When a lone shooter claims the lives of five people on Christmas Day before turning the gun on himself, it’s up to DI Grace Fisher to find out, not who did it, but why and how.
Tracing the illegal weapon and its deadly load of homemade bullets, she soon uncovers a toxic web of police corruption, personal vendettas and revenge. But when the enemy is within, who will believe her?
As threats to her safety mount up and the strain of secrecy begins to wreck her friendships, Grace must decide how far she wants to pursue justice – and at what cost.
I’m delighted to join the blog tour today for the new crime thriller – the second featuring DI Grace Fisher – from Isabelle Grey. Shot Through The Heart is published on 24th March in hardcover and for kindle by Quercus Books. I’m really frustrated that the book hasn’t yet made it to the top of my reading list, but very happy to be able to share an extract…
Russell Fewell’s white van skirted the raised area of green that fronted the old stone church. A middle-aged woman was waiting for her Jack Russell to finish sniffing around the base of the metal pole that bore the heraldic village crest. The woman looked up and watched as his van turned left into the long, meandering High Street. Russell wondered if she, like him, was spending Christmas Day alone and, if so, how she felt about that.
Several of the front doors of the crooked old Essex houses had been decorated with evergreen wreaths brightened with red berries or chevroned ribbons, and lights shone from many of the casement windows. As he cruised along the narrow street, he could see Christmas tree lights twinkling in one or two of them. He thought the houses themselves, painted pink, yellow, pale green or white and packed tightly under their overhanging gables, looked like wrapped presents. The gifts he’d chosen and carefully wrapped for his two kids were in the back of the van. On top of the rifle.
Russell lowered his window. He’d imagined that he’d almost be able to smell the aroma of roasting turkey, but all he got was the biting metallic tang of impending snow. The news programme on the radio this morning had banged on about the bookies’ odds on it being a white Christmas, and already a few stray flakes were drifting down and melting on his windscreen. He had a vivid mental flash of jolly Santa Claus colours, fresh scarlet against unblemished white.
At the end of the High Street he passed the turning to the lane where his grandparents had once lived. That’s where he always used to go for Christmas dinner when he was a kid, much the same age as his son Davey; all the family together, uncles, aunts, cousins packed in around two small tables pushed together even though they were of different heights, everyone flushed and laughing and waiting for his grandmother – the only one able to get in and out of the room unless people climbed over one another – to bring in the plum pudding, eerily alight with a flickering blue flame of poured brandy. Every year the same. Family. Family didn’t change. At least not until people got old and died. That was the whole point of family, wasn’t it?
The chill air stung his cheeks and made his eyes smart. No wonder so few people were out and about. He brushed away the tears and closed the window. Last year, even with the divorce, he and Donna had managed to spend Christmas together. That’s the one thing they’d firmly agreed upon: they might no longer be married, but they’d always be family. That’s how they’d treat one another. Not only for the kids’ sake but because it was true. Not any more.
He speeded up. Then slowed down again: no rush. Important to do this right, just as he’d planned. He passed the primary school on his left. It was deserted, closed up for the holidays, but it was the school he’d attended and where he’d taken each of his kids in turn. This was his home town.
His mum had been able to trace her kith and kin back through generations of local agricultural labourers; his dad’s family, from the neighbouring county of Suffolk, were much the same, impoverished and probably illiterate workers. This was the soil to which he belonged. To which he’d return. He didn’t mind. Better to lie in the new burial ground than allow himself to be cast out, tormented,humiliated in the eyes of his own children. That was a life not worth living.
His was the only vehicle on the road, but nonetheless he indicated before turning right into Fairfield Close. Neat houses built of brick with white woodwork and picture windows. Driveways for two cars. Front gardens that weren’t enclosed by hedges or fences, leaving space for kids to kick a ball about or circulate on bikes.
Here the front windows had fairy lights looped across them and it was possible to glimpse more of the rooms inside, to see animated television screens, Christmas trees, colourful decorations, people sitting together. It wasn’t that he was jealous of the people in these houses or envious of what they had and he didn’t: it wasn’t that. It was the injustice of it all. It burned like acid, ate away at him, shrank him until he could bear it no more.
Fairfield Close capillaried into three cul-de-sacs. Russell drove to the end of one of them and turned the van round. He was aware that he might be drawing attention to himself, but he wanted to be pointing in the right direction. He wasn’t sure what would happen afterwards, whether he’d get back in the van or would simply walk away. That bit wasn’t so important.
Besides, whether he walked or drove, he didn’t foresee anyone making a serious attempt to stop him, not when they’d be all slowed up from booze and second helpings of turkey and stuffing and roast potatoes and he had a rifle in his hands.
He parked outside the house, positioning himself so he’d be able to cover the front door from the back of the van, and got out. He could see them all indoors, sitting around the festive table. He opened both rear doors and lifted out the presents he’d wrapped with such love. As he placed them on the ground beside him, a couple of snowflakes landed gently on his bare hands. He glanced up at the sky, which looked pulpy and malignant, before reaching in to pull the rifle into position.
He closed one of the doors so that he could turn smoothly, take hold of it, raise it to his shoulder and fire, just the way he’d practised out on that deserted country lane. Then he leaned back against the closed door, pulled up the hood of his black anorak, stuck his hands in his pockets and waited.
Now doesn’t that make you want to read on? My thanks to Alainna and Jeska at Quercus Books for including me in the tour, and for the supporting material.
Meet the author
My new crime series features Grace Fisher, a murder detective with the Essex Major Investigation Team in Colchester. Determined, unflinching and vulnerable, in Good Girls Don’t Die and Shot Through the Heart her race to bring killers to justice is compromised not only by the wily tabloid crime reporter Ivo Sweatman but also by collusion and corruption within the police service she loves.
My two earlier novels of psychological suspense, Out of Sight and the #1 Amazon bestseller The Bad Mother, are available in Kindle, paperback and audio.
I also write screenplays for television crime drama, including ‘The Bill’, ‘Wycliffe’, ‘Rosemary & Thyme’ and ‘Midsomer Murders’. With Jimmy McGovern, I co-wrote ‘Tina’s Story’, the final episode in the Bafta and International Emmy award-winning BBC series ‘Accused’.
I enjoy writing crime and suspense because such gripping and tightly-woven stories offer a chance to explore how dark secrets return to haunt us, the chilling emotions of why people kill, how love can go terrifyingly wrong, and the disturbing psychology of what we most fear.
Born within the sound of Bow Bells in London’s East End, I grew up in Manchester, spent ten years on what was once a tidal island at the edge of the Romney Marsh, and now live and work in north London.
A former non-fiction author (writing as Isabelle Anscombe) and journalist for national newspapers and magazines such as ‘Cosmopolitan’, ‘Country Living’ and ‘Psychologies’, I have also taught screenwriting at Central Saint Martin’s, the Arvon Foundation and the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival.
Follow Isabelle Grey on Twitter : she also has an excellent website where you can find out more about the author and her books.