Happy Monday everyone! I’m delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Cath Staincliffe’s Quiet Acts Of Violence today and I’ve got an enticing extract to whet your literary appetite!
Huge thanks to the author for inviting me on the blog tour!
Family and betrayal, injustice and poverty, the ties that bind and those that break us…Quiet Acts of Violence is a crime novel for our times.
A dead baby. A missing mother. A cradle of secrets. Has the woman killed her child? Is she at risk to herself? Someone in the neighbourhood of old terraced streets has the answers. But detectives Donna Bell and Jade Bradshaw find lies and obstruction at every turn, in a community living on the edge, ground down by austerity and no hope. A place of broken dreams. Of desperation. And murder.
When a stranger crashes into Jade’s life, her past comes hurtling back, threatening to destroy her and the world she has carved out for herself.
Donna struggles to juggle everything: work, marriage, kids. It’s a precarious balancing act, and the rug is about to be pulled from under her..
Jade was buzzing, little shocks and fizzes of adrenalin sparking through her blood. Always the way when they were called to a death. The end of everything for somebody. The start of something for Jade.
She joined the boss, DI Donna Bell, in the line of figures ranged along the cordon. All attention was focused on an industrial-sized bin sited at the near end of the alley, which ran between the backs of two rows of terraced houses to the railway line across the bottom.
The terraces had small backyards and the alley served as access for people to get bikes and bins up and down. Handy for drug- dealing, and burglaries too, out of sight. In some areas of the city the alleys were gated now, while other residents agitated for barriers to be installed.
In the dark, hastily erected floodlights illuminated the container and the area around. The white radiance was punctuated by flashes of red and blue light from the stationary patrol cars. The bin was about five feet by four. The sort of thing that looked like a big chest on wheels with a roll-over top. Painted offal red, the name of the firm on the side. CleanSolve. Beneath that, General Waste. A mobilephone number.
A gust of wind, warm for October, sent scraps of litter around the bin scattering in a spiral. Plastic coffee lids, cigarette packets, polystyrene food trays.
Jade zipped up her leather jacket: she could do without it flapping about.
The boss held her hand over her hair, which was flying in her eyes. Jade kept hers short, these days ‒ saved so much bother.
She could smell onions, spices and fat lingering from the takeaways dotted along the road. Woodsmoke too: a bonfire, maybe, or someone with a log-burning stove.
Passing traffic on the main road slowed to gawp at the clutch of police vehicles and the forensics team, in their protective overalls, photographing the scene.
A freight train clackety-clacked over the tracks at the end of the street, about level with the upstairs storeys of the houses.
‘It was found in the bin?’ Jade asked the boss.
‘Yes. A baby girl.’ The boss gave a little shake of her head. ‘In a bin bag,’ she added.
‘The mother?’ With an infant, the mother was always top of the list for those-most-likely-to.
Jade stepped back to take in the area. To the left of the scene were a fried chicken shop, a nail bar and two curry houses (one of which used to do a decent tikka masala). To the right a Super Saver, a lettings agency and a minimarket.
On the opposite side of the road more of the same, shuffled into a different order: takeaways, nail bar, betting shop, barber, shisha lounge.
Two cars drove past, heading north towards the city at excessive speed, exhausts roaring, not deterred by the police presence.
One of the children’s homes Jade had lived in was along there, further towards Stockport. One of the first places. Just a fistful of images in her head: a Barbie duvet cover (Barbie FFS); a swing hung from a tree in the garden, an orange plastic disc with a rope going through the middle; Jade hurling the swing at the girl who whispered, ‘Paki,’ each time she passed Jade, and feeling a burst of triumph when the girl’s nose dripped blood; a day trip to some forest where the mist hung between tall, spindly trees with black trunks and spiky needles, like some horror-movie set.
She shook away the thoughts. ‘Whose bin?’
‘Shared by the Chuckie Chicken and the Super Saver.’ The boss gestured to the two businesses immediately to the left and right of the alley, one on the corner with Rosa Street, the other on Grace Street. Both premises had at one time been family homes. ‘Mr Siddique runs the Chuckie Chicken. He says there’s always people dumping their stuff in the bin.’
Jade looked up to the corners of the roofs, the chicken joint, the Super Saver. No CCTV cameras pointed in this direction.
There were fewer gawkers than usual. Perhaps because it was close to midnight, people tucked up in bed. And none of the residents down these two side streets would be able to see the activity at the end of their road without coming out of their houses. She surveyed the onlookers. Mixed bunch, young and old, white and Asian; one looked mixed race, like she was. Eyes wide, like this was the best thing she’d seen all year.
‘Any witnesses here?’ Jade asked the boss.
‘No one so far. We’ll be knocking on doors tomorrow but none of this lot claims to have seen anything. We’ve taken names and addresses anyhow.’ Hoovering up information, because who knew what might be useful in days to come?
‘Could be someone passing?’ Jade said. ‘Opportunistic. They saw the bin.’
‘They already had the child in the bin bag?’ the boss said.
‘No filming!’ one of the uniformed officers shouted, sounding cranky, as if she’d already had to repeat it a few times. Citizen journalists were a mixed blessing. Mobile-phone footage was often crucial in documenting crimes and identifying perpetrators. But filming during an investigation could cause problems down the line when the case came to court. Material detrimental to a fair trial.
‘Anthea?’ The boss called over the crime-scene manager. When she drew close the boss said, ‘Can we do a complete lift and load?’ nodding to the bin.
‘Yes, of course. And, Donna, I asked someone to recover the child, the bag and contents from the station and transfer them to the mortuary,’ Anthea said quietly.
‘We’re off to the station now.’ The boss glanced at Jade. ‘Interview the witness.’
It was a woman who had found the newborn baby’s body in the bin and taken it to the police station.
Jade wondered why she’d done that instead of calling them out. Didn’t she know that she’d have messed up all sorts of evidence by moving stuff? Maybe it was her kid. And she’d hurt it, or it had been stillborn, and she was making up stories.
Time to find out.
Who Is Cath Staincliffe?
Cath Staincliffe is an award-winning novelist, radio playwright and creator of ITV’s hit series Blue Murder. Cath’s books have been shortlisted for the CWA Best First Novel award. She was joint winner of the CWA Short Story Dagger in 2012. Letters To My Daughter’s Killer was selected for the Specsavers Crime Thriller Book Club on ITV3 in 2014. Cath also writes the Scott & Bailey books based on the popular ITV series. She lives with her family in Manchester.