Jack Carrigan, a promising young musician, is on a post-graduation holiday in Africa with two friends. Driving at night, unsure of their route, they encounter a rebel force high on drugs and their own cruelty. Years later, Jack is now an inspector with the Metropolitan police. The two survivors of the deadly confrontation meet regularly but are unable to talk about the tragedy until Jack unites with young, spirited detective Geneva Miller and the pair begins to investigate the murder of an African scholar studying in London. The case pulls Carrigan and Miller into a London diaspora, a largely inscrutable cauldron of illegal immigrants and fugitives. They soon discover that the scholar was researching African rebel groups and had uncovered the complicity of an African government in a brutal campaign to silence dissent. Carrigan and Miller find themselves caught in a fierce conflict between the obligation to follow evidence wherever it leads and foreign alliances critical to the British government. This combination of a bruising crime investigation competing against the forces of powerful political interests unleashes events that will forever change the lives of both the innocent and the guilty.
“The action builds to a jaw-dropping resolution. Readers will want to see more of this convincingly flawed hero.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A clever, multi-layered beginning to a promising new series . . . Sherez does a masterful job with a particularity haunting plot.”The Daily Mirror (Book of the Week)
“A superior novel.”The Times (London)
About the Author
Stav Sherez lives in London. He is the author of the CWA shortlisted The Devil’s Playground and The Black Monastery. He spent five years as a music journalist, mainly for the cult music magazine Comes with a Smile. He has also written for the Daily Telegraph, The Catholic Herald and Zembla amongst others.
Read an Excerpt
The coffee machine wasn't working. It burbled, hissed and spluttered to a stop. Jack Carrigan stared at it in disbelief. He'd bought it only three months ago and it was supposed to last a lifetime. He turned it on and off, jiggled and gently shook it, and when that didn't work he hit it twice with the side of his fist. The machine coughed, hummed, and then, miraculously, started pouring what looked like a passable cup of espresso.
The sound of the coffee slowly oozing through the steel and silver pipes always made him feel better. He began to notice the morning, the thin streamers of sunlight leaking through the gap in the curtains he'd never got round to fixing, the sound of cars being put through their morning shuffles, coughs of cold engine and shriek of gears, the doors of houses closing, the patter of tiny feet on the pavement, the clatter of human voices arising from the early-morning air.
The machine groaned once and stopped. He reached for the cup, the smell making his mouth tingle, and was just about to take his first sip when the phone rang.
He staggered over to the table, his fingers brushing lightly over Louise's photo, picked up the receiver and held his breath.
Carrigan walked through the park trying to shake off the previous night. He'd arrived back from the coast late, scraped the mud from David's grave off his shoes and fell heavily onto the sofa where he'd awoken crumpled and cramped this morning. It had been a last-minute decision; he'd be down there with Ben in a couple of weeks but something yesterday had called him, a pulse beating behind his blood.
He spent a few minutes staring at the trees, soaking in the heat, trying to ignore what lay waiting for him on the other side of the fence. Late September in Hyde Park was his favourite season, the grass still scorched by summer's sun, the trees heavy, the first leaves fluttering down to the waiting ground. He closed his eyes and Louise's face rose out of the dark, this park her favourite place, holding hands in snowstorms, watching kids playing by the pond, both of them thinking this life would last for ever.
Carrigan exited the park and walked on the road to avoid the clots of tourists emerging from Queensway station. He watched them huddling in tight packs, wearing the same clothes, staring up at the same things. He envied them their innocence, seeing London for the first time, a city with such history yet without personal ghosts. When you'd lived here all your life you stopped seeing the city and saw only the footsteps you'd carved through it, a palimpsest traced in alleyways and shop windows, bus stations and bends of the river.
He reached the building and looked around for Detective Superintendent Karlson, whose call had interrupted his morning coffee, but he was nowhere to be seen. He took out his phone and made sure he had the right address. Two PCs had been called to a flat in King's Court earlier. When they saw what they were dealing with they immediately called the Criminal Investigation Department.
Carrigan looked up at the towering facade and pressed the porter's buzzer. He knew the building well. They received a call every week about something, mainly waste-of-time stuff, noise complaints, funny smells, burglar alarms going off for no explicable reason in the middle of the night, but, like any building with over five hundred residents, it had its share of domestic abuse, suicide and small-time drug dealing. He tried the buzzer again. He could hear voices crackling faintly through the intercom, conversations in languages he didn't recognise, floating in and out of hearing, criss-crossing each other until they dissolved into static and white noise.
A woman with a pram was wrestling the door from inside. Carrigan held it open for her and, as she thanked him, slipped past into the marbled lobby, its cool mirrored surfaces and swirling carpets making him feel instantly dizzy. He knocked on the door to the porter's booth but there was no answer. He peered through the frosted glass, squinting his headache away, and saw the slumped shape of a man inside. This time he gave it his four-in-the-morning police knock.
When the door opened the stink hit him like a fist. Body odour, cigarettes and despair. The porter was a small withered man with three-day stubble and eyes that looked as if they never stopped crying. His face twitched intermittently, revealing dark gums and missing teeth as he struggled to pull himself back together. Jack knew exactly how he felt.
'Detective Inspector Carrigan.' He showed the man his warrant card but the porter only nodded, not looking at it or at him, and shuffled back into his room, collapsing onto a chair whose stuffing poked out like mad-professor hair.
The porter's cubicle looked as if it had once been a luggage locker. There were no windows, no room for anything but a table, a chair and four small TV monitors with a constantly running video feed of the building's entrance. The porter was breathing heavily, lost in the screen, watching the unpeopled doorway with such riveting poise it could have been the last minutes of a cup final he was witnessing.
Carrigan shuffled a few steps forward, bending his head to avoid the low ceiling. He took small, shallow gulps of the stale air. 'You keep spare keys to individual flats?'
The porter barely acknowledged him, a faint turn of the head, nothing more. He eventually looked up from the screen and scratched his stubble. 'Not no more. Used to be everyone left them with me, but things change.' He didn't elaborate how.
'Flat 87's the one directly above 67, right?'
The porter nodded. 'I thought you guys were in 67?'
'We are,' Carrigan replied tersely, wishing he'd had time to get breakfast. 'Do you have keys for flat 87 or not?'
The porter opened a drawer and pulled out an old ledger. He rapidly flicked through the pages. Sweat poured down his face as he squinted at the shaky handwriting. He ran one yellowed finger down a list of numbers, then stopped. 'Uh-huh. Flat 87. No spare.' He zoned out in front of the screen again. Carrigan craned his neck but there was only the image of the front door, fish-eyed, black and white, empty. He thanked the man, found out when his shift ended, and left the sweatbox of an office.
He saw the two constables nervously chatting outside the door to 67. The look in their eyes told him this wasn't just a prank, something they could all laugh about on their way back to the station. He nodded, walked past them and knocked on the door. He waited as a series of locks tumbled and unclenched until the door finally opened and an old woman stared at him as if she'd never seen a man before. It took him a few seconds to realise she was or had been a nun, the habit faded and worn, the crucifix dangling like a medallion from her thin wattled neck.
'I'm Detective Inspector Carrigan.' He showed her his warrant card. The old nun didn't acknowledge, just turned and walked back into her flat.
He was never surprised at how people lived and yet he was always surprised. Fifteen years on the job, how many flats, houses, mansions had he been into? How many lives marked out by the geography of walls? He told all his young constables that the key to a person was in how they lived their lives — study their surroundings, how they chose to arrange themselves in this world — you'll learn much more from that than from listening to them talk or staring deeply into their eyes.
He walked through the small hallway and into the living room. The furniture was mismatched, as if collected over time from disparate sources. Chipped and cracked paint everywhere. Pieces of drawers and light fittings missing, replaced if at all by masking tape. The carpet was worn and thin, showing through to the floorboards. Stains described maps across the floor like countries never visited, dark and sticky spots where tea or ketchup or custard had landed. The old nun coughed, hacking into her hand. She lit a cigarette, the smell instantly filling the room.
The mantelpiece and bookshelves held no books, only a staggering variety of porcelain dogs. Carrigan stepped closer and saw they were all West Highland terriers, produced in a variety of finishes and styles. A few looked almost real while others were the product of some kind of artistic myopia, resembling sheep or clouds more than they did dogs.
But it was the two pieces at the far end of the mantelpiece he couldn't keep his eyes off. It was these two that the old lady was silently pointing to with the end of her cigarette. These dogs weren't white like the rest. They were red. A crimson caul covered their bodies.
The old nun was gesturing at them, speechless, as if such a thing had no referent in language. Her eyes had receded deep into their sockets and when she pulled on the cigarette she looked like a Halloween skull. Carrigan inched forward. He looked at the dogs and then he looked up.
A patch of red, in the shape of a teardrop, was slowly spreading from one corner of the ceiling. The constables followed his gaze and, as they watched, a single red drop fell, exploding against the white mantelpiece like an exotic flower.CHAPTER 2
Carrigan walked up the stairs to the next landing, his heart sinking, his feet dragging behind him. He couldn't see where the hallway ended. The mangy carpet disappeared into a funnel of darkness a few flats down. It reminded him of those long nightmare corridors in The Shining, a film he wished he'd never seen; its images promiscuous and relentless long after the watching was over.
The hallway was lit from above by twitching fluorescents recessed under a metal grille that rained down the light in black spears against the walls and carpet. The air seemed packed tighter here than on the floor below, filled with heavy, textured smells, the various scents commingling and forming new alliances in the corridor. All around buzzed the noise and hum of lives lived behind closed doors. Muffled announcers on blaring TV sets, broken conversations, pounding drum and bass. The rotten reek of cooked cabbage and garlic. Arguments and shouting. A faint whiff of weed.
He heard the two constables come up behind him, their faces pale with what they'd seen and what they were about to see. He stopped in front of number 87 and knocked. Two old ladies wrapped in thick muslin that made them look mummified walked past, their eyes lingering on Carrigan, unspoken suspicion in every muscle twitch. He ignored them, knocked once more, then got to his knees.
There was no letter box, but he could see a half-inch gap between the front door and the hallway's filthy carpet. He pressed his face against the floor, feeling the sticky shag-pile grab at his beard, but he couldn't see any light coming from inside the flat. He moved, pressing his face closer, took a deep breath and immediately started coughing. He took one more to be sure, then got up, brushed the dirt off his clothes, and called it in.
He sent the constables back downstairs and waited for the scene of crime officers to arrive. He spent the time watching the flow of bodies in and out of flats, a constant shuffle of lives enacted in this dim and dank hallway. He knocked on adjacent doors. There was no answer from the flats either side of 87. He knocked on the flat directly opposite. The door opened and an unshaven man with a cigarette that seemed moulded to his lips looked at Carrigan and said, 'Huh?'
Carrigan showed him his warrant card, asked if he knew who lived opposite. The man wouldn't make eye contact with him. Somewhere inside the flat Carrigan heard a woman shouting in Greek, Romanian, he didn't know, the man's eyes narrowing as if each word were a splinter driven into his flesh. 'No police,' he said. 'I done nothing wrong.'
Carrigan wedged his foot in the door as the old man tried to close it. The old man looked up at him, a rabbity fear in his eyes. 'I'm not interested in you.' Carrigan pointed to the flat across the hall. 'I want to know who lives there.'
The man looked down at his slippers, torn grey things exposing yellowed and cracked toenails. He shook his head but the action seemed to be commenting on something bigger than Carrigan's question. 'I seen nothing and I don't want to see nothing.'
This time Carrigan let him shut the door. People in these blocks never heard or saw anything; he knew that from experience. It wasn't that they had anything to hide, not like trying to canvass witnesses in a hostile estate, but in the countries they'd fled from a knock on the door could mean imprisonment, torture and often worse. How were they to know that police all over the world weren't the same?
The SOCOs and DS Karlson arrived a few minutes later. They suited up in the stairwell and gave Carrigan his oversuit, latex gloves, and foot protectors. The starchy chemical smell filled his nostrils as he unsnapped the gloves and slipped them on.
'Any idea what's in there?' Karlson was filling the sign-in sheets, smiling that thin begrudging smile of his. He'd never liked Carrigan couldn't understand why someone with a university degree would want to be a policeman. Didn't like the fact that Carrigan hated sports, wouldn't drink the station's Nescafé and rarely joined the others for after-work drinks down the pub.
'We'll see when we break down the door, won't we?'
Carrigan moved back as the two constables took hold of the ram. The door was old, had been painted over so many times it cracked in two like a rotten fingernail. The stench hit them immediately.
'Jesus Christ.' One of the constables, Carrigan always forgot his name, pedalled back so quickly he ran right into Carrigan, his body warm and taut like a greyhound's.
Carrigan stepped past him, taking a deep breath. His nostrils filled with a metallic sweetness and he wished he was in the corridor again with the garlic and cabbage, anything but this.
It was a studio flat. Small and self-contained. A narrow hallway, kitchen to the left and bathroom to the right. The bedroom/living room stretched out in front of them. At the far end a small window opened out onto a rectangle of sun and trees. Carrigan focused on the leaves, golden brown already, as they swayed and trembled on the branches. Then he looked back towards the bed.
Her arms were tied to the ends of the headboard. Her arms looked as if they'd been stretched beyond their capacity, the skin tight against the bone. Translucent plastic ties snagged her wrists to the brass. He could smell the dark heated mulch of blood, ammonia and sweat. He tried breathing through his mouth as he stepped closer.
He could hear the constables cursing behind him, Karlson taking deep swallows of air, the clutter and clump of the SOCOs setting up their equipment, but they all seemed as far away as the detonation of trance music that was coming from an upstairs flat.
He stared at the girl as flashbulbs popped and burst. Her body was sporadically revealed by the light then disappeared back into darkness.
Her nightdress had been cut down the middle so that it hung on either side of her torso like a pair of flimsy wings. The knife had gone deep into her chest, a dark red line running from navel to ribs. He stared at the wide canyon carved into her stomach, the dark brown shadows and glints of white poking from within. He felt last night's dream rise in his throat and he swallowed hard to keep it down, taking short breaths, keeping his feet evenly spaced. He saw Jennings, one of his young detective constables, catch a glimpse of the bed, then rush straight to the bathroom. Outside he could hear doors being slammed, the shuffle of feet and ongoing lives, but in here there was only the stillness of death.
He didn't want to look at her face so he looked at her legs. It was almost worse. Small puncture wounds ran like bird tracks criss-crossing her skin. He leant closer. Too small to have been made by a knife or blade, grouped in pairs. He moved back and saw that they continued up the torso and along the undersides of her arms. Small pointed punctures, black with blood, evenly spaced, the flesh around them mottled, torn and weeping. They looked like animal bites, he thought with a shudder.
'Christ, what the ...?' Karlson stared down at the open cavity of her chest, the perforation of her limbs, her cracked front tooth.
Carrigan said nothing, headed for the window, took a deep breath as he watched the laundry flutter in the courtyard. He could see people going about their daily chores oblivious and unconcerned. He turned back, finally ready to look at her face. He stood next to Karlson, smelling the man's sweat and fear, the reek covering his own. He tried not to look at her chest, the gaping hole, white shards of bone poking out like stalagmites, but the wound had its own terrible gravity. He heard Karlson curse under his breath and turn away.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Dark Redemption"
Copyright © 2012 Stav Sherez.
Excerpted by permission of Europa Editions.
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.
What People are Saying About This
“A superior novel, well written and plotted, with a convincing backdrop about a continent that rarely features in crime fiction.” —Marcel Berlins, THE TIMES
“Fast paced and slick, this is the first in what could well be an outstanding series.” —Laura Wilson, GUARDIAN
“A Dark Redemption is a clever, multi-layered beginning to a promising new series . . . Sherez does a masterful job with a particularity haunting plot.”—Henry Sutton, (Book of the Week) The Daily Mirror
“This intriguing and well-written thriller is highly original . . . Sherez ventures into a part of London that crime fiction readers probably never see. A salutary read, highly recommended.”—Jessica Mann, Literary Review