Authors: Claire McGowan
Copyright © 2015 Claire McGowan
The right of Claire McGowan to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication may only be reproduced, stored, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, with prior permission in writing of the publishers or, in the case of reprographic production, in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency.
First published as an Ebook by Headline Publishing Group in 2015
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Cataloguing in Publication Data is available from the British Library
eISBN: 978 1 4722 2830 7
Cover photographs © Gregory Guivarch and Boris Mrdja/Shutterstock (landscape & sky) and Susan Fox/Arcangel Images (figure)
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Claire McGowan grew up in a small village in Northern Ireland. After achieving a degree in English and French from Oxford University, and time spent living in China and France, she moved to London where she works in the charity sector and also teaches creative writing. CONTROLLED EXPLOSIONS is the first short story in her Paula Maguire series. THE SILENT DEAD, her fourth novel and the third in the series, is out soon.
Paula Maguire, forensic psychologist on the Irish border, returns as a teenager in this exclusive digital short story from Claire McGowan, proclaimed by Ken Bruen as ‘Ireland’s answer to Ruth Rendell’.
1998 and future forensic psychologist Paula Maguire is still in school, being taunted by bullies. In particular one girl, whose family has paramilitary links, is calling her a rat. Even though Paula might not know why her mother went missing five years before, she’s sure she’s no traitor’s daughter.
But words are nothing compared to what her policeman father, PJ, is dealing with. The hot summer is simmering with violence and the entire force is focused on finding a bomber leaving devices on the routes of Orange parades.
When PJ is injured at the scene of a crime, Paula is shocked to find herself next in the perpetrator’s crosshairs. The threats at school don’t feel so empty now, but what connection could there be? As the possibility of first love appears, will Paula be able to find out in time to save herself and follow her heart?
The Dead Ground
The Silent Dead (coming soon)
Controlled Explosions (A Paula Maguire Short Story)
‘Fast paced and engaging’
‘Enthralling … evoked wonderfully’
‘It’s a gripping and gory read and shows McGowan to be a thriller writer of exceptional talent’
‘McGowan’s book is bloody and brilliant’ Angela Clarke
The Dead Ground
is a fantastic and intense book that grips you right from the very first line … This is an intriguing and well plotted second novel in a series that should establish Claire McGowan as a leading author in the world of Irish crime fiction’
‘Paula has such a depth to her and is one of the strongest female leads to be found out there … A terrific read’
‘Claire McGowan has delivered another clever crime thriller … Right up there with the best of them … A good old fashioned who-done-it with a modern twist … Well done Claire McGowan, you have definitely secured your place on bookshelves alongside Karin Slaughter and Jonathan Kellerman ’
‘McGowan is a brilliant writer who knows how to keep the reader turning their pages waiting to see what happens next … This is a fresh, exciting and completely readable thriller’
‘An excellent read and one that has confirmed that I will be looking out for the third in the Paula Maguire series’
‘This thriller is fresh and accessible without ever compromising on grit or suspense’ Erin Kelly, author of
The Poison Tree
‘A brilliant portrait of a fractured society and a mystery full of heart stopping twists. Compelling, clever and entertaining’ Jane Casey, author of
‘A gripping yarn you will be unable to put down’
‘McGowan’s style is pacey and direct, and the twists come thick and fast’ Declan Burke,
‘Engaging and gripping’
‘Taut plotting and assured writing … a highly satisfying thriller’
‘Claire McGowan is a writer at the
top of her game’
‘There is nothing not to like … a compelling and flawless thriller’ S.J. Bolton
‘She knows how to tell a cracking story. She will go far’
‘The characters are finely drawn, and it’s concern for them, rather than for whodunnit, that provides the page-turning impetus in this promising debut’
‘Hugely impressive. The crime will keep you reading, but it’s the characters you’ll remember’
‘It’s a clever, beautifully detailed exploration of the fragility of daily life … The genius of this story is that it could happen to any of us, and that’s why it hits so hard’ Elizabeth Haynes
‘Immediate, engaging and relevant,
hits the ground running and doesn’t stop. I read it in one breathless sitting’ Erin Kelly
‘Highly original and compelling’ Mark Edwards
The town was burning.
Sergeant Bob Hamilton felt the heat on his face, scorching through the sides of the armoured jeep – someone had held a light to the line of cars dragged across the road. When the flames went up, licking and hungry, you could hear the shouts. Pure joy. Like weans burning grass under a magnifying glass. That was the worst, how much they were all enjoying it. He raised a hand to his head, mopped the sweat off on the sleeve of his uniform. Hottest day of the year and they were gussied up in full riot gear inside the oven of the jeep. Four grown men – five if you counted the other. The smell of sweaty oxters and burning tyres. The jeep rocking to and fro as the crowd battered it, pushing, shouting. Every time a stone hit, Bob flinched. It was hard not to.
‘Which is it this time?’ The man next to Bob had to shout to make himself heard over the noise outside. He looked round at the police officers, who all stared straight ahead into their visors, ignoring him. ‘Is it going ahead or is it cancelled? What are they angry about?’
No one answered.
Bob could hear the weariness in his own voice. ‘This parade was meant to go ahead.’
‘So why aren’t they moving?’
One of the other officers grunted. ‘Because there’s a feckin’ bomb in the way, that’s why.’
The man perked up. ‘A bomb? Really?’ He reached for his tape recorder, holding it higher.
‘There’s a suspicious device on the route.’ Bob gave the official version. ‘Bomb disposal are in. It’ll be made safe, it’s just … causing a wee bit of tension.’
Someone laughed, a short, bitter bark in the confined space.
The man with the tape recorder swung round for a second at the sound, then back again, like a dog with a bone it couldn’t crack into. ‘So these are Protestants out there? Orangemen?’
Journalists. Always trying to make sense of it, why one half of the population wanted to walk down the road in orange sashes, beating drums, just because they’d done it for the last three hundred years since some battle had been fought on that site. Why the other side, after all this time, had decided they didn’t really want men in sashes and bowler hats coming down their road, and in order to make this point were setting the town on fire and planting bombs on their own streets.
The truth was, it didn’t make any sense. It wasn’t even a very interesting street. A row of houses and a bookie’s on the corner, a run-down corner shop. The giant plastic ice cream outside it had bent over in the riot, and looked like it was about to melt all over the pavement. Bob knew the feeling.
He tried to explain. ‘They’re some of both. Catholics who didn’t want it going ahead, Protestants annoyed at the hold-up.’ Personally he thought they were all scum, anyone from either side who’d set fire to the place they lived in. It was their town. Not much, but all they had. For the past three days, if you looked out the windows of the police station, at the sun reflecting on metal jeeps and plexiglass riot shields, it had seemed as if all of Ballyterrin was on fire. The town was in stand-off, some parades going, some parades cancelled, someone angry with every decision, and like as not showing that anger by setting fire to a few cars or trashing a few shops or even firing a few wee shots at the police. Businesses had put down their shutters and closed, roads were blocked with burnt-out cars, and half the town gone away on holiday to escape it. The Twelfth Fortnight, they called it. Traditionally it was the Catholic population fleeing overseas, letting the Orange Order get on with it for a few weeks, marching their marches and singing their songs and beating their drums. This year, with the Good Friday Agreement just signed in April and the new Parades Commission getting involved, well, things were … mixed up.