The Mail on Sunday's Thriller of the Week

'Brilliant! A fast-paced page turner. You won't be able to put it down!'  www.goodreads.com         


When a frozen corpse is found in the Greenland ice, forensic archaeologist Jack Raven is hired to investigate. He is suspicious from the outset. The corpse is not only naked, but in an absolutely pristine state. 

The body belongs to an American serviceman named Ferris Clark, or so Jack is told. But as he unravels the mystery of Ferris's final hours, he discovers a far more sinister story. He also finds himself caught in a race against time. There is a murderer on the loose and Jack alone can stop the killings. But first he must solve the greatest mystery of all.

How did Ferris Clark die? And why?

The Perfect Corpse is available from Amazon|Waterstones|Foyles| Blackwells| WHSmith|For American readers, click here.





PROLOGUE

GREENLAND, JUNE, 1944

Ferris Clark had grown so used to solitude that he no longer realised when he was talking to himself. Even now, as he stared blankly out of the window, he was only dimly aware of the voice in his head.

Only thirteen more days, Ferris, and then you’re off for a month. A whole goddam month!

The isolation had preyed on his mind at first. Here he was, six hundred miles from nowhere, his pre-fab cabin anchored with wires to a lonely outcrop of icy-rock. What if he fell into a crevasse? What if his wireless failed? What if? In the early days, any number of disasters had run through his head. But as each day passed and there were no mishaps, he decided that he hadn’t pulled the short straw after all.

Jeez Ferris, there’s plenty worse places to be sent. Lester and Gerald and the others, probably right now being bombed to shit by some band of squint-eyed Japs.

He glanced out of the cabin window and slowly shook his head. The sky was stained like an ashtray and storm clouds were banking up on the horizon. He knew those clouds. They’d bring eight hours of snow and send the mercury plunging to twenty below.

He reached for his matches and lit the kerosene lamp. A yellow glow filled the small room, slowly brightening to metallic white as the flame took hold of the wick. The light sent shadows scuttling into the darkened corners. As he glanced around, he glimpsed the shadow of his head and shoulders looming improbably huge on the wall behind him.

He stoked the Tromso stove and felt the clothes that he had hung up to dry. His woollen socks, all steaming, were strung up like a row of so many kippers. Then he reached for the nightclothes that he kept folded on his army camp bed. Pyjamas, slipper-socks and long woollen scarf. Even with the stove burning it got bitterly cold at night.

He undressed, got into his night-gear and sat down on the bed. It was so low on the floor that it was almost touching the floorboards. Then he pushed his legs under the covering and drew the blankets upwards until they were tight around his chest.

A final glance around the cabin before extinguishing the lamp.

*

He had no idea what time it was when he was jolted from his sleep. It was pitch black in the cabin and there was no hint of light from the window. He could hear the wind driving horizontal, scouring the surface of the ice field. It whipped the roof of the cabin and hit the window like a muffled machine gun. Tak-tak-tak-tak.

But it was not the storm that had woken him. Rather, it was the noise of the huskies roped up outside. They were barking loudly.

Why are they doing that?

He sat up in the darkness. Shivered. Couldn’t be because they were unsettled by the storm. They liked it best when it was biting cold and the snow was chucking it down.

Instinctively he reached for the kerosene lamp, pushing his hand outwards from underneath the blanket. He always kept it close to his pillow.

It wasn’t there.

He felt again, his hand tapping lightly across the floorboards. He could have sworn that’s where he left it, next to his head. He could even smell the scent of kerosene.

But it was gone.

He pushed his hand further into the darkness and as he did so he felt his innards shrink in on themselves, like a fist squeezing his gut.

Jesus -

There was the faint sound of breathing.

He shivered. Felt a lump in his throat. He pushed himself downwards into the camp bed, as if it might protect him from danger. And then gingerly, without making a sound, he drew the blanket over his head.

Get a grip, Ferris. You’re imagining things. You’ve been too long alone. That’s why they never let you do shifts longer than eight weeks.

Thinking like that, it made him feel better.

There’s no one outside. There’s no one breathing. And in just a few hours it’ll be morning again.

He lay absolutely still, listening intently. Inched his head to one side and drew back the blanket a fraction so that his right ear was exposed.

There. See. It’s gone. You woke from a nightmare, that’s all.

He was hot under the blanket yet he could feel that his skin was cold with sweat. He took three deep breaths to relax himself.

That’s better.

The dogs had stopped barking and the night was returning to normal. He hated what tricks the darkness could play.

Reassured, he rolled slowly onto his back and tightened the blanket around his chest. Must be the early hours. He’d try to get some more sleep.

But just as he did so he heard it again. The faint sound of breathing. And now – oh Jesus God – he could feel the floorboards under his camp bed shifting and squeaking ever so gently, as if they were moving on heavy springs. And this time – help me God - it was for real. Someone, somehow, had got inside his cabin.

He felt the footfall coming towards him. Coming closer. And then it stopped. Came to an abrupt halt. Right by his head.

He dared to open his eyes a fraction. It was still completely dark yet he could just make out the blur of a heavy white boot, inches from his face. It smelled musty, wet, like it was splashed with snow-melt and slush.

And then -

Jesus.

There was a violent crunch of bone and a burst of stars shattered across his eyes. The boot slammed deep into his right temple and a shaft of agony lurched through his neck.

He screamed, crumpled his head into his arms. He yanked the blanket over his pulsing head. Another kick and a second welter of stars played tricks with his eyes.

Jesus – Jesus –

There was a shaft of freezing air as the latch to the cabin door snapped open. In an instant everything was moving and there was noise and shouting and the clatter of guns. Flashlights sent a chaos of light through the darkness. Their hands ripped off the covering and tore at his pyjamas. One of them wrenched away the sleeves. Another forced off his scarf and socks. Suddenly he was naked.

Three flashlights exposed his body, a fourth shone into his eyes.

Please God.

An iron grip wrapped round his ankles and the room spun upside down. They dragged him over to a lump of frozen driftwood and tied up his wrists and ankles. Then they seized the wood, wrenched him over the high step and out into the blinding snowstorm. His head hit the ice with a solid crack.

Jesus.

He felt his body shudder uncontrollably, lungs, kidneys, shaking in rhythmic spasm.

Then a desperate cry.

Why - ?’



REVIEWS


Five star reviews on Amazon:

‘Gripping, page-turning stuff... A great historian having fun and pulling it off with style and panache... A cracking read - and plenty of potential for a sequel or even a series... The Perfect Corpse is a perfect thriller... Meticulously researched and tightly constructed... A must read... A perfect page-turner. I read it on a hot beach and it made me shiver... Not to be missed... Very gripping story and difficult to put down - really enjoyed it.'

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