My Tuesday Thriller this week is the ‘edge-of-the-seat’ crime novel, Secrets of a Serial Thriller by Rosie Walker.
There it is: fear. It’s crawling all over her face and in her eyes, like a swarm of insects, and it’s all because of him.
A serial killer has been terrorising Lancaster for decades, longer than should ever have been possible. The police are baffled, eluded at every turn by the killer whose victims span generations. Speculation is rife among the true crime forums; is someone passing on their gruesome trade?
Every local mother’s worst nightmare has become Helen Summerton‘s reality; he’s taken her daughter, Zoe. As the clock runs down so do her chances of survival. Can Helen unearth the secrets of the killer before it’s too late?
A gripping serial killer thriller that you won’t be able to put down. Perfect for fans of The Whisper Man, What You Did and Don’t Even Breathe.
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B083P3P6NZ
EXTRACT FROM SECRETS OF A SERIAL KILLER
Letter from the Leonard McVitie Archive,
John Rylands Library
Lancaster Lune Hospital
23 November 1984
I have watched the life leave the eyes of so many that I easily identify the signs as my own body begins to shut down. I know I will soon die, so I write to inform you that it is your turn to take up the mantle.
Work your charm; they will like you. You wear it well; they won’t sense who you are underneath. They can’t understand that you’re not interested in their thoughts, their feelings, their love. You’re interested in their fight, their attempts to flee, the smell of fear oozing from their skin.
I know that fear has always been your favourite, especially when you are the cause. Fear is vigilance. It’s universal to all animals, but only humans can override it and pretend it’s irrational. Only humans would experience fear, push it away and instead share a conversation with the predator; accept an invitation, smile and flirt and hope for more than they deserve. You were born for this life.
My teachings are complete, and your personal range of emotions is small yet efficient: joy, neutrality, or pure rage. All other emotions you choose to project are the result of careful study, manufactured for the benefit of your audience. The slight drop of your eyebrows to demonstrate disappointment. The narrowing of your eyes to indicate disgust. The barely detectable dip of your head to suggest disapproval. You have mastered it all.
You have been my best student. I trust that you will protect and enhance my legacy.
Helen leans her elbows on the railings and gazes up at the Gothic turrets of the derelict hospital as the sun begins to rise. A light mist hovers just above the ground, highlighting the dew on the grass.
Some window panes are broken, probably by stone-throwing vandals before the security company began twenty-four-hour patrols. She’s been taking regular walks around the grounds for the past couple of months, getting a feel for the building in all seasons and weathers.
She scans each window, searching for movement inside. As a child she was fixated on the supernatural, but now that she’s in her fifties, the history of such places is far more fascinating than spirits and ghouls. She shakes her head, smiling at her overactive imagination.
The wind picks up, rustling through the trees above her head and needling her skin through her woolly jumper. She shivers.
Why did the architects build their ‘lunatics’ such an ornate prison? It is a magnificent structure; she loves the flying buttresses, like the legs of a spider about to scuttle away. The dirty red sandstone seems more suited to a reclusive prince living on a stormy cliff-top in a Victorian novel than for the so-called ‘feeble-minded’ of nineteenth-century Lancashire. This massive building was once known as ‘The Annexe’, an extension of the original County Lunatic Asylum constructed in the 1880s to house the masses of mental patients shipped to the county from all across the north of England.
Once looming over barren moorland and visible for miles, it’s now almost hidden from the city, concealed within the trees. She loves the way that nature takes over a building once mankind abandons it: shoots sprouting from rooftops and ivy pushing apart the brickwork. It feels life-affirming that the natural world will still continue after we’re gone.
It’s a shame they can’t just leave it as it is: retain the ivy and the moss and the spindly saplings that grow from the gutters. But, sadly, people want to make money, and part of Helen’s job is to help carve up this beautiful old building.
Alfie pulls hard on his lead, his tongue hanging from his mouth as he struggles against the collar. She bends down.
‘Alright, but don’t run off,’ she says as she releases the clip.
As expected, the dog immediately disappears into the nearest clump of bushes, flushing a squawking pheasant into the air and away. She hears him burst out from the other side of the undergrowth and jogs ahead to keep him in sight. He is running away, and fast. Helen shouts and whistles as she sees him push through a gap in the fence and run towards the building.
‘Alfie! No! Bad dog!’ she calls, but he ignores her and continues running until he is out of sight. She knows he won’t run far; he just gets excited. But the building is derelict and riddled with asbestos.
She follows at a jog, squeezing through the gap in the fence and pushing across the overgrown lawn in front of the hospital, thistles tugging at her jeans.
It’s thrilling to get closer to the building, with a genuine reason if anyone challenges her. So far in this phase of work she’s only seen dusty floor plans, concept sketches and asbestos reports during dull scoping meetings and budget discussions.
She slows for a moment to take in the imposing façade up close, initials carved above each tracery window and ornate parapets along the roof. The six-storey water tower looms over the main entrance, where a stone staircase rises up to wooden double-doors. The basement floor is half-submerged, with letterbox windows at knee-level.
She remembers the floor plan she pored over last week: there’s a double-height entrance hall behind those doors, with a sweeping staircase in the centre, and long corridors branching off to the east and west wings: the wards and seclusion cells. East for female patients, west for male. The hospital was designed to house the infirm in small rooms, crammed to maximum capacity and maximum practicality.
She passes the main entrance, where the doors are secured with a chunky padlock and chain. ‘Alfie?’ she shouts, but he still doesn’t return.
She passes through a stone archway into a horseshoe-shaped courtyard, which must have been the loading dock with access to the kitchens, laundry and store rooms. A door stands open in the far corner where the main hall branches into the west wing, a dark hole gaping in the stone wall.
She feels a shiver of anticipation. Alfie must have gone inside. She has to go after him.
Ebook: out now
Audiobook: 6th August
Paperback: 15th October
Rosie Walker is a debut novelist who lives in Edinburgh with her husband Kevin and their dog Bella. Rosie gained a Masters in Creative Writing with distinction from the University of Edinburgh in 2011, where she learned to talk about writing over a gin and tonic, and accept critical feedback with grace.
She also has an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Lancaster University, where she learned how to pull an all-nighter to hit a deadline right at the last minute.
Secrets of a Serial Killer, her first novel, is out now in ebook. Her second novel is coming in 2021.
Thanks for dropping by to tell us about your new book, Rosie. Wishing you many sales.
My first psychological thriller will be out later this year. Look out for the cover reveal, coming soon.