A couple of months ago I took part in a blog tour for Fighting Monsters by Rebecca Bradley, the third book in her DI Hannah Robbins series. I’m delighted to welcome Rebecca back for her latest release Dead Blind, featuring DI Ray Patrick. It’s a fascinating story and I have the opening extract for you. But first, the blurb.
How do you identify a ruthless killer when you can’t even recognise your own face in mirror?
Returning to work following an accident, Detective Inspector Ray Patrick refuses to disclose he now lives with face blindness – an inability to recognise faces.
As Ray deceives his team, he is pulled into a police operation that targets an international trade in human organs. And when he attempts to bring the organisation down, Ray is witness to a savage murder.
But it’s a killer he will never remember.
The pressure mounts as Ray attempts to keep his secret and solve the case alone. With only his ex-wife as a confidant, he feels progressively isolated.
Can he escape with his career and his life intact?
St Andrew’s Church, climbing out of the ground towards the oppressive granite sky overhead, passed by on his left much faster than DI Ray Patrick would have liked.
Rain lashed down, slamming into the windshield, the wipers working hard to clear the way. Visibility close to non-existent.
The orange needle of the speedometer nosed around the clock and touched close to double the legal speed limit for the road.
‘This bastard is crazy,’ said DS Elaine Hart from the passenger seat.
‘You didn’t pick that up from behind the locked door?’ Ray asked.
‘Well …’ She laughed.
The glow from the street lights turned the evening darkness into a sepia-toned jumble of shapes which were fractured by the blue strobes emitted from the grille of the unmarked police car.
The road wasn’t particularly wide, and though it was late a trickle of traffic still crawled through the barrage of rain, as it always did, no matter what borough of London you were in, and Stoke Newington was no different. There were few pedestrians about, umbrellas pushed up against the onslaught, heads pulled down as far into collars as they’d go, but they stopped and stared as the two cars flew past them.
Ray needed all his senses about him. He was glad to have Elaine with him to update the control room and provide the running commentary. They could hear the location of their backup through their radios, so they knew an intercept was on the cards.
The Fabia they were following swerved and completed a wide overtake of the driver in front of him, who panicked as he heard the two-tone siren and saw the blues flash in his rear-view mirror. He stopped dead in the middle of the road. Ray swore. It was an all too common response. The sound and lights crashed into a driver’s brain, causing them to freeze up.
But Ray was ready; he pulled around the stationary car and kept his forward momentum.
‘Left left left onto West Bank,’ commentated Elaine as the blue Fabia skidded hard in that direction, its tyres squealing as the driver made the manoeuvre. She braced herself, one hand on the dashboard, for what she knew would come.
Ray slowed as much as he could and took the turn, feeling the back end of the car give from under them slightly. The late-summer day had ended in a massive downpour and conditions were poor for the sharp turn.
‘Shit.’ Elaine pushed her glasses back up the bridge of her nose. West Bank was filled with cars parked on both sides, and it was so narrow that it was only possible for one car to drive down at once. Terraced houses lined the left-hand side of the street and thick evergreen shrubs and trees lined the right.
The problem was the parked cars. A bead of sweat slid down Ray’s spine, pricking at his skin as it did so.
They’d been after this guy for the last six months and he’d finally slipped up. After he’d murdered his third victim it appeared that he might have got sloppy, or overconfident, or overexcited. A partial print had been found on the latest woman’s belt buckle. It wasn’t enough for a conviction as it could reasonably have belonged to someone she’d met before her murder. He could have had a plausible explanation, but the fact that they were now in a high-speed chase with him gave Ray reason enough to believe they had their man. All they needed to do was prove it once they had him locked up. As they chased him down, Ray knew the full forensic team was tearing his house apart, and he was confident they would find evidence of the crimes.
But, fucking hell, he drove like a bastard. He wanted him locked up and answering for what he’d done, not wrapped around a lamp-post or tree.
You would never have guessed there was a problem when he answered the door. You would have considered him the lover – but really, what does a killer look like? This guy looked like a stereotypical teacher. Late twenties, thick bouncy hair, dark-framed glasses and a V-neck Argyle jumper with open-neck shirt underneath. He looked smart, together in himself. He’d invited them in and put the kettle on. They were only there for a chat, after all. But before Ray knew it, the guy was out of the front door, having locked it behind him, and was away in his car.
They’d been locked in the flat. Inside! Now that was a new one. One he and Elaine would never live down. The rest of the team would give them hell about it. They’d had to break down a door – to get out.
Son of a bitch.
Now he was leading them a merry dance, and Ray didn’t like it. He didn’t like it one bit. His driving was reckless for the time of day and conditions. The rain was coming down in sheets, the windscreen wipers sliding at full speed. Ray lifted his foot off the gas slightly, gave him some room. ‘We’re not going to kill this guy tonight,’ he said to Elaine as the headlights splintered in the water through his windshield.
The car in front weaved through tight spots, cars parked too close together on opposite sides of the road. A wing mirror flew off, rose upwards before it crashed to the road.
‘Sounds good to me. Too much paperwork involved in that.’ She held on to the edge of her seat with one hand as she updated the control room as to their whereabouts and speed on a continual basis with the other.
The Fabia was pulling away, picking up speed. It started to swerve on the narrow road.
‘What the hell’s he trying to do?’
‘I don’t think he wants to talk to us,’ she answered.
‘Really? But we’re such nice people. I don’t see his problem.’ Ray dropped his speed again, 35 mph – the conditions were getting worse. Elaine updated control. Other cars were close by and would intercept shortly, all Ray had to do was keep his eyes on him.
Where the road became Holmdale Terrace the parked cars diminished and the road widened. The Fabia weaved about even more.
‘You think he watches too much television and thinks we’re going to ram him?’ asked Elaine.
‘What, 1970s television?’
‘Well, he’d get further if he stayed in a straight line.’
He was on the wrong side of the road again and a sharp left-hand bend was approaching.
‘Shit, is he going to pull back across?’ Ray dropped his speed a little more while the driver in front stayed on the wrong side of the road as he travelled the bend.
There was a burst of horns.
A squeal of tyres.
Metal scraped against metal.
Rain continued to slash down.
Then, directly in front of them, on the bend, another car, another driver, head turned to look at the lunatic he’d managed to avoid, the crazy driver who’d made this other guy correct to the wrong side of the road to avoid a head-on collision – and this second car was headed straight for them.
There was no time. Ray saw the hint of anger and frustration on the driver’s face, the relief that he wasn’t dead, as Elaine’s scream perforated his brain. The word brake flashed into his head with the scream.
Time was both stretched and over. Ray didn’t have the time to get the brake signal from his brain to his leg. The other driver barely had time to turn back and look in the direction his car was moving, moving on the wrong side of the road after it had swerved and missed one collision.
Elaine didn’t have the time to think of her children, but the image was seared into her pupils.
The sound of smashing, crushing, twisting metal could be heard through the driving rain by the approaching officers who were there to back up Ray and Elaine.
Well, what an opening! It’s obvious from the extract that DI Ray Patrick and DS Elaine Hart are involved in a terrible car accident. Now, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to tell you they both survive but are left with injuries that keep them off work for a while. Elaine has an obvious scar on her face but Ray has a brain injury that he keeps quiet. He no longer recognises people’s faces. And not just people he’s only met a few times but also the people he loves the most in the world – his children. He only feels able to tell his ex-wife about his condition. Scared he would lose his job, Ray doesn’t tell his colleagues. But how can he lead a team if he doesn’t even know them?
This is such an intriguing premise. I only found out about Prosopagnosia (face blindness) recently. My youngest child saw a programme about it on CBBC with a girl taking part in a study at Bournemouth University. I’d heard about super recognisers who never forget a face and the research at the University also looks at this. So how do people with face blindness identify others? Although we are most recognisable by our faces, we have other identifiers as well.
This is used to great effect in the book. DI Ray Patrick has to find other identifiers for his team – hairstyle, accent and in Elaine’s case, the scar on her face caused by the accident. Caused by him. The guilt he feels permeates his life. And the guilt is compounded when Ray witnesses a murder. Knowing he won’t be able to identify the killer, Ray is determined to find the necessary evidence, no matter the consequences. Rebecca Bradley skilfully writes the dilemmas that Ray faces and creates an almost claustrophobic atmosphere as Ray becomes more and more isolated from his team.
DI Ray Patrick is a uniquely flawed detective. I’m not sure if Rebecca has written this as a standalone or whether she plans a series but I for one would like to read more about DI Ray Patrick. Can he survive in the police force with this disability? You’ll have to read Dead Blind to find out.
Click here to buy Dead Blind.
About the author
Rebecca Bradley is a retired police detective and lives in Nottinghamshire with her family and her two cockapoo’s Alfie and Lola, who keep her company while she writes. Rebecca needs to drink copious amounts of tea to function throughout the day, and if she could she would survive on a diet of tea and cake.
You can find out more about Rebecca on her website, Twitter and Facebook by clicking on the links below.