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.

Why Write Sin Killers?

It made me wonder what a secret agent does when he or she retires? How do they deprogramme themselves?

Several incidents in my life inspired Sin Killers. Back in 1988, I lived in the town of Andover in Hampshire. I worked as a milkman, starting work at 5.00 a.m. delivering 450 pints to customers. It was ‘job and finish’ meaning I quit work as soon as I’d made the deliveries and unloaded my electric milk float of empty bottles at the depot. Like many of my colleagues, I ran the round, usually finishing in six hours. I’ve never been fitter! 1960 Morrison-Electricar unknown Milk Float re ...

After running five miles and lifting hundreds of pounds of milk bottles, I was wound up and unable to relax enough to go to sleep for eight hours during the day. To wind down, I went window shopping, calling in at charity shops to buy books and sometimes having a beer and a snack at a pub.

People watching is a trait of writers, and occasionally I’d see a man in his fifties who kept himself to himself, but who appeared to be monitoring conversations around him. He was more observant than me, even stopping in the street to watch passersby, making notes in an exercise book, checking the time on his watch. He rarely spoke to anyone. I thought he was just an eccentric loner, maybe a care in the community patient with mental health issues until I noticed he had an attractive Asian partner—who was as sharp-eyed as him.

One day, after he’d left the pub, I asked the landlord who he was. I was amazed to learn that he was an ex-secret agent, a spook for MI5, I was told…as was his wife, who came from Vietnam. He couldn’t have been less like James Bond, as he was of forgettable appearance, balding, medium-height and wearing typical country clothing of tweed jacket, flat cap and twill trousers. The landlord described him as “creepy.”

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SIS building on the River Thames—headquarters of MI5 & MI6

It made me wonder what a secret agent does when he or she retires? How do they deprogramme themselves? What if they hadn’t retired, but been dismissed for some transgression? They might have a chip on their shoulders and could be dangerous through their training. The chap I saw spying on others wasn’t 007, but what if he had hacking skills or knew how to kill with sophisticated poisons?

Twenty years later, he and his wife provided me with inspiration for Noah and Nina Shrike.

The post office raider suffering with PTSD was an amalgam of various ex-services personnel I’ve known—men and women who were still fighting wars in their head—with inadequate mental health support. Veterans are at high risk of becoming addicted, of being made homeless and of turning to crime to survive; their suicide rates are disproportionately high.

British military veterans homeless in UK with no mental ...

People who are trained to kill aren’t retrained in how to live peacefully.

Why Write Who Kills A Nudist?

Astonishingly, there are only five customs and excise patrol boats operating for the entire coast of the UK, so the chances of being caught are slim.

The spark for this story came from newspaper reports about human trafficking, with illegal immigrants freed from slave labour in Cornwall. Kept prisoner by intimidation, violence and threats against their families back home, they were working for pennies as prostitutes, nail technicians and agricultural labourers. Saddled with a debt for being brought into the country, they were the cheapest of labour, open to abuse, exploitation and being murdered.

About this time, there were arrests made of body-builders trading in smuggled steroids, cocaine and heroin. Cornwall’s rugged coastline is ideal for concealing smugglers, with its isolated coves and unlit beaches. Astonishingly, there are only five customs and excise patrol boats operating for the entire coast of the UK, so the chances of being caught are slim.

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Sadly, Cornwall’s beaches, pounded by powerful waves, encourage swimmers and surfers to take risks. It’s usually holidaymakers who drown, ignoring warnings, but locals perish too taking to the waters in winter, when lifeguard cover is absent. About 25 people drown annually, their bodies washed ashore to be found by beachcombers and dog walkers. It’s not always certain if it’s an accident, suicide or foul play.

There are a dozen nudist beaches in Cornwall, none of them official, more accepted practice through decades of naturism. In plotting Who Kills A Nudist? the inciting incident is the discovery of a seemingly drowned elderly naturist, a man who would have known better than to venture into a tempestuous ocean at night.

I wondered what would happen if such an innocent soul, a pensioner who did charity work, clashed with an evil man who cared only for money.

Such a character is all too common these days, with the 1% of plutocrats exploiting the poor to gain yet more wealth. Cornwall is a strange county, in that it’s beautiful and the playground of the rich, including Royalty and show business stars, yet it’s among the fifty poorest areas of Europe. Wages are low, employment patchy and seasonal, dependent on tourism. Holiday homes owned by agencies and second homes, used for a few weeks of the year, are a source of resentment from locals who’ve been priced out of the property market by incomers.

There are always plenty of multi-million pound mansions for sale in the county, with expensive hotels, spas and restaurants, as well as luxury car dealers. The antagonist of my story yearns for the trappings of prosperity, selling supercars and limousines for a living. He intimidates and controls a gang of underlings through the use of sadomasochistic sex, men who are in positions of power as law personnel, customs officers and importers of foreign goods. They assist him in smuggling weapons, drugs and people.

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The scene is set for a struggle between my protagonist Detective Chief Inspector Neil Kettle representing law and order, a simple man who wants to restore tranquillity to society, and my antagonist Rupert Mansard, a devious man who cares only for dominion over the weak and the poor and acquiring money to reinforce his ego.