Taken for Dead (Katie Maguire Series #4)

Taken for Dead (Katie Maguire Series #4)

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by Graham Masterton

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Katie Maguire hunts down a serial killer in county Cork, in her fourth terrifying crime thriller

It is a sunny Saturday in county Cork, and an Irish wedding is in full swing. Drunk uncles are toasting the bride. The Ceilidh band have played for hours. But the cutting of the cake will bring the wedding to a horrifying end. For there, grinning gruesomely up


Katie Maguire hunts down a serial killer in county Cork, in her fourth terrifying crime thriller

It is a sunny Saturday in county Cork, and an Irish wedding is in full swing. Drunk uncles are toasting the bride. The Ceilidh band have played for hours. But the cutting of the cake will bring the wedding to a horrifying end. For there, grinning gruesomely up from the bottom tier, is the severed head of the local baker. Katie Maguire, of the Irish Garda, does not have any leads—until another local businessman goes missing in horrific circumstances. The murders appear to link to The Kings of Erin, a terrifying gang of torturers and extortionists. But these are dangerous men, and they will stop at nothing to throw Katie off the trail.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Readers with weak constitutions should be prepared for both stomach-churning violence and undistinguished prose in Masterton's clichéd fourth procedural starring Irish Det. Supt. Katie Maguire (after 2014's Red Light). The gross-outs begin in the very first chapter as a bride and groom find themselves unable to cut their wedding cake because there's something hard on the bottom layer. To their horror, they find a decomposing human head. Katie and her team quickly identify the victim as Micky Crounan, a missing baker, and soon they have more carnage to deal with. A sophisticated gang calling itself the High Kings of Erin has taken up kidnapping, and sends body parts as proof of abduction. The criminals' ability to know what Katie has planned leads her to suspect a leak from Cork City police headquarters. Masterton tosses in a superfluous side plot with several groan-worthy soap opera developments, as Katie becomes increasingly involved with her new neighbor, a veterinarian who hits his wife. (Dec.)
From the Publisher
"Mystery readers who don't know the Maguire novels should change that right now."—Booklist Booklist Online, 12/15/2015.

"it is very, very good" —Examiner.com

"Masterson proves to be the master of blending genres and inserting horror elements in a way that never becomes gratuitous. This novel is further proof that Masterson is a superb storyteller that deserves much more acclaim than he receives."  —Examiner.com, May 15, 2016

Product Details

Head of Zeus
Publication date:
Katie Maguire Series , #4
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.60(h) x 1.30(d)

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Read an Excerpt

Taken for Dead

By Graham Masterton

Head of Zeus Ltd

Copyright © 2014 Graham Masterton
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-78185-681-9


'Congratulations and God's blessings on you both,' said Father Michael, coming up to Connor and Niamh and taking hold of their hands. 'What a wonderful, wonderful wedding! You'll be remembering this day for the rest of your lives!'

'It's all been perfect, father,' said Niamh, her cheeks flushed red. 'I loved what you said about Connor and me never forgetting to laugh, no matter how hard things might sometimes turn out.'

'Well, that's the secret of a lasting marriage,' said Father Michael. 'If there's one thing the devil can't bear, it's mockery.'

Niamh was so happy that her eyes were sparkling with tears, and her mascara was blotched. 'And I couldn't believe it – when Connor put the ring on my finger – the way the sun came shining all of a sudden through the stained-glass windows. It was like God Himself was pleased we were getting married.'

'I'm sure that He is, Niamh.'

'And none of the babies cried, did they, even when the organ played?'

'My mother cried, though,' put in Connor. 'She was honking like a seal.'

'Well, you know what they say,' smiled Father Michael. 'When a man gets married, a mother loses a son, but when a woman gets married, a father gains a feller to go fishing with!'

At that moment, Niamh's father came over, his rough cheeks even redder than Niamh's and his grey comb-over flying awry. 'It's time for the cutting of the cake, sweetheart! Everybody's ready!'

Connor took hold of Niamh's hand and they made their way through the guests gathered in the main function room. More than two hundred of them had been invited to the wedding ceilidh, and they could have invited more, because Connor's father was a popular city councillor, as well as owning O'Malley's Outfitters on Patrick Street, and Niamh's father was a partner in the Greenleaf Garden Centre up in Ballyvolane.

At the far end of the room, the Brendan Collins Boys had been playing 'The Coalminer's Reel' but now they stopped and the guests all applauded. Connor and Niamh had been blessed by the weather, even though it was October and chilly outside. The hotel stood on a high, steep hill overlooking the city, and down below the sun was gleaming on the River Lee so that its reflected light was flickering on the ceiling.

'Look,' said Niamh, pointing upwards. 'Even the angels are dancing.'

The wedding cake was composed of three large tiers, one on top of the other, frosted white, with sugar swags piped all the way around them. Miniature figures of the bride and groom stood on top. Niamh's father handed Connor and Niamh a large silver knife and said, 'Well done, the both of you. But you make sure you leave the biggest slice for me.'

Holding the knife together, Connor and Niamh started with the topmost cake, while cameras and iPhones flashed and everybody clapped and whistled. They easily cut through the first two cakes, because they were only sponge and vanilla cream, but they had only just started to cut down into the third and largest cake, at the bottom, when they stopped abruptly. They slowly withdrew the knife, frowning at each other.

'What the feck is that?' mouthed Connor. He prodded the point of the knife cautiously back into the side of the cake, but it wouldn't penetrate more than three inches.

'What's the matter, Conn?' called out one of his friends.

'There's something inside there,' he said. 'I don't know what it is, but it's pretty big, and it's hard.'

Connor's father came up, putting down his glass of champagne. He was a bulky, broad-shouldered man, with a high plume of white hair. He looked as if he would burst out of his tight grey morning suit at any moment. 'What do you mean, Conn, hard?'

'There is – there's something hard in there,' said Niamh. 'I felt it myself.'

'There can't be anything hard in there, girl! That's a sponge cake. Nothing but sponge. I ordered it myself from Crounan's.'

Connor's father took the knife and jabbed it into the cake. Like Connor, though, he could only manage to insert the blade two or three inches. He jabbed again, and then again, rotating the cake stand so that he could attack it all the way around, from every possible angle.

The guests were standing around with drinks in their hands, watching and chattering.

'Whatcha doing there, John?' called out one slurred voice, from the back. 'Trying to make sure it's dead?

A few of the guests laughed, but when Connor's father looked up, most of them could see from his expression that something was badly wrong, and they fell silent. Connor and Niamh were now standing well back, by the windows that overlooked the city, and Niamh was biting her thumbnail.

Niamh's father and mother came up and said, 'What's wrong, John? What's going on?'

'There's something inside this cake, Barry. Something hard. I don't have any idea what, but we'll have to cut it apart and take a sconce at it.'

'What do you mean something hard?'

'I just told you, Barry. I haven't a clue.'

'What did I say?' snapped Niamh's mother. 'I said we should have ordered the cake ourselves! This had better not spoil things, John. This is Niamh's big day, and I'll not have it ruined because the two of you were too stingy to buy a proper cake from Bracken's.'

'I'll need a hand here, Connor,' said his father. 'I'm going to slice off the top two cakes so that we can find out just what the hell it is in the bottom one. It is big, you're right, and it is hard.'

'I can't believe this,' said Niamh's mother. '"Oh, we'll get the cake for free," you said, and now look. Too mean to part with a hundred euros, and there's poor Niamh almost in tears.'

As patiently as he could, Connor's father said, 'Anna – I admit Micky Crounan supplied me with this cake buckshee, as a favour, because I helped him to put through his planning application. But Crounan's is a first-class baker's and you know it.'

'So that's why you're cutting open my daughter's wedding cake to make sure it doesn't have a brick in it, or something? I've done that so often myself, like – accidentally dropped a brick in my cake mixture. Or a shoe. Or a cookery book. It's so easy done.'

'Anna,' said Niamh's father, and shook his head to indicate that she should keep her sarcasm to herself, at least for now.

Very carefully, Connor's father sliced off the top cake, which Connor set down on a plate; then the second cake. He was left with the bottom cake, with a circle of icing around the outside, and a sponge circle in the middle. By now the guests were clustering close to the table to see what he was doing.

'What's the story, John?' asked one of them.

'They told him there was euros baked into it,' said another. 'He couldn't bear the thought of anybody else getting a single one of them.'

Connor's father ignored this banter and picked up a dessert spoon. He started to scrape away at the sponge, little by little, his forehead furrowed in concentration, like an archaeologist scraping away the soil covering a Roman statue.

A small black lump appeared. It was soft and rubbery, and in colour and texture it resembled a blackcurrant pastille. He continued to scrape all around it and gradually two triangular holes appeared below it. To his horror, he realized that the blackcurrant pastille wasn't a blackcurrant pastille at all, but the bulbous tip of somebody's nose. It was black because it had started to decompose.

At the same time, he became aware that a smell much stronger than vanilla was rising from the cake. It was sweet and it was fetid and his cousin had been an undertaker so he knew at once what it was. He retched, and then he stood up straight and flapped his hand at the guests gathered around him.

'Get back,' he managed to say, before he retched again. He pressed his knuckles to his lips for a moment to regain his composure, and then said, 'Please, folks, get right back. Somebody call the guards for me. Please. Tell them it's urgent.'

'In the name of Jesus, what is that?' asked Niamh's mother.

'Please ... get back,' Connor's father told her.

'John? What's the matter?' asked Father Michael, making his way around the table and laying his hand on Connor's father's shoulder.

He peered short-sightedly down at the spooned-out remains of the wedding cake and said, 'What in God's name is that you've found in it? And what is that smell?' He took out his wire-rimmed spectacles and inspected the cake more closely.

'Holy Mary, Mother of God,' he said almost immediately, and crossed himself.

Connor's father turned around to Connor and said, 'Take Niamh off with you, Connor! Take her well away!'

'What is it, Dad? Tell me!'

'Just take Niamh away. Get yourselves changed for your honeymoon. I'm sorry, but the ceilidh's over.'

Niamh's mother elbowed her way past Father Michael. 'It's no good you telling me to get back, John, and not telling me the reason! This is my daughter's wedding ceilidh and we've paid thousands for it!'

The guests were milling around in confusion. The hotel's deputy manager was pushing his way through the crowd to find out what was wrong. The Brendan Collins band had set down their bodhrán and their flutes and their double bass and were looking bewildered.

Connor's father said, 'I'm not going to dig into it any further, but that's a man's nose there in the middle of that cake. I think there's somebody's head baked into it.'


Michael Gerrety came down the courthouse steps, surrounded by an entourage that included his solicitor, James Moody, his wife, Carole, and three hard-looking men with shaven heads and black nylon windcheaters.

Halfway down, he stopped for a moment and looked across at Katie, and when he was sure that he had her attention, he gave her the sweetest of smiles. A very handsome man, Michael Gerrety, with his broad face and wavy chestnut hair. If Katie hadn't known what he had done, and what kind of a man he was, she could have found him quite attractive.

The media had all gone now, but Katie was still talking to Finola McFerren, the state solicitor for Cork City. She paused to smile back at him, although she knew what his smile really meant – I told you I'd get away with it, you ineffectual bitch. Her smile, in return, meant – I'll nail you one day, you hypocritical scumbag, don't you have any doubt of it.

'I still think we were right to go ahead and bring this in front of the court,' Finola was saying. She was a very tall young woman, with a beaky nose and a slight stoop, and there was always an air of tension about her, like a bird of prey that was just about to launch itself off a ledge to swoop down on a rabbit. 'It shows that we're determined to put an end to sex-trafficking, in spite of all the political and legal difficulties we're up against. But next time we prosecute Michael Gerrety, we must have much more conclusive evidence.'

'Well, I really thought we had more than enough dirt on him this time,' said Katie, still keeping her eyes on him. 'It didn't help that half of our witnesses didn't appear and the ones that did show up had suddenly developed amnesia. And his own witnesses didn't just say that the sun shone out of his arse. They seemed to think that we ought to get in touch with the Vatican and have him canonized.'

'You can't blame those girls for being frightened,' said Finola. 'Apart from sex work, what else are they going to do for a living? But come back to me whenever you like. You know that the courts will accept all kinds of covert surveillance these days.'

'You don't think we haven't bugged his sex shop, and his brothels? But he's a very cute hoor, is Michael Gerrety. I've never heard him once say anything on tape that might incriminate him. But I will get him. You wait and see.'

She watched with her lips pursed as Michael Gerrety climbed into his metallic-green Mercedes and drove away. The sun was so bright this morning that she was wearing her Ray-Bans but one of the nose pads had broken so that they were lopsided. Because of that, she was too dazzled to see Detective O'Donovan puffing up the steps until he had reached her. He was wearing a big ginger overcoat which matched his hair.

'I've been trying to ring you, ma'am,' he panted.

'What? Oh, it's you, Patrick! I've been in court all morning. Sorry, I haven't switched my phone back on.'

'Me neither,' said Finola. 'It's a blessed relief sometimes.'

'What's the story?' asked Katie. 'They haven't found Roisin Begley, have they?' Roisin Begley was the sixteen-year-old daughter of one of Cork's wealthiest property developers, and she had been missing now for more than forty-eight hours.

'No, no progress with that, I'm afraid. No – there's been an incident up at the Montenotte Hotel. You know that John O'Malley's son Connor was getting married today, didn't you?'

'Yes, to the Gallaghers' daughter. What's her name? Niamh. What's happened? Are they all right?'

'They're both grand altogether, don't worry. But it was during their wedding ceilidh. They were cutting the cake and they found something inside it that looks like a human head.'

'A what did you say? A human head?' Katie took off her sunglasses. 'You're codding me. Inside the wedding cake?'

'It seems like the bride and groom couldn't cut it all the way through so John O'Malley took it to pieces to find out what was in it. He came across a nose sticking out. After that he stopped digging and who can blame him? Nobody's touched the cake since.'

'Name of Jesus,' said Katie. 'Do they have any idea who the head belongs to? Or used to belong to?'

Detective O'Donovan shook his head. 'No idea. Horgan's up there with Dooley and they've cordoned off the main reception area. All we're doing now is waiting on the technical boys. They're down in Ballea at the moment because some feller got himself all caught up in a plough, but they've been notified, and they'll be up to Montenotte as soon as they've finished untangling him, like.'

'Okay,' said Katie. 'What about the wedding guests?'

'There were two hundred and seventeen of them altogether. Most of them are still there, but they're letting them go once they've been interviewed.'

'All right. Let's go up there, shall we? Finola – you'll send me your report on this fiasco, won't you? I have to go over it with Acting Chief Superintendent Molloy and I'm sure he'll be over the moon that Michael Gerrety got off. They'll probably go out to the Hayfield Manor tonight and crack open a bottle of champagne.'

Finola said nothing, but snapped her briefcase shut and raised her precisely pencilled eyebrows as if to say, We both know what's going on, but we'll just have to wait for the moment to present itself, won't we? Those rabbits may be gambolling today, but the time will come when we can swoop down on them.

* * *

When they arrived outside the Montenotte Hotel on the Middle Glanmire Road at least a hundred wedding guests were still assembled in the car park, most of the women with their partners' morning coats slung around their shoulders to keep them warm, and everybody blowing into their cupped hands and stamping their feet. Two Garda patrol cars were parked right outside the side entrance to the function room and three officers were standing around, stamping their feet like everybody else. Although it was such a sunny day, the front of the hotel was in shadow.

Katie went inside, and walked across to the long table by the window. The function room was silent and the decorative streamers and balloons pinned up around the ceiling only made it seem more abandoned. Every table was crowded with half-finished glasses of champagne.

Detectives Horgan and Dooley were standing by the wreckage of the wedding cake, along with the hotel's deputy manager and John O'Malley. Katie thought that the deputy manager looked very young, although his blond hair was thinning. As she approached he took a step back, and then another. It occurred to her that she must appear rather schoolmistressy in her long black overcoat and the light grey suit she had worn for her court appearance. She had recently had her hair cropped very short, which her sister Moirin said made her look too stern.

John O'Malley blurted out, 'I'm shocked, Katie. Totally devastated. This has ruined Connor and Niamh's day completely.'

Katie looked at the blackened nose protruding from the sponge. The ripe smell of rotting flesh and vanilla was enough to make her hold her hand over her face.


Excerpted from Taken for Dead by Graham Masterton. Copyright © 2014 Graham Masterton. Excerpted by permission of Head of Zeus Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Graham Masterton has published more than 60 novels, including many acclaimed horror novels. His books include The 5th Witch, Blind Panic, The Doorkeepers, and Spirit. He is an Edgar Award- and Bram Stoker Award-winner and a World Fantasy Award nominee.

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Taken for Dead 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous 7 months ago
I enjoyed this book very much! Uncessary vivid sex scene
Anonymous 6 months ago
Excellent mystery by an author who unfortunately doesn't skimp on the gore. The detailed torture scenes are almost unreadable, but if you can skim past the nasty bits, this is one heck of a thriller.
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