Wednesday, 4 July 2018

New Release Spotlight & Excerpt: The Red Hand of Fury by R.N. Morris

The Red Hand of Fury

London, June 1914. A young man is mauled to death at London Zoo after deliberately climbing into the bear pit. Shortly afterwards, another young man leaps to his death from the notorious Suicide Bridge. Two seemingly unconnected deaths – and yet there are similarities. 

Following a third attempted suicide, Detective Inspector Silas Quinn knows he must uncover the link between the three men if he is to discover what caused them to take their own lives. The one tangible piece of evidence is a card found in each of the victims’ possession, depicting a crudely-drawn red hand. What does it signify? To find the answers, Quinn must revisit his own dark past. But can he keep his sanity in the process …?

Extract from The Red Hand of Fury by R.N. Morris.
This is the moment Silas Quinn confronts the corpse of first of the young men to die. He was mauled to death by a polar bear, so those of a nervous disposition may wish to look away!

For Quinn, there was always a moment of theatre before a body was uncovered on a mortuary table. He had never been present at the unveiling of a work of art, but he imagined that the sense of anticipation must be similar. Except that there was nothing artificial about this tableau. It was the truth to which all art aspired.
He had to admit, he had seen worse: corpses that were even more badly mangled. This was still recognizably a mans body. It held its shape. All its limbs and extremities were still attached.
At the same time, it was also recognizably the remnants of a meal.
The hair was seemingly untouched, when viewed from the front at least. Close cropped and the colour of iron filings, it was that thick, superabundant type of hair that held its own in any situation.
The face, as the court official had said, was completely eaten away. The skin was missing, except for shredded tatters on the forehead. The nose and cheekbones were crushed to splinters in a dark pulpy mince, giving Quinn some inkling of the size and power of the animals jaws. One bite, he suspected, was enough to create this carnage.
It was strange, perhaps, that the bear had chosen to feast here, when, considered as prey, the body must have offered more rewarding morsels elsewhere. But it was unlikely that the biting was done for the purposes of feeding. The animal was presumably well fed. And there was something desultory about the wound. Quinn imagined that the man must have been screaming as he faced up to the bear. He imagined the bears confusion, and the gradual stoking of that into rage.
The face was not the only part of the body that had been savaged. The throat was a scooped-out glistening hole. Much of the torso was flayed. Strips of skin hung off, ribboned by the beasts claws. The stomach was ripped open, as if the bear had gone rooting for jam sandwiches there. One forearm was gnawed.
Other less severe wounds appear to have been sustained in the animals casual discarding of a thing it had tired of: abrasions picked up as the mans body skimmed and bounced along the rough concrete of the Mappin Terraces.
Quinn asked the mortuary attendant to turn the body. There were more of these secondary, more superficial wounds visible on his back. Still raw patches of exposed sinew where the skin had been scraped away. The hair at the crown was slick with blood. The wounds of the dead do not heal.
With that thought in mind, Quinn leant down to peer closely at an area of the mans skin that was still in place. It was cross-hatched with a series of scabbed weals that appeared to have been caused by something serrated being drawn, or whipped, across his naked flesh. It was like trying to decipher the original text of a palimpsest.
What did the medical examiner have to say about these scars, do you recall?
The attendants gaze followed the direction of Quinns pointing finger.
They are evidently old wounds,he observed condescendingly. Therefore of no relevance to the inquiry.
But they may help us in identifying the deceased.
Youll have to take that up with the coroner.
Quinn continued his close reading of the mans wounds, scanning down his body until he spotted something that pulled him up short.
What of these marks here?Quinn pointed to two dark circles, one on each of the mans thighs. They were the size and colour of copper pennies.
Ah, yes. We noticed those.
They looked to Dr Richard like burns. Electrical burns, he rather thought. Dr Richard once conducted the post-mortem examination of a girl who was struck by lightning. These marks, he told me, resembled the burn he found on the top of the childs head, where the electricity entered her.
How interesting. Did Dr Richard have any theories as to how these marks came to be on the back of this gentlemans thighs?
The mortuary attendant stifled a grin. He did not think the bear was responsible for them.
And so, no doubt, he did not consider them relevant to the inquiry?
Oh, he mentioned them in his report. He thought they were rather interesting.
I am glad he found something to interest him.
Have you seen enough?The attendants tone suggested that he had certainly seen enough of Quinn.

But Quinns gaze lingered over the lacerated body, like a lover who could not tear his eyes away from his loved one.

R. N. Morris is the author of eight historical crime novels. His first, A Gentle Axe, was published by Faber and Faber in 2007. Set in St Petersburg in the nineteenth century, it features Porfiry Petrovich, the investigating magistrate from Dostoevsky’s great novel, Crime and Punishment. The book was published in many countries, including Russia. He followed that up with A Vengeful Longing, which was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger. A Razor Wrapped in Silk came next, followed by The Cleansing Flames, which was nominated for the Ellis Peters Historical Novel Dagger. The Silas Quinn series of novels, set in London in 1914, began with Summon Up The Blood, followed by The Mannequin HouseThe Dark Palace and now The Red Hand of Fury, published on 31 March, 2018.

Taking Comfort is a standalone contemporary novel, written as Roger Morris. He also wrote the libretto to the opera When The Flame Dies, composed by Ed Hughes.

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