Title: The Woman in Black
Author: Kerry Wilkinson
Series: Detective Jessica Daniels, #3
Published: November 2016, Bookouture
Format: E-book, 308 pages
A severed hand is discovered in the centre of Manchester and the only clue Detective Sergeant Jessica Daniel has to go on is CCTV footage of a woman in a long black robe placing it carefully on the ground.
With a growing missing persons list and frantic families wondering if the body part could belong to their absent loved ones, Jessica must solve the case fast.
When a second hand is found and a local politician’s wife goes missing, Jessica is left struggling to find out who the appendages belong to. The mother of missing Lewis Barnes, is convinced his girlfriend, twenty-six year-old January Forrester is responsible, but something doesn’t add up. Who is the mysterious woman in black and how is she connected to the abandoned body parts?
Then, unnervingly, a detached finger arrives in the post for Jessica - and it's clear that someone knows exactly who she is.
A totally gripping and chilling thriller that will have you completely hooked to the very last page.
About the Author: Kerry Wilkinson has been busy since turning thirty.
His first Jessica Daniel novel, Locked In, is a number one ebook bestseller, while the series as a whole has sold more than a million copies.
He has written a fantasy-adventure trilogy for young adults, a second crime series featuring private investigator Andrew Hunter, plus the standalone thriller, Down Among The Dead Men.
Originally from the county of Somerset, Kerry has spent far too long living in the north of England, picking up words like 'barm' and 'ginnel'.
When he's short of ideas, he rides his bike or bakes cakes. When he's not, he writes it all down.
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Books in the Detective Jessica Daniels series:
1. Locked In
2.5 As If By Magic
3. The Woman in Black
4. Think of the Children
5. Playing With Fire
6. Thicker Than Water
7. Behind Closed Doors
8. Crossing the Line
9. Scarred for Life
10. For Richer, For Poorer
THE WOMAN IN BLACK
By Kerry Wilkinson
Detective Sergeant Jessica Daniel swept the strand of long dark-blonde hair away from her face and looked down at the object in front of her before saying the only thing that came to mind. ‘Well, it’s definitely a hand.’
The man standing next to her nodded in agreement. ‘Blimey, nothing gets past you, does it?’
Jessica laughed. ‘Oi. It’s just, you never know what you’re going to get, do you? When I was in uniform, I once got sent out because there were reports of a dead animal blocking a road, and it was only someone’s coat. For all we knew, this “severed hand” could have been part of a kid’s doll.’
Detective Inspector Jason Reynolds looked at the scene in front of them, nodding.
‘You’re right but this ain’t a kid’s toy.’
The appendage was greying, and it blended with the patch of concrete where it had been left. Jessica thought it looked fairly hardened, as if the fingers would be stiff and awkward to move, even though the digits were splayed and the hand was flat to the ground. Given the clean-looking cut at the point where it would have once been connected to someone’s wrist, Jessica was surprised there was no blood on the ground around it. She didn’t want to touch it. She stepped closer and crouched, peering towards the small stump indicating where the ring finger had been neatly sliced off. It looked as if the area had been burned after the amputation to stop any infection, and she wondered if the finger had been removed before or after the rest of the hand.
Jessica stood and stepped backwards out of the small white tent into the heat of the morning sunshine. Reynolds was just behind her. A tall black officer, with an outwardly friendly demeanour, he could be as tough as anyone she knew when he wanted to be. She walked towards the edge of the police tape surrounding the scene, stopping before she got too close to the nearby uniformed officer who was preventing passers-by from getting too good a look.
‘What do you reckon happened to the missing finger?’ she asked.
‘Who knows? It looks as if it was cut off as cleanly as the hand itself,’ Reynolds replied.
‘Do you think the person it’s taken from is dead?’
Reynolds blew out through his teeth as he squinted into the sun. ‘Probably. We’ll have to check the records to see if any remains found in the past year or two are missing a hand. There’s nothing to indicate it definitely belongs to someone from our area, so we’ll have a bit of work to do. The way it’s been preserved makes it hard to tell whether it’s an old victim or someone who was recently attacked. Plus, whoever left it has been very careful.’
‘Not much to go on, is there?’ Jessica said. ‘No tattoos or anything.’
‘I know. Given its shape with the wider fingers I’d bet it was a man’s hand, but that could just be minor decomposition. It looks as if it has been kept carefully. We’re going to have to wait for the forensics team to see if they can find anything.’
‘Yeah, you’ve got to hand it to the lab boys, they do a top job.’
Reynolds looked at Jessica, eyebrows raised. ‘I really don’t think stand-up comedy is the career for you.’
Jessica grinned back. ‘Oh come on. Just because you’ve been promoted, it doesn’t mean you have to stop laughing at my jokes.’
‘I don’t remember ever laughing at your jokes.’
‘All right, fine, be grumpy. What are we going to do next?’
Reynolds looked around at the surrounding buildings. ‘The thing is, this is the centre of Manchester, the second or third biggest city in the country. Just look at the cameras.’ He pointed out the CCTV units mounted high on the nearby shops, hotels and flats. ‘This is Piccadilly Gardens. They couldn’t have picked a more public spot if they tried. Whoever left this wanted it to be found.’ He paused, as if pondering what he wanted to do. ‘If you take a constable and look through the footage from last night, I’ll start working through the nationwide missing persons’ reports to see if any of the reported victims are missing a hand. By the time we’ve gone through all that, hopefully, we might have some test results back to give us gender and age of the victim.’
Jessica looked to the areas the inspector had pointed out. Piccadilly Gardens was one of the main meeting points in the centre of Manchester. The middle part was a mixture of grassy park areas surrounded by benches and fountains, along with concreted and paved sections for people to walk. One side was dominated by a bus and tram station, another lined by a wide walkway and shops. Looming over the top of the area was a hotel, and a road with more shops edged along it.
Jessica looked back towards the area where the hand had been found, just underneath one of the fountains next to a bench. Unless someone had dropped it, which made some very odd assumptions about the types of thing people carried around with them, it seemed clear the hand had been purposely left.
Jessica could see at least seven security cameras scanning the area, one of which was swivelling high on a pole around fifty feet away from where she was standing. Three other similar cameras were placed around the square. She knew they were linked into a set of other CCTV cameras throughout the city, the images feeding back to a central security point that was manned twenty-four hours a day. Most people thought the cameras were constantly watched by police officers, but the operators were a private security firm paid for by the council.
As she scanned around, she could see two other cameras attached to the hotel and a further one high above a shop front. She figured footage from those would be kept somewhere on their respective sites.
Jessica felt the warmth of the June sun on her arms and thought about spending the rest of the day indoors, watching camera footage from the night before.
‘Whoever left it could have at least picked a rainy day,’ she said to no one in particular.
**** You can purchase The Woman in Black on Amazon