Beneath the Ashes

Beneath the Ashes

by Jane Isaac

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Overview

Beneath the Ashes by Jane Isaac

DI Will Jackman Series - Amazon Top 5 Bestseller

'I thought I'd never read a book that came close to the realities of crime and policing. Then I read this.' --Ian Patrick, writer and former DS with the Metropolitan Police

THE SECOND DI WILL JACKMAN CRIME THRILLER

The floor felt hard beneath her face. Nancy opened her eyes. Blinked several times. A pain seared through her head. She could feel fluid. No. She was lying in fluid.

When a body is discovered in a burnt-out barn in the Warwickshire countryside, DI Will Jackman is called to investigate.

Nancy Faraday wakes up on the kitchen floor. The house has been broken into and her boyfriend is missing. As the case unravels, DI Jackman realises that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has a secret.

Can he discover the truth behind the body in the fire, and track down the killer before Nancy becomes the next victim?

A gripping thriller perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn, S.J. Watson, B A Paris and Sophie Hannah

What Reviewers and Readers Say:

‘A sharp, gripping read which drew me in from the first page. With engaging characters and an impressive level of authenticity, this is a police procedural that you won’t be able to put down.’ Caroline Mitchell, author of The Silent Twin

‘If you like pacy convincing police procedurals this is one for you.’ Kate Ellis, author of the 'Wesley Peterson' crime series

‘A tense police procedural with a fantastic plot and intense characters. I devoured the book in record time and look forward to reading more about DI Will Jackman.’ Lisa Cutts, author of the 'DC Nina Foster' series and 'Mercy Killing'

‘Jane Isaac is a highly skilled writer… she dissects the complexities of crime and human emotions with impressive insight and compassion.’ Kate Rhodes, author of the acclaimed 'Alice Quentin' series

‘A very convincing police procedural with the delectable DI Will Jackman at the helm.’ Louise Voss, best-selling author

‘A smart, intelligent and tightly woven police procedural with real depth of human emotion at its heart.’ Rebecca Bradley, author of 'Shallow Waters'

‘Carefully executed police procedural, that hits all the targets.’ Angela Clarke, author of 'Follow Me'

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781785079474
Publisher: Legend Times Group
Publication date: 05/01/2017
Series: DI Will Jackman Series , #2
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Jane Isaac studied creative writing with the Writers Bureau and the London School of Journalism. Jane’s short stories have appeared in several crime fiction anthologies. Her debut novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, was published in the US in 2012, and was followed by two novels with Legend Press: The Truth Will Out in 2014, and Before It’s Too Late in 2015.

Jane lives in rural Northamptonshire with her husband, daughter and dog, Bollo.

Visit Jane at janeisaac.co.uk or on Twitter @JaneIsaacAuthor

Read an Excerpt

Beneath the Ashes


By Jane Isaac

Legend Times Ltd

Copyright © 2016 Jane Isaac
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-78507-947-4


CHAPTER 1

One Week Earlier


Dappled rays of sunshine picked through the gaps in the trees overhead as Inspector Will Jackman turned off the A46 and navigated the back lanes of the Warwickshire countryside. He wound down his window. The rich early morning breeze was infused with a pungent mixture of smoke and fresh dew. Relishing the emptiness of the roads, he coursed around the twists and turns smoothly, slowing at intervals to pass through the picture-book villages, stone houses and thatched cottages that lined his route.

He braked to overtake a horse rider on the outskirts of Ardens Grafton, passed the sign that read Access to Exhall Village only, rounded a bend and dropped down the hill before making a sharp left. The aroma of smoke was stronger in the valley, blanketing the surrounding fields with a murky haze as he faced the gentle easterly wind. In the distance, grey tufts hovered above a brick-built barn like hefty clouds in the clear blue sky. He grew nearer, closed the window and parked up on the verge at the end of a line of cars gathered behind two fire engines that blocked the track.

Jackman opened the boot and wrestled with the zip on his holdall. He retrieved a set of coveralls and scanned the surrounding countryside as he pulled them on. It flattened out into the heart of the valley here, the low fields edged by a dense line of trees and bushes that framed the landscape, obscuring them from view of the nearby villages. Cherwell Hamlet, a gathering of four old farm workers' cottages, was dotted about a quarter of a mile in the distance. He zipped up, locked the car and was holding up his warrant card to the uniformed officer on the cordon when he heard the low hum of an engine, wheels crunching over the uneven ground. He turned as a door clicked open.

"Morning, sir." Sergeant Annie Davies climbed out of a car and bustled over, beaming a greeting.

Jackman waved at John, her husband, and watched as he drove the car back down the lane. "Chauffeur service this morning, I see," he said. "All right for some."

"It's the only way we can get the baby to sleep."

Jackman allowed himself a wry smile. "Still teething?"

"It's ridiculous, we're sleeping in shifts. And John's away on a training course tonight." She shoved her sunglasses up onto her head, pushing back wisps of black curls that had escaped from her ponytail and were now flying about in the breeze.

They headed down the track towards a barn, located just off the pathway. Fire officers huddled in groups, some packing away equipment, others meticulously checking the surrounding area. White-suited CSIs wandered in and out of the barn with briefcases. A man and woman in blue coveralls stood beside the entrance with their backs to them, discussing some sheets of paper attached to a clipboard. The woman turned as they approached, leaving her colleague to peel off and assist another fire officer struggling to wind up the final hose. Her mouth stretched into a smile that exposed a perfect set of white teeth. "Will, it's good to see you again."

"Sara." Jackman smiled. "Didn't realise we were on your watch." He extended a hand, which she grabbed and shook heartily, before he introduced her to Davies.

"Our daughters used to go to the same athletics club," Sara said to Davies, grinning from ear to ear. "Inspector Jackman here used to race with them."

"I bet." Davies raised a brow.

"Is Celia still running?" Sara asked.

"Not seriously. She's down in Southampton, studying marine biology. How's Martha?"

"Microbiology at Sheffield. All work, no play. Or that's what she tells me."

Jackman nodded knowingly and turned towards the barn. "What do we have?"

"We received a call from a resident at Cherwell Hamlet," Sara paused briefly to tilt her head towards the cottages on the horizon, "about 2am. A Mrs Buckton. Says she was woken by the smell of smoke. She looked out of the window, identified the source of the fire and called us straight away." Davies produced a notebook from the inside of her jacket and began scribbling down the details as Sara continued. "We arrived within twenty minutes. It took a while to get it under control, looks like it was encouraged by the use of an accelerant."

"We're pretty sure it's arson?"

Sara nodded. "Looks that way. There are a few cars in these barns. A couple of our officers found a petrol cap discarded in the hedge across the way. The doors at both ends of the barn were locked when we arrived and there's a timber inner structure. We made access about half past four when we could be sure it was structurally safe. The body was found beneath some fallen debris."

They followed her past the front entrance, down the side of the barn and through a pair of double doors at the rear. Damp soot covered every inch of brick and tinged the floor giving the appearance of entering a dark cave. As they skirted around three burnt-out vehicles, Sara pointed out where a petrol cap had been removed.

They moved on, making their way across to the far corner where a man in white coveralls was on his knees, examining something. The edge of a familiar smell caught Jackman's nostrils. He inhaled deeply, trying to pick through the smoke, but couldn't place it.

"Morning, Mac," Jackman said as they grew closer.

Doctor Mackenzie Oliver glanced up sideways, nudged his glasses up his nose with the back of his wrist and nodded at them. "How are you?"

"Good, thanks. You got here quick."

"Well, it's my neck of the woods, isn't it?" A thick Glaswegian accent coated his words. He sat back on his heels and turned to face them giving Jackman a clear view of the charred remains of a body on the floor. It was laid out flat on its front, arms wrapped around the head, obscuring the face.

Jackman bent down, leant in closer. From the size of the torso he guessed it was a fully grown adult, although there wasn't anything to indicate sex or age. He turned and looked up at the fire officer. "You haven't moved it?"

Sara shook her head. "Not apart from removing the boards on top."

Jackman looked back at the pathologist. "Any early thoughts?"

Mac sighed. "By the shape of the pelvis and ribcage I can tell you it's an adult male. It looks as though he was either knocked out, or maybe even killed first and planted here afterwards."

"What makes you say that?"

"Look at where he's positioned." Mac pointed towards the door. "If he was still alive and died from the fire or smoke, we'd expect to find him at the door, as though he was clambering to get out. Can't see any obvious cause of death. I'll know more when I get him on the table of course."

Jackman stood. A water droplet dripped down and landed on his shoulder as he turned full circle. The body was located a few metres in from the front entrance. An area at the corner contained an array of metal shelving, melted into uneven shapes – the remains of an office or a workshop perhaps. He wound round and his eyes rested on the shells of three vehicles parked at the far end. They were pretty much burnt-out, although from the curved bumpers and long bonnets, Jackman could see they were some sort of vintage cars. He nodded towards them. "Any chance the fire may have started in one of those? An electrical problem maybe?"

"Unlikely," Sara said. "Their fuel would certainly have bolstered the strength of the fire though."

"Seems a big barn for a few cars. Nothing else in here?"

"Not at the moment. Usually we might expect hay or straw at this time of year, but they tend to float up with the smoke in fragments and we haven't seen any evidence of that. There's a generator out the back too."

The doors at the far end of the barn were flung open and Jackman could just about make out the corner of a generator outside. He turned to Davies, "Get someone to walk the perimeter of the barn outside, will you? We need to check all possible access points."

As he stared at the rear entrance, two CSIs shuffled through. One carried what looked like a stretcher, the other a green body bag. Mac waved them over.

Jackman frowned, "You're using a stretcher?"

Mac nodded. "He's fragile. I need to keep him as intact as possible."

Jackman watched as they hooked gloved hands around the shell of the charred remains. The body appeared to be stiff, the right arm glued to the side of the head on one side. A CSI with a camera stepped forward and clicked, recording every movement. They gently transferred it across to the stretcher. More flashes. They were almost there, rising to a standing position when one of the men slipped his footing. He lost balance, tripping backwards, placing his arms out to save the fall, letting go of the cadaver as he did so. It juddered slightly. There was a moment when Jackman thought it might fall apart. To their astonishment it rolled over to reveal the remains of a pair of jeans, a dark shirt, the clear skin of the insides of forearms and a face which, although singed and blistered around the hair line, was completely visible, the right side pressed against the arm.

Mac rushed forward. Once he was satisfied the victim was stable, he looked up at their surprised faces. "It's a common misconception that people are burnt to a cinder during fire. Often they curl up to protect themselves, or limbs that aren't exposed are protected like the skin on the insides of arms, or stomachs."

"The flames will rise too, go above low objects or just catch the top of them," Sara said. "The timber that fell from the roof would have probably protected him somewhat."

"At least it'll make it easier to identify the body," Jackman said.

The fresh breeze provided a welcome respite as they exited the barn. Sara was just handing over details of the person who reported the fire to Davies when Jackman saw one of the CSIs approach. Something about the set-up bothered him. And there was that smell again. He gave him a quick smile. "Could you make sure you check the generator for fingerprints?" he asked. The CSI nodded, moved on.

They bade their goodbyes to Sara and started back to Jackman's Saab. "Who owns this barn?" he asked Davies.

"Not sure." She pointed in a north easterly direction towards the road. "Nearest farm is the Lawton's if memory serves me right."

"We need to pay them a visit."

CHAPTER 2

The floor felt hard beneath her face. And wet. Nancy opened her eyes. Blinked several times. Sunlight stretched in spiked lines across the floor. A pain seared through her head. She lay there motionless for a moment, her eyes squinted, waiting for the pain to abate. She could feel fluid. No. She was lying in fluid.

She wriggled to release her arms, flinched at the pain that speared her right knee as she drew it forward and pushed herself into a seated position. A strange metallic smell filled the air. She opened her eyes as wide as she could. The light didn't feel so blinding this time and eventually they found focus. But the pain behind them remained.

A tiny pool of blood on the floor caught her eye and instinctively she lifted her hand to the left side of her head. It felt crusty, the blood already clotted. She moved her hand to her mouth and wiped, looking down, expecting to see more blood, but there was only spittle, the remnants of her own saliva.

Last night's black dress clung to her thighs. How long had she been lying there? Another pain shot through her head as she forced her body into a standing position. A wave of nausea followed and she swayed, clutched the kitchen side for a moment. Big, deep breaths, in and out. Eventually the room stopped spinning enough for her to look around.

Nancy recognised the pine cupboards of Evan's kitchen. A single wine glass sat next to the sink. She tried to think back but her thoughts were caught in a haze. She closed her eyes. She was in the kitchen laughing, a glass of wine in her hand. She snapped her eyes open, looked back at the floor. A pair of black stilettoes were sprawled across the tiles. Green wellingtons sat beside the door, encrusted with mud, beside shards of broken glass. Nancy looked up to see the window pane in the back door broken. Splinters of glass littered the floor. She stared at it a moment, puzzled. Where was Evan?

A flashback. The oak beams and low lighting of The Fish pub. Sitting opposite Evan, a yellow napkin on her lap. Oversized wine glasses clinking across the table. She remembered eating steak, later wobbling out into the night air. Blurred images of a pub car park. The drone of Evan's truck.

She moved gingerly. More dizziness, less prominent this time. She waited for it to pass, stepped out of the kitchen into the hallway and halted, listening for the sound of the television, Evan's music, the dogs in the garden. Nothing.

"Evan?"

The call was enough to start the dogs barking in the kennel outside. She hesitated. They needed to be let out. But first she needed to find Evan.

Nancy moved across the parquet flooring in the hallway and into the sitting room. The floral curtains sat open. A messy array of cushions were squished into the back of the sofa. A quick peek into the dining room revealed it was also empty. The dogs were still barking as she climbed the stairs slowly, dragging her fingers on the varnished banisters. She glanced out of the window to the truck in the drive, then headed for Evan's bedroom at the back of the house. The duvet was pulled across, the pillows plumped up. She sat down on the edge of the bed, ruffling the duvet as she did so, and inhaled. But there was none of the fresh, sporty shower gel Evan always used. She searched for a pile of clothes, his shoes. Nothing. "Evan?"

Her voice was drowned out by the dogs. It didn't make sense. She grabbed her phone from the bedside table, dialled his number and tapped her foot with each ring. Until it switched to voicemail.

A floorboard squeaked beneath her step as she reached the bathroom. Finally the dogs had hushed. She looked in the mirror and started. A dark bruise hung over her left eye with a rich red slice through the middle. It stung like hell and looked like it needed a stitch. Several strands of hair were caught up in the congealed blood and she flinched as she tried to pull them free. Weariness wrapped itself around her.

A head injury. Don't sleep. Need to see a doctor. The floor reached up to her, inviting her to rest. Just for a minute. She resisted for the shortest of seconds, before she felt every ounce of energy trickle out of her legs, forcing her down. For a while she felt as though she was floating. Focus. My name is Nancy Faraday. I'm in the farmhouse where Evan is living. But even as the words drifted into the ether, two questions rang out in her mind. How did I end up on the floor? And where in the hell is Evan?


* * *

"It was the smell that got me first. My nose seems to be drawn to the smell of smoke."

Davies smiled politely at Sheila Buckton. They'd been seated at the round pine table in the centre of her tiny kitchen for over half an hour. Sheila inhaled deeply and straightened her back. This was clearly one of the most exciting events to touch her life for some time and she was not about to rush her account.

The room was situated at the front of the cottage, one of a bank of four that comprised Cherwell Hamlet and overlooked open countryside. Jackman glanced fleetingly at the dregs of tea in the bottom of his mug and stared out of the closed latticed window. He could see the barn in the distance.

"And what time was this?" Davies asked.

Sheila leant back in her chair and folded her hands across her stomach. "Around 2am. I always wake around that time. Usually get up and make a cup of tea."

The sound of a cat meowing filled the room. Sheila rose and opened the side door. She was a tall woman and thick set. A tabby slunk in and wound itself around her ankles. "Hello, Tilly," she said. She bent down and picked her up, crossing back to the chair. The cat purred loudly as she placed it on her lap.

Jackman shot Davies a look. She tilted her head in an effort to get Sheila's attention. "What happened then?"

Sheila scratched the back of the cat's head. "Well, my bedroom is above here at the front. The smell of smoke was so strong I thought it came from one of the neighbouring cottages at first. Jumped up with a real start, I did. But as soon as I got to the window I could see the flames, burning like a towering inferno. Took the fire engines a while to get there too —"

"Did you see anything else?" Jackman asked.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Beneath the Ashes by Jane Isaac. Copyright © 2016 Jane Isaac. Excerpted by permission of Legend Times 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.

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Beneath the Ashes 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
booklover- More than 1 year ago
This book not only introduces me to DI Will Jackman, but also the the author. Up front, I will say .. I'm eager to read more of them. Although second in the series, this is a very good stand-alone .... no spoilers are given for the first. When Nancy Faraday wakes, she's on the floor and doesn't remember much of anything. She knows that her boyfriend is missing. Meanwhile, Jackman and his team are called out to the scene of a barn fire, where the body of a man is discovered. It seems obvious at the time that the two men are one and the same. Same man - different identities confuse the investigators. But what they find in a sub-basement in the barn leads them on a nightmare journey. There are several twists and turns, and a few red herrings thrown in for good measure. Just when they think they have the case wrapped up, something unexpected pops up, leaving the reader not sure of who or why until the very end. I really enjoyed the characters. Jackman is a man's man, with some personal issues. He's a by-the-rules kind of cop, always doing his best to speak for the victims and bring closure to the families and loved ones. His team is excellent and hold great respect for Jackman. He will always have their backs. This is a very well written police procedural. I look forward to reading the other books in this series. I chose to read BENEATH THE ASHES and all opinions expressed are entirely my own and unbiased. Many thanks to the author / Legend Press / Netgalley.