Today, I am the latest stop on the blog tour for Undertow by Anthony J. Quinn and am pleased to be able to share an extract. Anthony’s first novel, Disappeared, was a Daily Mail crime novel of the year so this one promises to be a good one!
A simple case of suicide takes on a more sinister tone when Detective Celcius Daly travels across the Irish border to the desolate village of Dreesh, a place where law and order have ground to a halt, and whose residents, ruined by a chain of bankruptcies, have fallen under the spell of a malevolent crime boss with powerful political connections to the IRA.
Out of his jurisdiction, out of his claustrophobic cottage and out of his comfort zone, Daly is plunged into a shadowy border world of desperate informers, drunken ex-cops, freelance intelligence agents haunted by their own reflections and violent smugglers.
Doomed to be kept on the fringes by two separate police forces working in parallel , Daly’s dogged search for the truth soon sparks an outbreak of murderous violence as the desire to keep the Irish border in the shadows intensifies.
Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland
Fog, dragging across the shoreline, hung over the heaving expanse of the lough.
The view at the jetty had no depth; nothing to see or touch but a cold stagnancy pressing upon everything, no stealthy shapes or shadows and no sign of the drowned corpse. The vast mass of the lough and its secret, washed ashore overnight, had slid into oblivion.
A disorientated Inspector Celcius Daly stepped from his car and listened for the telltale sounds, the churn of the waves, the wash of shifting currents, the web of birdcalls bubbling up from tree-lined coves, but heard nothing. It was early in the morning, too early for most. He had worked all night, and had been looking forward to clearing his head with the exhilarating air of the lough, and a glimpse of its wind-slapped waves, their rainy glitter and gloom thrusting towards him. Since his father’s death, this great wild space had been his only respite from the two habits that governed his existence: work and insomnia; the only place he could breathe freely and figure out his thoughts by himself.
Daly groped in the direction of the water, trying to get his bearings, but almost immediately the fog enclosed him in walls of whiteness, and all he could see were floating fragments, dark rocks, thorn trees, and an abandoned fishing boat with rotten timbers. No sounds, no sense of direction, no signs of his colleagues or police tape, no sad clues as to what had happened overnight, only these white suffocating corridors to roam.
Where was everybody? Lough Neagh might be the largest lake in Western Europe, but it was small in the parochial sense. Bad news travelled quickly along its shores, and Daly had expected to encounter a few press photographers and gawping members of the public fringing the scene, but the shrouded cove was completely devoid of life. Perhaps he had made a mistake and parked up at the wrong place. A solitary swell broke, heaving and sucking along the invisible shore. He wheeled around and changed direction.
He was supposed to know this terrain by heart, but this morning the very presence of the lough seemed unimaginable. He clambered along a muddy bank, shuffling slowly, playing blind man’s buff with the shoreline.
To his relief, the fog had other occupants. The profile of a young man floated into view, a police officer minding the crime scene, his face becalmed by the fog.
Daly flicked open his ID. ‘Which direction?’ The officer pointed the way. A colleague drifted close by, another ghost, and then the world whitened again. Daly slithered down an embankment of rocks, treacherously greasy with algae, hearing waves splash nearby. Gobbets of water soaked his trousers and dribbled down his legs. Thin air one moment, deep dark water the next; he’d better mind himself. He reached out a hand to steady himself against a post, the strangeness of the invisible shore made stranger by the fact that each footstep was one he had taken countless times before, loping and clambering over the uneven terrain as a boy, but somehow the fog had swept those memories aside. Wary of jumping from one rock to another, he plodded on, slipping down the sides, getting his feet soaking wet.
A thorn tree in blossom appeared and then disappeared, recoiling into the fog, otherworldly. Again that disorientating sense that the lough was suddenly far away, that it had fled with the crime scene under cover of the fog, its waves breaking on a distant shore.
He shouted: ‘Hello, police,’ hoping to call his way out of the murk. His words came out more querulously than he intended, half strangled and hoarse. Annoyed at having to draw attention to himself in this way, he shouted louder, and then listened. The lough lay cushioned in silence. Then it came, a murmuring response further along the shore. Followed by another gurgling call, further away, repeating the first. Was it just his muffled echo? Or were there other detectives out there, searching for corpses, trying to yell their way out of this mist-shrouded labyrinth?
For a moment, the fog dissolved and Daly was rewarded with a view of the shore lined with the debris of winter gales. The Lough Neagh landscape was a deserted, inhospitable place, prone to sudden flooding that impregnated the surrounding fields and cottages with mud and slime. Apart from a few bird sanctuaries, it did not attract many visitors. Across Ireland, developers had built wherever they wanted, erecting expensive shiny apartments and holiday homes right on the banks of lakes and rivers. The planners’ sleight of hand that allowed builders to ruin the country’s waterways did not apply here. The lough and its shore was one of the country’s last true natural spaces, a marshy landscape Daly kept returning to for reflection, to help shape his thoughts and memories, but this morning all that was wiped away.
Stirring amid the breaking mist were the white figures of scene-of-crime officers, moving like maggots across a little beach. A shore full of strangers to announce the arrival of the mud-smeared corpse that had washed up during the night. Ignoring the other officers, Daly slipped down the stones to where the body lay sprawled on its back, feet still in the water, face turned to one side, bloated by the long immersion, its lifeless eyes and patchy beard several inches long covered in slimy liquid.
‘Typical Irish suicide,’ murmured Detective Derek Irwin as he came up beside him.
Daly turned to the grey face of his colleague. ‘There’ve been no reports of a missing person.’
‘That’s why forensics are still here.’ Irwin gave a bored sigh. ‘The body of a middle-aged overweight male consigned to a dismal lough. Sounds like a suicide to me.’
With thanks to Blake Brooks and Head of Zeus for giving me the opportunity to take part in the blog tour. Undertow was published on 14th December.