If you’re looking for a new read, two of my Lori Anderson bounty hunter thrillers are 99p/99c on Amazon Kindle until the end of the month, and they’d make great fast-paced beach reads for your summer holidays.


DDD Lori99c

DEEP DOWN DEAD: Book 1 in the Lori Anderson bounty hunter thriller series is available on Kindle in the US & Canada for the bargain price of 99c until the end of June.

A finalist for the eDunnit ebook of the Year award, Dead Good Reader Choice Most Fearless Female Character award, and a nominee for the ITW Best First Book Award at Thrillerfest next month – it’s a fast-paced, high octane thriller perfect for fans of Lee Child, Zoe Sharp and Alexandra Sokoloff. Find out more on Amazon by clicking here: DEEP DOWN DEAD


DBT2 pool99p

DEEP BLUE TROUBLE: Book 2 in the Lori Anderson thriller series sees single mom bounty hunter, Lori, return to take an off-the-books job from FBI Special Agent Monroe to track down an escaped convict heading for Mexico. Full of action and suspense, Deep Blue Trouble has been getting fabulous reviews from readers, reviewers and bloggers in the UK and beyond.

Perfect for fans of Mason Cross, Lee Child, and Zoe Sharp, you can grab it now in the UK Kindle store for just 99p until the end of June. Find out more on Amazon UK by clicking here: DEEP BLUE TROUBLE

CTG shameless plug: #VoteLori #FearlessFemale @DeadGoodBooks Reader Awards 2017 – thank you!

DEEP DOWN DEAD Dead Good Readers-2

Please excuse the shameless plug but…

I’m totally thrilled that DEEP DOWN DEAD is on the shortlists for two awards – Fearless Female Character and Most Exceptional Debut – at the Dead Good Readers Awards that are presented at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival at Harrogate this July.

These awards are nominated and voted for by readers – so if you enjoyed DEEP DOWN DEAD I’d be real grateful if you could throw a vote in Lori Anderson and DEEP DOWN DEAD’s direction!

The voting is open now over at the fab Dead Good Books website here:


CTG Exclusive: Chris Ewan talks rebooting the Good Thief’s Guide series

Today the fabulous Chris Ewan – a great crime writer and all-round good guy – is reissuing the first few books in his awesome Good Thief’s Guide… series.  

To celebrate, Chris is taking the controls for the day at CTG HQ to tell us more about the series and how it came about.

Over to Chris…

Just lately, I’ve been in the process of reissuing the first five titles in my Good Thief’s Guide To … series of mystery novels as ebooks in the UK. (I’ve priced them very reasonably! You should totally check them out!) The novels are fun, fast-paced capers about globetrotting crime writer and thief-for-hire Charlie Howard, with each book set in a different international city, ranging from Amsterdam to Paris, Las Vegas, Venice and Berlin.

One of the most interesting parts for me in reissuing the books has been the opportunity to read them again and remember all of the experiences and ideas that went into each one – from the research trips I made to the cities I was writing about, to learning how to pick locks and crack safes, to figuring out (usually after a LOT of swearing) whodunnit and why. As I thought about some of those experiences, it occurred to me that it might be a nice idea to include a letter to readers in the back of each of the reissued books sharing a few of my memories.

Which brings us to the letter below. It’s a slightly amended version of the letter I’ve included in the back of my first Good Thief’s Guide novel, The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam, and it tells the story of how I got published for the first time. It took me a while to get there – a little under a decade – but the story has a pretty neat ending, I think. I hope you enjoy reading about it. And hey, if you fancy checking out one of my Good Thief’s Guides while you’re at it, I’d be doubly thrilled.


Dear Reader

In 2006, when I was twenty-nine years old, I made my wife a promise. I had spent most of my twenties pursuing my dream of becoming a published author. I had written in the early mornings before work, in the evenings and nights after work, and all day every weekend. In that time, I had written and endlessly rewritten three novels. I’d been taken on by a literary agent but I hadn’t got my break. Eventually, my wife pointed out that I was spending more time in my makeshift study with the imaginary people in my head than I was with her. She was right, and I felt bad about it, and so I promised her that if I wasn’t published by the time I was thirty, I would take a breather for a few years. (I still wasn’t prepared to give up on the dream quite yet).

That year, I happened to be working on a book about a burglar set in Amsterdam. I chose Amsterdam because I had lived there for six months when I was training to be a lawyer and I had fallen in love with the city. I chose a burglar because I’ve always enjoyed crime novels about crooks. And I made my lead character a writer of mystery novels because I wanted to write about my love of the genre. I called the book The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam.

One day, some time around April, I think, when I had just completed yet another draft of the book, a colleague at my law firm on the Isle of Man came into my office and asked me if I had seen that the author Susan Hill was running a competition for unpublished writers. Anyone could submit their work and the winner would have their book published by Susan’s small publishing company, Long Barn Books. I emailed my novel to the competition in the secret hope that if I was very lucky I might get a small word of feedback from Susan, perhaps even a gem of advice.

Many months went by. Then, on a day in September, the same colleague stuck their head into my office to say that I should look at Susan’s website because my book was on the shortlist for the award. A week later, my phone went at work. I picked it up and a voice on the other end said, “Hello, this is Susan Hill. You’ve won my competition. You’re going to be a published author.”

That phone call changed my life. It remains the single best phone call I’ve ever received. And it reached me one week before I turned thirty.

Since then, The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam has gone on to be published in thirteen countries around the world. It has led to four more Good Thief’s Guides, set in Paris, Las Vegas, Venice and Berlin. The books have been optioned for television three times and they set me on my way to realizing an even bigger dream of becoming a full-time writer. I am itching to write more books in the series, and with your support, I hope there may be many more Good Thief’s Guides to come.

But none of this would be possible, or worthwhile, without you. So thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading this book and for becoming such a crucial part of the Good Thief’s Guides story.

These books are brilliant. I recommend you read them right now! As a fabulous bonus the Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam is only 99p on Kindle right now, and the Good Thief’s Guides Box Set just £6.99.

Here are the links…

And be sure to pop by Chris Ewan’s website and follow him on all the social media sites to stay up to date with his news

Twitter: @chrisewan



Drumroll please … today I’m super excited to share with you the cover of MY LITTLE EYE by Stephanie Marland (my alter ego) coming later this year from Trapeze Books (Orion). I love the cover, and I hope you do to…


MY LITTLE EYE will be out in eBook towards the end of this year and in paperback in March 2018.

To tell you a bit more about it here’s the blurb…

A rocket-paced, dark thriller for fans of Mark Billingham, Sharon Bolton and Luther. Can a group of true crime addicts take on the police to catch a serial killer?

A young woman is found dead in her bedroom surrounded by rose petals – the latest victim of ‘The Lover’. Struggling under the weight of an internal investigation, DI Dominic Bell is no closer to discovering the identity of the killer and time is running out.

As the murders escalate, Clementine Starke joins an online true crime group determined to take justice in their own hands – to catch the killer before the police. Hiding a dark secret, she takes greater risks to find new evidence and infiltrate the group.

As Starke and Bell get closer to cracking the case neither of them realise they’re being watched. The killer is closer to them than they think, and he has his next victim – Clementine – firmly in his sights.”

To find out more hop over to my Stephanie Marland page over on FaceBook at

Check out the article about My Little Eye in The Bookseller here

And follow me on Twitter @CrimeThrillGirl and Trapeze Books @TrapezeBooks




Today it’s time for something a little different. Susi (SJI) Holliday and me, in conjunction with CrimeTime, have been thinking about sex in crime fiction. You can read our thoughts in a few places – the first half of our conversation here on the CTG blog, the second half over on Susi’s blog HERE, and the full article over on the CrimeTime website HERE

Once you’ve had a read, we’d love to know your thoughts – do you like a sprinkling of sex with your crime? And, if you do, what’s the most memorable sex scene in a crime thriller for you? Tweet us at @crimethrillgirl and @SJIHolliday using hashtag #GirlsOnTop to let us know.

[STEPH] Let’s talk about sex. Sex in crime fiction, specifically. Okay, so I’ll go first – I’m not embarrassed – there’s a couple of sex scenes in my debut novel DEEP DOWN DEAD. One is more of a cut away as the action happens, but the other one, towards the end of the book, is very much the action as it happens; my protagonist Lori Anderson riding a male character cowgirl style. I put it in because the scene felt right for the story and (I hope) conveys something about the characters, adding additional conflict and raising the emotional stakes of the decisions they’re about to make and the (negative) consequences they could have for their relationship. That’s a whole lot of subtext to put on a sex scene, but that’s my rationale.

Back when I was starting to write my novel, I was told that sex and crime fiction don’t mix, but that doesn’t seem quite right to me. I can think of memorable sex scenes in the crime thriller genre like Lee Child’s The Affair – Jack Reacher has sex as a train thunders along the tracks – and that chilling sex scene in Gone Girl between Amy and Desi – the book, and the slightly more bloody film version! But, now I think about it, I can’t think of many detective stories that have sex scenes playing out in full in them unless the sex itself is the crime to be solved. Surely there must be more and my memory is just playing tricks on me? To help, I’ve enlisted crime writer S.J.I. Holliday – author of the Banktoun series – to answer the question, do sex and detective fiction mix?

[SUSI] I really don’t see why not. When you ask people about this, you get very mixed responses. Readers (in general) are absolutely fine with serial killers, blood, gore, death and destruction. But throw a blow job in there and they’re skimming the pages faster than a quickie in the stationery cupboard.


The Slice Girls [L-R]: Alexandra Sokoloff, Steph Broadribb, AK Benedict, Louise Voss, Susi Holliday, Harley Jane Kozak

Personally, I love a bit of sex. Slotted in at the right time, it can help add to the tension of your story, especially if the characters are having sex with people they shouldn’t. In all three of my books, there is a hint of sex – an encounter reminiscent of 9½ Weeks on a kitchen table in BLACK WOOD, where various food items are strewn around the kitchen… In WILLOW WALK, there’s a first-timer’s sex scene down by the river which I thought was quite touching (so to speak) and entirely relevant to the plot. There’s actually less sex in THE DAMSELFLY than in the other two. A thwarted BJ and an illicit scene in a lock-up that’s kept mainly off the page. It totally depends on the story. It definitely shouldn’t be shoehorned in if it doesn’t advance the plot.

[STEPH] Seems like Susi and me are on the same page about sex-on-the-page, but what about other crime writers, what do they think? We asked a few to find out.

Neil White – From the Shadows (Bonnier Zaffre) – said, ‘Never written a sex scene. Too buttoned up. My mum will read it’ and Mason Cross – The Time To Kill (Orion) – said, ‘I’ve only included PG13 sex scenes so far, although I may need to change that for plot reasons in the new one. But Jeez, my dad reads these!’ So it could be the fear of family members reading intimate scenes is in the forefront of some writers’s minds (and limits them going all the way) but that’s not all. Chris Ewan – Long Time Lost (Faber) – said, ‘I almost wrote one yesterday and then … just cut away again. Performance anxiety.’

It also depends on the character. James Oswald – Written In Bones (Penguin) – said, ‘I don’t put much sex in my books. Tony McLean is incredibly repressed anyway, so there’s that too … on the other hand there’s auto-erotic asphyxiation and death by priapism in my latest, so maybe I do write sex after all.’

Andy Martin – Reacher Said Nothing (Transworld) – said, ‘Sad to say there are few explicit sex scenes of note in Reacher Said Nothing. I only looked over Lee Child’s shoulder while he was writing Make Me. I think there is the occasional manly handshake. But Lee – as straight as a die – had some wry remarks to make on the subject. “Never sleep with someone you know,” still resonates in my mind. And more recently he said that the most erotic experience he had ever had was a brief encounter on a train. They shared a moment but had no actual language in common. I think I may have been influenced by Childean minimalism, that “zero degree” of writing recommended by Roland Barthes. I was at a Norman Mailer writers colony in Wyoming recently when a brilliant Indian writer devised an elaborate sex scene about a dozen pages long. I wrote one, rather shorter, that went like this: “We had sex.” It’s not exactly lyrical or spiritual but it gets the job done.’

It seems, from the guys we spoke to, that male crime thriller writers generally prefer not to write on-the-page sex and to cut away before the act takes place. Mark Edwards – The Devil’s Work (Thomas & Mercer) – bucks this trend, he wants more sex in crime fiction, and said, ‘we Brits are notoriously squeamish when it comes to the squelchy bits. Wouldn’t it be nice if more of our great detectives were as skillful in bed as they are at solving crimes? Don’t you think there should be more people handcuffed to beds in thrillers because they like being handcuffed to beds?’

To find out what the female crime writers thought, why Susi hates ‘panties’ and what the trick to writing a good sex scene is, hop over to Susi’s blog HERE then come find us on Twitter @crimethrillgirl and @SJIHolliday and tell us your thoughts on sex in crime fiction using hashtag #GirlsOnTop

And check out the article in full on Barry Forshaw’s CrimeTime at  and check out his Rough Guide to Crime Fiction here

Buy DEEP DOWN DEAD by Steph Broadribb here

Buy THE DAMSELFLY by SJI Holliday here

And you can buy books by our contributing authors by clicking the book titles below:

Neil WhiteFrom the Shadows (Bonnier Zaffre)

Mason CrossThe Time To Kill (Orion)

Chris EwanLong Time Lost (Faber)

James OswaldWritten In Bones (Penguin)

Andy MartinReacher Said Nothing (Transworld)

Mark EdwardsThe Devil’s Work (Thomas & Mercer)


More about Steph and Susi:

Steph Broadribb is an alumni of the MA Creative Writing at City University London and trained as a bounty hunter in California. Her debut novel DEEP DOWN DEAD is out now. Find out more at right here!

S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday grew up near Edinburgh and now lives in London. She works as a statistician in the pharmaceutical industry and writes books set in a creepy and claustrophobic small town in Scotland where the crime rate is apparently higher than in New York. BLACK WOOD, WILLOW WALK and THE DAMSELFLY are a mix of psychological thriller and detective fiction, featuring the terminally unlucky in love, Sergeant Davie Gray. You can find out more at





This week valentine’s day happens, and that sounds like a good excuse for a competition to me …

… so everyone who subscribes to my new Crime Thriller Club will be automatically entered into a prize draw with the chance to win this valentine’s prize (pictured) including:

  • A signed copy of DEEP DOWN DEAD
  • A box of valentine’s chocolates from Hotel Chocolat
  • A mini bottle of rose champagne (only to UK entrants, sorry!)
  • A pair of handcuffs (cos nothing says ‘be my valentine’ like a pair of handcuffs right?)

By signing up to the CTG Crime Thriller Club you’ll get access to my eNewsletters with exclusive subscriber competitions, content and will be the first to hear about my book news and events.

It only takes a moment, so CLICK HERE to sign up now to be in with a chance to win!

** This competition closes at 9pm on Sunday 19th February 2017 **

(1) One entry per subscriber (2) Open worldwide, but champagne will only be posted to UK addresses – sorry! (3) All entrants must be 18 years or over (4) The winner will be drawn at random (5) No cash alternative (6)  The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into



After a cracking start to the week at a super fun speakeasy event downstairs in The Vault at Milroy’s of Soho we’re on an alcohol theme here at CTG HQ.

On Tuesday night, Daniel Pembrey, Rod Reynolds, Michael Grothaus and me chatted about ‘Spirits in Noir Fiction’, moderated by expert noirist Barry Forshaw. There was bookish conversation, whiskey cocktails (I can recommend the Smoking Gun) and the fabulous folks from South Ken Books created a pop-up bookstore around one of the fireplaces! [Hop over to the lovely Joy Kluver’s blog here to read a full write-up from the event]

At the event, Daniel Pembrey talked about his new book NIGHT MARKET which is out in e-book today. This is the sequel to the fabulous THE HARBOUR MASTER and Detective Henk van der Pol is hitting the Dutch gin. As you may already know, Henk likes to have a beer and a gin chaser; it’s sometimes called a kopstoot in Amsterdam (headbutt), or a duikboot in Flanders (submarine).

You can buy NIGHT MARKET on Kindle here

THE COMPETITION: To toast the launch of this Harbour Master sequel, Daniel is giving away a bottle of Mirakel van Amsterdam – single old grain, Henk’s favourite, and originating from centuries-old independent Amsterdam distillery Van Wees. Trust me, this is a bottle you want in your drinks cabinet – though don’t have it within too easy reach if you want to keep temptation at bay! (I believe the seal is unbroken.)

TO ENTER: email Daniel,, saying where you found the first occurrence of Henk ordering a beer-with-gin-chaser in Night Market

The winner will be picked on 5th February.

Good luck!


[Please note the winner needs to provide a UK address for shipment and to be aged over 18 years]


Whoop! #DeepDownDead released as eBook today!


Today is a little different.

Today my debut novel – DEEP DOWN DEAD – is published in eBook! So I hope you’ll indulge me a little, and allow me to tell you about my book …

Deep Down Dead is an action thriller, and the first in a series featuring bounty hunter Lori Anderson.

Here’s the blurb: “Lori Anderson is as tough as they come, managing to keep her career as a fearless Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills start to rack up, she has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things start to go wrong. The fugitive she’s assigned to haul back to court is none other than JT, Lori’s former mentor – the man who taught her everything she knows … the man who also knows the secrets of her murky past.”

To give you a little taste of the story I’m giving you an exclusive sneak peep at the prologue. I hope you enjoy it …





I open my eyes and the first thing I see are the cuffs. Flexing my wrists, I test their weight and try to ignore the dull ache in my right hand where the gash across my skin has dried crusty brown. The bruising on my forearms has turned a deep purple. From the way my ribs feel, I figure they must look the same. I keep my breathing shallow; seems it hurts a little less that way. I look up.

He’s sitting opposite me, arms folded, legs stretched out beneath the table. Waiting. In this windowless box it’s impossible to tell how much time has passed. Still, I can’t look at him, not yet, so I focus just below his eyes, where the dark shadows lie. My heart’s racing, a voice in my head screams, run, just run. I want to, I surely do, but I can’t. For all that’s gone down, someone has to pay. It’s time for me to pony up.

‘You lookin’ at me now? Good. So answer the question.’

Same Kentucky accent, but he’s not at all how I’d imagined. Guess that’s the way it goes when your only contact has been by cell. I force myself to meet his gaze, swallow down the nausea, try not to let fear distort my voice. ‘Can’t believe all you hear.’

‘Tell me why.’

Now the moment’s come, I don’t know if I can. Was he in on it? Should I trust him? Sure, he looks the part. He’s wearing the uniform black suit, smart and efficient, shades hooked inside the breast pocket. He’s a little older than I’d imagined, nearer fifty than forty, and wears his hair on the long side, slicked back to keep it tamed. He runs his hand through it, smoothing the strands into place. I wonder if he’s nervous. I sure as hell am.

His cold stare says he figures that I’ll talk eventually. All he need do is wait, because time’s almost up for me. Every second I baulk, the people I love get dragged further from me. So we both know I have to give it up on his promise, tell him enough to end this, to stop all the talk of death row. But there’s an order to these things, and we both know that too.

He puts a plastic beaker on the desk, pushes it from his side to mine. Inside there’s a red liquid, two shades paler than blood. ‘Drink. Medical said you’re dehydrated.’

They’re right. My mouth’s drier than gator hide in August. Can’t remember the last time I drank or ate properly. Shit like that hasn’t figured much these past few days. The drink looks real tempting, but I need something from him first. This situation, it’s all about power. If I do something for him, the balance swings over to his side, but if he does something for me, I get it a little more on mine.

I glance down at the cuffs. Look back at him. Wait.

He takes the hint. Leans across the table with the keys in his left hand, ready. As he moves, I catch the scent of his cologne – lemon, clean and sharp. Hope he’s that way too. I have to trust him; we’re all out of time to do anything else.

I push my hands over the wooden veneer towards him, palms up. The torn muscle in my shoulder feels like it’s on fire. I don’t let it show; bite back the pain. He uncuffs me, slips the bracelets and key into his jacket pocket. Eases back in his chair. Watching, again.

That’s first base, right there.

So I drink. Show willing. Know I need the fluids, can’t risk the dehydration muddling my mind, confusing the story. Have to tell it right. The liquid’s raspberry-flavoured water. It’s sweet, too sweet, and stings the corner of my mouth where I’ve taken one too many punches. I grimace at the taste. ‘So how does this work?’

He stares right back at me. ‘Tell me everything.’

I jerk back, spooked. Try not to wince at the spur-sharp pain in my side. He’s moving way too fast. You can’t jump from first base to fourth, it ain’t polite and I can’t allow it.

The pain doesn’t fade. Nausea rises real fast and bile hits the back of my throat. I cough. Makes my bruised ribs hurt like a bitch. I bite my lip and press my arm against my side. Show no weakness. ‘I have to get out of here, take my daughter home.’

He shakes his head. Leans forward, elbows on the table, face level with mine. ‘Not going to happen. This situation? It’s real serious. You’re in no kind of position to be making demands.’

He’s testing me. Wants to know how desperate I am. The answer? Real desperate, but I know way better than to let that show. This game here is all about timing. What I say, and whether he believes me, that’ll be the difference between life and death. ‘So what then?’

He stares at me, unblinking. Leans closer. ‘Tell me the real story. Multiple homicide an’ the rest that’s gone down? There’s no one else can help you. I’m the guy you’ve got to convince. Right now, and right here.’

The room seems to shrink. The space feels airless, more claustrophobic. What he’s just said, I hate it. I want to howl at the unfairness of it all, punch him until he feels the pain too. But I don’t, because I know that he’s right. I’ve got no other choice but to trust him. So I put down the beaker. Watch the liquid ripple once, twice, before lying still. Count in my head, all the way up to ten, then look up and meet his gaze. I can’t delay any longer, need to move us on to second, defuse the situation. ‘Honey, I can give you answers, just as soon as I know we’ve got a deal.’

He sits back in his chair, and crosses his legs, real relaxed. Keeps eye contact. ‘Depends.’

There’s a certainty about him, a determination that’s somehow quite attractive. He plays hard to get real well; oftentimes I like that. Not today, though. Not now. Hard to get is hard to read, and one wrong move, one wrong word, will only end one way: everyone I love gone. ‘I’m listening.’

‘You tell me what happened. No bullshit, just the absolute truth from start to finish. Do that, then I’ll tell you if we’ve got a deal.’

No guarantee, but I figure it’s my best shot. So I nod, and let him take third. Act like it’s my idea, though. Force a smile as I swallow down the fear. ‘You best get comfortable, sweetie. This’ll take a little while.’

He nods, and I know that it’s time. Now I have to get us to fourth, tell the story right, secure a deal.

There’s a click as he switches on the audio recorder. He leans forward and places it on the table, dead centre. Looks me right in the eyes. ‘You’re up.’

And so I tell him.


DEEP DOWN DEAD is published by Orenda Books and is out today as an eBook and on 5th January 2017 as a paperback.

To buy the book from click HERE

And be sure to drop by the CTG blog tomorrow for a chance to win a limited edition paperback proof.



Today I’m really excited to have a real treat for you. The fabulous crime writer G.J. Brown (Gordon to his friends) has penned a fantastic new short story and he’s letting me post it here on the CTG Blog as an exclusive. 

I think you’re going to enjoy this …

The Why.


G.J. Brown 

This is a Sarah Tracy short story. Sarah is a detective in the LAPD and had her first outing in a short story called ‘ebgdea’ which was included in an anthology, entitled Blood on the Bayou, commissioned for the U.S. crime festival, Bouchercon 2016. Tracy is distantly connected to my main protagonist, Craig McIntyre (The Catalyst and Meltdown) – as she will team up with him in book 4 (book 3, Dynamite, is out in March 2017, published by Strident). I never intended Sarah to become a main character but when scoping out book 4 I think I fell a little in love. I’m working on ten short stories with her as the central detective. This is my first foray into police procedural so be gentle with me.


The dead don’t speak and, written in the silence that follows their departure, lie unanswered questions. The secrets they take to the grave.

For some people, these unknowable riddles hold meaning so deep that they hurt. Most everyone wants to the know the why. The why trumps the who, what, where, when and how. It’s the why that people seek. Even the most transparent of lives, those laid bare by interrogation or oration, still hide answers, squirrelled away – waiting to be uncovered. Or, and this makes it all the more unbearable, matters, never to be revealed. Banished to corners too remote to access or places too obscure to be found.

Detective Sarah Tracy was looking down on a body that, more than any case she had ever worked on, demanded the answer to why.

The how was obvious. When a forty-ton rig hits a human body, and does so at seventy miles an hour, the survival rate is low. When it hits a body that has already been struck by an SUV, driven by a man three times over the drink drive limit, the survival rate is as good as zero.

The where is even easier. The freeway, all six south bound lanes closed to tend to the accident, is the scene of death. The SUV is nose into the wall that borders the freeway, a last ditch attempt to avoid the victim had sent the car into a spin where metal met concrete. The rig is sitting above the body, having dragged it over a hundred yards, before the air brakes brought the beast to a halt. Both drivers are in shock.

No surprise there.

There’s no deep mystery to the when. Sarah got the call less than fifteen minutes ago. The accident had been reported by the driver of the only other civilian car now left in the vicinity. A young lady, driving a high mileage Honda, and cutting early from a late night job at CVS, had been clipped by the SUV. She had been going slow enough to keep things under control but, she too was in shock.

The what is far harder to work out. Three options sit at the top of Sarah’s list – suicide, murder or accident. In most cases the what is intrinsically linked to the why. Sometimes the why informs the what. Sometimes the other way round. In all cases the why will nail the whole thing.

Sarah isn’t sure on the what. A few details are making it a little trickier than usual.

She jumps to who. While waiting on the forensic scientist she would normally look for a wallet or a purse – something to ID the victim. IDing someone usually speeds up the why and the what. But ID in this case is not easy. Despite what seems to have been an industrial amount of damage inflicted on the victim, first by the SUV strike and then the rig hitting, before towing, the body, it’s not possible for Sarah to search the corpse.

She reaches down to touch, with a pen just extracted from her pocket, the material the body is wrapped in.

Her partner wanders up and stands beside her. ‘Bubble wrap.’

Sarah stands up. ‘There so much of it I’m still not sure who or what’s inside.’

Tim Craig, a ten year served cop, stands with his feet apart. He’s carrying thirty pounds more round his waist than he did at his peak, and standing is not getting any easier. ‘Looks like a body to me. I can see fingers where the bubble wrap has been ripped by the rig.’

Sarah sighs. ‘There could be a couple of hundred feet of bubble wrap in that bundle. It could hide two bodies or a single hand. You can’t see through the stuff.’

Tim swivels his hips for relief. ‘SUV driver isn’t making much sense. He’s drunk and claiming that the…’ Tim pauses. ‘Well whatever this is, hit him. Not the other way round.’


‘Sarah go ask him. He says one moment he’s listening to Johnny Cash winding up the inmates at San Quentin. The next he’s bombed from the air. Says it hit his hood.’

Sarah looks back along the road. A few hundred yards to the rear, an overpass is casting a shadow on the freeway.

She imagines the bundle falling on the SUV, the driver swerving and losing control, as the bubble wrap monster bounces off the hood and onto the highway. The rig picking it up – a football to its fender. The bubble wrap catching on the truck, the bubble wrap ball flicking out to one side to be dragged along the road.

It’s possible.

It doesn’t make the why any clearer but makes the what a little easier. It would be a hell of a way to commit suicide. Not impossible, but to wrap yourself in so much bubble wrap and throw yourself off a bridge, onto a busy freeway, doesn’t have the scent of inevitability that the genuine suicide victim craves. Although it could have been a cry for help. But that’s a massive stretch.

‘Where’s Millwood?’ Tim is now bending at the middle. Millwood was a member of the LAPD Scientific Investigation Division.

Sarah checks the time on her phone. ‘On his way. They had another crime scene to attend to. Fifteen minutes is my best guess.’

The sound of people laying on horns, the squeal of brakes and the resultant crunch of vehicle on vehicle snaps Susan’s head up. Just in time to see a giant, off white ball shoot into the sky above the north bound freeway.

Tim shouts. ‘Fuck, is that another one?’

Unlike the southbound freeway which had been uncongested, allowing cars to brake in time, the rubber-neckers on the other side had slowed the north bound to a conga line – but one still moving at thirty plus. Sarah could only watch, mouth hanging open, as another giant ball of bubble wrap returned to earth, hit a compact on the roof and bounced across the freeway onto the southbound carriage way, rolling to a halt under the overpass.

The southbound freeway quickly jammed solid and people started to emerge from their cars. Sarah sprinted to the median, shouting. ‘Get back in your vehicles, get back in your vehicles.’

She knows that the chaos of the crash isn’t over. With the sound of vehicles still hitting each other further down the freeway, she is more than aware of what will happen to someone out in the open.

A motorcycle, traveling fast, zips by, the rider unable to stop. A man, one foot on the freeway, about to push up, door open, creates a dam for the fleeing vehicle. The motorcycle hits the door and catapults into the air, throwing the rider free. The leather clad body does a somersault and lands, like a rag doll, on top of a Mini. The body slides across the roof, before flowing off and out of sight.


‘How many?’


‘All the same?’

‘All the same.’

Sarah was in the incident room. She had asked the first question. Tim had answered. Twelve bubble wrap monsters had been dropped across the freeway system of LA, bringing gridlock to the main arteries. The chaos had been immense. People had been re-routed onto other streets but LA is a car city and no amount of alternate routes could cope with the sheer weight of the traffic. Even now, fourteen hours after the first incident, parts of LA were still gridlocked.’

‘And how many bodies were in the bubble wrap?’ Sarah asks.

‘Milwood just called and this is a doozy.’




‘One body. Sarah, you were closer than you though when you said it could be a single hand. Four of the bubble wraps each contained an arm or a leg. One held the head. One the genitals.’



‘And the other six?’

‘One the torso, one the heart, one the liver, one the kidney, one the lungs and the last one the brain.’

‘Someone took the brain out?’

Tim looks at the print-out. ‘Someone dissected the body and, according to Milwood, did so with no subtlety. It looks like they cracked open the skull with a hammer to get to the brain.’

Sarah sips at a coffee she really doesn’t need. ‘ID?’

‘Nothing yet. No matches on the system but, then again, it’s too early.’

‘Can we put a rush on it?’

‘I have.’

‘So let’s get this straight. Someone chopped up a body into twelve parts, wrapped each part in bubble wrap and then launched them off overpasses, onto various freeways.’ Sarah leans back. ‘And so far, no one saw a thing.’

Tim blinks. ‘You would need a squad of people to do this. All the incidents happened within thirty minutes of each other. Two of them are twelve miles apart.’

Sarah puts the coffee down. ‘So we have six sites. In each case the perp dropped a bundle on both sides of the same freeway. Each time they dropped the first, waited for the log jam on the other side, and finished the job.’


‘My name is Sarah Tracy. I’m a detective with the LAPD. I suppose you’ve heard the news on the ‘bubble wrap bombs’.’ Sarah hated the way the media needed a name for everything.

‘Sure,’ said the man

Sarah was sitting in a small office, facing a well-built man who was wearing a cheap suit and sporting a day’s worth of growth on his face. He fiddled with a battered iPhone as Sarah talked.

‘Thanks for helping out Mr Sanrez.’

‘No problem. But can this be quick? I’ve been up all night trying to fix this mess.’

Sarah nods. ‘Sure.’ She had been up all night as well but she had learned the hard way that no one cared about that if you were police.

‘To get this right you’re the highways supervisor for this area.’


‘I’ll keep this simple. Did whoever dropped the bubble wrap on the freeways, show any special knowledge of the highway system.’

‘And some. Please call me Dan.’

‘Ok Dan, why do you say that?’

Dan reaches out of site and fumbles around, pulling a map from a battered old briefcase. He spreads it out on the table. The map has twelve red stars dotted on it. He points to the stars. ‘These are the incidents. I’m telling you something here. If you wanted to bring this section of LA to a complete halt you couldn’t do better than block those spots.’

He wipes his hand across the map. ‘Detective, we plan for accidents in key locations. We plan for the worst possible scenarios but whoever did this knew we would be screwed. Well and truly screwed.’


Sarah was looking at the autopsy report. ‘So the body has been identified?’

Tim was munching on an apple, his concession to the healthy diet his wife wanted him to follow. ‘Col Wernicke. A manager out near the airport in a company called WellpackPlus. Marlon is out there now trying to find out more.’


‘Tina this isn’t going well.’ Sarah was sitting in the interview room, a gloomy hole that stank of fear and tiredness. A young lady was sitting across from her. She was wearing a blue coverall, with the name ‘WellpackPlus’ picked out on the breast pocket.

‘Tina, we found blood on the warehouse floor. A lot of blood. And I’m betting those stains on your coverall aren’t jelly.’

Tina sits, no words. She might just know the why. Sarah is convinced of it.


‘Do you know what it’s like to be bullied at work.’ Tina had waived the right to a lawyer. Sarah thought this dumb but it was Tina’s right to be dumb. Tina kept talking. ‘Do you?’

Sarah nods. She’d had her fill of sexist remarks from a captain in a previous precinct. It had eaten her like cancer. She had eventually stood up to it, then spoke up and, to her surprise, things got fixed at speed, even down to an apology from the bastard. ‘I know something of it.’

‘Not like that bastard. Not even close I bet.’ Tina was spitting the words.

‘Tell me?’

‘WellpackPlus is a packing specialist. We source packing material for clients. Anything from cardboard boxes to unique shit that can end up carrying the weirdest stuff. Col is the night manager and I work nights. I’m also at school some days, trying to get out of that hell hole. We work seven to six. That’s the hours. Five days a week. I go to college two days a week from ten to four. When the two cross I need to plan well to get any sleep. If I finish at 6 am I can beat the LA traffic and be home by 6.30. Three hours sleep and I’m good to go. But if I’m late out of the warehouse I plough the LA rush-hour and it can take two hours to get home. Then I’m fucked.’

Sarah leans in. ‘Does that happen often?’

‘We don’t get paid overtime so we are all supposed to cut at 6. But that bastard Col is a lazy shit. He can’t be bothered doing the work sheets and lets us muddle through. If he did his fucking job, then the nightshift would be planned, and we would all get home on time. More often than not he drinks, doesn’t do the sheets and then comes down on us like a ton of bricks when it’s time to leave, and the day shift isn’t set up for.’

‘Set up?’

‘We unload and rack up the material for the day shift. If we don’t’ do it right, it’s Col that gets it. That’s why he keeps us back.’


‘So Tina killed Col on her own. Then cut up the body on her own. Then dumped twelve bubble wrap bombs on the freeway, at strategic points, all within thirty minutes of each other – on her own?’ Tim was sitting with Sarah, relaxing in the local police coffee haunt.

Sarah rubs her temple. ‘So she says?’

‘It’s not possible?’

Sarah had to agree the what was now clear – murder. The how less so than before. And there was still the..

‘Why?’ Tim said.

Sarah pulls out her phone. ‘I’ll let Tina tell you.’ She starts the playback on the recording function, plugs in her headphones and hands them to Tim.’


Sarah’s voice. ‘So you killed him?’

Tina’s voice. ‘Dam right?’


‘I told you I go to college Tuesdays and Thursdays. The same days that we receive deliveries of bubble wrap. They turn up around four thirty. It’s the last thing to be packed away on these days. Have you seen rolls of the stuff?’


‘They’re big. Taller than me and three times as wide. When they arrive everyone is usually at the other end of the warehouse trying to stack up for the day shift. And, most days, we’re nowhere near ready. When we’re miles behind that bastard Col would get them to stack the bubble wrap, two pallets high, across the entrance. No way to get past. Then he would announce to us all that the forklift battery was dead. That it would take a couple of hours to charge and that we may as well keep stacking.’

‘And you can’t leave any other way?’

‘The bastard chains up the fire doors. Tells us its company policy. The only way in or out is through the main door and there ain’t no way you can get past when the bubble wrap is there. He knows I go to college on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We used to get the bubble wrap on Mondays and Wednesdays – he had it changed after I grassed him up for drinking. He should have been fired but they kept him on. For eight weeks I’ve had no sleep before college – eight weeks.’


Tim pulls off the headphones. ‘So we know the why but still not how – unusual.’

Sarah taps the back of Tim’s hand. ‘I know the how. Some, if not all, of her co-workers were in on it but no one is talking. I think Tina killed him, cut him up and wrapped him. She must have had help to dump the ‘bombs’, but no one is saying.’

‘And no one saw anything?’

‘The CCTV at WellpackPlus is on the fritz. We’re checking cameras for signs of the dumping but the cameras cover the freeways not the overpasses.’

‘And how did she cut up the body – did the others help?’

‘No, they all came up clean. There’s a machine they use for slicing cardboard and bubble wrap. Tina used that. There was a minimal attempt at a clean-up but, there was so much blood, it failed.’

‘And with no one else on site bar the workers, it’s our word against theirs.’

‘They all hate Col and seem happy to let Tina take the hit.’

‘And how did she know to drop them where they would cause maximum disruption?’

‘The victim, Col, used to do Dan Sanrez’s job but got fired for drinking. There’s a little more on the phone.’


Sarah’s voice. ‘So why drop the ‘bombs’ where you did.’

Tina’s voice. ‘Because Col told us, more than once, where the maximum damage could be done. He never stopped droning on about his old job, about how he had been treated badly. How he had been the best in the business. How, he was the man who sorted out the traffic in LA. He would hold us back some mornings just to explain, for the millionth time, what he used to do, how important he was and why things never went wrong in his day – unlike now. I think it paid twice, maybe even more, than WellpackPlus. That’s why he was so pissed all the time. He even showed us how to screw up the whole freeway system on a map. Pointed out the key spots. Told us that 12 well placed accidents would cause the biggest fucking traffic jam in LA history. Time after time, whisky fumes killing us, he poured out the same story. He never shut up about the fucking thing.’

‘And why not just kill him and be done with it? Why do what you did?’

‘I suffered every time he pulled the bubble wrap shit. So what better use to put the bastard to. I wanted him to be the fuck up of all time. Not in his current job – in the one he never stopped talking about. I wanted people to know that it was that bastard that was responsible. I just wanted everyone in LA to know that the worst traffic jam ever, was down to him. That, even in death, he was a monumental fuck up.’


Sarah looks at Tim as he switches off the phone. She knows that, at some point, one of the other workers will confess, or slip up, maybe before the trial, and that Tina will have some cell mates.

What she also knows is, that sometimes, when it comes to murder, it isn’t the dead that know the why.


A massive thank you to Gordon for letting readers of the CTG blog be the first to read this short story. I’d certainly like to see more of Sarah Tracy.

For more info on Gordon and his writing see and follow him on Twitter @GoJaBrown

Hop across to here to buy his latest book – Meltdown

Or pop over to here to buy his latest book in the US – Falling


About G.J. Brown

Gordon lives in Scotland but splits his time between the UK, the U.S.A. and Spain. He’s married with two children. Gordon once quit his job in London to fly across the Atlantic to be with his future wife. He has also delivered pizzas in Toronto, sold non alcoholic beer in the Middle East, launched a creativity training business called Brain Juice and floated a high tech company on the London Stock Exchange.

He almost had a toy launched by a major toy company, has an MBA, loves music, is a DJ on local radio, compered the main stage at a two-day music festival and was once booed by 49,000 people while on the pitch at a major football Cup Final.

Gordon has been writing since his teens and has four books published – his latest in the UK is Meltdown and in the U.S., Falling..