24 Sep 2017

Blog Tour Book Extract / Hope to Die by David Jackson

When the victim seems perfect, is it the perfect crime? The gripping new serial killer thriller, from the runaway bestselling author of CRY BABY.

On a snowy December evening, Mary Cowper is walking her dog through the churchyard of Liverpool Cathedral - and that's when the killer strikes.

Put on the case, DS Nathan Cody is quickly stumped. Wherever he digs, Mary seems to be almost angelic - no-one has a bad word to say about her, let alone a motive for such a violent murder.

And Cody has other things on his mind too. The ghosts of his past are coming ever close, and - still bearing the physical and mental scars - it's all he can do to hold onto his sanity.

And then the killer strikes again . . .


Cody walks home. His car is still at the station on Stanley Road, but he decides there’s no point in going all the way over there just to drive it back again. He’ll get a taxi to work in the morning.
The snow falls much more lightly now, but is still crisp underfoot. Rodney Street is eerily calm and still. Frozen in a past century. It is not hard to imagine this night as a Georgian Christmas Eve, or something straight from the pen of Dickens. To picture huge wreaths on each of these glossy doors. And, inside, wealthy parents drinking nightcaps as they joyfully fill their children’s stockings and prepare for the festivities and excesses of the following day.
And then Cody gets to his own building, his own door. He stares at the brass knocker and sees it mutate into the angry, despairing face of Jacob Marley’s ghost. In Cody’s head the carol-singing fades, and the mournful moaning starts up. And it’s with a heart as heavy as lead that he takes out his key and lets himself in.
Inside, he listens to the whispers and the creaks and the tiny scrabbling noises of the building and its unseen inhabitants, and he wonders how much of it is real and how much is conjured up by his fevered brain.
Because, yes, his mind isn’t as well as it should be. He’s got problems, and he accepts that. But there’s hope now. Light at the end of that long, sanity-constricting tunnel.
He moves through the hallway. Past the doors to the dental reception area and the surgeries. They are closed now. Locked up tight. The doors keep hidden the instruments of torture, the memories of pain and decay. The smells linger, though. Those nauseating antiseptic odours that are always associated with places of healthcare.
At the bottom of the stairs he pauses, as he often does. He considers going right to the end of the hallway, to that door behind the stairs. The door he fears most. It leads down to the cellar. It’s always locked at night, and he doesn’t know why it frightens him so much, but it does. Sometimes he stands with his ear against that door, listening for whatever might lurk on the other side. And sometimes he is convinced he hears things. Scratches and groans and possibly even murmurs. He tells himself that it is mice or the boiler or the wind finding its way through the grates. But he’s never fully convinced.
Tonight he decides against that particular episode of self-amusement, and heads straight up the stairs. At the first turning he glances out of the curtain-free window. The snow in the walled rear yard is pristine, untouched.
Except . . . Are those footprints? There, leading towards the yard door. No. Can’t be. Just a trick of the light.
On the first floor he passes more locked doors onto abandoned surgeries, then stops at his own. He finds his keys on the dimly-lit landing, then unlocks the door with a clatter that reminds him of the chains shackling another of the ghosts that confronted Ebenezer Scrooge.
Bah, humbug,’ he mutters to himself, then smiles and pulls open the door, wincing as its hinges squeal in complaint.
He locks the door behind him. Ascends another set of stairs to his flat on the top floor. Instantly he feels more relaxed. The world outside is closed off. He can be himself, with all the things both good and bad that it entails.
It is late and he is exhausted and he needs sleep. But he also knows that sleep will elude him for a while yet. His mind is too occupied.
For one thing, the current case has gripped the analytical centre of his brain and refuses to let go. The figure of Mary Cowper he has floating around in there seems a bit like Mary Poppins, drifting with the breeze as she clutches her umbrella. Was she really that goody-two-shoes? Or was there a much darker side to the woman, yet to be discovered?