Book News J.S. Strange writing

Murder on the Rocks: The First Chapter

I’m an author, and my next novel, Murder on the Rocks, is publishing March 1st 2019. It’s a murder mystery novel, set in Cardiff, Wales, and features a gay male protagonist. Private Investigator Jordan Jenner has to solve the murder of a writer in a prestigious writing group, after returning to work following the death of his mother. As he interviews witnesses and suspects, he begins to discover that his mother’s death may be related to the death of the writer. Here is an excerpt of the first chapter. You can pre-order your copy on Amazon

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The tumbler glass of whisky stood alone on the oak table. Patterns of fingerprints crisscrossed the glass where it had been clutched two hours previously. The dregs still remained of what appeared to be whisky. Lip prints, most likely the victim’s, were visible at the rim of the glass.

“I suspect he was poisoned,” an unfamiliar officer said. “Almost instantly. He would have drunk the whisky and he collapsed.”

Horrible way to go, Jordan thought to himself. He looked at the chair that was jutting out from the table, the imprint of bum cheeks still in the padded leather cushion. The body had been moved, but not before Jordan had seen him.

His eyes had been bulging, wide open and staring at something. His mouth hung agape, white spit dribbling down his chin and wetting his cheeks. His skin had turned a blotchy purple. The man had been unable to breathe.

“And do we know who was in attendance tonight?” Jordan asked.

The officer looked at a notepad that he held in his hand. “Most people arrived, although I was told two regulars didn’t attend this week.”

“Names of the regulars?”

“I don’t know.”

Jordan glared at the officer he had never met. “I would like names. Is there anybody I can speak to? Any witnesses?”

“With all due respect, Mr…”

“Mr Jenner,” Jordan said. “But just call me Jordan.”

“Mr Jenner, with all due respect, this isn’t your case.”

“Actually, Mark, I called him here.” DCI Vanessa Carter walked into the room wearing a police uniform. The woman was imposing, taller than average, and slim. Her blonde hair was tied up, and she looked like she hadn’t slept for a good few days.

The officer known as Mark blushed. Now that his boss was in the room, his manner of authority deflated, a pin taken to a balloon. “You did?”

“This is Jordan Jenner.” Vanessa placed her hand on Jordan’s shoulder. “He has just returned from compassionate leave and is one of the best freelance private investigators I know.”

“Nice to meet you, Mark.” Jordan smiled.

“Very well, but I still don’t see…” Mark began.

“He’s part of this case.” Vanessa’s tone was final.

Mark seemed to get redder. He avoided eye contact and made a quick excuse to leave. Jordan and Vanessa watched him go.

“Sorry about him.” Vanessa rolled her eyes. “He’s new.”

“Figured.” Jordan looked at the table, at the tumbler glass, which hadn’t been moved. “Have forensics been?”

“Not yet. We’re short staffed tonight. Coming up to the new year, everyone wants it off.”

“Quite selfish that this man should drop dead on us at such an inconvenient time, isn’t it?”

Vanessa smirked. “I was thinking the same thing. Murder doesn’t celebrate New Year’s, unfortunately. It’s work as usual for us.”

Jordan reached into his back pocket and took out a notepad, but he realised too late that he didn’t have a pen. Sensing this, Vanessa took a biro out from her jacket pocket and handed it to him.

Jordan nodded his appreciation. “Can you tell me what happened?”

“He was poisoned.” Vanessa began to walk slowly around the table. “The writing group meets at this house every month. This was their last session.”

“This is a writers’ group?”

“It is indeed.” Vanessa stopped directly opposite the whisky glass. “Ten people attend every month, although this month they were two down.”

“Yes, Mark did tell me.”

Vanessa eyed the door where Mark disappeared. “Well, at least he can do something right.”

“And who does this house belong to?”

“Joseph Gordon,” Vanessa replied.

Jordan snapped to attention. “The bestselling author?”

“The same one.”

“What’s he doing with a writers’ group? Surely he doesn’t need the support…”

Vanessa shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine. Set the group up just over a year ago and has been going ever since. He only lets in the select few. It’s very prestigious, by all means.”

With pen poised to write notes, Jordan looked at Vanessa. “You’ve dealt with this group before.”

It was a statement, not a question.

“Once, yes,” Vanessa replied. “We were called because of a disturbance. Apparently, some members argued five months ago. It was quite a big argument by the sound of things. Two women, one man. When we arrived, there were a few smashed glasses, but the main culprits had left. We didn’t follow it up. We didn’t need to. Seemed like a drunken argument.”

Jordan wrote all of this down. “Why didn’t you follow it up?”

“Please, if we followed up all drunken arguments we’d have no time for anything else.”

Jordan agreed. “Where is Joseph Gordon?”

“At the station, in for questioning.”

“Questioning? You don’t think…”

“Everybody is a suspect until proven innocent Jord. You know that.” Vanessa indicated the tumbler. “That glass, that whisky, came from this house. They both belonged to Joseph Gordon. It’s very possible that the poison that laced that glass also belongs to him. Famous or not, he could be a killer.”

Jordan scratched down more notes, flipped the page, and wrote a short sentence.

“Are there any witnesses here I can speak to?”

“Not right now.”

Jordan looked around. An antique bookcase stood at one end of the room, housing volumes that were considered to be literature greats and drivel. He glanced over at the mantelpiece where there were no photographs of family members but instead of two golden retrievers. The curtains were drawn over a bay-seat windowsill, and the only light came from a tripod lamp nearby. The room had a faint smell of cigar smoke, of spirits and alcohol, and the faint waft of food, something with garlic. Jordan remembered that he hadn’t eaten all day.

“Were they due to eat?”

“The food was halfway done when the murder happened,” Vanessa replied. “The stoves are off now, if you’re worried about a house fire.”

Jordan allowed himself a smile, but it was humourless. It seemed to be his default mood these days. An empty fruit bowl sat in the middle of the table, notebooks next to it.

“Is that their notes?”

“We’re assuming so, though we’re waiting for forensics to come before we touch anything.”

Jordan sighed. “How long will it take for forensics to arrive?”

“They’re coming from Port Talbot.”

Jordan nodded. They were probably about forty-five minutes away from where the crime scene was in Cardiff, yet with people travelling home for the new year, Jordan expected them to be late.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

Jordan was startled by the question. He wondered why Vanessa’s tone had changed from brisk and professional to caring and friendly.

“I’m fine.”

“Jordan, it’s too early for you to be back at work.”

“You called me.”

“Yeah, only because I was told you had to be involved because you had let the team know you were fit to come back to work.”

“I needed the money.”

“You were on compassionate leave.”

Jordan slipped his notepad back into his back pocket and handed the pen to Vanessa over the table. “Honestly, I’m fine.”

“It’s only been…”


Vanessa quit asking.

Mark came back into the room. He appeared a bit more composed, but still avoided Jordan’s eye.

“The pathologist is here to take James Fairview’s body to the morgue. Did you want me to tell them anything before they go?”

Vanessa walked around the table again and came to stand next to Jordan. “I just want them to do an autopsy. Find out what poison was used and how much. If we can find the name of the poison, then we can know what we’re looking for. It’s somewhere to start.”

Vanessa had been in the police force for ten years, but had only taken up her role of crime investigator for two of those. Jordan had worked with her since going freelance three years ago and always trusted her instincts.

“By the way, did you manage to find out the name of those in attendance?” Jordan asked Mark.

Mark turned to Vanessa for guidance.

“I’ve got them. Come with me back to the van and we can go over them.”

Mark, relieved, quickly excused himself, and Vanessa failed to hide a wry smile.

“What are you smirking at this time?” Jordan asked her.

“Nothing.” Vanessa said. “It’s just good to have you back.”


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