I'm currently working on the seventh novel in the series, working title "Shadow Crimes", but this may change.

 

Updated June 2018

Prologue

Laura Quigley called up the stairs as she slipped into her everyday coat and draped a colourful scarf around her neck.
‘I’m just off to the shops, Tony. I’ll be about half an hour. Are you alright?’
She listened to the grumpily muttered reply. She couldn’t make out every word, but it’s meaning was little different from usual. It was always along the same lines: you get to go out and enjoy the fresh air and the chance of having a chat with people while I have to remain here, ill in bed, festering.
She pulled on her gloves, opened the door and stepped out into the chilly air. She tugged the door shut and, as was her habit, tested that the lock was fully engaged. She spotted one of the neighbours across the road, wiping down her front windows, so walked across for a chat. The usual stuff: the weather (chilly for the time of year), the price of everyday essentials (seem to be getting dearer all the time), men (always moaning about something, and totally useless in the kitchen) and the state of Tony’s health (worsening slowly and steadily). By the time the two women had exhausted these topics the sky had darkened noticeably and Laura was concerned that it would soon start raining. She gave her apologies and hastened towards the shops. She occasionally wondered whether to look for a part-time job, just to get her out of the house more often and avoid the sour atmosphere created by Tony's constant moans. She'd given up work when his illness had first developed, soon after he'd taken early retirement. They'd planned to fill their later years with travel and luxurious living, but his liver disorder had put paid to such fancy schemes. The reality was entirely different to the expectations she'd had just a few short years ago. Tony had turned into a lazy, grumpy, monosyllabic, brooding presence in the house and she'd grown to hate him. She must have been blind to have missed the signs all those years ago when they'd first met. Well, that wasn't entirely true. She knew she'd deliberately overlooked them because of the lavish gifts he'd showered on her. Miserable git. Why didn't he just hurry up and die? Laura shook her head to displace this last awful thought and hurried towards the local supermarket as the first drops of rain began to fall.

On her return she called her usual greeting. ‘I’m back. Alright?’ She walked through to the kitchen and dropped the bags on the table before returning to the hall to hang up her coat and hat. Still no sound. She called up the stairs again. ‘I said, I’m back, Tony. Are you okay?’
Silence. This was unusual, but maybe he was asleep. She returned to the kitchen, put the groceries away and put the kettle on. She glanced at the newspaper, trying to digest the headlines on the first few pages. Squabbling politicians, knife crime, poverty and overpaid football stars. She sighed, then extracted two mugs from the cupboard and popped a sprinkling of instant coffee into each, followed by a little sugar and hot water once the kettle came to the boil. A splash of milk, a couple of half-hearted stirs with an old teaspoon, a slightly soft biscuit from a dented tin on the shelf and she was ready for the trek up the stairs to her irritable husband.
She pushed the bedroom door open. He was lying on his back, mouth agape and eyes staring lifelessly at the ceiling. The mug of coffee fell from her hand, spilling its contents over the old mottled-green carpet. She lunged forward to the bed, feeling desperately for a pulse or any sign of life. There was nothing.