‘A distinctive and gripping thriller that rushes towards a truly unpredictable finale’ The Sun
Alex South is a high-functioning alcoholic who is teetering on the brink of oblivion, her career as a television journalist hanging by a thread following a drunken on-air rant. When a series of murders occur within a couple of miles of her East London home she is given another chance to prove her skill and report the unfolding events. She thinks she can control the drinking, but soon she finds gaping holes in her memory, and wakes to find she’s done things she can’t recall. As the story she’s covering starts to creep into her own life, is Alex a danger only to herself – or to others?
This gripping psychological thriller is perfect for fans of Fiona Barton, BA Paris and Clare Mackintosh.
Praise for I Never Lie:
'Like Girl on a Train but better' Reader review
‘This book was amazing! I really struggled to put it down for long enough to breathe’ 5* Reader review
'This book was a great read. I loved the layout of the plot and the way the story unravelled itself. The characters were very relatable.' Elisabeth Carpenter, author of 11 Missed Calls
‘A psychological thriller bursting with local colour and fizz’ Hackney Citizen
'A real page-turner with a flawed modern woman at the heart of it. Jody Sabral knows the business of news gathering and of constructing a great crime novel.' P.D. Viner, author of The Last Winter of Dani Lancing
'Suspenseful and chilling, it really grabbed me from the first page!' Lisa Hall, author of Tell Me No Lies
'A compulsive, easy read that I sped through' Christina McDonald, author of The Night Olivia Fell
'Really enjoyed reading this. I could sense the frustration of the narrator as she battled with the lure of alcohol and I found the way in which this thwarted her abilities not only to do her job, but to make sense of events, very effective... A great read and I look forward to reading more by Jody Sabral' Karen Hamilton, author of The Perfect Girlfriend
'This is one of the most original plots I have ever read...Jody Sabral and Canelo have a best seller on their hands' Nigel Adams Bookworm
‘This book is something else… pure genius’ 5* Nicki’s Life of Crime
'A twisted tale of addiction and denial. Easy to read, fast paced and as addictive as it's content.’ Reader review
‘This is my first book by Jody Sabral, but it definitely won't be my last’ 4* Reader reviews
|Publisher:||Canelo Digital Publishing Ltd|
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About the Author
Jody Sabral is based between the South Coast and London, where she works as a Foreign Desk editor and video producer at the BBC. She is a graduate of the MA in Crime Fiction at City University, London. Jody worked as a journalist in Turkey for ten years, covering the region for various international broadcasters. She self-published her first book Changing Borders in 2012 and won the CWA Debut Dagger in 2014 for her second novel The Movement. In addition to working for the BBC, Jody also writes for the Huffington Post, Al–Monitor and Brics Post.
Read an Excerpt
There's a man in my bed. Shit. It's not what I was expecting. They have usually gone by now, but this one, well, he's different. He stayed the night, probably in the hope of securing a second shag. A mix of sweat and pine-fresh-infused sheets hovers in the hot, dry air between us. The heating came on an hour ago. It's too high but I haven't figured out how to change the settings yet. I keep meaning to, but, well, it's one of those small things I don't seem to get round to, you know what I mean? I wish I had, though. I literally feel like I'm baking in my own skin this morning.
My initial concerns about coming face to face with a stranger in the cold light of day are concealed by the darkness. The blackout blind I bought online last month to help with my poor sleep patterns was a savvy investment. There's a lot to be said for good lighting or no lighting at my age – 39 today. Shit, that's right, it's my birthday. Not that he knows. I don't give away personal details to men I shag casually or who I meet online.
His arm reaches around my waist as he snuggles up close, spooning me, which spikes my body temperature further. Moments later, his nose lightly brushes my cheek like a playful, affectionate puppy. Then comes the money move. He's running his fingers along my shoulder, down my back, around my tummy to where the sun shines. A tender kiss caresses the back of my neck at the same time, and bingo! My head is throbbing and my body aches, but this is helping to stir some energy within.
I want to reach my hand around his back to pull him closer – that's about all I can muster this morning after the big night out – but I soon realise that I can't, because it's tied to something. Tied to something? What the ...? Panic starts to rise inside me and I try to vocalise it, but I can't because the fear is so real and I have no energy, not even for that. My body is spent on the booze I packed away last night. The darkness feels like my own worst enemy now. Sensing my fear, he puts a hand over my mouth and shushes me. He's got me where he wants me. I can't see what is around my wrist, but it's keeping me from any escape I might have wanted to make. I struggle for a moment, which seems to turn him on. Once he is sure I won't talk, he goes down between my legs, and I hate to say it but this scenario is turning me on. I've never been tied up before, but it is oddly erotic. I let the initial fear go and submit to the unknown. Maybe today will be the day.
It doesn't take long before he's building up to an orgasm. I must have told him last night that I was on the pill, my usual line, so he's going for it, completely oblivious to my real motives. Moments later, he's holding me down by my throat, telling me how much he wants to fuck my brains out. I was enjoying it until this bit, but now his grip is a little too tight for comfort. I struggle, but he's strong and I can't move under his weight. He is thoroughly enjoying dominating me, but I'm unsure now because he seems to have crossed a line. Is this where it goes horribly wrong and my body is found in the park? I'm finding it difficult to breathe. Is he strangling me?
To my relief, he lets out a sigh and his body shudders before relaxing into the zone of true contentment that only comes from releasing his two million swimmers into my body. His grip releases and I'm left gasping for air. That was close. I thought he was going to hurt me, but it was just a play. The things I'll put myself through to become pregnant have reached epic proportions. I can't afford fertility treatment, so I'm stuck with shagging strangers. I focus on the result, not the means, but I wonder if I really want the child of a man into domination sex.
On average, only one million sperm go the 15 centimetre distance to a woman's uterus and reach the egg, which is okay. It only takes one. He's lying on his back, as am I, staring at the ceiling with his hands behind his head, breathing like he's just run a marathon. I hope his sperm do. I feel the sweat on my chest and can only imagine what my hair looks like, but I am content that the race to my uterus is on.
'That was great, Alex. You're a real woman, you know that.'
Next thing I know, he's untying my wrists. I feel like I've crossed a line too, but am not really sure what line it is or what it means. I've got what I wanted: the possibility of conceiving my own little critter. At my age, I haven't got the time not to be doing this. Once I'm free, he stands and stretches his broad shoulders before searching on the floor for his underwear, which is a relief. I thought he might want to do breakfast.
In the dim light, an angel spreads its wings across his back. A tattoo. It's sexy. Tough, yet gentle. An indication of the qualities his offspring might have? I realise in this moment that I have little recollection about last night and how I got into such a position. I must have been completely wasted, to the point where I blacked out. That happens more often than I'd like to admit, and the scary part is I can still walk, talk and do stuff.
He pulls the blind up to look for his clothes, and I can see his reflection out of the corner of my eye in the mirrored wardrobe that runs the width of the room. He is a good-looking man, but not in a clichéd way. He has character. He runs his hands through his messy dark brown hair, attempting to tame it, but the effort is futile. He has a round face, a warm and friendly face. In fact, he's a babe. Suddenly self-conscious, I wrap the crumpled white cotton sheet around my naked body to protect myself from his gaze.
'Jesus. Did we drink this?' He has a half-empty bottle of vodka in his right hand. 'It was under the end of the bed.'
I honestly can't remember. 'I guess we might have done ...'
'Wow, that was some night, Alex.'
Greg, my ex-fiancé, used to find bottles. We split up last year after he kicked me out, which was tough. He said I had a drink problem, but I don't. I like a drink, but then so do millions of people every day. I have a good job. That's not how people with drink problems live. I haven't seen Greg since I came to London nine months ago. It's been hard moving on, because I really loved him, more than I've ever loved anyone, but he was unable to get past what happened.
I'm trying my best to move forward. To heal. It's not easy. I'm sure you know how that feels.
I like this guy's style. He's wearing a black and yellow checked shirt over a white T-shirt, and has just slipped his feet into a pair of black and white striped Converse. I might not have taken so much notice of his footwear, but Greg had exactly the same ones. They came out two years ago, and I bought them for his birthday the same week. It's funny how objects can become reminders of the past and take on an almost spiritual sentimentality.
He's leaning over to kiss my forehead, which is awkward, but only for the simple reason that I really just want him to go.
'I had a great time, Alex. Here, shall I give you my number?' His phone is in his hand.
I pull myself up slowly to deliver the bad news.
'I had a great time too. It was lovely. But I'm not really looking for a relationship right now'
'Right. Yeah, of course. I mean, me neither. I just ... I'd like to see you again, if only like this.'
'That's nice, but seriously, you really don't need to.'
'Right.' He's hovering by the bed awkwardly. I'm trying my best to remember his name.
'Nigel ... do you have the Uber app? It's still quite early, isn't it?'
He looks away and clears his throat, then looks back and I think for a brief moment that I've got his name wrong. It wouldn't be the first time.
'Don't worry. I don't live very far. I'll get going, shall I?'
I smile softly and feel a bit guilty momentarily. But when the front door slams, I feel relieved. Free from another person's expectations, quite literally. I'm prepared to have my mind changed on this should I meet the right man, but he hasn't come along since I left Greg. I've resigned myself to the fact that he may never come along, which is why I'm just getting on with my own baby plans. I think being a mother would be the making of me. It would help me sort my shit out.CHAPTER 2
It's a little after eight o'clock. I spread out in bed and stretch my body like a cat, hoping to fend off the cramp in my legs. I really need to drink more water. I check my phone for any messages or news alerts. It's the first thing I do every day: check the headlines to see if there's a gem of a story out there to pitch to the editors. I work freelance at the moment because no one is giving out staff contracts in my industry, which has its own worries. But such is the world we live in now. There just isn't any security.
It's a little difficult checking the headlines on the smashed screen, which I really need to fix, and I will, soon. There is a long list of notifications awaiting my response. Most of them are from the dating site I subscribe to, COMEout. It's already buzzing.
Mr Right sent you a message at 06:34
Hey, morning, gorgeous. Sleep well?
Big Bad Ben sent you a message at 07:48
Can I be your slave?
It's crazy the number of people who are looking for love online before breakfast. The era of social media has changed the game. Mr Right can spell and punctuate properly, which is a win. When I first started using dating apps, I was surprised by just how many people are unable to string a proper sentence together. Education in this country has really slipped.
I have thought about quitting online dating, just as I do constantly about drinking, but I can't do either because I'm running out of time on the fertility scale. And even though the drinking isn't helping that side of things, it helps me in other ways that are just as important. It fulfils something in me. The void left by Greg and our unrealised plans.
I've switched the kettle on, but the vodka bottle that was in the bedroom is now in my hand. I consider the coffee option but give up just as quickly. Hair of the dog is a much quicker and easier cure. It'll help put me right for the day.
I've been in London a year now, but developing a network of friends has been challenging. There's Annabel, who worked as my producer for a few months until she had a baby. We've stayed in touch, in the hope that one day I'll have a playmate for her little ball of happiness. Then there's Charlie, my good-looking, well-meaning neighbour, who like me wants to have a child. Such is life approaching forty. I really should get out more, join some local clubs, but work is so demanding. Not that I mind. I love my job. So I reply to Mr Right because it's the simple option. Much more straightforward than meeting people in real life. It's immediate, and I like that.
Not bad, thanks. How are you this morning?
His status shows him online, but a reply never materialises. Thankfully my phone rings, which stops me obsessing about it.
'Happy birthday, Alex!'
'Annabel! Thank you.'
Baby Marlow is cooing in the background.
'So how's it feel to be another year closer to middle age?'
'Not bad, considering.'
'Does that mean you're shagging someone?'
'I didn't wake up alone today.' I don't divulge the details of my initiation into the world of bondage.
'You go, girl. Did he have good genes?'
'Not bad. Bought at TK Maxx for a third of the original price.'
We both laugh at that.
'What I wouldn't give to go shopping and buy some new jeans. This little one is an economic black hole. I can't remember the last time I treated myself.'
I feel a pang of jealousy at this flippant complaint. What I wouldn't give to spend money on my own child. I stroke my stomach, remembering with fondness how happy I was carrying Greg's baby, a year ago. It's crazy really, how much life can change in a year. I'm okay, I'm getting over it, but I still think about him sometimes. It's a process. Letting go, that is. Of what you thought was going to be your life forever. I take another swig of vodka. It helps kill those thoughts. Living in regret is the last thing I need.
'Got any plans? Anyone else in the picture?'
'Well, actually ... I have a date later.'
'No stopping you, is there? Same guy?'
Annabel and I haven't seen each other since she had the baby, but we talk as if we are next-door neighbours. Such is life since we connected on Facebook. She knows what I ate for lunch and I know how much sleep she's had.
'Someone else. Met him on a dating site. We've been chatting for a few weeks. He wants a family.'
'That's a good start, but don't you think you should be careful about meeting men on dating sites right now?'
'I am careful.'
'Yeah, I know you are. I'm just saying. There's been another murder. Have you seen the news?'
'They found a woman in Hackney this morning. Not far from where you live. Twitter is going nuts. That's the third in the space of a month, which kind of implies it could be a serial killer, doesn't it?'
'Are they connected? Have they said that?'
'Not yet, but it's all over the news. She was found in a park, left for dead, or at least that's what people are saying on Twitter. Just like the others.'
'Where in Hackney?'
'London Fields. Switch the news on.'
Annabel is still talking, but I am only half listening. I grab my pink and green silky Chinese dressing gown off the antler-shaped hooks nailed to the wall and leg it to the lounge, stepping over piles of laundry and boxes I still haven't unpacked to reach the TV. The screen takes a moment to warm up, but when it does, I see my main competitor, Laura MacColl, standing in front of a white forensics tent. The strapline reads: BREAKING NEWS: WOMAN FOUND DEAD IN HACKNEY, LONDON. There is no more information.
'That's London Fields. It's less than half a mile from me. I walk there all the time. I probably passed that spot last night. Who is the woman? Do we know?'
'They haven't released a name yet.'
'Shit. I should probably call work.'
'Alex, it's your birthday. Today should be about you, not work.'
'A woman is dead less than half a mile from my flat and you think I'm not going to cover the story? I mean, that's lunchtime and teatime bulletin-worthy. It's huge.'
It's what I've been waiting for, not that Annabel can understand. She's been out of the game for a while and my career has been on the slide since my on-camera episode, so I need this more than anything.
There's a pause before she responds. 'I suppose you're right. I wouldn't be able to not do it, if it were my patch. But be careful. You know how editors are. One minute you're in favour, the next you're not. You said it yourself. I don't want you getting hurt again. How is work, by the way?'
'I haven't seen you on the bulletins much recently.'
'They've had me doing some research on an investigative report about human trafficking.'
It's a lie. I haven't been on the bulletins since I was drunk on camera. She knows it. I know it. Everyone who watched the evening bulletin that day knows it. But it's not the end of the world. Life moves on quickly in the news business. I can bounce back and this is just the story to do that. I have another swig of vodka. I'm feeling perky now, so I lean over and switch the kettle on. A coffee will put me right.
At that moment, my phone buzzes so I put Annabel on loudspeaker and swipe the screen. A message has arrived from Mr Right.
Mr Right sent you a message at 09:35
Playing with myself because I can't find the right woman. Could you be she? I like it up the arse.
It's a good job Annabel can't see my face, because I feel it contort. I block his profile with one tap of the screen. That's the advantage of online dating: you can remove people from your world as quickly as you connect with them.
'So why don't you take the initiative and call the newsroom? It would be weird if you didn't. I mean, you living in London Fields and all. Just call it in.'
'I think I will.' Better than staying home. I look around me, wondering where it all went wrong. The walls are a non-descript magnolia. The place really needs painting. There are boxes littered about. No pictures on the walls, only the one of a rainforest that was here already. The flat looks like someone just moved in two weeks ago.
'Right. I really should get on.'
'Okay. Have a fab day. I know you will. Lots of love.'
The kettle has boiled, so I make a very strong coffee before I call work.
'Hello. News desk.' It's Heidi, one of the lunchtime bulletin producers. Luckily she likes me.
'Hi, Heidi. I just saw the news about the body in London Fields. You know I live less than half a mile from the crime scene? I could be there in twenty minutes.'(Continues…)
Excerpted from "I Never Lie"
Copyright © 2018 Jody Sabral.
Excerpted by permission of Canelo Digital Publishing.
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.