• J.F. Burgess

The Death of Innocence: A heart wrenching, twisting British murder mystery crime thriller

Detective Tom Blake Book 5


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A secret so deadly, no one is safe. READ the Prologue and Chapter 1 below... When controversial journalist Rosalyn French is captured on CCTV stumbling barefoot around a multi-storey car park after her laptop is stolen, Detective Inspector Tom Blake is called in to investigate. Twenty-four hours later, her apartment is found ransacked and her body discovered floating face down in a canal. Rosalyn has been secretly meeting with a world-renowned scientist from a powerful pharma company. Were they having an affair – or is something much darker going on? When the scientist is found dead in his lab with a knife clenched in his hand and Famacoxin kills carved into his desk, DI Blake must ask himself: is this smear of a groundbreaking children's cancer drug, funded by millions in research dollars, covering up far more sinister deeds? The trail leads Blake and Interpol agent Olivia Kamberi across Europe to a corrupt Albanian town with Mafia connections. Could they be on the brink of uncovering a WWII atrocity that still affects the lives of the world’s forgotten children today? Will they be in time to discover a horrifying truth, and protect more innocent children from murder, before the powerful forces they hunt silence them forever? Set in gritty industrial Stoke and the hauntingly beautiful mountains of southern Albania, this British detective novel is a breathtaking, character-driven murder mystery that will keep you hooked until the final shocking twist.

Perfect for fans of J.D. Kirk, J.M. Dalgliesh, Angela Marsons, Simon McCleave and Mel Sherratt. What readers are saying about the Detective Tom Blake series:


⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ '5.0 out of 5 stars. Lots of action and shocking twists in a case of epic proportions for Blake and Murphy. The Word Is Out - Alyson's Reviews.


⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 'Great reads with many twists and turns.' Author Elliot Fassbinder

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 'J F Burgess knows how to keep his readers hooked right until the end.' Goodreads

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 'I really like the way Mr Burgess tells a story.' Goodreads

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 'J.F. Burgess writes with confidence and a distinctive style.' Alex Black


MEET THE DETECTIVES


Tom Blake is a forty-six-old widowed detective inspector. His wife and ten-year-old son were tragically killed in a fatal hit and run car crash ten years ago. He was driving at the time and his daughter Isabel was also in the car - they both miraculously escaped with minor cuts and bruises, but he still suffers from emotional flashbacks and neck pain. His team never caught the joyrider who killed his family and he vows to bring the perpetrator to justice one day.


Olivia Kamberi is a forty-year-old Interpol agent based in Tirana, Albania. She's a tough single lady used to fighting organised crime in the Balkans. Will this deadly case finally bring her closer to finding happiness or push her toward something far more dangerous?


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PROLOGUE

Albania, 1935



Twenty-two-year-old Rosemarie Ostfeld clung to her twin sister, Hanna, amidst the turmoil of the selection platform at Delvinë station. Before arriving in southern Albania, they’d been forced into a filthy train car on a traumatic journey from Tirana.

A menacing Nazi soldier dressed in black paced the platform and barked out orders in German as hundreds of people cowered in a long line.

Without warning, the SS guard halted in front of the two women. ‘You twins?’ he asked.

Petrified, they glared at the two lightning strikes on his lapel collar and nodded.

The guard retrieved his Luger from its holster and, waving the pistol, he ushered them out of the line. ‘Move forward.’

In that fateful moment, the identical young women’s lives changed forever. As they were led away, Rosemarie shot an anxious glance at the crowd of unsuspecting Jewish men, women and children waiting on the platform.

Outside the station, Rosemarie and Hanna were ushered to a bench and told to wait for Doctor Otmar Hesslor to check them over. The sisters stared at the skilfully painted advertisement on the side of a green Citroen H van parked close by: a mother dispensing medicine to two Aryan-looking children from a brown glass bottle. Above it were the words: “AvtoritetPhrama World Famed Blood Tincture."

Rosemarie and Hanna Ostfeld had been cruelly drafted into the most inhumane medical experiment the world would ever see: a programme aimed at annihilating an entire generation.




CHAPTER 1

9 June 2021



The corpse had floated undetected downstream toward Stoke’s premier Victorian park situated on the edge of the city centre. The Trent and Mersey Canal had swollen due to heavy overnight rain and now rushed down a deep concrete overflow inlet on the towpath. The moss and algae-covered banks were treacherous and slippery. Anyone who fell in wouldn’t have stood a chance.

The steady current that flowed after the locks opened had left the corpse entangled in a ragged mooring rope loop attached to a cast-iron bitt bollard which was fixed to sandstone blocks edging the canal.

Thunderous clouds loomed in the distance, their gunmetal greys blending like an artist’s tonal pallet.

Standing twenty-five metres apart, Detective Inspector Tom Blake and his trusty Detective Sergeant, John Murphy, attached crime scene tape to the hawthorn hedge bordering the towpath, then connected the other ends to two rusty bolts protruding from a length of oak buffering the sandstone blocks.

Standing within the cordon, they watched a soup of leaves, fallen branches, plastic bottles and other debris trundle by as the face-down body swayed gently in the current.

‘Question is – did she fall in or was she pushed?’ Blake said turning to Murphy.

‘Forensics on their way, I take it?’

‘They’ll be here any minute. Can you meet the pathologist on the bridge that runs over the canal just down from the old Twyford’s factory? That’s probably the closest entrance for him,’ Blake said glaring at the woman's body, thinking her lengthy locks of orange-brown hair and camel leather jacket looked strangely familiar.

‘Know where you mean, it’s about two-hundred yards that way. On it, Tom,’ Murphy said heading down the towpath with his phone in his right hand.


****


‘This is a strange turn up. Initial thoughts, Inspector?’ CSI Jeff Foxhall said laying his silver toolbox on the sandstone edging.

‘We were speculating whether she fell or was pushed.’

‘Not easy to discern that. Are there any signs of a struggle nearby?’ Foxhall asked.

‘Nothing obvious. Whether that will change after a full forensic sweep is a different story,’ Blake said.

Fifteen minutes later, pathologist Felix Wimberley Smithson arrived, puffing like a steam train from his exertions. DS Murphy was holding his instrument bag.

‘Crikey, I didn’t think I was this out of shape. I’ll have to get the Mrs to force feed me lettuce for a week or two,’ Smithson said tapping the paunch of his belly.

‘Wellies are useless for jogging,’ Blake said smirking and thinking his DS should have made Smithson aware before they got onto the towpath.

‘Noted. DS Murphy informs me we’ve got a floater. Is the police boat on its way, Inspector?’

‘Command have just told me a Marine Support Unit will be with us in the next ten minutes.’

‘Damn good job really. It’d be problematic bringing a gurney down this bloody towpath, especially if one of those idiots in Lycra is pelting along on an expensive mountain bike. Those things ought to carry a health warning!’

Murphy agreed. He couldn’t stand the way those cyclists thought they owned the towpaths.

‘Anyway, let’s have a look.’ Smithson knelt at the canal edge and peered down at the body. ‘Hm, tough one this. Until we have her out of the water and up on the side, I can’t tell you anything. You suspect foul play or…?’

‘Jogger called the station early this morning. Gave him the fright of his life, but that’s about it at the minute. There’s been no Misper reports so far today,’ Blake said. He could hear the outboard motor of Marine Support approaching.

The police boat, manned by three divers, arrived. The guy steering killed the motor and quickly moored up close to the body.

‘More of dingy than a boat, eh, Inspector?’ Smithson said sarcastically.

After checking there wasn’t any evidence in the water surrounding the body, two police divers turned the woman’s body and slipped a collapsible orange stretcher under her before hoisting her onto the towpath.

‘OK, let’s have gander at her face,’ Smithson said opening his bag. ‘It’s distended, which is to be expected if she’s been in the water more than a few hours.’ He placed a thermometer strip on her forehead and one on her neck. ‘Unfortunately, the cold water will have cooled her ambient body temp very quickly, making it difficult to ascertain time of death.’

'Do you think she could have drowned?’ Blake asked.

‘Again, hard to say. Cardiac arrest can occur when a person is exposed to cold water suddenly: you know, cold water shock. That can be caused by vagal inhibition when water floods the larynx and ear channels, incapacitating a person and leading to their death, especially if they’re smashed on drink or illicit substances.’

‘So drowning is likely?’ Blake asked.

‘Not necessarily; remember the diatoms in the Alyson Glover drowning case, Tom? Smithson said, jogging his memory.

‘Ah, of course, algae ingested into the stomach and airways.’

‘So we won’t know until after the PM?’ DS Murphy said.

‘Exactly, Sergeant. I’ve got a sample of the water so we’ll be able to rule drowning in or out once she’s up on the slab. For now, best if we get her on that dingy and then into a private ambulance heading up to my lab.’

‘Not before we’ve given her the once-over for ID,’ Foxhall interjected.

‘Oh course, Jeff.’ Blake said.

Sadly, other than a short brown leather jacket, a denim summer skirt and kitten heels, the CSI found nothing on her body: not even an item of jewellery.


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