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Anne Bonny #BookReview The Spirit Photographer by Jon Michael Varese 5* Genius #Literary #NewRelease #HistoricalFiction @Duckbooks ‘Perfect for fans of The Underground Railroad’

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The Spirit Photographer by Jon Michael Varese
Review Copy
Synopsis:

With dramatic twists and reminiscent of Gothic novels, The Spirit Photographer is replete with fugitive hunters, voodoo healers, and dangers lurking in the swamp. Varese’s deftly plotted debut is an intense tale of death and betrayal that will thrill readers as they unravel the mystery behind the spirit in the photograph and what became of her.

Boston, 1870. Photographer Edward Moody runs a booming business capturing the images of the spirits of the departed in his portraits. He lures grieving widows and mourning mothers into his studio with promises of catching the ghosts of their deceased loved ones with his camera. Despite the whispers around town that Moody is a fraud of the basest kind, no one has been able to expose him, and word of his gift has spread, earning him money, fame, and a growing list of illustrious clients.

One day, while developing the negative from a sitting to capture the spirit of the departed son of a senator, Moody is shocked to see a different spectral figure develop before his eyes. Instead of the staged image of the boy he was expecting, the camera has seemingly captured the spirit of a young black woman.

When Moody recognizes the woman, he is compelled to travel from Boston to the Louisiana bayou to resolve their unfinished business. But more than one person is out to stop him…

My Review:

The Spirit Photographer is a Southern Gothic literary novel, which has outstanding detail and truly brings alive the era. The fact that it is a debut novel only makes it more astounding. As I would recommend this for fans of The Underground railroad by Colson Whitehead. It is that good! The novel details the confederate states, the difference between northern/southern states of the US in that era. The racial oppression and fight for civil rights is covered in resounding accuracy. Yet, it also has this huge hook, of having an occult theme within. Can ghosts be captured on camera film? And if so does this mean our loved ones are still with us? For one unlikely lady, it is too much of a question to bare and she dares to seek the answers.
Which leads her to uncover all her secrets and personal shame. . .

The novel opens with Mr Moody, taking a photo for Mrs Lovejoy. A lady that wishes to be reunited with her deceased cousin. There are several articles within the novel that detail Mr Moody’s reputation and success as a spiritual photographer.
Slowly but surely, he is acquiring fame and fortune.

The novel centres around a married couple, the Garrett’s. Their desire to be reunited with their beloved and only, perished son William Jeffrey. Who passed away 18yrs ago, at just 3yrs old. His last words haunt his mother Elizabeth and she has never been the same woman, since he passed.
Can Mr Moody help her overcome her grief?

‘It will be gone soon’ – William Jeffrey’s last words

But the Garrett’s aren’t just any couple, for they are the political elite. Senator James Garrett is quite the radical given the historical era and setting. He has won clear legal victories against the Klan and championed the election of Hiram Revels a black Mississippi minister. James has a desire to secure fundamental rights for all the country’s citizens. He is not afraid of who this may involve taking on. Even his closest friend and loyalist ally Benjamin P Dovehouse.

Elizabeth’s roots are in southern plantations, whilst some may call her a hypocrite she uses her privilege to speak out against the harsh and unjustifiable treatment that takes place on the plantation crop fields. Which only adds to James political power. Make no mistake James and Elizabeth Garrett have political power, but they also have secrets.

‘These women could talk, and pretend to understand federal policy all they liked. But they would never be able to perceive what they were incapable of seeing. Elizabeth had seen’

Mrs Lovejoy makes the necessary introductions between Mr Moody and the Garrett’s. Once the photo is taken, it reveals a spirit. But this is not the spirit anyone could have foreseen, least of all the Garrett’s. This is the spirit of a slave girl, named Isabelle. But who is Isabelle? Why is she in the photo of the Garrett’s?

‘It was Isabelle – His Isabelle. She had finally returned’

Mr Moody becomes acquainted with Joseph Winter. Winter hopes to expose Moody as a fraud, but until he can achieve such an act he must place himself in the position of Mr Moody’s assistant. This is made much easier via negotiation, after the discovery of Isabelle in the photo. For not only did Winter know Isabelle, he is a black man and therefore able to infiltrate the black community of the south.

‘She is a powerful spirit’ – Joseph Winter

Moody hasn’t heard from Isabelle in 18yrs, since she sent him a letter before heading for Boston. He was unaware she had even passed on.
Does this photo mean that Isabelle, his love, is dead?

Winter is quick to determine their must be a link between Isabelle and the Garrett’s for her spirit to show in their image. Whilst Moody and Winter, set about their investigation.
The Garrett’s are also making plans. . .

‘If he publishes that picture, it could lead to our ruin’ – Elizabeth Garrett

The Garrett’s are extremely concerned for their reputations. They know their elitist society thrives upon rumour, speculation and assumptions. Elizabeth becomes irrational and anxious, urging James to take action. It is then that James summons Dovehouse to retrieve the image, at once.

Benjamin P Dovehouse is James best friend since their years at Harvard law school. However, Dovehouse holds rather different opinions about the negro community. He is a conservative republican and long-standing member of the American colonization society. Dovehouse believes the negroes should know their place in society.

‘A semi-barbarous race of men who worship fetishes and practice polygamy, intent on subjecting all white women to their hot unbridled lust’ 
‘The negroes are little more than children’ – Dovehouse

Moody and Winter quickly become aware that if they are going to uncover the truth, they must act quickly. They also know that they must head south, to where all Isabelle’s trouble began. . .

‘She had a power over them, as she has a power over then now. They will want this photograph destroyed’ – Joseph Winter

At this point I was fully engrossed. I was desperate to know the link between Isabelle and the Garrett’s. I also wanted to know what was so shameful, that they’ll go to such lengths to cover it up? As stated above the historical accuracy is second to none. But it isn’t just historical accuracy that makes a novel of this calibre succeed. It also requires outstanding characterisation, which you will find when you meet Moody, Winter and the Garrett’s and the people we meet along the journey.

The conversations between the characters often reference the racial bias of the generation. The ignorance however wilful, is laid bare for all to see.
“It’s a wonder to me that the women of the south can abide such barbarism”
“And just who do you think is sewing the hoods?”

As Moody and Winter make their journey to New Orleans, they both reflect upon their memories of Isabelle and what made her the woman she was. The kind, decent and honourable woman she once was.

‘Every year a hundred thousand newborn babies are brought upon the auction blocks of Richmod, Charleston, and New Orleans. Every year, tens of thousands of lives are sacrificed to the lash in the south’ – Isabelle

The answers Moody and Winter seek lay in BelleVoix, New Orleans. But they upon the journey Winter must dodge Wilcox, a notorious slave hunter. They come across a wide-range of characters, that just enhance the story in its entirety, such as Yellow Henry. What starts as a simple mystery evolves into a much bigger case, with its roots leading right to congress.

This is an outstanding novel, that I highly, highly recommend!
5* Genius

‘It was convenient – to blame the negroes. It was a trick that always worked’

MJV
Jon Michael Varese
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***The Spirit Photographer is released 3rd May***

Anne Bonny #BookReview The Shipyard Girls by @arevellwalton 5* #Saga #ww2Fiction #WomenOfww2 @arrowpublishing ‘easily rivals Josephine Cox’ #MustReadSeries

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The Shipyard Girls by Nancy Revell – Shipyard Girls #1
Review copy
Synopsis:

Sunderland, 1940, and the women go to the shipyards to do their bit for the war effort.

Polly never dreamed she would be able to work in the shipyards like the men in her family but times are tough and her new job ends up giving her more than she ever expected when she meets enigmatic dock diver Tommy Watts.

During the day, head welder Rosie teaches her fledgling flock of trainees their new trade, but at night she hides a secret life.

And mother hen Gloria signs up to escape her brutal husband, but finds she cannot run from her problems.

The Shipyard Girls start off as strangers – but end up forging an unbreakable bond of friendship in the most difficult times.

My Review:

This novel is the first in the Shipyard Girls series and has been sat on my tbr pile for quite some time. I am a huge fan of the saga genre but have been super busy lately with crime fiction reviews. I decided it was time for a visit to 1940 Sunderland and see what these books are all about.

The novel opens in the warm and homely house of Polly. Her mother, Agnes lost her husband in The Great War and has raised her children (now adults) alone. She is the matriarch type character, but it is born of love and desire to see her kids succeed. Polly’s twin brothers Teddy and Joe have joined up. Leaving their jobs at the shipyard for the frontlines. Sister-in-law Bel and daughter Lucille reside at the property, whilst they wait for Joe’s return from war. This is a house filled with love and built on doing their best to survive the war and trying times they face.

When Polly gets a job at J.L Thompson & Sons shipbuilders, she is apprehensive of the response of her mother. But she is from a long-line of shipbuilders and determined to continue the trade.

‘This wasn’t just about getting another job for Polly – it was a dream come true’

The role of women in ‘male roles’ is debated, and Agnes is forced to back-down or contradict her own beliefs on equality. I think Agnes is also tortured by the death of her husband and risk to her sons. She just wants Polly to be as safe as possible. With the docks being a target for German aircraft, that isn’t always the case.

Rosie Thornton is a much more complex character. She is the boss at the shipyard, where the women are trainees. But she also harbours a secret. A secret she will go to great lengths to protect. A secret so damning that its exposure could be the ruin of Rosie and her sister Charlotte. But what Rosie doesn’t know, is that someone is watching her and waiting for the right moment to spring a trap. . . .

Although the novel deals with several darker themes and not forgetting the background of ww2. It does have many moments when it made me smile or laugh out loud. Between Agnes’s gossip and dialect or the girls banter at the shipyard. The light-hearted moments within really did deliver. Which makes you grow more attached to the characters.

The women at the shipyard consist of Polly, Dorothy, Gloria, Mary, Martha and boss Rosie. They all notice when Polly catches the eye of shipyard hunk Tommy Watts. . .

‘Polly had a slightly strange but exciting premonition that they somehow belonged together’

Tommy’s background is further explored, and you learn that he has much in common with Polly. I may not be a huge fan of romance, but I wanted Polly and Tommy to fall in love. After all, the world needs love, right?

The sinister man following Rosie, has his trap set and is ready to pounce. He is a truly vile character and I dreaded the moment Rosie would come face to face with him.

At work, the girls begin to notice bruise’s that appear on Gloria’s arms and neck. They become concerned for her welfare, but due to the era and social attitudes, dare not pry. Gloria is dealing with the internal shame of being a victim of domestic abuse. Her life being held hostage to drink and violence. What I found unusual about Gloria’s portrayal is that she is an older female character. She has been married 19yrs, and has grown-up children away at war. She isn’t the typical naïve, young victim we see too often portrayed in saga novels.

Overall, I absolutely loved the Shipyard Girls. There are themes of secrets, intimidation, gossip and trials of adversity. There is first love and old love reignited. But most of all the women’s strength, sacrifice and courage shines through. The sisterly protection Polly, Rosie and Gloria come to have for one another is perfection.

The perfect recipe for a ww2 saga and easily rivals Josephine Cox.
If you read this book, you will find yourself buying the whole series. 5*

Nancy Revell
Nancy Revell
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Just £1.99 in Ebook – At time of blogging!

***Coming next in the series***
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The Shipyard Girls At war by Nancy Revell – Shipyard Girls #2
Review scheduled for 2nd May #ComingSoon

Anne Bonny #BookReview American By Day by @derekbmiller 4* #CrimeFiction #NewRelease #AmericanNoir @TransworldBooks ‘It’s not a justice story but a story of a broken justice system’

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American By Day by Derek B. Miller
Review copy
Synopsis:

She knew it was a weird place. She’d heard the stories, seen the movies, read the books. But now police Chief Inspector Sigrid Ødegård has to leave her native Norway and actually go there; to that land across the Atlantic where her missing brother is implicated in the mysterious death of a prominent African-American academic.

America.

And not someplace interesting, either: upstate New York.

It is election season, 2008, and Sigrid is plunged into a United States where race and identity, politics and promise, reverberate in every aspect of daily life.

To find her older brother, she needs the help of the local police who appear to have already made up their minds about the case. Working with – or, if necessary, against — someone actually named Sheriff Irving ‘Irv’ Wylie, she must negotiate the local political minefields and navigate the back woods of the Adirondacks to uncover the truth before events escalate further.

My Review:

This novel is an impressive blend of Nordic Noir and American Noir. It’s not a justice story but a story of a broken justice system.

Police Chief Inspector Sigrid Odegard of Oslo, Norway has only recently been exonerated in a tough case where deadly force was used. When she is summoned to her father’s residence. Her father, Morten is 69yrs old and lonely. He is estranged from his son; Marcus and we learn that this is surrounding past issues when their mother Astrid died. Marcus has never truly gotten over the death of his mother, he has blamed his father and fled to the US. Marcus seeks a better life, a fresh start, but will he find it?

Over the course of the conversation between Sigrid and Morten, we learn that father and son had been in contact via letter recently. That the written communication began seven months ago and ended abruptly a week ago. Morten is concerned and urges Sigrid to investigate. When I say ‘urges’, I mean he already has her flight booked.

On the journey we learn that Marcus had acquired a position at a university and had recently found love. Sigrid is an unusual character she applies rational thought and almost immediately begins compiling the ‘data’ she has surrounded her own brother. She is apprehensive about entering the USA, regarding it as a weird place.
The contrast between the society and way of life in Norway and America is intriguing throughout the novel.

When Sigrid arrives at Marcus’s apartment she is greeted by a hooker named Juliet. She tells Sigrid that not only is Marcus missing but that local Sheriff Irving Wylie has been asking questions regarding the death of Marcus’s girlfriend Lydia.
Did Marcus commit murder?
What kind of mess has Sigrid walked into?
Can she find Marcus before the police?

Alone and in a foreign country, Sigrid know she has to confront the situation with the Sheriff head on. But what she uncovers just leads to more mystery and suspicion. Sigrid often clashes with Irv about police tactics and attitudes. Especially when the case leads to the past police shooting of an unarmed African American boy named Jeffrey, who was just 12 years old.

‘In Jefferson County alone there had been almost two dozen police shootings that had left someone dead. Eighty percent of those dead were black despite fewer than ten percent of the population being black. Everyone knew something was off, but event by event, every shooting sounded right and reasonable. But how could that be?’

When Sigrid gains access to Marcus’s computer files, she learns this case is so much deeper than she originally believed. The novel deals with the issue of institutionalised racism within the police force and the aftermath of trauma for the community of the murdered victim. When I read the scene of Jeffrey’s death, I became as angry as Sigrid, at the injustice of it all.
But can Sigrid take on the American justice system and find her brother?

The novel is set in the 2008 election season and the potential of Obama as president plays out in the background. It is impossible to ignore the political, social and race themes within the novel. This is a detailed crime fiction novel, that I can see being very popular amongst readers of the genre. 4*

DBM
Derek B. Miller
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Anne Bonny #BookReview A Game Of Ghosts by @jconnollybooks 5* #CharlieParker #CrimeFiction #Series @HodderBooks #MustReadSeries

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A Game Of Ghosts by John Connolly
Own copy from tbr pile
Synopsis:

It is deep winter. The darkness is unending.
The private detective named Jaycob Eklund has vanished, and Charlie Parker is dispatched to track him down. Parker’s employer, Edgar Ross, an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has his own reasons for wanting Eklund found.
Eklund is no ordinary investigator. He is obsessively tracking a series of homicides and disappearances, each linked to reports of hauntings. Now Parker will be drawn into Eklund’s world, a realm in which the monstrous Mother rules a crumbling criminal empire, in which men strike bargains with angels, and in which the innocent and guilty alike are pawns in a game of ghosts . . .

My Review:

The novel opens in Portland during winter. With a worse-for-wear Charlie Parker, who is feeling the pain of old injuries. When he is approached by FBI agent Edgar Ross. Angel and Louis are as always lurking in the background. Parker is currently on FBI retainer, when he is asked to look into the case of a missing PI. The PI in question Jaycob Ekland is also on FBI retainer, yet they are unaware of his most recent case. Ross wants the investigation doing as quietly as possible.

As always there is an element of the supernatural. We become aware of the Buried God – The god of wasps – one who waits behind the glass. Whose believers use their ‘faith’ to justify unimaginable acts of depravity. They are usually people of power and wealth.

Parker begins his investigation by digging into Ekland’s files. 52yrs old, ex-cop, divorced and no children. There is no clues and nothing out of the ordinary. Ekland’s laptop and phone, remain missing, which impedes Parker’s search for more information. He decides to speak to Ekland’s ex-wife Milena Budny.
But Ekland isn’t the only one with an ex-partner. . .

Parker’s former partner Rachel and mother of his daughter Sam. Has scheduled an appointment for Parker to attend Sam’s child psychologist, after a recent abduction. But Sam is strong, mentally strong. Not only that Sam has added support from her half-sister Jennifer. Her dead half-sister Jennifer. . . .

Ekland’s notes are scattered with references to ghosts and the paranormal. Making this the perfect case for Parker. But what is Ekland’s connection to the occult?
How does it all tie together?

A separate scene plays out of mother and son, May and Alex Mackinnon. They are being haunted, but is this a person or spiritual entity? I found these scenes insanely suspenseful. I knew they had to be the mother and son mentioned in the synopsis.
Yet I dreaded something happening to them.

‘They’re all someone’s children’ – Parker

There are a series of strange characters and even stranger occurrences in the novel. From Eklund’s secret basement, to the boy who drew his father’s death as it happened and Sally & Kirk the creepy couple running a religious sect that sounds like a cult.
There is plenty going on in this novel and I love the way the chapters add layer and layer of intrigue and suspense. 5*

I was so engrossed in this novel, when I opened it. My husband already bought me the next in the series, The Woman In The Woods. Which I will be reviewing as soon as I have caught up with my blog/review tbr mountain.
But here is the cover and synopsis.
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The Woman In The Woods by John Connolly
Review scheduled 7th May
Synopsis:

The new thrilling instalment of John Connolly’s popular Charlie Parker series.

It is spring, and the semi-preserved body of a young Jewish woman is discovered buried in the Maine woods. It is clear that she gave birth shortly before her death.

But there is no sign of a baby.

Private detective Charlie Parker is engaged by the lawyer Moxie Castin to shadow the police investigation and find the infant, but Parker is not the only searcher. Someone else is following the trail left by the woman, someone with an interest in more than a missing child, someone prepared to leave bodies in his wake.

And in a house by the woods, a toy telephone begins to ring.

For a young boy is about to receive a call from a dead woman . . .

JC
John Connolly
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Anne Bonny #Extract and Q&A with @Littlehavenfarm Shaun Baines #Author of #Woodcutter #CrimeFiction #NewRelease #Newcastle @ThistleBooks #AuthorTalks #QandA

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Woodcutter by Shaun Baines
Synopsis:

Some family trees are meant to fall.

On the run from his criminal family, Daniel Dayton returns home to Newcastle Upon Tyne when his abandoned daughter is attacked.

But his family have problems of their own. Targeted by a brutal mercenary, their empire is destined to be destroyed should Daniel refuse to help.

Betrayed by his parents. Despised by his brother. In love with his sister-in-law. Home has become a dangerous place to be.

Daniel wants his daughter safe. And he wants his revenge, but in the shadowy streets of Newcastle, things are never what they seem.

Q&A:

Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?

A) When I completed my degree in English Literature, I found myself in the real world with no idea what I wanted to do. In my heart of hearts, I wanted to be a writer, but that’s not a proper job, is it? So, I drifted from office to office before starting my own gardening business in the middle of a recession. But I was successful and got me thinking about what else I could achieve.
Woodcutter was the answer. It’s the story of Daniel Dayton, who is on the run from his criminal family. He returns to Newcastle when his daughter is harmed by an unknown assailant and Daniel wants revenge.
Daniel’s family have their problems, too. They are targeted by a criminal mastermind who is determined to destroy their empire. Daniel’s father wants to use his son as a weapon. His brother wants him dead and his mother has an agenda of her own. Everyone becomes a suspect in the hunt for the person who hurt Daniel’s daughter.

Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?

A) The initial idea came from a move from Newcastle to rural Scotland. I wondered what the neighbours thought of two Geordie’s moving in next door. Some sort of dark imaginings stirred and I decided they probably thought we were criminals on the run. That was the starting point for Woodcutter.
I was going to self-publish, but in a moment of rare confidence, I began submitting to agents. I was lucky enough to be picked up by David Haviland of the Andrew Lownie agency. He had faith in my writing and me as an author. I’m pleased to say, he was right because I’m now published with good reviews flooding in.

Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?

A) I’m obsessed with John Connolly. Not quite Annie Wilkes Misery-style, but close enough for it to be disturbing. His Charlie Parker series never disappoints and The Book of Lost Things was sensational. He rarely puts a foot wrong and I would happily read his shopping list. John, I’m your No. 1 fan.
I think we’re in a golden age of writing with so many excellent authors to choose from. I can also recommend Mark Billingham, Chris Carter, GX Todd and Stephen King himself, of course. One of the most arresting books I’ve read recently was Sarah Pinborough’s The Death House. You’d be right to finish the book with a round of applause.

Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?

A) My first author crush was on James Herbert, an English horror writer. I was eleven at the time and too young to borrow them from the library. My solution was to stay there, hiding behind bookshelves while I devoured his books. I read most of James Herbert standing up.
As it happens, the librarian was right. I was too young and impressionable to read Herbert. One of his famous books is called Rats and the reason why I have a lifelong phobia of rodents.

Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?

A) My favourite moments keep on coming. Signing with an agent. Getting a publishing deal. Seeing the cover for the first time. Reading through the positive reviews. I’m incredibly lucky to be in this position. It makes all the previous struggles worthwhile.

Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?

A) My wife has been a relentless supporter of mine. From helping me out of literary cul-de-sacs to doing the dishes so I have more time to write. Woodcutter wouldn’t exist without her. I have a small team of beta-readers who, with editorial support of my agent, keep me on the straight and narrow. Or rather, steer me down darker and more twisted avenues. I also have to say thank you to the readers who give me a reason to keep going.
They say writing is a lonely profession, but I’ve found the opposite. Like you, Abby, there are huge swathes of people out there ready to support writers. I salute you all.

*Thank you for taking part in the Q&A on my blog, I wish you every success with your writing career.

Author profile 1
Shaun Baines
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Extract:

Charles Bronson woke with a start. He was five foot five, thick set with wavy blonde hair. Like his namesake, he sported a handlebar moustache, but it wasn’t so he looked more like the movie star or that lunatic in prison. It was to detract from the nervous tick in his cheek coming alive from the moment he rose to the moment he fell asleep.
He rubbed his eyes and gulped. “Are you still up there?”
The room was a bedsit in an abandoned block of flats known as the Devil’s Playground, home to junkies and rat faced dealers. The tatty furniture was pushed against the walls, clearing a space for a tin bath filled with slurry. He’d obtained it from a farmer in Crawcrook who was paid enough not to ask questions. Above it was a naked man called Enoch, suspended by his ankles to a beam in the ceiling. His arms were either side of the bath, braced against the floor. Enoch’s skin was slick with sweat as he struggled to stop his head dipping into the slurry.
Bronson checked his watch. “That’s almost two hours. Sorry I nodded off, but if you’re not going to talk, then there’s nothing for me to do, is there?”
“I don’t know anything,” Enoch said, squeezing the words through gritted teeth.
“I wish I could believe that. You know, I’ve drowned two people in that tub so far and they all keep telling me the same thing. They don’t know anything.”
Bronson approached, smoothing out his moustache. His nostrils had become accustomed to the smell of the slurry, but he was annoyed about his clothes. This kind of stink couldn’t be washed out and he’d binned two suits already. He lived on a budget and the organisation he worked for weren’t the type of people to dish out clothing allowance.
“Enoch, I’m going home for a shower. Don’t worry. I’ll come back, but I live a fair distance away and I love long showers. Do you think you can hang around for me?”
He smiled at his own joke, though he’d used it before.
“Please, Bronson. Let me down. I don’t know anything,” Enoch said.
Who had scared these people so badly they would rather drown in cow shit than spill the beans? This was going to go wrong again, Bronson thought. His boss wanted answers, but no-one was talking. He’d be left with another dead body to dispose of and an awkward conversation to be had with his superiors.