DEAD MAN WALKING, which is published on November 20 this year.
In a nutshell, after the tumultuous events of the previous novel, THE KILLING CLUB, Detective Sergeant Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg is living in a kind of self-imposed exile in the quiet Lake District village of Cragwood Keld. He’s still a cop, he still investigates crime, now in the company of spirited sidekick PC Mary-Ellen O’Rourke. But life moves at a slower pace up here. Heck spends more time rounding up stray sheep than he does feeling the collars of violent criminals.
And then something terrible happens. One misty autumn night, two female hikers go missing on the nearby fells.
Not only that, they go missing in frightening and peculiar circumstances … circumstances that remind Heck discomfortingly of a serial murder case from many years ago, when a nameless, faceless phantom known as ‘the Stranger’ preyed on courting couples late at night, leaving a trail of 13 brutalised corpses.
But the Stranger is dead. Heck is sure about this. He even contacts Detective Superintendent Gemma Piper down at the Serial Crimes Unit at Scotland Yard, and she confirms it. The Stranger died over 10 years ago. Someone else must be responsible for this mysterious double-crime.
Heck can’t help wondering, though ...
After all, they never actually found the Stranger’s body.
Suddenly Cragwood Keld and other high Lakeland villages feel very isolated and remote. And right on cue, the thickest, coldest fog in living memory descends on the Cumbrian mountains and valleys, bringing life to a standstill. DSU Piper, sufficiently concerned by Heck’s report that she makes the trip north, is one of the last people to arrive in the region before everything grinds to an abrupt halt.
And still this case won’t break. And increasingly, despite all logic to the contrary, Heck becomes convinced that the Stranger is back.
Okay, that’s the nitty-gritty of it. Here, for your further delectation, is an excerpt from the novel:
With such fears in the forefront of his mind, it was probably not the ideal time for him to spot the writing on the far wall of the boathouse interior. This only happened slowly, as his eyes adjusted to the deep gloom, but once the piece of crude graffiti had swum properly into view, he jumped to his feet.
Now that he was fully out of the water, it was bitterly cold. Ice felt as if it was forming inside his clothes, but fleetingly Heck was too distracted to notice that. He limped around the interior to the far pier, so he could examine it up close.
There was no question about who’d written it or what it meant, though had Heck not been so cold already it would still have been numbing to see it in front of his face like this. In the dimness he was colour-blind, so though he didn’t immediately realise the sentence had been inscribed in blood, the idea struck him hard when he dabbed at it with a fingertip, and felt it both slimy and congealed …
Hopefully that will whet a few whistles. In case it didn’t, and completely gratuitously, let’s finish off now with the actual blurb from the back of the book:
Beware the stranger in the night…
Consigned to a remote valley in the Lake District, DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg is getting used to a quieter life – a far cry from the bloodbath of his former division, the Serial Crimes Unit. But wherever Heck goes, trouble is never far behind.
Unknown to Heck, ‘the Stranger’ has returned. Last seen on Dartmoor ten years earlier, this prolific serial killer has found a new home. As a dense, frozen mist descends on the Lakes, the Stranger returns to his old ways, starting with two young women lost high on the hills. Only one girl is ever found – barely alive – but able to confirm Heck’s worst fears.
As the Stranger lays siege to the remote community, Heck helplessly watches as the killer plays his cruel game, letting off his trademark call before viciously picking off his victims.
And with no way to get word out of the valley, Heck has no choice but to play ball…