Deadly Justice released today!

Deadly justice pb

DEADLY JUSTICE the latest book in the DS Jack Mackinnon series is now available.  |

If you would like to receive an email when the next book is released, click here to sign up for the newsletter.

(I only send out a newsletter when I have a new release, or a sale on my books. I hate spam and your email address will be kept private.)

For those readers who haven’t yet joined the ebook revolution, Deadly Justice will be published in paperback soon 😉

Here’s the book description:


A late summer heatwave seems to have triggered an unusually high number of suicides.

As the dead bodies pile up, DS Jack Mackinnon and the rest of MIT realise things aren’t as straightforward as they seem, and when similar letters are found at the scene of each ‘suicide,’ Mackinnon is convinced they are dealing with a serial killer. 

The killer believes the police aren’t doing their job properly and is determined to deliver his own deadly justice.

Thanks and happy reading!

Danica  |  |  iTunes  |  B&N  |  Nook UK  |  Kobo

Posted in British detective, Crime fiction, d. s. butler, Deadly Justice, DS Jack Mackinnon series, kindle, Nook, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Deadly obsession – out now!

DEADLY OBSESSION the prequel to the DS Jack Mackinnon series is now available for Kindle!  |

It is currently on sale at the special price of 99p.

If you would like to receive an email when the next book is released, click here to sign up for the newsletter.

(I only send out a newsletter when I have a new release, or a sale on my books. I hate spam and your email address will be kept private.)

For those readers who haven’t yet joined the ebook revolution, Deadly Obsession will be published in paperback soon 😉

Here’s the book description:


A young Polish girl fixated on fame ~ A killer with a deadly obsession

DS Jack Mackinnon has his work cut out trying to track down missing student, Anya Blonski. As Mackinnon follows the trail of obsession to the shady owners of the Star Academy, who thrive on society’s obsession with reality TV shows, he realises the fame they offer comes at a price.

When a second girl goes missing from the same Academy, Mackinnon is forced to consider a serial killer may be stalking the city.

Thanks and happy reading!

Danica  |  |  iTunes  |  B&N  |  Kobo

Posted in British detective, Crime fiction, DS Jack Mackinnon series, ebook, kindle, Murder mystery, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Deadly Obsession – Coming soon!

DEADLY OBSESSION is the new book in the DS Jack Mackinnon series. This book is a prequel to the series.

Here’s the description:


A young Polish girl fixated on fame ~ A killer with a deadly obsession

DS Jack Mackinnon has his work cut out trying to track down missing student, Anya Blonski. As Mackinnon follows the trail of obsession to the shady owners of the Star Academy, who thrive on society’s obsession with reality TV shows, he realises the fame they offer comes at a price.

When a second girl goes missing from the same Academy, Mackinnon is forced to consider a serial killer may be stalking the city.

And here’s chapter one:

The man waited on the corner of Queen’s street, outside Oakland’s Furniture Store.

He took a quick glance at his watch and smiled. Only a few more minutes to go.

Dressed like an American tourist, he blended in with the bustling crowds. He wore a pair of beige, baggy cargo trousers, and a faded, blue, loose cotton shirt with the arms rolled up. His Dodgers baseball cap was pulled down low, and wraparound shades hid his eyes. Despite the setting sun, he kept the glasses on. In London, thousands of CCTV cameras recorded the public’s every move, and he didn’t want anyone identifying him from the video footage.

He stepped to his right, moving out of the way, as a customer left the furniture store. He studied his reflection in the shiny store windows, hardly recognizing himself.

The heat from the pavement seeped up through the soles of his shoes, making his feet hot and uncomfortable.

An expensive video camera hung from a thin, grey, nylon cord around his neck. He looked like just another visitor, taking in the historical sights London had to offer.

His video camera was a premium, state-of-the-art Nikon. He slipped the black cap off the upgraded lens. The zoom lens alone cost him over a thousand pounds. But it was worth it. He needed to get the shot right the first time. There would be no second chances. No reruns.

He raised a hand to his shirt pocket, and his fingers gripped the hard square of the spare memory card. That was good. The one in the camera already contained hours of entertainment, and it wouldn’t do to run out of memory today. Not when he had such plans.

He licked his dry lips and closed his eyes. He could hardly bear the anticipation. If only she knew the effect she had on him. But of course, she knew. They all did.

He pointed the video camera at the entrance, so he would be ready when she left the building. His hands trembled so much, the picture in the viewfinder jumped and jerked around. He would have to hold the camera steady with both hands to get a decent recording.

Two women walked past him, city workers dressed in tight skirt suits and the kind of towering shoes that required a desk job. The taller woman glanced at him as she strode past. She tossed her long, brown hair and took a second look, staring at him with obvious curiosity, wondering what he was filming.

Nosy busybody.

The man turned away and pulled out a crumpled packet of Silk Cut cigarettes from his trouser pocket. He didn’t want people watching him. He wanted to fade into the background. He had to look like he was just exploring the city. One of many sightseers London saw every day. Then no one would remember him.

It was important to go unnoticed today because if everything went as arranged…

A red, double-decker bus squealed to a halt at the bus stop in front of him.

The man crushed the cigarette in his fist. No! This was not part of the plan.

He watched as passengers clambered off the bus. One, two, three… They kept coming. No! Now there were too many people around. His plan was ruined. The intricate calculations, the careful consideration of possibilities, working out the timing all for nothing. How could he concentrate with all these people squeezing up against him?

What if one of them remembered him?

“Yes, officer, there was a man lurking around. Of course, I can give you an accurate description…”

No, no, no. It wouldn’t do at all.

He shot an anxious glance to the doorway on his right. Any moment now, she would walk through that archway. The culmination of weeks of preparation. It should be the perfect moment. A special moment he would remember for months. A memory he could relive, over and over; but all these people were spoiling it.

White-hot rage blistered in his chest. His hands shook as he tried to pluck another cigarette from the packet. Beads of sweat broke out on his forehead and down the length of his back. He threw the second cigarette on the floor and stamped on it. What was wrong with him? If he weren’t careful, he would ruin the whole thing. He needed to keep calm and stay in control.

It would be all right. If he could just keep a clear head, he might be able to pull it off. The bus pulled away, behind a transit van that belched out diesel fumes; and the passengers were leaving now, clearing a path for him. How considerate. Everything would work out perfectly. He allowed himself a small smile.

The door opened, and he caught his breath.

There she was. Anya. His star.

Her eyes swept over him, then she looked away.

Oh, she was a good actress, pretending not to know him. Pretending she didn’t know what was about to happen, as if she hadn’t been communicating with him for weeks with those longing looks and secret smiles.

He switched on the video camera, and a blinking red light appeared in the corner of the screen.

How clever of her. She was sending him more signals today. Wasn’t she wearing pink? She picked out that soft, rose-coloured cardigan that clung to all her curves just for him. It was a signal, a sign that she was ready, ripe for the plucking. She was telling him she was willing, telling him it had to be today.

Anya turned and began to walk away.

He felt a flash of fire in his chest. Then he took a breath, dispersing the anger, and smiled. Of course, this was all part of the game. She wanted him to follow her.

He would play along. For now. But soon she would realise that he made the rules.

He hung back for a few moments; then, with his heart pounding, he dropped into step behind her, unable to wipe the smile from his face.

He had waited for this moment for so long. He even dreamed about it. But this was no dream. He clenched and unclenched his fists. This was real.

Her long, fair hair tumbled down her back, swaying from side to side as she walked. She pulled off her pink cardigan and tied it around her tiny waist. She wore a bright blue, short skirt, which showed off her long, dancer’s legs and rose a little higher with each step. He bit the side of his mouth. He was enjoying the game.

He kept his camera focused on her back, zooming in until she filled the frame.

At first, he stayed a safe distance behind her. From experience, he knew surprise was his best weapon. He followed quietly, a few feet behind her, crossing the road when she did.

She turned right into Bakers Lane. It was quieter here. The traffic from the main road was muffled. He heard the distant ring of church bells and the caw of a crow.

He waited for a moment, looking up and down the street, until he was certain they were alone; then he left the camera dangling from his neck and made his approach.

Hearing his footsteps, she whirled around. Her face was white, pinched and scared.

She put a fluttering hand to her chest and let out a little high-pitched giggle. “You scared me. I didn’t realise it was you.”

He smiled back at her, walking closer as his hand closed around the knife in his coat pocket.

“Well, I’d better be getting home,” she said in her delightful accent.

How sweet! She was still playing the game. His thumb pressed lightly against the sharp edge of the knife.

Her baby blue eyes gazed up at him, wide and trusting.

But why shouldn’t she trust him? She knew him, didn’t she? At least, she thought she did.

And after tonight, she would know him better than anyone. And he would know every inch of her.


Posted in British detective, Crime fiction, DS Jack Mackinnon series, ebook, kindle, Murder mystery, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Apple iTunes/iBooks Police Procedurals

Deadly Motive is doing well in Apple’s iBooks. Today it is No.9 in the Police Procedurals bestsellers list.

Deadly Motive in iBooks

A big thank you to everyone who has bought a copy. If you haven’t downloaded your copy yet, you can get it here: Deadly Motive (iBooks)

Or see the books page for links to Deadly Motive for Kindle, Nook and other ereaders.

Posted in British detective, Crime fiction, DS Jack Mackinnon series, ebook, ibooks, kindle, kobo, Murder mystery, Nook, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Happy Father’s Day!

I have been blown away by the lovely comments about my new book, Deadly Revenge. Each and every person who has taken the time to email, message or tweet me with kind comments – thank you!

Of all the feedback I have received about the two books in my DS Jack Mackinnon series the comment that touched me most was from my dad.

Let me explain.

My dad isn’t much of a reader. At least not of fiction. He reads the paper every day and has lots of non-fiction books, but as for fiction, he just isn’t interested.

On the other hand, I have always loved to read just for sheer entertainment. I get that from my mum.

It isn’t that I haven’t tried to encourage my dad to read fiction, to try and pass on my enthusiasm for stories, but he just doesn’t enjoy it. I suspect there are many people out there like my dad, reading to learn, to acquire knowledge, but not for enjoyment.

When I was studying English at school, we were given Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. I loved the story of Lennie and George, and I was convinced my dad would like it too. So I nagged, wheedled and downright begged until he read it. And he enjoyed it. But not enough to read another fictional book.

That was when I was fifteen. Now I am in my thirties, and as far as I know, my dad hasn’t read another fictional book since Of Mice and Men. I think he has listened to a couple of audiobook stories, and he likes to listen to the plays on Radio 4, but when it come to fictional books, he still isn’t interested.

Until March, when he bought Deadly Motive, my first book. I appreciated the support, but I didn’t expect him to actually read it.

But he did.

He bought the ebook (as the paperback was not released at that point). And as he didn’t have an ereader, he read the book every night on his PC. I can’t put into words how much that means to me. So I won’t even try.

I’ll just say: Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

Posted in British detective, Crime fiction, DS Jack Mackinnon series, Father's day, Murder mystery, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

DS Jack Mackinnon Book 2: DEADLY REVENGE is out now!

Jack Mackinnon book 2: Deadly Revenge is now available.

The Amazon UK version is here (£1.99), while the Amazon US and international version can be found here ($2.99). Click on the links for Deadly Revenge on iBooks and Barnes and Noble and Kobo.

The paperback version is also available to buy from Amazon.

The support and feedback for Deadly Motive has been amazing, and I hope the fact you can buy Deadly Revenge for less than the price of a fancy coffee will convince you to buy a copy!

Deadly Revenge – Book two of the DS Jack Mackinnon Series

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Extract from Deadly Revenge

The Deadly revenge ebook will be available on Amazon this weekend, and the paperback version should be out by August. Below are the first few chapters of the book. It is a little more gory than the first book in the series, so I hope that doesn’t put you off!



Ten years ago…

Grace stepped inside the lift, lowered her heavy shopping bags to the ground and pressed the button for the third floor. The smell of pine cleaning fluid was so strong, it made her nose twitch.

Mrs. Anderson, who lived on the floor above Grace and her father, must have been cleaning again. She had a thing about germs. Grace was always catching her polishing the handrails on the stairs, and the smell of bleach often wafted down to their floor when Mrs. Anderson was scrubbing her landing, which she did practically every day.

When Grace once commented on how the whole block of flats smelled of cleaning products, Mrs. Anderson took it as a compliment, and folded her arms underneath her matronly bosom and beamed. “Thank you, Grace. You can never be too careful with germs. As you know, after all the time you have had to spend in hospital with your troubles.”

Grace never mentioned the cleaning again. She didn’t like to be reminded of “her troubles,” as Mrs. Anderson called them.

When the lift reached the third floor, Grace bent down to lift up the plastic carrier bags. Just as she was about to step out of the lift, she felt one of the handles give way, and the bag fell to the floor with a thud, followed by an ominous shattering sound.


She quickly inspected the damage. A glass jar of pasta sauce had smashed open and the red sauce had leaked over the rest of the shopping. Grace held the bag out in front of her, so the sauce wouldn’t drip onto her clothes.

The little yappy dog next door was barking like mad. Mrs. Rainer, who owned the dog, was stone deaf and never seemed to notice the barking. Grace wondered what set it off this time? Something on the TV? Or a car alarm?

Swearing under her breath, Grace lifted her key to the lock.

She froze.

The door was open.

That was strange. Her father wasn’t due home from work until after eight. Maybe he had come home early, and hadn’t closed the door properly.

Grace pushed open the door and stepped into the flat. She was about to call out when she heard voices.

It wasn’t her dad.

Had she left the television on? She entered the hallway and set down the bags, the leaking pasta sauce forgotten. She walked on, towards the voices. Maybe it was the radio?

There was a crash, followed by a laugh. Too late, she realised these were real voices, they weren’t on the television or radio.

For a second, she hesitated, something she would later regret bitterly, then adrenaline kicked in. She needed to get out of here; she needed to call for help.

She turned to run, but tripped over the shopping bags and fell against the hall table, sending the vase on top clattering to the floor.

“Who’s that?” A male voice shouted out from inside the flat.

Grace scrambled to her feet, her heart thumping, and clambered over the shopping. She made it into the hallway, but before she could get away, she felt hands grab her, pulling her back inside the flat.

“Let me go!” Grace struggled, turning to face the intruder. She kicked out at him. “Let me go.”

The man’s cheeks were covered in old acne scars. His eyes didn’t focus properly as he stared at her. “You’re not going anywhere.” He grasped a handful of her hair and yanked it hard.

Grace pushed against him, but he pulled her closer. She could smell his stale sweat and rancid breath.

“Please just let me go.”

The intruder smiled, pulling out a knife.

If he hadn’t been holding her up by her hair, Grace would have sunk to her knees.

He ran the knife along the hollow of her exposed throat.

“I’ve got plans for you.”

He nudged Grace forward with his body. “Get inside. Here, Gordon, look what I found.”

In Grace’s front room, another man stood in the corner, unplugging the television set.

He turned to face them, and his eyes widened when he saw Grace. “What are you doing? Don’t let her see our faces.” He pulled up his sweatshirt so it covered the lower half of his face.

“Thought she could tell us where she keeps the cash,” the first intruder said, grinning.

“You’re an idiot.” Gordon staggered over, clutching the DVD player. “She’s seen us. Now she can identify us. And if that’s not bad enough, you just said my name!”

They argued back and forth, getting more and more agitated, and Grace waited for her chance. When the first intruder released her arms so he could wave his arms about to emphasise a point, she took off.

She spun around and made for the door.

One of the men yelled in anger, and she could hear things being knocked over as they chased her.

She almost made it. She was almost at the door when she felt a heavy blow to the back of her head.

Grace slumped to the floor.



Present day…

Ronnie sat in the squat, leaning back against the wall. He loosened the tourniquet on his arm and stretched out his legs in front of him. He looked over at Scott and grinned at him.

“It’s good stuff…” Scott said as his eyelids fluttered.

Ronnie agreed. This was good stuff. He settled back to enjoy the high, oblivious to the squalor of the room.

None of that mattered now. He didn’t care about the food wrappers and drink cans scattered on the floor, or about the toothache that had been gnawing at him all day. All that stuff just slipped away. He felt good. Really good.

Even the sound of Letitia in the bedroom down the hall, servicing one of her clients, faded into the background.

He floated into his little bit of paradise. He felt warm and safe and knew everything was going to work out just fine. Soon, his life would turn around, and he would get himself a job and a nice place to live, and when his ex saw just how well he had sorted his life out, she would be impressed. She would want him back, she would let him see his little girl, and they would be a family again.

Some minutes later, Ronnie heard the sound of retching. He tried to block it out, to get back to his high. He didn’t want to come down yet. Reality sucked.

But the sound got worse.

“Here, Ron. I don’t feel so good,” Scott said.

Ronnie opened his eyes, blinked and tried to focus on Scott, who was swaying from side to side. At least he thought Scott was swaying, maybe he was the one swaying?

Suddenly Scott groaned and doubled over, clutching his stomach. He cried out in pain. “It hurts!”

Ronnie rubbed a hand over his face, willing himself to snap out of it. He shuffled over on his knees to Scott who was crouched on the floor.

“What’s wrong?” Ronnie asked, trying to get Scott to face him. “Come on, mate. What’s the matter?”

But Scott stayed clenched in a tight ball, trembling and muttering, “It hurts,” over and over.

It was probably a bad trip, Ronnie thought. He put a hand on Scott’s shoulder. “It’s all right, Scotty. Just try and relax.”

Scott stayed like that for a little while, and Ronnie felt himself drifting again, so nice and so peaceful. He kept his hand on Scott’s shoulder.

Just when Ronnie thought Scott was over the worst of it. He felt Scott’s entire body shudder violently.

He was having a fit.

Ronnie tried to pull Scott onto his side. He thought that was right. He had heard about the recovery position, but wasn’t there something about making sure the person having the fit didn’t bite through their tongue? Or maybe that was just an old wives’ tale?

Scott relaxed and his body flopped back against the floor.

“Scott?” Ronnie shook Scott’s arm. “You all right?”

Scott rolled over onto his back and stared up at the ceiling with blank, un-seeing eyes.

Ronnie looked down at him, and saw a miracle.

From the corner of Scott’s eyes, two red teardrops appeared. Ronnie reverently made the sign of the cross. It was just like that statue of the saint Ronnie had read about. Scott was crying tears of blood.

Ronnie stood, transfixed, stunned into silence.

Then the silence was broken by a roar from Scott.

The veins in Scott’s temples bulged and the tendons in his neck strained under the skin. He vomited blood. It splattered everywhere.

It was like a horror film. Ronnie had never seen so much blood. It was on his clothes, even under his shoes. The floor was slick with it.

Ronnie staggered out of the room, trying to control his rapid breathing. This isn’t real. This is just a bad trip. It can’t be real.

He went into the filthy bathroom, ignoring the dirt-encrusted floor and stained sink. He turned the taps on full, then splashed water on his face.

Come on, Ronnie, think!

He looked down at his shirt. It was covered in blood. Oh God, it was real. This was really happening. What the hell was he supposed to do?

Ronnie hammered on Letitia’s door.

“Go away.” Letitia’s shrill voice carried through the thick door.

Ronnie tried the handle, but they’d locked it. “It’s an emergency. I need a phone.” He kicked the door. “Open up. Now.”

The door was wrenched open, leaving Ronnie off balance. He staggered, then steadied himself against the door frame.

In front of him stood an obese man, wearing only a pair of white, grubby boxer shorts. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he snarled at Ronnie, getting in his face, before suddenly taking a step back. “Is that blood?” he asked, pointing at Ronnie’s shirt.

Ronnie nodded. “I need to use your phone… to call an ambulance. My friend…” Ronnie’s voice trailed off as he looked back along the corridor.

“You’re not using mine. No way.” The fat man yanked on a pair of black trousers. “I’m not getting involved. I’m out of here.” He picked up his shirt and pushed past Letitia, heading out of the room.

Letitia handed Ronnie her mobile phone. “You can use mine.”

Ronnie took the phone and called for an ambulance. The operator asked him to stay on the line, but Ronnie hung up. Letitia had disappeared.


“In here.”

Ronnie found Letitia kneeling over Scott. As Ronnie entered the room, she turned. “He’s still alive. I think I can see him breathing.”

Ronnie leaned over, and sure enough, he could see the faint rise and fall of Scott’s chest, along with bubbles of blood foaming at the corners of his mouth.


Doctor Anna Sorensen was sleeping in the on-call room when her pager went off. For a moment, she looked around the poky little cubicle, no bigger than a cupboard, and wondered where on earth she was.

She had been dreaming about suturing a wound, which kept getting bigger and bigger, no matter how long she worked on it. She groaned into the pillow. She would give almost anything right now to be in her own bed, with nothing to do for the rest of the night, but sleep.

She sat up, and slipped on her shoes. Rubbing sleep from her eyes, she looked at her pager. It was Accident and Emergency.

She left the on-call room and walked along the corridor to Accident and Emergency. The junior sister on duty greeted her and told her they were expecting an emergency admission, ETA five minutes.

Anna thanked her and headed to the ambulance bay.

Claire, an experienced nurse, was already out there, waiting. She rubbed the goosebumps on her arms.

“What are we expecting?” Anna asked.

“Drug overdose. Breathing problems and vomiting blood.”

Anna sighed. “Sounds like a GI bleed. Looks like it’s going to be a long night.”

Sirens sounded in the distance, and both Anna and Claire turned as the ambulance pulled into the bay.

The first paramedic clambered out of the back and secured the doors open. “It’s a bad one.” He adjusted the pulleys on the trolley.

They got the patient out of the ambulance and started to wheel him inside while the paramedic reeled off information. They’d already started a drip to maintain the patient’s blood pressure.

“There was so much blood,” the paramedic said, shaking his head. “I can’t believe the poor bloke has any left.”

They entered the double doors to the department.

“First name’s Scott. Got that from his friend here.” The paramedic nodded behind him, indicating a short, black man with an afro.

It looked like Scott’s friend had taken something, too. His eyes were glassy, and his pupils were like pinpoints. He followed them in a daze.

“Last name?” Anna asked.

The paramedic shook his head. “Don’t know.”

Anna turned to Scott’s friend. “What’s your name?”

The man blinked. “Uh, Ronnie.”

“Okay, Ronnie, can you tell me what your friend has taken?”

Ronnie opened and closed his mouth a couple of times.

“It’s important, Ronnie. I can’t treat him properly if I don’t know what he has taken.”

Ronnie looked down at his shoes and scratched his arms. “I think he took heroin.” He rocked slightly, his eyes closing as he spoke.

And so have you, by the looks of it, Anna thought.

After the paramedic left to fill out his paperwork, Anna asked Ronnie to wait outside. Inside the trauma room, Anna checked Scott’s vital signs, which were better than she expected from the look of him.

She took four blood samples. The first had a light pink lid. She would send that to haematology, to find out how much blood Scott had lost. The second vial had a red lid, and this sample would be used for cross-matching donor blood, as Scott would need a few units soon if he were going to make it through the night. A third tube, with a yellow lid, would go to biochemistry for standard analysis, and the final tube, with a purple lid, was the sample for the coagulation tests, which would hopefully tell her why Scott was bleeding.

Anna labelled each tube of blood with a bright yellow “danger of infection” sticker. Claire took the samples and a request form and packed them inside a plastic capsule. She inserted the plastic capsule into the pneumatic tube, which was directly linked to the laboratory downstairs.

Once they had managed to stabilise Scott and get the O-negative blood hooked up, Claire took some damp cotton wool and tried to clean away some of the blood from his face. “Poor kid,” she said. “He looks so young. Not much older than my son, Tom.”

Anna took off her gloves and plastic apron. “Will you be okay for a minute? I want to go and speak to his friend. I’ve got a feeling he won’t hang around for long.”


Anna found Ronnie sitting on one of the hard plastic chairs outside the trauma room. He was shaking and he kept scratching his thin arms. Anna sat down next to him.

Ronnie’s hands, clenched into tight fists, rested on his knees. “Is he going to be okay?”

“At the moment, he is stable. But his condition is extremely serious. We are trying to replace the blood he has lost with a transfusion.”

Ronnie nodded. “Then he’ll be okay?”

“I hope so, Ronnie,” Anna said. “But you know, every time he takes drugs, he is taking a risk.”

“It’s never happened before.”

“Ronnie, tell me, did Scott inject the heroin or smoke it?” Anna had already seen track marks, but she wanted to get as much information from Ronnie as she could.

“He injected.”

Ronnie’s lower lip trembled so much that Anna knew tears weren’t far away. “That’s good. Really helpful. Now I need to find Scott’s next of kin. His parents? Do you know how I can contact them?”

Ronnie shook his head. “Scott told me he hasn’t seen his parents in years.”

“You have no way of contacting them, at all?”

“No. I mean he’s a… friend… someone I hang out with, but I mean…” Ronnie buried his head in his hands. “I don’t even know his last name.”

Anna waited for a moment, to give Ronnie time to collect himself. She put a hand on his shoulder. “There’s something else I have to ask you, Ronnie.”

Ronnie looked up at her through bloodshot eyes.

“Did you use the same heroin?” Anna asked.

Anna knew the answer before Ronnie opened his mouth. The horror was etched on his face. “You mean that’s going to happen to me?”

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Murder by poison

Give me a decent bottle of poison and I’ll construct the perfect crime.

-Agatha Christie

While researching the first book in my DS Jack Mackinnon crime series, DEADLY MOTIVE, I spoke to a number of police officers and one told me that poisoning cases were rare, and there were many simpler methods of murder I could use for my book.

I could have written about guns, or knives or even used a pick axe as a murder weapon in Deadly Motive. It certainly would have made my research easier. But never one to shy away from a challenge, I decided on poison.

During my research, I found many cases and thought I would share some of the more notorious ones with you.

Dr Henry George Lamson, 1881

Dr Henry George Lamson had an excellent career until money troubles made him desperate. In dire need of money, he decided to kill his wife’s brother in order to gain the inheritance. His poison of choice was aconite. He put it into a cake and also gave his brother-in-law a capsule containing the poison. The doctor foolishly kept the rest of the capsules in his medical bag and when they were tested they were found to contain aconite.

The doctor was hanged at Wandsworth prison.

Aconite is known as the ‘Queen of poisons.’ It is a highly toxic alkaloid found in some species of plant. Ingesting this poison leads to a tingling sensation in the mouth and lips. Bouts of sweating and shivering is often followed by vomiting. Finally the neurotoxin causes cardiac arrest and death.

Grigori Rasputin, 1916

The Russian monk, Rasputin, is perhaps the most famous case of a failed poisoning. In 1916, many people believed Rasputin had too much influence over the tsarina. A group of Russian noble men gave him cakes and red wine laced with cyanide, but this was not enough to kill Rasputin. Worried that the poison wasn’t working, the poisoners shot him and threw him into the river. When Rasputin’s body was discovered, it was reported the monk had died from drowning.

Graham Young, 1962 & 1971

Graham Young was fascinated with poisons from a young age and used his family as guinea pigs. In 1962 his first victim was his stepmother. His aunt, suspicious of his interest in poisons, contacted the police. Young confessed to the murder of his stepmother and he was sent to Broadmoor.

Young was freed nine years later, and a sudden outbreak of illness occurred at the premises of Young’s new employers. As his employers were not aware of his past crimes, no one suspected that poison was involved.

More and more people at Young’s work place fell ill. Two of his colleagues died, before it was discovered Young was adding thallium to their tea. He was arrested and police found thallium and aconite in Young’s flat, together with a journal that had notes about which of his colleagues were marked out to die.

He was nicknamed ‘the teacup poisoner’ by the British press and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Thallium highly toxic metal, which used to be used as a rat poison. It damages the peripheral nervous system, causing severe pain.

Dr Harold Shipman 1971? – 1998

Nobody knows the exact number of Shipman’s victims. Some say he killed two hundred, others put the estimate at over five hundred. Either way, Dr Harold Shipman was Britain’s most prolific serial killer and his murder weapon of choice was morphine. Shipman was first investigated when the daughter of a local undertaker reported her concerns over the number of deaths in Shipman’s patients. As Shipman’s records matched, he escaped justice at first, but not for long. When he attempted to forge the will of one of his patients, Katherine Grundy, the patient’s daughter, a solicitor, reported him and post-mortem investigations revealed a fatal quantity of morphine in Kathleen Grundy’s body.

Harold Shipman was imprisoned for fifteen life sentences and took his own life in 2004.

Georgi Markov, 1978

Georgi Markov was a journalist and Bulgarian dissident. He survived two assassination attempts by agents of the Bulgarian secret police, but on the 7 September, 1978, a man jabbed Markov in the leg with an umbrella. He was admitted to hospital and died three days later.

A tiny metal pellet was recovered from Markov’s leg. The metal pellet contained traces of the deadly toxin ricin.

Litvinenko (top) and Yushchenko (bottom)

Viktor Yushchenko, 2004

Yushchenko announced that he would run as an independent candidate for the 2004 presidential election in the Ukraine. Shortly afterwards, he became seriously ill and claimed his illness was the work of government agents. When he appeared in public, his face was pockmarked, and disfigured. Austrian doctors confirmed Yushchenko had been poisoned with dioxin. While no one had admitted to the poisoning, Yushchenko has suggested his poisoning was linked to a dinner he had with a group of senior Ukrainian officials, including the head of the Security Service of Ukraine.

Alexander Litvinenko, 2006

Alexander Litvinenko was a former spy for the KGB and FSB who fled to Britain in 2000. The ex-spy died in a London hospital after being exposed to a radioactive poison, thought to be polonium 210. Pictures of Litvinenko on the brink of death were displayed on news channels around the world. Experts from the Health Protection Agency believe that Litvinenko would have to have eaten, inhaled or taken it in through a wound. The case remains open.

Lakhvinder Cheema, 2010

Just two years ago, Lakhvir Singh was convicted at the Old Bailey for poisoning her ex-lover, Lakhvinder Cheema, and his new partner. She was sentenced to twenty-three years in jail. The judge said her actions were “cold and calculating.” Lakhvir Singh obtained the poison, aconite, during a trip to India and added it to a curry, which her ex-lover and his new girlfriend ate for dinner. Cheema later died in hospital. Cheema’s new girlfriend also ate some of the poisoned curry but she survived after treatment. Police found traces of the poison in Singh’s handbag and coat pocket.

As the recent case of the poisoned curry shows, murder by poison does still occur, but advances in science and careful detective work mean that most of the time the poisoner is brought to justice.

All substances are poisons. There is none, which is not. The right dose differentiates a poison and a remedy.

-Paracelsus (1495-1541)

Deadly Motive is available from Amazon US and Amazon UK

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Extract from Deadly Motive

Extract from Chapter one of Deadly Motive


Ted Sanders crept along Parks Road, keeping to the shadows. It was eleven pm and quiet, but he knew he needed to avoid the spying eyes of the surveillance cameras.

When he reached the junction, he stood still for a few moments and tried to slow his breathing. He needed to be calm tonight.

He lowered his bag onto the pavement, circled his shoulder to relieve the ache and felt the blood tingle back into his arm.

He looked towards the University of Oxford’s science area. Sandstone university buildings decorated with grimacing grotesques lined the road. The perfect image for a tourist postcard of Oxford.

But not for long.

Ted saw his target on the opposite side of the road and smiled. He pulled the hood of his sweatshirt forward to hide his face. He had chosen the navy-blue, hooded sweatshirt and black jeans so he could blend into the darkness.

A friend told him the university had installed an extra twenty security cameras when they started construction on the new animal house. Ted knew where they were.

He crouched down and snatched up the carrier bag. He needed to get on with it. Tonight, timing was everything.

Looking down, he saw a deep red stain on the pavement. He felt a stab of fear.


He lifted the bag and scowled at the red liquid oozing from a hole in the plastic. Some spilt on his hand, and he rubbed it between his thumb and forefinger. It felt sticky.

He saw red splashes on his trainers. He looked behind him to the path he had taken along Parks Road. He knew he had left a telltale trail. It didn’t matter. No one would notice it tonight in the dark.

A sharp cry carried over the night air and Ted stopped to listen.

Although the protest should have been over hours ago, chants from animal rights protesters echoed in the distance. That meant some of the protesters were hanging around on the outskirts of the science area, but they wouldn’t interfere. The university had an injunction that banned them getting too close to the science area.

They wouldn’t even see Ted tonight.

He turned right into South Parks Road and passed the Dyson Perrins Laboratory and the Inorganic Chemistry building on his left. The old buildings stood tall. Blue plaques on their walls detailed their history and listed the names of scientists who had worked there.

Tonight, he had no interest in these historic buildings. Tonight, he was heading to one of the newest buildings in the area.

The Chemistry Research Laboratory stood opposite the older science departments. It looked as if it had been constructed entirely of glass. The red brick Dyson Perrins Laboratory, on the opposite side of the road, reflected in its dark glass walls.

His friend, Alex, worked in the huge glass building and had kept Ted supplied with information. Some details were more useful than others. He told Ted about the high security involved when the Queen attended the official opening of the glass building last year.

Ted stared at the stark, cube-shaped building. He wondered what the Queen thought of it. According to Alex, the building had won an architectural award, but it was a perfect example of the type of architecture Prince Charles hated, which was almost enough to make Ted like it.

But all that had nothing to do with why he was here tonight.

Ted had chosen this building because it stood on the corner of Mansfield Road, directly opposite the construction site for the new animal house.

Hoarding and a high, spiked, steel fence surrounded the site. He would not be able to get anywhere near it. It would be stupid to even try; and even if he could, what would be the point? No one would be able to see his work through the barriers.

Security was tightly controlled at the site and the entrance opened only twice a day for the construction workers and trucks transporting the building materials. He had watched them for weeks, plotting and waiting for the perfect opportunity.

The construction workers turned up every morning, wearing balaclavas to hide their faces while they worked. They were ashamed of their involvement.

But not ashamed enough.

Alex assured him the chemistry department did not use animals in any of their laboratories, but Ted didn’t think that would weaken his message. It was still a university building, after all, and the side facing the new animal house had an expansive white wall. A blank canvas. Everyone who saw it would understand his message.

Ted crouched at the side of the building. He wanted to make sure no one could see him from inside.

The lights from one of the labs shone down over the courtyard. Someone was working late. The labs had motion-sensing lights that switched off automatically when the lab was empty.

He felt a line of sweat travel down to the small of his back. He hadn’t planned on this. The labs were supposed to be empty.

But the occupied lab was on the top floor, so it was unlikely they would see or hear him, and a security check usually took place at midnight, which meant he couldn’t wait.

He would have to take a chance and do it now.


Inside the Chemistry Research Laboratory, Ruby Wei walked into the lab’s write-up area, waving her arms wildly over her head to trigger the lights.

The motion-sensing lights were part of the new chemistry building’s eco-drive: if there was no one in the room, there was no need to waste electricity on lights. This worked fine during the day when lots of people were in the lab, but at night when it was quiet, the lights would turn off if you sat still for more than five minutes.

A split second after her manic arm-waving, the lights flickered back on. She pulled a chair up to her computer and logged into her email account. She was supposed to be writing up an experiment, while her cells were incubating, but she couldn’t concentrate.

She stared at the computer screen. She needed to reply to her father’s email, but she had to choose her words carefully. Over the last few weeks, she hadn’t been calling or emailing her parents as regularly as usual.

Her parents had sent an email, saying they understood it was because she was so busy in the lab trying to finish her PhD.

It wasn’t true. Well, maybe it was partly true; she was nearing the end of her project. But if she were honest, she avoided speaking to her parents because she didn’t know how to tell them she wasn’t coming back to China. At least not yet.

Ruby stood up, yawned and walked between two desks towards the huge windows that ran along the edge of the laboratory and overlooked South Parks Road.

What was that? A movement? Was someone out there?

She stared out into the darkness.

The bright fluorescent strip lights inside the laboratory made it difficult to see anything outside. The orange glow of the street lamps looked dull in comparison.

She stood by the window for a moment, looking at her own ghostly reflection staring back at her, and pressed a hand to her chest. She could feel her heart thumping.

She waited until she was absolutely sure there was no one out there. She was imagining things. The protests against the new animal house had made her nervous; that was all.

She turned away from the window and glanced back at the computer screen. She had to find the courage to tell her parents that she wanted to stay in Oxford.

Ruby had left China aged sixteen, and she had studied for her A-levels, her degree and now her DPhil in the UK. As each year passed, she became more attached to her adopted country and less connected to her homeland. That didn’t mean she never wanted to go back. She would go home someday. There were things she missed.

Since leaving China eight years ago, she had been home only once, to spend Chinese New Year with her relatives. It had been a wonderful trip, and she enjoyed visiting her extended family and telling everyone about her life in the UK, but it was just a trip, which was very different from going back permanently.

Of course, she loved her parents, and she knew her parents loved her. They were extremely proud of their only child’s achievements. They loved her, but they didn’t really understand her.

A year or so into her DPhil at Oxford, over video chat, she tried to explain to her parents an exciting result she had found in her research. She had been working on a human protein and trying to discover its structure. In the lab, they’d used a method where they grew crystals of her protein and bombarded it with X-rays.

The pattern of the diffracted X-rays were then analysed by computer, using all kinds of complicated mathematics, which, if Ruby was honest, she didn’t fully understand yet. Then, just weeks later, to Ruby’s amazement, she sat in front of her computer screen and saw the loops, the ribbons and the perfect helices that made this protein.

She just sat there for ages, staring at it, mesmerised by the idea that, although this protein existed in the blood of every single living person, she was the very first person to see it.

At that moment, no one else in the world knew what it looked like.

When she tried to describe the feeling to her parents, there was an awkward pause before her father asked if that meant she would get a good grade.

Soon, she would be able to tell them about the post-doctoral position she hoped to get, working in Dr. O’Connor’s laboratory. She hoped he would confirm it this week so she could tell her parents that she had a good job lined up.

Good career prospects were important to her parents, and the job offer might soften the blow when she told them she wanted to stay in Oxford.

Ruby glanced at the window again. Working at this time of night gave her the creeps. The fact that no one could enter the building unless they had an access card was reassuring, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t someone lurking around after the protest this afternoon.

She shivered.


When the light directly in front of him flickered on, Ted froze.

His muscles tensed, ready to run, but he forced himself to stay crouched on the floor. The light came from a ground floor lab, only a few feet away.

He felt his breath quicken as he squinted towards the lab and realised he recognized the person who had triggered the lights.

Ruby Wei, the Chinese student in the same research group as Alex, stood silhouetted by the window and was staring straight at him.

Ted pushed his body back against the wall, away from the light. The darkness should protect him. If he stayed still, she probably wouldn’t recognize him or even see him.

She just stood there, staring out of the window. Had she spotted him?

If she had seen him, she would have shown some reaction by now. Almost a minute passed before she moved away from the glass. He watched her walk away from the window and pick up a white lab coat.

Why was she in the lab at this time of night? Didn’t she have a life?

He glanced at his watch; he had to get on with it because security would be here soon. He took a deep breath and then smiled.

He would do it now, right under the silly cow’s nose.

If you would like to download a longer sample of Deadly Motive or buy the book, please click on one of the following links: 

Amazon UK £1.95 $2.99

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Deadly Motive No.22 in British Detectives

Today DEADLY MOTIVE is No.22 in British Detectives and No.63 in police procedurals on Amazon.

Even more exciting is the book title underneath the heading ‘What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item.’

It is NOT DEAD YET by Peter James, who is my favourite crime writer of all time!

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