DCI Jack Hawksworth is back, working on a high-profile case breaking in London. A calculating serial killer is on the loose, committing the most gruesome of murders as he 'trophies' the faces of his victims. With each new atrocity, the public and police force are getting more desperate for results.
Hawk pulls together a strong and experienced taskforce, who soon find themselves caught up in a murky world of illegal immigrants and human organ trading. As he struggles to find any sort of link between the victims, Jack identifies something unique about the most recent corpse, and things suddenly get very personal.
From the seedy underbelly of London's back streets and New Scotland Yard to the dangerous frontiers of modern medicine, this is a gripping crime thriller from a powerhouse Australian author.
Fiona McIntosh is an internationally bestselling author of novels for adults and children. She co-founded an award-winning travel magazine with her husband, which they ran for fifteen years while raising their twin sons before she became a full-time author. Fiona roams the world researching and drawing inspiration for her novels, and runs a series of highly respected fiction masterclasses. She calls South Australia home.
A gruesome crime just got personal.
The two men frowned at the map. It made little sense and one referred to the detailed instructions he''d taken good care to note down. Hiran needed to make this new life in England work; he had a wife and five children back home, whereas Taj only had two little ones. Hiran suspected he might be taking this opportunity more seriously than his friend. They''d been given the name of a contact. Apparently they''d find him somewhere in the corridors of the Royal London Hospital... or rather, he would find them. He was called Namzul but they knew nothing more about him, other than what he might be prepared to organise for them. Hiran thought Taj would run scared when the moment came, especially now that they were accommodated after a fashion, with the prospect of work and wages in precious pounds sterling. So be it; for the moment the companionship of Taj gave him courage in this strange world he now walked. He would need it to face the decision ahead of him. London was daunting, but this part - Whitechapel - felt more like home than anywhere he''d been the past few weeks. He''d travelled overland into Europe, paid his money and been smuggled into England in a container from Calais by friends of friends of strangers who knew lorry drivers who were part of the international racket of human trade. He was put into a ramshackle house - a squat - in a place called Broadway Market, a rundown part of Hackney, not far from the Whitechapel area of London. He shared the squat with a transient population of about fourteen men, not all Bangladeshi; some were Pakistani, there were a couple of Turks, a handful from other impoverished nations. It helped. They were all strangers but they were all here for the same reason - to give their families a chance to break out of the grinding poverty of their lives back home. If he could just stick this out for a year, he and Chumi would save enough to get their children into school. He might be able to start that food stall he knew he could make work if he just had the opportunity and the small amount of capital it would take. He could be happy, feel safe. ''Look out, mate,'' a man in uniform said, interrupting his thoughts. He seemed to be a guard of some sort. Hiran turned, startled. ''Sorry, please,'' he said, anxiety jumbling the language he''d worked hard to get his tongue and mind around. English was so confusing. Just say sorry for everything , his teacher had once said lightheartedly. If you tread on an Englishman''s foot, he''s the first to apologise. Manners get you everywhere and saying sorry gets you out of most dilemmas . ''Don''t want you to get knocked down, mate,'' the guard said, pointing to the Audi waiting to get into the Sainsbury''s car park and the driver who looked appropriately furious at her way being blocked. Everyone was in a hurry in London. Hiran wondered if he was going to survive here. ''Are you lost?'' the guard asked, friendly enough, noticing their map and moving closer. ''Whoah. That''s a strange look you have there, friend.'' He smiled, now that he was close enough to see Hiran''s different coloured eyes - one chocolatey, one soft green in his brown skin. He was never allowed to forget his defect; many people back home found it hard to look upon him for fear he travelled with an evil spirit. Yet his eyes were the reason Chumi had been drawn to him - they made him appealing and vulnerable, she said. She had never been frightened of him. ''Please,'' he began again, apology in those strange eyes now, ''we''re looking for the hospital.'' The guard grinned and gestured past their shoulders. ''You can''t miss the bugger! Straight through there,'' he said, pointing down the road, speaking loudly, giving plenty of hand signals. ''Turn right and then look across the road. Big dark-red building sitting opposite all the Paki tents. Er, no offence,'' the man concluded, suddenly embarrassed that he was talking to two men likely to have come from the same region. Hiran had been warned about this. He could hear his teacher''s voice: Everyone''s Paki or Indian, according to the man on the street in Britain, although today''s favoured terminology is ''Muslim''. Lumps us all in together. If you''ve got this colour skin, you go into one basket whether you''re from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka . . . Don''t be offended and remember, it cuts both ways - you won''t be able to tell whether they''re from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland. They all look the same and will all be impossible to understand, so just accept it . It was sound advice. ''Thank you,'' he said several times to the guard, bowing with each utterance. ''Yeah, okay, mate. No trouble,'' the fellow said, slight bemusement in his expression. ''Just follow the smell of the curry and you''ll find it.'' He laughed, thinking they would understand his light jest. Neither did but Hiran nodded and smiled and pushed Taj in the direction the guard indicated. They rounded the corner to see a long row of canopied market stalls selling everything from pirated DVDs to vegetables. Vendors fought for space to display shoes, fish, watches, pulses. Colourful saris hung as beautiful drapes. Every inch of the street was filled with voices, bodies, laughter. Hiran recognised snatches of Urdu among a hubbub of Gujarati and Hindustani. He understood the guard''s quip now, for small eateries selling mainly spicy foods peppered the street, nestled among ''proper'' shops offering luggage, mobile phones, freakish clothes and groceries. Garishly lit convenience stores promising to sell everything to anyone were open all hours. Hiran instantly felt more comfortable in this throng. And just as their helpful guard had said, right across the road, towering over the swarm of humanity, was the Royal London Hospital. It was an impressive building, but its glory had faded. Even so it swallowed up dozens of people at a time and spewed out dozens of others from its great arched entrance as an endless snake of bodies crossed the madly busy Whitechapel Road, heading to or from the famous hospital infirmary. They waited for the walking figure at the traffic lights to flash green and were carried along by the haste of others towards the entry, moving into the less frenzied darkness of the hospital vestibule. ''Where now?'' Taj asked in Urdu. Hiran deliberately answered in English. He needed to keep practising. ''We have to find the west wing basement. It''s near the library and the prayer rooms.'' They looked up at the signs affixed to the dingy yellow walls and were relieved that they were repeated in Urdu among other languages. ''Downstairs, it says.'' Taj pointed to what appeared to be the last glorious element of this decaying building - the sweeping Victorian iron staircase that wrapped itself around the central lacework lift. It was beautiful and Hiran, momentarily entranced by its elegance, had to be urged by Taj to get a move on. In the basement, any pretence at aesthetics had withered away. A series of bleak, low-ceilinged corridors emanated greyness. A geometric pattern was stencilled, like an afterthought, in a vain attempt at decoration and had failed miserably to compete with the dirty brownish walls that were once presumably a buttery yellow, and damaged floors, repaired with gaffer tape to stop the lino from lifting. ''What do the instructions say now?'' Taj whispered. Hiran shrugged. ''We wait,'' he answered. ''It''s almost time for prayers, anyway. The prayer room is just over there.'' He motioned with his chin. Taj nodded, and slid down the wall to sit. Hiran paced the corridor, reaching for the photo of Chumi and the little ones that he kept close to his heart in his shirt pocket. No one was smiling in the photo and their clothes were ragged. And that''s why he needed it . . . needed the solemn image to remind him that he was doing the right thing by being in London, taking all these risks - and especially this next one. This opportunity would make a world of difference to their lives if all went well. ''Are you coming to prayers?'' he asked. Taj shook his head. ''I''m not sure Allah will forgive us,'' he said. ''I need to think.'' Hiran understood, but he was devout and duly removed his shoes before stepping silently into the airless room. There was only one other man in the west wing who needed to pray. The time went faster if more people gathered for prayers, but today Hiran was happy that the chamber was all but deserted. He needed to concentrate; needed to beg forgiveness of his god for what he intended to do. Hiran found himself alone when he emerged from his quiet time and felt better for his communication with Allah. He was convinced his prayers would be answered. In the hallway he found Taj awkwardly shifting from foot to foot, reluctantly keeping company with a man Hiran recognised as his fellow communicant from the prayer room. ''You must be Hiran,'' the man said in Urdu. Hiran nodded. ''Are you Namzul?'' he replied in English. The man smiled beatifically. ''I am. Salaam . Welcome to my office.'' Neither of them smiled at his words although Hiran murmured '' Salaam '' in return. He felt a dampness at his armpits. This was it. Would he go through with it? ''It''s stuffy down here,'' Namzul said. ''Why don''t we get some air? Let me buy you both a hot drink.'' Taj said nothing. Hiran nodded. ''Thank you.'' ''Come,'' Namzul said, his tone avuncular, his smile gentle and his gaze offering sincerity and trust. ''Don''t be scared. I will explain everything.'' The younger men followed the stranger like children. Namzul seemed to know his way around the hospital corridors, smiling at people, even pausing to talk to
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