Book 4: Sin Killers

As Detective Chief Inspector Neil Kettle hones in on his suspects, he becomes a target for their retribution. Hunter becomes hunted.

Who is acting as judge, jury and executioner? Someone is running a campaign of retribution against people with lax morals. Kidnapping, arson and blackmail are bad enough, but then the head of a convicted paedophile is found wedged onto a road signpost at a location where ancient public executions took place.

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19th-century gibbet

Various local businessmen and politicians have been blackmailed with incriminating evidence, fined £20,000 to encourage them to improve their behaviour. Sophisticated techniques have been used to surveil the victims and to attack them, including poisons, guns and explosives, implying that the perpetrators have military or secret service training.

The suspect in a series of violent raids on small businesses also appears to be ex-army. The efficient attacks speak of reconnaissance beforehand, and the lone raider strikes swiftly, incapacitating their target, before fleeing on a motorcycle with the loot. Where is the raider living?

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The death of the child abuser escalates the investigation. Neil has mixed feelings about the death of a paedophile, but murderers need to be caught. What is motivating the Sin Killers—financial gain or retribution?

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One of their victims owns a chain of massage parlours. Seemingly unfazed by the pressure, his young son was kidnapped then abandoned, and he vows revenge. His henchman, Cleaver, is a veteran of London gang wars in the 1960s, his heavily scarred face proof of his own capacity for violence with blades.

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Interference from a controversial government minister appears to confirm who the suspects are while muddying the waters. Devon & Cornwall Police are being used to clean up mistakes made by the secret service. Noah and Nina Shrike are ex-MI5 agents gone rogue and likely to turn terrorist, as they punish the sins of their former masters.

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Poison Dart Frog

As Detective Chief Inspector Neil Kettle hones in on his suspects, he becomes a target for their retribution overpowered by an exotic poison. Cleaver is on the prowl, his knives ready to slice and dice.

Hunter becomes hunted.

Book 3: An Elegant Murder

Investigating the puzzling deaths of two pensioners on Bodmin Moor, Detective Chief Inspector Neil Kettle uncovers hidden torment, avarice, lust and violence from forty years ago, which has modern day repercussions.

It’s a long, hot summer—good for Cornwall, which depends on tourist income—but, bad for crime. The heatwave drives people mad, and two corpses are found on Bodmin Moor.

The corpse of a mysterious elderly woman is found floating in a flooded quarry. Dressed in a 1950s ballgown, she carries no identification and can’t be traced.

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Days later, a burglar discovers the mummified corpse of a reclusive farmer, who’s been sitting at his kitchen table for five years. His farm is off the grid, and only a short walk from the quarry. Are the two victims connected? No one has missed them.

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The farming community on Bodmin Moor is insular, not given to sharing information, something Neil knows from personal experience, having grown up on a sheep farm. Thieves are around, stealing property from remote barns and rustling livestock. Stolen to order, by armed gangs from upcountry, it’s likely that they have cooperation from locals betraying their neighbours. Farmers are guarding their animals with shotguns. It’s only a matter of time before there’s a shootout.

Not all dead cattle, deer and sheep have been taken by rustlers. A stealthy four-legged killer stalks the land: the legendary Beast of Bodmin Moor looks to be a flesh and blood exotic big cat.

In a primitive landscape, unchanged for hundreds of years, and with no CCTV cameras and weak mobile phone signals, Neil Kettle tracks down his suspects, while becoming prey himself!

Book 2: The Perfect Murderer

Then, another murder happens, which doesn’t fit the pattern.

A second killer has joined in.

A serial killer, known as The Watcher, is terrorising the small market town of Liskerrett, Cornwall and the surrounding area, taking victims seemingly at random and with great expertise.

Neil Kettle is running a major murder investigation, as he struggles with depression, a delayed reaction to the accidental death of his wife four years ago.

Three people have been murdered, a child, an old woman and an American tourist, all dying by different methods. The perpetrator is playing a game, one as old as time. He’s a fantasist, but is he a psychopath? His killing skills suggest military training—he might have PTSD.

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A master of disguise, he never appears the same way twice when spotted in public on CCTV, imitating women and disabled war veterans. Neil’s detectives have close encounters with the killer, not realising who he is. He could be targetting them.

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Asian woman vinyl full head mask

It’s almost Christmas, and Liskerrett is busy with thrill-seeking ghouls, visiting the murder scenes and hampering the hunt for a murderer who kills perfectly. Neil and his team of detectives are under enormous pressure to catch the killer, for Liskerrett is already being referred to as ‘Murder Town.’

The investigation becomes even more complicated, when MI5 and the FBI take an interest. They provide Neil with useful information about the perpetrator, but what are they keeping secret?

Neil feels isolated in command, his only friends the forensic pathologist Christie Cook, known as CC, and his father-in-law, the retired chief detective Roger Rule, an autocratic control-freak with a heart of ice. But, Roger was a highly successful murder investigator, so Neil turns to him for advice.

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Then, another murder happens, which doesn’t fit the pattern.

A second killer has joined in.

Book 1: Who Kills A Nudist?

A pensioner is found drowned on a beach used by naturists. An autopsy shows his death was violent, that he’d been sexually molested.

Detective Chief Inspector Neil Kettle is a grieving widower of three years. The last time he visited this beach was with his wife. Already running investigations into human trafficking and the smuggling of drugs and weapons, Neil’s enquiries into the victim’s life reveal links to a shady millionaire car dealer, Rupert Mansard, a man who’s risen from nowhere to prosperity.

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The reclusive car dealer is rumoured to be involved in gay BDSM, not an illegal activity, but he knows men of wealth and influence, including law enforcement officers. Guns and explosives are being brought in from Eastern Europe, by sea and air, to arm organised crime gangs. Desperate immigrants are sneaked into the country, forced to work as slaves to pay off their debt. Cornwall’s rugged coastland with sheltered coves, quiet rivers and inadequate customs patrols has favoured smugglers for centuries, and only the contraband has changed.

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The drowned man was found by an American photographer called Mish Stewart, who lives in a remote cabin overlooking the beach. Someone is stalking her, a shadowy man who could be their suspect Rupert Mansard. She’s separated and though Neil is still grieving, they get on well enough for him to imagine falling in love again one day.

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Huge profits are guarded with malevolence, destroying the innocent and the corrupt. Neil Kettle is pursuing men with assault rifles, who treat human life as a disposable commodity. Anyone and anything can be bought and sold. Mish, the only woman he’s cared about for years is under threat.

The car dealer isn’t intimidated by police interest in him, insulated by his wealth and insider knowledge about their investigation—someone is a traitor.

Then, a bullet is fired through Neil’s kitchen window.

Is he about to become a target?

Creating Kettle

A country copper with a strange mind, a weary heart and quick fists—what could possibly go wrong?

After returning to creative writing in 2013, I wrote enough short stories, novellas, poetry and song lyrics to self-publish 45 titles online. Initially, I used Smashwords, followed by Amazon, but then I moved my eBooks onto Draft2Digital, a relatively new operator—more 21st-century in its technology and look. Although I was satisfied with them, I recently decided to try KDP Select, which meant several weeks of waiting for my titles to be unpublished from vendors D2D had distributed them to. KDP Select insists on exclusivity.

It had always been my intention to write novels, but I was learning the business of publishing and improving my writing technique, so didn’t rush things. My first thought was to write a literary novel set in modern times and tackling such issues as social media, online dating, surveillance of the population, terrorism, austerity and the recession and Brexit. Thankfully, I hadn’t even got as far as making notes, when I saw advice from several writing gurus, that placing a literary novel with an agent and a publisher was the most difficult of all books. Genre writing was more popular. I changed tack to write crime novels.

After half-a-century of reading crime stories, I know the genre very well. Of course, every genre has sub-genres and I’m more a devotee of psychological thrillers, hardboiled tough guy mysteries, Southern noir and writing that has literary flourishes, including strong characterisation. I’m not a fan of cosies or animal detectives. My favourite crime writers include James Oswald, Michael Connelly, John Connolly, Dennis Lehane, Ian Rankin, James Lee Burke, Elmore Leonard, Val McDermid, Kate Atkinson, Jo Nesbø and Andrea Camilleri.

I wasn’t that commercially aware when starting out, but I knew that Crime is the second best-selling genre after Romance/Erotica. Also, I live in Cornwall, where my stories would be set, which already has several noted authors, such as Daphne Du Maurier (Jamaica Inn), Winston Graham (Poldark), W.J. Burley (Inspector Wycliffe), Dominic Minghella (Doc Martin) and Patrick Gale (Notes From An Exhibition).

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Cornwall is one of the most beautiful places in the world, making it a popular tourist destination. But, beauty goes hand in hand with danger, for people die swimming in the sea and rivers, falling off cliffs or into disused mines. It’s a great backdrop for violent crimes. Daphne Du Maurier was inspired to write Jamaica Inn after getting lost on Bodmin Moor in the fog, whilst out horse riding. I know Cornwall well, having lived here for thirty years. I also know coppers (good and bad) and criminals, victims of crime, social workers and probation officers.

Norwegian novelist Aksel Sandemos stated that: “The only things worth writing about are love and murder.” I’m inclined to agree with him, for both show life at the extreme. Writing about crime allows me to tackle anything in society.

In creating a protagonist for my stories, I wanted to diverge from the usual detective or private eye, who drinks, takes drugs and smokes too much, while gambling his money away, breaking laws and chasing women. Many authors have done well with such rebellious antiheroes, particularly Jo Nesbø with Harry Hole, but I decided to go with a career copper who’s a son of the soil, and also rather weird!

It always helps an author if their hero is monied, and Neil Kettle is a millionaire from the sale of his parents’ sheep farm, following their premature deaths. His wife died in a traffic accident, meaning a life insurance payout. He’s not interested in money, rarely thinking about his savings, but it does give him a reputation for being his own man. He stays a copper for the intellectual challenge and to right wrongs in society.

In those ways, he’s conventional, but he’s unusual in how he’s in tune with nature, which helps him in his rural investigations. Clean-living, he’d rather have herbal tea than a shot of whisky; he doesn’t smoke. He’s more left-wing or green politically. A frustrated artist, he paints, draws, is learning to play the guitar and is growing a wild garden to encourage wildlife. He reads widely and listens to different types of music to help him meditate on cases.

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Neil Kettle has a rebellious streak, riding a long black Big Bear chopper, which was a trophy taken from an evil criminal. He loves being a copper with a chopper, for he gets treated as an ordinary bloke while out riding it. Like his surname, Neil Kettle is content to simmer away most of the time, but he comes to the boil quickly with a violent temper. He’s more a hunter than his laid back personality suggests.

Neil’s persistence and aggression see him triumph over serial killers in Book 2 The Perfect Murderer and the fourth tale Sin Killers, where the predators stalk him.

A loner since being widowed, he struggles with depression in the first two books, but is rebuilding his life and is more content about the future by Book 3 An Elegant Murder. His closest friend is CC, the police force’s forensic pathologist. She’s like a considerate but cheeky aunt to him, offering useful insights into the offender and wise counselling about life.

While grieving, I didn’t give him a love life, though he has an online relationship with a witness who finds the victim’s body in the first investigation Who Kills A Nudist? Mish Stewart is an American photographer, who returns home to Wyoming to decide what she wants to do with her life. There’s a mutual attraction between Neil and Mish, but the timing is wrong.

Their relationship alters for the better when she unexpectedly returns in the fifth story The Dead Need Nobody. It won’t all be plain sailing, for she has a complicated criminal history, which comes back to haunt them in Kissing & Killing. I’ll begin writing Book 6 this summer, hopefully typing The End about Christmas time.

The Cornish Detective novels are based in mid-Cornwall, with Neil operating from the police station at Liskerrett, which is the ancient name for Liskeard. I altered various geographical features in a writerly way, but not so much that they can’t be recognised.

Although Brexit is slowly going ahead, Neil Kettle investigates crimes linked to Europe, for crime is international and Cornwall’s rugged coastline is ideal for smugglers of drugs and weapons and human traffickers to sneak their ill-gotten gains in.

It’s been that way for centuries, and there have always been a few dedicated law officers who track down the criminals. Detective Chief Inspector Neil Kettle leads a crack squad of officers in the Major Investigation Team. Each of them has their own skillset, but ultimately it’s Neil who gets the job done.

A country copper with a strange mind, a weary heart and quick fists—what could possibly go wrong?