to be.

So yes, he was aggrieved. 

Just a tad.

His brooding was interrupted by the sound of his mobile phone warbling to acknowledge the arrival of an incoming call. He checked the number on the caller display. It was his boss, Detective Chief Inspector Bob Murray.

In his mind, he played through the scenario he had imagined hundreds of times over the last two weeks. It was the one he most dreaded – where he was called in and dismissed from the service. 

He thought about ignoring the call. They couldn’t sack him if he didn’t answer it, could they? But he quickly realised just how stupid he was being. If that was what was going to happen it would be far better to get it over with, wouldn’t it? Either way, there was only one way to find out. He picked up the phone.

‘Hi, Boss.’

‘Good morning, David. How are you?’

Bob Murray was a strange mix of modern thinking and old-fashioned discipline. He was modern enough to allow the informality of calling Slater by his Christian name in this situation, but not informal enough to use the abbreviated form ‘Dave’. Everything about him was contradictory in this way, but Slater liked him.

‘I’ve been better,’ admitted Slater. ‘All this waiting around is driving me crazy.’

‘That’s what I’m calling about. I need to talk to you. Can you get here this afternoon?’

Slater felt his blood running a bit colder.

‘Is this something I want to hear?’

‘You’ll find out when you get here, won’t you?’ growled Murray. ‘About four o’clock suit you?’

‘Err, yes, sir. Of course.’

‘Good man. I’ll see you then.’

There was a soft click and the line was dead.

Well, thought Slater, that didn’t sound like I was going to get the sack. Perhaps someone’s finally going to ask me for my side of the storybut I have no idea what to think. I know a man who might, though. It’s time to make a call of my own…

‘But why does he want to see me?’ Slater asked, down the phone. ‘Come on, Stan, you’re my union rep so why haven’t you been told? I’ve been suspended from work and kept totally in the dark for two weeks and now, suddenly, my boss wants to see me and no one knows why. What the bloody hell’s going on?’

‘Look, calm down will you?’ said the voice at the other end of the line. ‘They can’t sack you without me being there. Anyway, this isn’t a disciplinary matter. I don’t know quite what’s going on but none of the usual procedures are being followed.

‘You’re not even officially suspended. I get the impression there’s some sort of barney going on between our lot and the Serious Crime Unit. They want you to get the blame but we’re saying you can’t be responsible when you’re not trained to run an operation like that. The feeling this end is Jones is responsible, not you.’

This was news to Slater. Maybe he wasn’t on his own after all.

‘And don’t start thinking Murray’s on their side,’ Stan continued. ‘He went ballistic when he found out you’d got the blame. He’s definitely fighting for you, so I can’t see how he’s going to suddenly turn on you now. If you want my honest opinion, I don’t think they know what to do with you.’

‘Why thank you, Stan,’ said Slater sarcastically. ‘You sure know how to make me feel better.’

‘Listen, Murray’s on your side and he’s got the big chief’s ear, which means now even the big man himself thinks you’re being used as a scapegoat. If you want my advice, you’ll stop feeling sorry for yourself, get in here this afternoon, and show these people they’re doing the right thing by backing you.’

Well, when it’s put to you like that, you can’t really argue, can you? And to be honest, self-pity hasn’t done me any good so far, has it?

He thought it might be a good idea to show a little respect to Bob Murray when he met him later. A shower and a shave certainly wouldn’t go amiss.

‘So, how come I get to take this over?’ asked Slater, when Murray explained the situation. ‘No, don’t tell me, let me guess. I suppose it’s a ticking time bomb that no one else wants to handle, but it’s okay if it blows up in my face because I’m expendable.’

‘Look,’ said Murray, patiently, ‘I understand how you feel and I’d probably feel the same if I was in your shoes, but I think you’re looking at it from the wrong angle. 

‘This case has been kicking around for six months. It’s been dismissed as a simple runaway by our colleagues in the Met, and with no evidence to suggest otherwise, and no dead body, you can hardly blame them. But the missing girl’s sister won’t accept it. She’s found some barrister with a bit of clout to back her up, and now between them they’ve got the local MP on the case too.

‘The Met insist they don’t have the manpower to spend any more time on the case, so the local MP suggested it should be handed to us. He’s got friends in very, very high places so he got his way.’

‘And how much help can I expect from the Met?’ asked Slater, wearily.

‘I might be wrong, but, between you and me, I would expect to get bugger all. They might be glad to get rid of it, but, as you can imagine, they won’t be pleased to find we’re re-investigating one of their cases.’

‘So I’m in between a rock and a hard place then.’

Murray nodded.

‘Do I get any help from this end?’ asked Slater, optimistically.

‘The Met aren’t the only ones who are short of manpower-,’ began Murray.

‘But then I’m supposed to be suspended so I’m a spare pair of hands for any dirty jobs that come in,’ finished Slater, before adding an afterthought. ‘Am I working officially, boss? Or am I really surplus to requirements?’

‘I’d prefer it if you kept as low a profile as possible, but let’s get something clear. As far as I’m concerned there’s no way you should be suspended. DI Jones should have been the one to blame for the Slick Tony fiasco, not you. And you should be aware that my boss agrees with me. We’re doing all we can to reverse the situation, and getting your suspension lifted so you can carry out this investigation is the first step. So get that bloody chip off your shoulder and get out there and do your job. Do I make myself clear?’

‘Yes, boss, crystal clear,’ said Slater, sulkily, thinking to himself that he didn’t have much choice.

Murray stood up, indicating the meeting was over. He came round the desk, shook Slater’s hand and handed him a folder.

‘I understand why you feel reluctant, but do one thing for me. Take this home and read through it,’ he said, gripping Slater’s hand. ‘Go and speak to the missing girl’s sister. Then if you decide you’re really not interested and you’d rather take a chance on what happens, I’ll understand. But I think you have a chance to shine here, a real chance to prove you’re as good a copper as I believe you are. I think you should get out there and use that chance.’

‘Yes, boss.’

‘If you need anything, you let me know. And keep me informed. You never know what you might find.’

He led Slater to the door.

‘Come back and see me in a couple of days. In the meantime, I’d keep quiet about this.’

‘Ok boss,’ said Slater. ‘I’ll take a look and let you know.’

As he walked from the office, Slater figured it had probably gone as well as he could reasonably expect. Better, in fact. At least now he knew that his own superiors were on his side, and for that he really was grateful. Idly he wondered what Murray had meant when he said ‘you never know what you might find’. Was there something he wasn’t being told, or was he just being paranoid?


Books in the Slater & Norman series

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