Mark Richards, having rebuilt his life after a traumatic, deprived past, is a private investigator in London. When his beautiful girlfriend, Lena, is brutally and sadistically slain his life is turned upside down. In his search for her killers, he becomes hunter and hunted, exacting revenge whilst trying to stay alive. His quest turns into a bloody rites of passage, which takes him from London to the Midlands, to the hills of south Wales, and, ultimately, to Amsterdam, where the savage climax of the book is played out amidst the seedy back alleys of the red light district.
"Dead Pretty" is fast moving, full of dramatic set pieces, a murderous journey with a twist in its tail. Mark Richards finds out more than he ever wanted to know, old demons rear up again in his mind, and he has to reach deep into his soul to survive.
Mark thought Lena had left the cat’s food out, but not long enough for it to reek. This was a more subtle smell, a butcher’s shop smell of blood soaking into sawdust, cold and sweet, with something ominous at its edge, something that spoke of that journey from field to slaughterhouse, to butcher’s slab. Lena liked to give the cat food that didn’t come from tins, it was fond of liver, but there was no liver and no cat, not at first. Then Mark saw Danni, cowering under the settee, her black fur undulating as she breathed in rapidly, nostrils narrowed, eyes on fire, angry and fearful in equal measure. Though Mark had never much liked cats he clucked his tongue at her, but she retreated further under the recess, making a half-hearted hiss, that was more plea than threat.
Mark called for Lena but she didn’t answer. She’d be upstairs, sleeping the afternoon away, as she often did after the Amsterdam trip. He poured himself some of the orange juice she’d left out on the kitchen table. It was too warm, the day was too warm and his last job had been too warm. It was time to chill out a little, spend some money.
The smell wasn’t going away. Mark looked at the cat accusingly. The creature was desperate to get out and got up enough nerve to shoot past him, hurling herself through the flap in the door with a clatter and a strangled cry. He’d never seen it move so fast but the smell did not go with her and the cat’s bowl was empty. Mark left his juice, thought of something stronger then thought better of it and went upstairs. He’d shower, and join Lena. Maybe he wouldn’t even wake her until later. Maybe he wouldn’t shower.
The smell was getting stronger. Not so sweet now. Maybe it was the weather. They’d sweltered for the last week, hitting thirty some days. He looked in on Lena, as he’d done so many times before. She was often asleep when he came home. They led frenetic lifestyles that collided occasionally, fought occasionally and loved occasionally, but it suited them.
The blinds were drawn and Mark’s eyes took a moment to get used to the gloom. Lena was slumped on the bed, on her back in her usual position. She hadn’t even bothered to undress. Mark would have turned and gone to the shower room if it wasn’t for the smell. It was coming from here. It was coming from her. He switched on the light, stepped towards Lena, then stepped back quickly, almost falling. Mark stared for a few seconds, but didn’t want to believe his eyes. He turned away, opened the blinds, then the window, and leant on the sill for a few moments, blinking and breathing like the cat, filling his lungs with air in an effort to calm himself. Kids were chasing a kite in the park opposite, a few people walked dogs. An ice cream van was approaching, and the kids forgot about the kite when they heard its chimes, leaving it to lose shape and fall silently to the ground. The van was playing a snippet of Italian opera. It felt like an age before Mark could turn back to the bed.
There was not that much blood, not as much as you might expect, and what was there had congealed into a dull red paste. Lena’s eyes stared past him, as blue as the sky, and fixed on eternity. Her stomach had been ripped open, and other organs were visible. They glistened slightly. All the cheap horror films Mark had seen as a kid reared up before him. He’d watched videos with singular dedication, smoking and drinking away the wasteland of his youth. They had been substitutes for school, seen so many times that gore meant nothing, just paint on the screen. It meant something now.
Roger Granelli has published five novels, he has been the recipient of three writing awards from the Welsh Arts Council, was a prize Winner in the 1999 Rhys Davies Short Story Competition and has had numerous short stories published in literary magazines, some of which have been broadcast on BBC Radio. He is also a professional musician and composer, working in the UK, Europe and America for many years. He is currently teaching music in his home town of Pontypridd.