When a series of women’s bodies are discovered in the heart of rural Hamptonshire with a pentagram carved on their chests, DCI Helen Lavery is forced into a cat and mouse chase with a murderer who ultimately turns the tables and targets her.
Meanwhile, she is shocked to discover that her younger son’s new best friend is the nephew of organised crime boss Chilli Franks – the man who has held a grudge against Helen’s family since her father first put him away in the 1990s.
As her personal and professional lives collide, Helen finds herself in mortal danger as she races to track down the serial killer and restore safety to the streets of Hampton.
Across the dark fields, Shauna runs. Where stones in the soil pick at her stockinged feet and clods of earth conspire to throw her off balance.
Footfalls thud the ground behind her. He doesn’t speak, doesn’t call out. But she’s already seen the hunger in his eyes, the visceral determination.
The tall firs of Blackwell Wood loom in the distance.
It’s her beacon, her chance for safety. Somewhere to think.
Somewhere to hide.
She trips, hears the tear of her dress as she clambers back up and glances over her shoulder. The tunnel of light is blinding. She quickens to a sprint, tears streaking her face, lungs burning. Over the low fence and into the wood. Veering off at a side path, breaking through the bracken.
He’s behind her, zigzagging through the undergrowth, his presence signalled by flickers of torchlight bouncing off the tree trunks. But not for long. Shauna knows this wood better than anyone. She grew up near here. Hacked her horse along its bridleways, explored the back paths and gullies with her brother, Tom.
She navigates east towards the river, away from the firs.
To the broad-leafed trees with their wide protective branches and dark canopy. Tall, strong. Like Tom. Self-preservation numbing her torn, bleeding feet. Her toe catches a root, her ankle turns. She falls again. Splays her hands to gain purchase, staggers back up. He’s so close now she can smell him: stale sweat, the thick nicotine in the folds of his clothes.
A bramble rips at her cheek as she lunges forward.
She needs to make it to the river. There’s a recess there where the bank has eroded beneath an old willow; its overhanging branches providing a curtain of cover to a secret haven. She and Tom used it as a den when they were young.
That’s where Tom would go.
She’s crossing the bridge when the beam touches her. She ignores it, scoots down the riverbank. Gnarly roots rip at her palms as she slides into the water, suppressing a gasp. It’s icy cold. Shivers skitter through every fibre of her being.
The light weaves through the trees. Frantically, she stays beneath the beam and moves down the river, searching for the willow. It’s further down than she remembered, around the bend. She almost gives up when she spots it, sinks into the recess behind, pulls the spindly branches across her front.
The torchlight fades. The air quietens.
She holds her breath, hardly daring to wonder if she’s lost him. Sharp tears prick her eyes.
Seconds turn into minutes. An owl calls to its mate, who responds with a hoot. The wind rustles through the trees.
Her shoulders slacken. She pushes her back against the riverbank, desperately trying to stop her teeth chattering.
She needs to bide her time. Make sure he’s far enough away before she climbs out and finds the path back to the road.
Another shiver, stronger. She clamps her jaw shut.
The arm appears from nowhere.
She didn’t hear him navigate the bank behind her. Didn’t sense his presence nearby, the water smothering the stench of stale nicotine. He reaches through the willow, fingernails snagging at her skin. A hand grabs her hair. Pulling, dragging.
She screams now. Shrill and loud. Arms windmilling, splashing through the water as she struggles for purchase on the riverbed.
Then he’s gone. And the water stills.
Heart pounding her chest, her eyes dart in all directions, checking the area. She’s about to move off when something is flung around her neck. Instinctively, her hands go to it. A thread. No, a wire. Pulling tighter and tighter. She panics, tries to grab at it, but it’s too far embedded. Sinking into the skin. Tightening her throat. Constricting her airway. Her eyes bulge, her tongue fills her mouth.
A bat swoops in front. It’s the last thing she sees before the river blurs and descends into darkness.
Thank you, Jane Isaac and Legend press
About the author
Jane Isaac is married to a serving detective and they live in rural Northamptonshire, UK with their dogs, Bollo and Digity. Evil Intent is Jane’s eleventh novel and the fourth in the highly acclaimed DCI Helen Lavery series.
Website : https://janeisaac.co.uk/