I often say that lovely Ross Greenwood appears on Linda’s Book Bag more frequently than I do! Most recently we shared the cover of his brand new thriller The Snow Killer. The Snow Killer is out today from Boldwood Books and I am delighted to share an extract from the beginning of the book with you today.
Other posts on Linda’s Book Bag featuring Ross include:
A guest post all about seizing the day when his book Shadows of Regret was published in a post you can see here.
An introduction to Ross’s protagonist for Abel’s Revenge here.
My Lazy Blood interview with Ross here.
A guest post and my review of The Boy Inside here.
My review of Ross’s Fifty Years of Fear here.
Once you’ve read the extract from The Snow Killer I’m sure you’ll want to get a copy and you can do that here.
The Snow Killer
‘FEAR THE NORTH WIND. BECAUSE NO ONE WILL HEAR YOU SCREAM…’
A family is gunned down in the snow but one of the children survives. Three years on, that child takes revenge and the Snow Killer is born. But then, nothing – no further crimes are committed, and the case goes cold.
Fifty years later, has the urge to kill been reawakened? As murder follows murder, the detective team tasked with solving the crimes struggle with the lack of leads. It’s a race against time and the weather – each time it snows another person dies.
As an exhausted and grizzled DI Barton and his team scrabble to put the pieces of the puzzle together, the killer is hiding in plain sight. Meanwhile, the murders continue…
The first in a new series, Ross Greenwood has written a cracking, crackling crime story with a twist in its tale which will surprise even the most hardened thriller readers. Perfect for fans of Mark Billingham and Stuart MacBride.
And now’s your chance to read the opening of The Snow Killer
An Extract from The Snow Killer
I must have been ten years old when I first tidied up his drug paraphernalia. I didn’t want my sister crawling over it. We called her Special – a take on Michelle – because she was an enigma. She never spoke a single word and seemed more of a peaceful spirit than a physical entity. Give her a crayon or pencil and a piece of paper, though, and her smile filled the room.
I monitored my father’s habit through his mood swings or by how much time he spent in bed. The foil and needles increased rapidly just before we escaped London a few years back. I cried because both my parents left evidence of their addiction.
In many ways, my mother was as simple as Special. Swayed by my dominant father, she did everything he said, even though she had more common sense. Joining him in his heroin habit was inevitable.
Until the night we left, we took holidays and ate out in restaurants. I didn’t know where the money came from because I had no idea what my father did.
The evening we fled London, we packed our suitcases at ten at night and caught the last train to Peterborough, arriving at two in the morning. I recall beaming at my parents, especially when we checked into a huge hotel on the first night. My mum’s brother, Ronnie, lived nearby. When we eventually found him, he helped us move into a cottage in rural Lincolnshire, which was cheap for obvious reasons. The single storey building had five rooms and no internal doors. You could hear everything from any room – even the toilet.
Six months after we settled in our new home, I lay in the damp bed with my sister’s warm breath on my neck and heard my father casually say he’d shot the wrong man. The fact my mother wasn’t surprised shocked me more.
Life carried on. My parents continued to avoid reality. We ate a lot of sandwiches. Lincolnshire is only two hours north of London but it felt like the edge of the world after the hustle and bustle of the capital city. I walked the three miles to school. Special stayed at home where she painted and coloured. My mum sold Special’s pictures. She drew people and animals in a childish way, but they captivated people as the eyes in the pictures haunted the viewer.
One freezing night, my sister and I cuddled in bed and listened to another argument raging in the lounge. We had our own beds but only ever slept apart in the hot summer months. At six years old, she didn’t take up much room.
‘You did what?’ my mother shouted.
‘I saw an opportunity,’ my father replied.
‘What were you thinking?’
‘We’re broke. We needed the money.’
‘What you’ve done is put our family in danger. They’ll find us.’
‘They won’t think I took it.’
I might have been only fifteen years old, but I had eyes and ears. My parents constantly talked about money and drugs. By then, that was all they were interested in. That said, I don’t recall being unhappy, despite their problems. Normal life just wasn’t for them.
My mother’s voice became a loud, worried whisper. ‘What if they come for the money? The children are here.’
‘They won’t hurt them,’ my father said.
A hand slammed on the kitchen table. ‘We need to leave.’
‘It’s three in the morning and snowing. No one will look now. Besides, where would we go?’
‘We’re rich! We can stay where we like.’
Crazily, they laughed. I suppose that’s why they loved each other. They were both the same kind of mad.
That was the sixties and a different time. Not everyone spent their lives within earshot of a busy road. In fact, few people owned their own car. If you’ve ever lived deep in the countryside, you’ll know how quiet the long nights are. So it makes sense that I could hear the approaching vehicle for miles before it arrived. The put-put-put we gradually heard in unison that night sounded too regular for it to be my uncle’s ancient van. And anyway, good news doesn’t arrive in the middle of the night.
Mum understood and her bellow filled the cottage. ‘Grab everyone’s coats and shoes. I’ll wake the kids. Move!’
We slept more or less fully clothed due to the draughty windows and non-existent central heating. The warmth from the fire failed to reach the bedrooms. I rammed my boots on in seconds, and I slid Special’s warm feet into her little red wellies. Even at that time of night, my mother wore full make-up, but her beauty couldn’t disguise her wild eyes and trembling jaw. She hustled us kids to the back door where our jackets hung.
I held my hands out to my father. ‘Come on, Dad. Please, let’s go.’
My father peered through the window. Judging by the volume of the car’s engine ticking over, they had arrived. Then, a heavy silence. He glanced past me at my mother.
‘I’ll stay and talk to them. Get the children safe.’
Until that point, the extreme danger hadn’t registered. The expression of grim acceptance and resignation on my father’s face told me whatI needed to know. I grabbed his wrist and pulled him away from the window.
‘Go. Don’t worry about me. See you at Uncle Ronnie’s when I get there.’
I frowned at him. If it was going to be all right, we wouldn’t need to go to my uncle’s. The loud, hard double knock on the front door jolted us from our inertia and my sister, mum and I fled through the back door.
We waited at the side of the house. Even the clouds seemed to hold their breath. The inches of settled snow cast an eerie light over the fields. I peeped around the corner at our visitors and recognised three men: a gaunt man, a fat man, and a man with weird sticking-out teeth. They’d been to our place on numerous occasions. Goofy, as I’d secretly nicknamed him, watched Special in a manner that gave me goose bumps. I always took her to our room if they arrived and we hadn’t gone to bed yet. I called the other two Laurel and Hardy for their different sizes.
Perhaps, it would be okay after all. Even though they talked down to my father, I thought they were friends. They joked that they all worked in the same line of business. Our front door opened. With the fire long dead and no electricity, the interior showed black and solid. Out of this darkness came my father’s outstretched hand holding an envelope.
A flash startled me, followed by a deafening, frightening bang. It lit my father up like a photograph. Terrified like rabbits, we panicked and left our hiding spot. Stupid, really. The cottage sat on a straight track. There wasn’t another house for miles. We ran in a line up the snowy lane towards the wood. If you run like that, holding hands, you can only go at the pace of the slowest runner. Special’s little boots slipped and skidded across the surface. She rarely went outside.
The first trees and only cover remained distant. I stole a glance back, knowing if they came after us, we would never make it. They stood in a line in the centre of the road, unmoving. Weirdly, considering the weather, they wore similar blue suits. Each had a raised hand. They were colour on a blank canvas, and clear as if it were daylight. We were sitting ducks. This time, multiple booms crashed around our ears.
Incredibly, we carried on running. A sound not dissimilar to a whip cracking whistled by my right ear. A lone crow in front of us launching into flight seemed to be the only consequence of the volley of bullets until my mother stumbled. She dragged herself up with gritted teeth and spat on the floor. Her eyes fixed on the distant tree line, and we continued to move forward. I heard the men laughing. Another torrent of cracks echoed from behind, and my mother hit the ground face first with a sickening thump.
I crouched and scraped the bloody hair from her cheek. Blood poured from her mouth. The snow devoured the liquid even though it gushed out. Her eyes lost focus and, with her dying breath, she gasped, ‘Run.’
The men’s footwear crunched closer. I swung Special onto my back. She adored that: playing horses. She weighed nothing but could hang on like the finest jockey. I set off much faster, terror loaning speed and strength to my legs. I reached the wood and burst in. Branches rustled and scratched my face. But just the trees at the edge were thick conifers, the ones beyond only skeletons. I prayed that our hunters would give up if I put enough distance between us.
It wasn’t a forest by any means, and soon I reached the edge. A large expanse of white opened up before me. The voices behind me echoed louder and closer. Special’s soft, slow breath warmed my ear. I clung to that fact. She didn’t understand. I had no choice and fled into the snow field. Beneath the covering of white, rutted uneven ground unbalanced me. I managed twenty stodgy paces when I heard chuckling again.
Special’s grip loosened after the next succession of shots boomed out. I grabbed her little arms to stop her sliding off my back. Another bang shattered the silence, and a stabbing pain seared my right thigh. After lurching a few more paces, my leg gave way. I collapsed onto my side and Special rolled off. She stared at me. She wasn’t sad or frightened. Her face only displayed kindness. Special had never uttered a word, but she tried that night.
‘Sorry,’ she mouthed. And then the light inside her died. My beautiful sister faded. My sister who gave the best hugs in the world.
A few seconds later, a man appeared in my vision. It was Goofy. He reached down and put his hand towards Special’s neck. I didn’t want him touching her. Energy coursed through me and I pushed up with my arms. The agony in my leg stole my power as I attempted to stand, and I crumpled backwards.
The killer shrugged and removed his hand from Special. His fingers came away dripping with blood. He ran a parched tongue over misshapen teeth and put a finger in his mouth. He regretted that she’d died, but only because it prevented him from having her.
A voice in the distance barked out, ‘Finish them off.’
Goofy leaned over me. I smelled the whisky my father drank when he couldn’t get what he needed. His eyes narrowed. I’d often been called Junior at school. A smattering of freckles below cautious green eyes hinted at an age beneath my years. My parents didn’t waste money on haircuts any more, and my mother was no hairdresser. One of the other kids in my class called me Oliver Twist. Perhaps my innocence made Goofy pause.
The wrinkles between his eyebrows deepened, and a cheek twitched. The snow fell again and flurried behind him. Maybe he thought twice, but he remained ruthless at heart. I stared at his eyes as he leaned back. I kept my gaze on him and implored for mercy until I peered into the barrel of his gun.
The next retort and flash were muffled as though the weather had taken the brunt. And darkness fell.
They left us in that bleak field in the depths of winter without a care. The papers would be full of the news for weeks. They called them the snow killings.
I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to read The Snow Killer immediately!
About Ross Greenwood
Ross Greenwood was born in 1973 in Peterborough and lived there until he was 20, attending The King’s School in the city. He then began a rather nomadic existence, living and working all over the country and various parts of the world.
Ross found himself returning to Peterborough many times over the years, usually, so he says “when things had gone wrong.” It was on one of these occasions that he met his partner about 100 metres from his back door whilst walking a dog. Two children swiftly followed. And, according to Ross, he is “still a little stunned by the pace of it now.”
Lazy Blood book was started a long time ago but parenthood and then four years as a prison officer got in the way. Ironically it was the four a.m. feed which gave the author the opportunity to finish the book as unable to get back to sleep he completed it in the early morning hours.
Ross Greenwood’s second book, The Boy Inside, was picked up by Bloodhound Books, and in September 2017, Fifty Years of Fear was published. The year 2018 saw the publication of his next psychological thriller, Abel’s Revenge. All his books are thought provoking, and told with a sense of humour.
Ross Greenwood hopes you enjoy reading them.