Thank you for hosting me today, Jan. There’s a lot to be said for crossing the pond “on a magic carpet” in these difficult times. I’m here to launch my first crime thriller, Shattered Lives, and the first thing I want to say is it is true escapism. I’ve ignored Covid19 – in the book! I am double-jabbed, and crossing my fingers, in reality.
Escapism with a serial killer? Maybe. This is a five-star Amazon review.
Callianne: A Very Different “Killer-Thriller”!
I loved the way the first murder happened right at the start, though it’s scary being inside the mind of a psychopath. Shattered Lives has a complex plot, and knowing who the killer was, and his real target made it truly enthralling.
Ralph Thyme, an addicted gambler, and his wealthy grandmother’s only acknowledged heir, discovers he has an elder sister, Olivia, who was sold at birth. Suppose Olivia discovers her true identity and claims half the inheritance he craves? How far will he go to eliminate the threat?
Olivia escaped childhood sexual abuse. Despite horrific memories, nightmares, and fear, she is determined to save a stranger’s little girl from the same fate, and the solution she offers takes all her courage… and then some.
DCI Croft investigates a heinous case of rape, murder, and mutilation. Next to die, are a private detective and his pretty daughter… and then another woman… and another. Can DCI Croft identify and capture a psychopathic killer hell-bent on eliminating anyone who stands in his way before he murders his sister… or is it already too late for Olivia?
Excerpt featuring the serial killer.
Ralph was bored and frustrated; Sykes Gambling Club was closed for the installation of new machines, and he had problems to solve before he killed again. He wandered out into the garden. It would all be his soon, and when it was, he’d have a fully-glazed shelter built at the highest point – what the fuck were two of the gardeners doing?
‘Hold it higher than that, Lofty.’
‘Sod yer, I kent ’elp bein’ short. What’s this ’ere trellis for anyroad? This ’ere fence ’ides the rubbish bins from the windas.’
‘It’s a new support to train Sweet Pea plants. Dame Edith likes the flowers for the house.’
‘In autumn? Pull t’other one.’
‘Lift up, blast it, and keep it still while I tie it in place.’
He stopped listening. If Ralph Thyme wanted to keep a girl’s wrists together, those ties would do the trick. He approached quietly and grabbed a handful. If the men ran out, so what? Grandmother wasn’t coming home to stink the place out with flowers.
Back indoors, smugness faded. He’d seen how the ties were used, but he hadn’t expected them to be so stiff. No woman would hold her wrists together and wait! Then there was the hooker who’d screamed. Suppose one of the slags in the flat below had taken a night off and heard her? Would a scarf make a good gag? November had arrived with cold winds, so a woman wouldn’t be spooked by him wearing one. He pulled a selection out of his drawer. How much sound would penetrate cashmere? Was wool the best material? He opened drawers where some of Grandmother’s clothes were still stored. Useless female colours… except one.
Kicking his bedroom door closed, he scowled. He still didn’t know which to choose. He could try it on himself and bellow loudly – and have Mrs. Sharnbrook overhear if it didn’t work and send men to disable a mythical attacker? He could wait until she went out…
Mrs. Sharnbrook shopped personally sometimes, but the house was never empty and choosing an innocent item that worked as a gag was urgent. His cock gave him no peace and his hands itched to kill. He was holding scarves against the light to assess their density when Candice walked in with coffee.
‘Shall I ask Auntie to turn up the radiator thingy, sir?’
Trust Candice not to remember it was called a thermostat. The half-wit would forget him experimenting on her with scarves; if she did and said anything, nobody would believe her. It was risky, putting his hands near that long slender neck.
‘Sir, I could light the fire.’
Drivel, drivel! It was her life on the line unless he got satisfaction elsewhere. ‘I’m not cold now, Candice. I’m trying to decide which scarf is the warmest for when I go out.’
‘They all look warm, sir. I haven’t got a scarf, but I only go to the bins with rubbish.’
‘You shall choose one of mine if you help me with an experiment, Candice.’
‘Ooh, yes, sir. What’s an experiment?’
‘A way of –’ she wouldn’t understand “establishing facts” – ‘finding out something. If I tie a scarf over your mouth, and you shout, I’ll know which one is the thickest.’
Candice still looked baffled. ‘Yes, sir.’
The first two scarves allowed him to hear “is that right, sir”. He said nothing, so she was sure to have shouted louder, and the third scarf smothered her words. ‘Well done, Candice. Now, which scarf would you like?’
She pointed at the purple one that belonged to Grandmother. ‘That one, please, sir.’
It wouldn’t be missed by its owner, but it might be noticed. ‘Tell Auntie that Dame Edith said I could give it to you, or you’ll be in trouble.’
Candice shivered. ‘Yes, sir, I will.’
The half-wit feared Auntie, but silence from a victim was assured. Using the ties must be done quickly, and he had a girl here to practise on, but he’d already rewarded her. ‘Candice, do you have nice warm gloves?’
‘No, sir. My hands get sore every winter.’
‘I could buy you a pair, but I’d need to know the right size and… and not everyone’s wrists are a pair.’
‘A pair, sir?’
God, this was difficult. ‘Hold out both hands close together.’
‘Like this, sir?’
‘Perfect, Candice. Now, keep very still while I use my special measuring gadget.’ It took him far too long to wrap it around her wrists and slip the pointed end into the hole. ‘Ah! I need to practise, or the gloves might not fit.’
‘It’s a queer looking thing, sir. Will it hurt if it gets tighter?’
‘I suppose it might, but I won’t let it.’ At his sixth attempt, he applied one in a few seconds, and it locked. ‘Got it!’
‘Got what, sir?’
He pressed the tab and released her. ‘The correct size for your gloves.’
It was dark when he strolled down the steep hill to Garton North underground station debating whether to get off a train at a stop in Garton Central or travel on to Garton South. The second was where he’d found hookers, but he wanted a woman the Garton Gazette would write articles about, and half their readers probably thought hookers deserved anything they got, so another murdered would only get mentioned to up the victim count.
Amongst the crowd emerging from the station was a girl wearing a fur coat with a matching hat and gloves, and high-heeled shoes. Blonde hair flowed from beneath the hat and over her collar. She was perfect, and she was alone. Any second, a husband or father would arrive to pick her up; she was hovering almost on the kerb looking to her left.
He pretended to light a cigarette. She waited, tapping now and then at a mobile she produced from her handbag.
Another crowd of passengers swarmed from the station and took the waiting taxies. The girl stamped a foot, thrust the mobile into her pocket, and set off at a brisk walk. He followed, keeping to the opposite side of the road and watching for a darkened shop doorway deep enough to hide them both.
Five-Star Readers’ Favorite Review by Anne-Marie Reynolds
Shattered Lives by Sarah Stuart is a fascinating thriller that delves deep into two storylines: the mind of a psychopath and that of a sexual abuse survivor who must save another from the same fate to heal herself. It isn’t a story for younger readers or the faint-hearted: child sexual abuse, necrophilia, and graphic violence are just part of the substantial subject matter. This story delves into how a psychopath functions and what makes them tick, leading you down some dark paths through a truly twisted mind. It also guides you on a journey of discovery through the eyes of a child sex abuse survivor, more dark paths that eventually lead to the light. Shattered Lives is a gripping tale that will hold your heart in a vise while you read it, and it will have you turning the pages deep into the night.
And for other books from this author, take a look at her previous series!