Happy Tuesday everyone! Today I’m hosting the blog tour for Louise Burfitt-Dons’ The Killing of the CherryWood MP and with it, I’ve got an extract to entice you in!
Massive thanks to Sarah Hardy of Book On The Bright Side Publicity for inviting me on the blog tour.
The Killing of the Cherrywood MP is the brilliant second book in the lauded Karen Andersen political thriller series by Louise Burfitt-Dons. In this fast-paced and gripping novel P I Andersen is once again immersed in the world of radical extremism in Britain and about to learn it’s as complicated as it’s deadly.
‘Taut, hardboiled, detailed and funny. This is thriller excellence!’ Charlie Flowers
Jihadi brides return from Syria and deradicalised terrorists are released from prison. In reaction extremist right-wing groups proliferate across Europe. The Labour MP for Cherrywood is found murdered and police look for a lone wolf with a personal vendetta against ISIS.
P I Karen Andersen believes it’s not that simple. From the roulette tables of the Ritz to the respectable suburbs of Mainz, she searches for the truth. Does the home to one of Germany’s violent neo-Fascist cells hold the vital clue, or does it lie hidden in the leafy English countryside?
It was sometime around four in the afternoon on 12 September 2016. Two ISIS soldiers collected the hostage from his cell. In a private room, he came face to face with the chief captor. And his missus.
‘Answer these questions. My wife will ask them.’
A camcorder in the corner recorded the interview.
The wife was head to toe in black, with just her eyes uncovered, so the hostage couldn’t see what she looked like. She spoke in a hifalutin English accent when she said, ‘Hello Greg. My name is Basilah.’
Her voice reminded him of a presenter on the BBC Breakfast show. Kinda sexy. At long last, he’d met one of the infamous British Jihadi wives. Basilah from Bagshot.
He said nothing.
‘You need to give us answers so we can let your family know you are still alive.’
He searched her covered head for clues. A tremble of a smile. Maybe movement of the shoulders. Some positive body language. To ask and test on intimate detail was a standard technique used in kidnap negotiation. Yup. There was hope for his release. Bags of it.
‘Who was your tennis partner at school?’
‘What was your father’s job?’
‘Racing journalist for The Post.’
‘Who was born first? You or your twin?’
‘My twin. He’s older than me. And half an inch taller. And better looking.’
She laughed. Did she have a sense of humour? Could he build some rapport?
The husband showed him out of the airless chamber. Greg expected to return to the cramped housing he shared with twelve other western hostages. Perhaps beaten, or subjected to more waterboarding. Greg could take punishment. He’d accepted the treatment by now. The bullying games they played. Starved and threatened with beheading by one group, later handed on to another who fed them cake and boasted of freeing them.
So, what would happen next? Where would ISIS show this film? He knew the media wouldn’t get it unless ISIS allowed it. If the families disobeyed, they would murder a captive. Everything was stage-managed. These recruiting videos inspired hundreds of warriors from around the world.
As they led him away, he glimpsed at what appeared to be the storyboard they use in advertising. Or for creating film programmes. Two men poured over the plan of how the video would unfold. One raised his arm in complaint. The lighting was wrong. They argued in Arabic. What should be the next shot in sequence? They flipped the page. He saw a cartoon character bent double and bowing with a black-clad figure standing over, wielding a knife.
Realisation dawned. His eyes bulged at the sight of it. Surely not him. Wasn’t he about to be set free?
Outside, a truck pulled up. The husband shoved him towards the back, as wifey, Basilah, looked on. She’d done her job. Two of Greg’s comrades were already inside. Their tense posture and silence did the rest; told him they were all about to die. The door slammed. Chief got in upfront and the vehicle shot off into the desert. When it stopped, four fighters undid their shackles and dragged them one by one down onto the hard, caked sand.
‘Put these on. Please.’
It was after they’d fitted orange jumpsuits that their captors retied their hands behind their backs. That’s when Chiefy introduced the nice guys who would behead ‘the infidels’.
The three killers could have been actors from Hollywood’s Central Casting. Tall, muscular. One from France, the other from Belgium. And a ‘Brummie’. Keen as mustard for the moment that would transform them into social media heroes like ‘Jihadi John’. Executioners’ photos made great avatars on Twitter.
No doubt they would clean themselves up during the process. Cut off their heads and immediately afterwards scrub up. Back on camera for the post-execution scenes. He’d seen so many of the videos and there was never any blood splatter. The bastards loved showing their prisoners these little movies.
Thirty-five-year-old CEO of Gibb Construction was the first to be forced to his knees. Sand looks soft but it can be harder than rock. Like his stomach. His mouth was as if he’d been sucking on a rusty can.
Not now. Not now. It can’t end this way.
A sweet, dusty earthiness filled his nostrils. He recalled a construction site after the rain.
I can cope. But how will Dad?
His teeth locked solid. How long would this hell go on for? The engineer from Birmingham did his best. But Greg Gibb was a big guy. It took several goes to sever the head off the gentle giant, who his father had once nicknamed Midnight, after a winning horse. The smell of fresh blood wafted across the desert.
They spared the others. ‘Maybe tomorrow for you. Inshallah.’
Glen Gibb attempted to sleep. But it was useless. It was still two hours until dawn on 10 April 2019.
Over a hundred minutes more to stare at the walls of the claustrophobic basement. Sweating into the sheets. The video of his twin brother’s last moments played over and over in his mind. He couldn’t stop them.
Why Greg? It shouldn’t have been him. It should’ve been me.
He had to break the tide. Stem the flow of images. It wasn’t good for him. Look what happened to his father. The news of his favourite son’s death drove the horse-mad Garth to an early grave too. To down his hundredth bottle of bourbon and crumple up with heart pains. Good riddance. But Greg deserved better than a brutal passing. That’s why it should have been Glen in Greg’s place.
Garth’s nicknames were apt. Midnight was the winner. Also Ran was the loser. The dodger. The one Dad belted when he’d drunk too much. The one Midnight protected when Dad belted Also Ran when he was off his face.
It should have been Also Ran. When he’d read about the girl from Syria, it’d set things off again. Why should she be let back into the UK? Had Midnight come back? The news sparked it all up again. The horror. The guilt. Why not Also Ran?
The longer he tossed and turned, the more preoccupied he got with revenge.
A female white recruit to the Islamic State had witnessed Greg’s last moments. Taunted him before the execution. Asked him about his twin. ‘He’s older than me. And half an inch taller. And better looking.’
What was she called? Basilah? One day he’d find her, and she would also pay.
Along with all the other Jihadi brides who were hiding in obscurity. He would shame them. Rattle their perfect worlds.
Humiliate them on the internet as ISIS had done to Greg. Like he’d done to Tessa Clark.
The race was on!
Who Is Louise Burfitt-Dons?
Louise Burfitt-Dons was first introduced to the idea of writing conspiracy fiction on meeting Ian Fleming when he visited her birth country of Kuwait in 1960 and befriended her father. Fast forward forty years to her founding the children’s charity Act Against Bullying in 2000. This had her advising police on the manipulation and cover up tactics of young people, girl gangs and junior cyber stalkers. She believes these are the same devices used by political parties, spies and crooks. They form the background to her thriller stories.
Her first novel (June 5 2018) The Missing Activist (New Century) was the first in a series starring off the wall P I Karen Andersen. The plot was inspired by her experiences as a Parliamentary candidate in the UK General Election of 2015. Sequel The Killing of the Cherrywood MP was published on March 18 2020. She is currently working on book three in the Karen Andersen series.
Louise is also a screenwriter who has worked with producers in the UK and the US. Recent films screened on TV include Mother of All Secrets (2018), The Ex Next Door (2019, LifeTime) and Fame at a Deadly Cost (LifeTime 2020). Not all her work has a dark tone. She loves British comedy and wrote the rom-com Christmas in the Highlands (2019) for Triventure Productions which has also made it on to the international television circuits.
She now lives in Chiswick, West London with her ex-pilot husband Donald. She has two grown up daughters and a seven-month year old granddaughter Dempsie Lee Williams.