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‘Ice-pick-sharp, packed with intrigue, action and spine-chilling suspense. Devour will keep you gripped from the very first page’ Kathryn Fox

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It’s a dirty business but somebody has to do it

February 23, 2017

My Weekly asked me to write a short story for their magazine featuring Olivia Wolfe. The result is Dirty Business which I hope you enjoy. The central character is Olivia Wolfe, the hero of my latest thriller, Devour, but this time she gets involved in sorting out a domestic issue.

If the first two pages of Dirty Business are too small to read, here is the copy:
Olivia Wolfe watches a tall well-dressed woman in high-heeled boots and long black coat peer nervously down an alley at the back of a gym housed in a crumbling warehouse. The woman is as out of place among the graffiti, litter and hoodies as ballet is at a boxing class. A red Audi cabriolet is parked around the corner with the roof up: the toys on the back seat suggest she has a son and daughter between six and ten years old. Olivia guesses this woman is the client that private investigator, Jerry Butcher, wants her to meet. But why ask for her help? He’s never done so before.
The client looks behind her, as if worried she’s being followed, then disappears through the first door on the right. Conscious of her torn jeans and scuffed biker’s jacket, Olivia tidies her black, pixie-cut hair that’s been flattened by her motorcycle helmet, then follows the woman into Butcher Investigations. Jerry runs his business from a room that was once used to store gym equipment. Three people just about fills the space. Jerry sits behind a cheap pine desk, the woman on a plastic chair. Olivia sits next to her.
‘Olivia Wolfe.’ She shakes the woman’s hand. ‘You must be Anne Kincaid? I’m helping Jerry with your case.’
Anne is early forties, with dark bags under her eyes. She wrings her hands in agitation.
‘I don’t understand,’ Anne says. ‘You’re an investigative journalist. I’ve read your articles. This isn’t what you do.’ Her eyes dart from Olivia to Jerry.
Jerry replies, ‘I asked Olivia to help. She has skills I don’t.’
‘This has to be confidential. No Press.’ Anne shakes her head. ‘This is a bad idea.’
Olivia gently touches Anne’s arm. ‘I’m not here as a journalist. I’m working a private investigation. Everything you say is confidential. I promise.’
‘If Daniel finds out, he’ll have me certified. I’ll never get custody.’
‘We won’t let that happen,’ says Jerry.
The husband’s name rings a bell. ‘Is Daniel the managing partner of Kincaid & Stanton?’ Olivia asks.
‘He is. Which makes him difficult to divorce. No lawyer wants to go up against him.’
Olivia has heard rumours about the law firm’s ‘whatever it takes’ approach to winning which includes intimidating witnesses. Nothing unlawful has ever been proved, of course.
‘He’s having an affair,’ says Jerry, filling Olivia in. ‘For a year. He’s refused a divorce, threatening to take custody if Anne tries.’
‘But don’t the courts usually award custody to the mother?’ Olivia asks.
‘I’m on anti-depressants. Have been since I found out about it…’ Her voice tails off, her eyes watery. ‘He’ll twist things. Claim I’m an unfit mother. But he’s the unfit parent: he never sees Sam and Jody, he’s always with… her.’ She takes a deep breath, and continues. ‘He’s spiteful. He’ll go out of his way to take my kids.’
Olivia gives her a hug. ‘He won’t. Not if I’ve got anything to do with it.’ She glances at Jerry. ‘Why doesn’t he want a divorce?’
‘Doesn’t want a scandal.’
Jerry hands Olivia a paper file. Inside are photos of Kincaid with another woman, chatting and laughing. But none are incriminating.
‘Who is she?’ Olivia asks.
‘Works at his firm,’ Jerry replies. ‘I couldn’t get anything categorical to prove the affair. And I couldn’t find any other dirt, either. He’s very careful.’
This is going to be tough. If Jerry can’t find anything, how am I going to?
‘And you’re absolutely sure about the affair?’ Wolfe asks.
‘He’s admitted it. Said I just have to put up with it.’ Anne hangs her head. ‘I can’t bear to stay with him. But I won’t lose my children. I’m trapped.’
‘Don’t worry,’ says Olivia. ‘We’ll find a way.’
*
That night, Olivia reads an internet article on Kincaid that gives her an idea. She knows the journalist, so she phones him to double-check the facts. By the end of the call she is smiling. The following morning, she’s on Twitter and finally finds what she’s searching for.
‘Got you!’ she says, tapping Kincaid’s photo on her laptop screen.
*
Six weeks later, Olivia waits in the opulent reception area of Kincaid & Stanton Lawyers on the tenth floor of a glass and steel fronted building. Polished oak floors, an imposing semi-circular reception desk, a mirror-backed waterfall, opaque glass panel doors that swivel to reveal a corridor of meeting rooms, and a Lorna Wilson red and orange painting, are all designed to tastefully flaunt the firm’s status.
Olivia wears a strawberry-blonde wig, a Karen Millen suit, and carries a Saint Laurent faux-croc leather briefcase. She’s announced herself as Catherine Fforde, the General Counsel of an American construction company establishing operations in the UK. They wish to engage local counsel, and with fees likely to run into the millions, it wasn’t hard to get a meeting with Daniel Kincaid. The company is real, as is Catherine Fforde, who Olivia has taken great pains to look like. She arranged the meeting using a fake email address which is only one letter different from the real one. Olivia only has to be convincing long enough to get into Kincaid’s office. It’s a risk. If Kincaid smells a rat, she could be in serious strife. But to catch a man like Daniel Kincaid out, she’ll have to play him at his own game.
Olivia is shown into a meeting room behind Reception.
‘This won’t do,’ Olivia says. ‘I wish to meet Mr Kincaid in his office.’
‘I’m sorry, all our meetings are conducted here in our conference rooms,’ she says.
‘Please tell Mr Kincaid I’d like our conversation totally private, and therefore I wish to see him in his office. Otherwise, I’m leaving.’
The receptionist opens her eyes wide, but rushes off to phone Kincaid’s assistant. Minutes later, Olivia is led into an office the size of a tennis court, with stunning views across the City’s skyline, with it’s comic-book building names like the Gherkin, the Walkie-Talkie and Cheese-grater. Leather bound case law volumes adorn an entire wall. Behind Kincaid’s monolithic desk is a four-foot tall portrait of himself. Olivia deliberately pauses in front of it, keeping her briefcase steady. Hidden inside the briefcase is a video camera: she’s recording everything.
‘Welcome to the UK, Catherine. I may call you Catherine?’
‘Of course.’
Kincaid is dark-haired and blue-eyed, wearing a bespoke suit that serves to accentuate his fit body, along with a colourful paisley tie and pocket square. His smile is warm as he shakes her hand: she can see why women fall for him.
‘I’m so sorry about the mix-up earlier. The receptionist is new. I must apologise.’ He lowers his head just a fraction so he looks remorseful and gives her a winning smile. God, he’s good! ‘Please take a seat. You must be exhausted after your flight.’ He gestures to a wing-back leather chair. ‘Would you like something to drink? Tea? Coffee?’
‘I’m fine, thank you.’
Continues on p.3

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Sunday Express – Grip Lit!

February 12, 2017

Jake Kerridge selects the best Grip Lit for S Magazine, Sunday Express, Sunday, 12 Feb 2017, which includes Devour:

The first of a new series featuring investigative journalist Olivia Wolfe, a cross between a terrier and a Sherman tank when she’s on to a good story. The book roams across the world but has its heart in Antarctica where ice drilling scientists find something that spells trouble for the human race if it gets into the wrong hands.

Larkin rightly calculates that her readers will be having too good a time to dwell on implausibilities.

Thanks so much Jake. I love your description of Olivia Wolfe. I may use that in a future novel!

You can read the full article and see the other novels Jake picked, here.

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The Times review – likened to Alistair MacLean

February 4, 2017

Feeling really proud to be likened by Marcel Berlins to Alistair MacLean in The Times‘ Saturday Review section on 4 February 2017. My books are very much inspired by the works of early adventure thriller authors like Maclean, but also by the likes of Robert Ludlum, as well as the sci-fi / catastrophe thrillers of Michael Crichton.
It was so rewarding to read Marcel’s comment on my ‘impressive research’ behind Devour. Thanks so much, Marcel. You made my day!

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CrimeTime article: where location is a killer

January 28, 2017

I really enjoyed writing this article for Crime Time on ‘Where Location Is A Killer.

Here is the full article:

Antarctica is a beautiful, savage, unforgiving host to the few thousand temporary residents who arrive each summer. She will mess with your head. She will push you to your limits, testing your endurance and courage. Her ever-changing moods may leave you stranded in a deadly blizzard. She will seal you in a frozen tomb if you don’t pay her the respect she deserves. And yet, I would go back to her in a heartbeat.
Antarctica is an absolute gem of a location for a thriller. Characters are immediately in jeopardy because life on the icy continent is about survival. Antarctica an ever-present adversary. It’s easy to isolate my hero too: in Devour, Camp Ellsworth is a thousand kilometres from the nearest habited station. Antarctica has no law enforcement (the exception is McMurdo station which has US Marshalls) so you can’t just pick up the phone and dial 999.
Even a resilient and resourceful central character like Devour’s Olivia Wolfe, who has cut her teeth reporting from war zones and is used to surviving harsh environments, is well and truly out of her comfort zone in Antarctica. And that’s before I have introduced sabotage, murder, and the arrival of a Russian scientific team who are not what they seem.
The premise of Devour was inspired by a real British expedition to Antarctica in 2012, led by Professor Martin Siegert. Their aim was to drill down through three kilometres of ice to reach a sub-glacial lake, cut off from the rest of the planet for thousands of years. Siegert and his team believed that in that lake they would find microbial life that had survived in total darkness. Sadly, the team’s hot-water drill failed before they could reach the lake. In Devour, however, my fictional scientific team succeeds, and samples of this ‘extremophile’ are brought to the surface, with unexpected and devastating results.
I went to Antarctica to research Devour and a previous thriller, Thirst. It was not only an amazing experience but it helped me understand how Antarctica can affect you physically and mentally. It also inspired me to create characters not originally conceived for the books. One such is Vitaly Yushkov. I would never have created him if I hadn’t boarded an ex-Russian scientific research vessel and set off for Antarctica clutching my English-Russian phrase book.
In the last ten years, there has been a wave of brilliant Arctic crime fiction and thrillers and I’m a big fan of Arctic Noir. Yet, to this day, very few are set in the colder, windier, and more isolated South Pole. Kim Stanley Robinson was a trail blazer in 1997 with his novel Antarctica, then came Matthew Reilly’s Ice Station and James Rollins’ Subterranean (1998). Since then, the Arctic has become the icy location of choice for crime fiction. I suspect that as Antarctic travel gets easier, more thrillers will be set in this dangerous and thrilling location. Perhaps we have the makings of a new sub-genre, Antarctic Noir? Let me be the first to put up my hand and say, I’m in!

You can purchase Devour from 26 January in the UK at leading book stores and online: Amazon UK, Waterstones online

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