Just a quick note to inform you that Book 1 in my gripping new Detective Jessica Ryan Series is OUT NOW, and it's only 99p/99c to buy or can be read for FREE through a Kindle Unlimited subscription.
To whet your appetite, I've published the back cover blurb and an exclusive peak at the first two chapters of Killer on the Peaks: A twisting British murder mystery (Detective Jessica Ryan Peak District Crime Thriller Book 1) below...
He watches. He waits, until they are alone.
In the historic Staffordshire market town of Leek, Detective Jessica Ryan, a resilient single mother of two kids, faces life's challenges. It's taken four years to rebuild her family after her husband Darren suspiciously disappeared whilst working undercover for the National Crime Agency.
But when a body is discovered at the picturesque Three Shires Head, troubling memories resurface. A wealthy property developer’s murder shakes the popular walker's haven, thrusting Jessica into an intense investigation that may have links to her husband and organized crime.
Things escalate when a local councilor with a dubious reputation is found hanged at another popular walker’s destination, Lud's Church.
As Jess unravels hidden motives and fractured relationships, more tragedy strikes her life when her teenage daughter Madeleine vanishes. Is there a link between her abduction, her husband's disappearance, and the two disturbing murders?
Jessica confronts her inner demons while navigating the barren Peak District moors.
Set against the stunning but treacherous landscape, this twisting crime thriller pushes Jess to her limits. Racing against time, she must unveil a cunning killer and save her daughter from a fate darker than nightmares.
WHAT ADVANCED READERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE GRIPPING DI JESSICA RYAN SERIES:
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 'Compelling read! Intense and well-written narrative, with great characters! This book will stay with you for a long time, don't miss it!' Goodreads
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 'Jon Burgess writes a really great book, all elements needed are here and it’s a great start to a new series set in a beautiful yet now tainted part of the Country.' Goodreads
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 'Please tell me you have finished the next one! Loved it!' Lisa Morris Horton. Facebook Reader
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 'Another fast-paced and gripping read. Great to see it being born.' Christine Johnson
Tuesday 8th July 2022
Alice Westbrook parked her black Audi Q3 on the gravel layby at the top of a narrow lane that snaked through the Staffordshire Moorland Peaks, three and a half miles outside the largest town in the Staffordshire Moorlands, Leek. Despite growing up in Stoke until she was seventeen, this was her first trip to the Peak District and its hauntingly beautiful scenery and walks, which had left an impression on her and her partner; the highlights being the glorious Dovedale Valley, Lud’s Church and Three Shires Heads where the counties of Staffordshire, Cheshire and Derbyshire merge into a collection of picture-postcard pools on the River Dane.
She’d skinny-dipped with her hiking partner and stayed until late with a cheeky fire which they roasted potatoes on. All in all, the trip had been a mind-blowing break from the overcrowded, crime-riddled city of London where, like Dick Whittington, she’d gone to seek her fortune twenty-two years ago on the evening Big Ben chimed in the millennium.
Tomorrow, they’d be heading back down the M6 to her opulent eight-million-pound waterfront apartment in Chelsea and her partner Gabriella was still shattered from yesterday’s hike over Axe Edge Moor. At 5 a.m. Alice kissed her forehead, left her a note and slipped away from the two-bedroom stone cottage with stunning views of the heather-clad moorland and high rocky outcrops, aiming to beat the crowds down to the chasm, Lud's Church, a place with a haunting history: a place they’d sensed a presence at only four days earlier. Alice felt compelled to revisit to check they both weren’t experiencing FOP – a feeling of a presence – after reading about the secret religious ceremonies that took place there in the fifteenth century. Then she planned to continue on to the idyllic Three Shires Head in a gruelling thirteen-mile walk with the assistance of her Garmin hand-held sat-nav.
As she’d hoped, her early morning descent through the gorse and ankle-twisting gritstone rocks down towards Lud’s Church had been one of solitude. After passing through Back Forest, she descended the five-hundred-year-old stone steps into the boggy depths of the chasm, following the path of the fifteenth-century Lollard dissenters who held religious meetings there to escape persecution from the Roman Catholic Church after denouncing it as corrupt. A history she found both disturbing and fascinating.
A few feet into the partially dried mud, she felt the presence again: a cold sensation creeping over her shoulders and neck. The sudden sound of a blackbird taking flight from a branch high above on the damp rock face startled her. She spun around nervously.
‘Stop it, you silly woman’, she uttered under her breath reassuringly.
She continued to walk slowly, eyeing the strange surroundings more closely than on her first visit with Gabrielle. Barely more than an arm’s width apart, the narrow moss-covered gritstone rocks towered over her lithe, five-seven height and snaked before her like a ghostly labyrinth in a gothic horror film, the daylight changing with each twist and turn.
As she reached the widest part, a fist-sized rock dropped from nowhere and landed on the mud in front of her.
Frozen to the spot, Alice called out, ‘Hello, is anyone there?’
But there was no reply.
She unclipped the chest strap of her rucksack, slipped it off her shoulders, and lay it on a large rock. Stealthily, she moved forward and peered around the rock face, her breath catching in her throat. Nothing: the rock must have fallen naturally, one of nature’s less than subtle movements.
Three and half hours later, at 11.30 a.m., Alice reached Three Shires Head. Sitting on the rocks facing Panniers Pool Bridge, she removed her boots and socks and dipped her aching ankles into the freezing water. Surprisingly, there was only one other walker mulling about. She turned, grabbed her rucksack, opened the main zip compartment and fished out her sandwiches before she realised the walker was now behind her.
‘It’s so beautiful here, isn’t it?’ Alice said, craning her neck.
‘Savour the moment. It’s the last thing you’ll see, you fucking parasite.’
Her sandwich dropped into the water as the climbing rope tightened around her throat. Unable to exit her mouth, a suppressed scream trapped in her throat. Clawing at the black-and-yellow woven nylon, her manicured nails desperately tried to gain a hold, but it was futile: the killer was too strong. Starved of oxygen, her body became limp; capillaries burst, turning the whites of her eyes blood red.
Alice Westbrook died with only God and the killer as witnesses.
‘Benji, get a move on, son. Your eggs are going cold. Grandpa’s taking you trekking,’ Detective Inspector Jessica Ryan stood in the hallway of their self-built eco-barn house just off the A53 a mile and a half from Ramshaw Rocks. The black-larch-clad structure had taken her and her husband Darren just twelve-weeks to erect with the help of her dad. That all seemed a distant memory now since Darren’s disappearance while working an undercover drugs assignment for Staffordshire Constabulary. He’d warned his boss that after twelve months they needed to move swiftly on a notorious Stoke-based gang of drug dealers and people traffickers. But, after vital forensic evidence mysteriously went missing before it could be logged and backed up to the police central database, the case against the gang fell apart.
Unlike his sister, who’d stay in bed all day, Jessica’s twelve-year-old son was up before eight every day. Benji bowled down the hallway into the kitchen, scraped his chair noisily and tucked into his poached eggs on toast with gusto.
‘You want sauce?’
‘Brown,’ he said, waving his knife in the air like a sword.
‘Better. You had a wash yet?’
Pulling his face, the lad shook his head.
‘You’re supposed to do that before you get dressed, kid,’ Jess smirked.
‘Gramps says boys don’t smell until they hit fourteen.’
‘Ha, is that right? What about your teeth?’
‘Gramps says I gotta do them morning and night, religiously.’ Benji grinned to show off his sparkling pegs encrusted with chewed egg and toast.
‘Seems the old man’s got you sorted out. Anything else he says?’
‘Er, yeah. When women nag us, we gotta nod our heads and let them think they are getting their own way.’
Jess couldn’t help but laugh. ‘He did, did he? I think I need a word with Gramps.’
‘I’ve finished, can I go now?’
‘Blimey, that was quick. What about your rucksack?’
‘It’s round Gramps’ all packed up.’
‘Where you off today then?’
‘Thor’s Cave to see Fiddling Hob Hurst.’
Jess shot him a puzzled look. ‘What in Hell’s name is Fiddling Hob Hurst?’
‘He’s a headless horseman.’
‘I think Gramps is pulling your leg.’
Standing, Benji protested. ‘No, he’s a legend, honestly, you can check on the internet.’
Jess glanced at her Fitbit watch: time to head off to the station. ‘I’ll take your word for it. Have a great day and keep safe,’ she said, wrapping her arms around him and kissing the top of his head. He was growing up fast and she hoped he’d become a lovely teenager with the values she and her father had instilled in him since he could walk.
Driving along the A53 Buxton road, nine-hundred feet above sea level, Jess glanced out of the windscreen at the calming influence of the barren moorland landscape spread out to her left like an evergreen sea. To her right, beyond the imposing rock face known locally as the Roaches, nestled Flash, the highest village in England at 1,514 feet above sea level.
In olden times, the remote village was known for hawkers who squatted on the open moorlands nearby and travelled from village to village, selling goods. Flash also had a reputation as a wild place where counterfeit money was made, and prizefighting held despite it being illegal. Due to draconian county laws and its proximity to three county boundaries, illegal activity had been rife, and blaggers and crooks simply walked the short distance into another county to evade arrest.
From steep limestone dales and gritstone peaks, ascending into low-lying clouds, to dramatic moorlands and crystal-clear rivers chocked full with barbel, chub and trout, the Southern Peak District National Park spanned three counties and offered a unique playground to lone walkers, climbers and families seeking to bathe in some of the UK’s most spectacular scenery.
Despite living in an area with a border spanning one hundred and eighty-eight miles, for most of her adult life, it never ceased to surprise Jess that the Peak District often played second fiddle to its more northern counterpart, The Lake District.
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