Monday, 2 July 2018

The Red Hand of Fury by R. N. Morris

Title: The Red Hand of Fury
Author: R. N. Morris
Genre: Historical crime/mystery
Publication Date: 1st July 2018

London, June 1914. A young man is mauled to death at London Zoo after deliberately climbing into the bear pit. Shortly afterwards, another young man leaps to his death from the notorious Suicide Bridge. Two seemingly unconnected deaths – and yet there are similarities.

Following a third attempted suicide, Detective Inspector Silas Quinn knows he must uncover the link between the three men if he is to discover what caused them to take their own lives. The one tangible piece of evidence is a card found in each of the victims’ possession, depicting a crudely-drawn red hand. What does it signify? To find the answers, Quinn must revisit his own dark past. But can he keep his sanity in the process …?


The investigation at the heart of The Red Hand Of Fury is sparked by the bizarre deaths of three young men. In this extract we meet Cedric, a former inmate of Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum. Cedric is standing on Archway Bridge in North London, commonly known as Suicide Bridge. It’s night time and he’s looking down on the road below. He mistakes the moving headlights of the cars for shooting stars, which makes him believe that he has risen to a high place above the universe.

      He was sixteen when he heard the first voice. He wondered if it was God, speaking to him directly at last. But the voice put him right on that.
      ‘Don’t be fucking stupid.’
      More voices came to join the first. The voices of a tree, a squirrel, a lamppost, countless strangers, and even notable figures from the newspapers. But all of them steadfastly refused to be identified as God.
      The voices were not always with him. When they were, it was terrifying. They drowned out his own thoughts and urged him to do things he didn’t want to do.
      But sometimes it was worse when they were silent. He always had the sense that perhaps they were still there with him, watching him silently, storing up information that they could use against him. They always knew his most humiliating secrets. Or if they had gone away, it was only to plot some fresh evil with which to torment him on their return.
      He always knew they would be back.
      He could invariably feel their impending return. Almost smell it. Cedric would feel the approach of the voices in a build-up of pressure in his head. That pressure would spread throughout his whole body. At some point he would realize that the pressure consisted of them – a chorus of voices, first whispering, then rising to a clamour of competing malice.
      He made his first suicide attempt at nineteen. His admission to Colney Hatch came soon after that.
      It was there that he met Dr Leaming. Dr Leaming had told him that the voices were nothing to be afraid of. They were not external entities – not the things they pretended to be, still less demons who possessed him. They were part of him. He created them. They were nothing other than his own thoughts, to which he had given a separate identity, because of their unwelcome nature. But they were not his enemies. They did not mean him harm at all.
      He simply had to learn how to control them. And the way to do that, according to Dr Leaming, was to engage with them. To talk to them, in other words.
      But every discussion he tried to initiate with his voices ended with their screaming vile abuse at him, until he gave in and agreed to do whatever they commanded. His voices always won.
      And after his voices finally coaxed him on to the top of the East Wing tower (from which he had to be forcibly removed before he had a chance to obey the rest of their instructions and throw himself off), Dr Leaming was directed to consider a different therapeutic approach.
      Cedric tried to remember how he had got from Colney Hatch to a place where he could look down on shooting stars. They must have let him out of the asylum. He had no memory of that. Perhaps he was cured. It was certainly a long time since he had heard the voices. Yet he could not believe he was free of them.
      He could not say how long he had been walking the streets of north London. At some point, the blackness at the edge of the universe had come down and possessed the city. Somehow it must have acted as a bridge, bringing him to this unexpected vantage point. It was a blackness so thick you could walk upon it.
      As the stars passed beneath him, disappearing under the bridge of blackness, he felt it: that brimming of pressure in his head that normally presaged the return of his voices. But instead of the voices, he found that he could hear the thoughts of the stars beneath him. Being stars, their thoughts were not verbal. They consisted of a clanging, clashing stridency.
      A chill went through him. He had believed the stars to be neutral to the affairs of men. So far above the Earth were they, that it was absurd to think they concerned themselves with anything mundane. And yet, hearing that sound left him in no doubt of their concentrated malevolence towards humans. Were they gathering their forces for some kind of attack? It could not be ruled out.
      Cedric realized that he had been brought to this place for a reason. No man had ever come so close to the stars. No man before him had ever been granted access to their thoughts. It was up to him to stop them.
      The only weapon he had against them was his humanity. He must find a way to wield it.
      The stars must have discovered his intentions. They were closing in on him now. They shot by behind him, their angry thoughts a deafening roar.
      But he was not afraid. And the way to defeat them, he realized, was to show them that he was not afraid.
      He stripped away his clothes and dropped them into the blackness. Then he climbed upon a parapet that ran along the bridge that had brought him here.
      The cold wind that blew at the end of the universe caused all the hairs on his body to stand on end. He swayed for a moment in the wind, then leant into it. The universe took over, pulling him towards the shooting stars below.

Author Bio:

R. N. Morris is the author of eight historical crime novels. His first, A Gentle Axe, was published by Faber and Faber in 2007. Set in St Petersburg in the nineteenth century, it features Porfiry Petrovich, the investigating magistrate from Dostoevsky’s great novel, Crime and Punishment. The book was published in many countries, including Russia. He followed that up with A Vengeful Longing, which was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger. A Razor Wrapped in Silk came next, followed by The Cleansing Flames, which was nominated for the Ellis Peters Historical Novel Dagger. The Silas Quinn series of novels, set in London in 1914, began with Summon Up The Blood, followed by The Mannequin HouseThe Dark Palace and now The Red Hand of Fury.

Taking Comfort is a standalone contemporary novel, written as Roger Morris. He also wrote the libretto to the opera When The Flame Dies, composed by Ed Hughes.

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