BY: PAUL HOWARD
A terrorist bombing at a summer carnival on the Brighton sea front causes mayhem and murder. Detective Inspector Sarah Machin and her colleague, Detective Sergeant Morgan Roberts, recently transferred to Counter Terrorism Command, are sent to investigate. After discovering the bomber, a teenage boy, had been kidnapped and had no connection with any terrorist group, a baffled Machin starts a frantic hunt for the ones behind the awful crime.
With the recent rise of the English Patriot Party, a far right organization fronted in Sussex by local leader, Ian Bailey, Machin looks at them as major suspects. When ex-copper Bailey denies all knowledge and claims the bombing was, in fact, carried out by the militant left in a bid to destroy the well-supported EPP, Machin’s case is thrown into disarray. As the investigation unfolds and more terror attacks are carried out by what appear to be brainwashed boys, she realizes that she’s locked in a fight with evil killers who have no compunction about taking human life.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Bailey’s Land by Paul Howard, Detective Inspector Sarah Machin and her partner, Detective Sergeant Morgan Roberts, have been transferred to Britain’s Counter Terrorism Command. They are sent to investigate a terrorist bombing carried out by a kidnapped and brain-washed teenage boy. Their chief suspect as to who is behind the crime is Ian Bailey, a leader in the far-right political party, the English Patriotic Party, or EPP. Bailey vehemently denies any involvement and tries to throw suspicion onto far-left militant groups. Pressure on Machin to solve the crimes increases and more terrorist attacks are carried out by recently kidnapped and brain-washed teenagers. She begins to have her doubts about Bailey’s involvement, but as she searches for the truth, she soon discovers that she is dealing with a singular evil, and nothing is as it seems.
Fast paced, tense, and compelling, with a subtle international flavor, the book will grab your attention from the very first page and hold it all the way through. A great read.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Bailey’s Land by Paul Howard is the story of England’s Detective Inspector Sarah Machin who we met in Howard’s first book in this series, Soul Mates. Machin has just been transferred to the Counter Terrorism Command when a series of terrorist attacks hits Britain. The attacks, carried out by teenage boys who have recently gone missing and are clearly brainwashed, are targeted at Britain’s minorities and immigrants, and the boys shout “Britain for the British” as they fulfill their deadly missions. This leads Machin to believe that the people responsible for the attacks are members of a new far-right political party called the English Patriotic Party (EPP). One of the leaders of this new party is a former policeman named Ian Bailey. Machin brings him in for questioning, but Bailey denies any knowledge and claims that his party is peaceful and prefers to make changes through the electoral process, not by murdering innocent people. Machin doesn’t believe him, but without any evidence against him, her investigation stalls. As the bodies pile up and Machin digs deeper for the truth, she uncovers betrayal of the worst kind.
Bailey’s Land is both timely and compelling, a thought-provoking look at how far some people will go for their ideological beliefs, even so far as spilling innocent blood. A story of fanaticism, betrayal, and bigotry, it’s one you won’t find easy to put down.
The evening was hot and sultry, an August evening, the clammy type of evening that got inside the pores of your skin, making you sweat in the most unimaginable places. The salt smell of the sea wafted on the air in the light evening breeze. Brighton sea front was alive with music, full of expectation, and cheerful crowds were standing behind metal railings, watching the slow procession of colorful floats along the sea front. It had been hailed in the press as the carnival of the union, a title the organizers had proudly announced a few months previous. With recent ethnic tensions over immigration issues, it was a chance for the people of Brighton to take an expansive view of mankind’s multicultural diversity—that was what the brochure advertising the carnival had claimed.
The heat brought out certain ailments in the old and a unique irritation in the young, and, under certain circumstances, it could be the cause of the worst kind of lunacy. In the heat, there was always the possibility of a weirdo on the horizon. You might not notice them—some of them had the ability to slip off the radar. Whatever they did, they were always watching, waiting, looking for the moment when they could unleash their own particular brand of mayhem on an unsuspecting world.
Today’s weirdo was in the shape of a teenage boy called John, who was dressed in an overcoat. John in his overcoat, and with a studious disposition, looked totally out of place among the happy T-shirted revelers smiling and waving as each float in the procession drifted past. As he rudely pushed his way to the front of the crowd, John received angry grumbles from those he elbowed out the way.
The glazed, fixed look in his turbulent, gray-green eyes was that of a zealot, a look that would inform anybody willing to pay attention that he wasn’t listening to their feeble protests. John only ever listened to one person in his life. That person had ordered him to get to the front of the crowd and to stand with the masses at the moment when the heart of the carnival procession went slowly by.
“Do you mind?” an irritated man with a laughing child on his shoulders snapped, as John pushed rudely past him and squeezed through a tiny gap in the barrier that had been left for emergencies. Once free of the encumbrance of the crowd, John found a new lease of life and strode confidently out into the middle of the road.
Along the road, a community police officer in charge of crowd control for this sector of the carnival procession suddenly became aware of trouble and strode angrily up to John. “Please go back behind the barriers, sir,” she ordered, trying to keep her tone impassive, so as not to ruin the party mood of the crowd.
But John didn’t listen—the policewoman was not the person that John obeyed. There was only one person now that John followed, and he had told John what to do. John ignored the fresh-faced community policewoman and walked toward a float called the Caribbean Queen. As he stood next to some jigging West Indian transvestites blowing whistles in his face, the policewoman, irritated by John’s actions, pushed the transvestites aside and angrily grabbed his arm. John didn’t put up a fight. He just turned and looked into the policewoman’s deep blue eyes with a blank, vacant look of incomprehension.
“You have to go behind the barriers, sir,” the policewoman ordered, finding it hard to mask her irritation as the boy seemed determined to ruin the pleasure of those around him.
“Britain for the British!” John shouted loudly and then wrestled himself free of the policewoman’s grasp.
The policewoman angrily grabbed John’s arm, in a last desperate attempt to quell the boy’s ardor. As she touched his warm flesh, John detonated the bomb that was strapped to his midriff. The bomb killed quickly. John and the policewoman died in a millisecond, as their blood, flesh, and bones disintegrated. The Caribbean Queen was no longer living the Jamaicans’ dream. Their skin and bones were ripped to pieces as the force of the blast quickly spiraled outward. The father and son by the railing and everybody within the float’s immediate vicinity could not escape the wrath of the blast. As they all fell, the road was soon awash with the dead and wounded.
A car alarm shrilled a ghostly wail, breaking the eerie silence of the bomb’s aftermath. As the dust started to settle and the scream of ambulance sirens could be heard on the wind, the angel of death seemed to hover over the ghoulish scene. He hovered for a reason. Tonight he had come a calling, looking for helpless souls to replenish his legions. He didn’t care about age or infirmity, didn’t give a fig about life’s absurdity. As he looked at the dead that now lay before him, he knew that, thanks to John, on Brighton sea front this warm sultry evening, his work was done.
DI Machin and DS Roberts weren’t sure what they were going to find when they arrived at the crime scene. It was almost dark, and the public had been quickly cleared from the area as the police were worried there might be another bomb. Hours after the bomb, and with the sea front covered in the blanket of darkness, the bomb squad finally decided that the area was safe and that their investigation could begin. DI Machin’s transfer to the Counter Terrorism Command was meant to be one of calm transition after her promotion to this exciting new post, instead, because of this evening’s events on Brighton sea front, it had turned into a bludgeoning assault and meant her being thrown in at the deep end.
They stepped under the flapping crime scene tape where police officers in white overalls were carefully at work, combing the bomb site for evidence. DI Machin skirted along the edge of their work, closely followed by her lapdog, Roberts. One condition of the transfer to Counter Terrorism Command was that Machin could take her sergeant with her. Machin and Roberts worked well as a team, a fact they’d proved when they’d recently put an end to the evil reign of terror of the serial killer, Peter Rivers.
“This is crazy, ma’am,” Roberts said, studying the blood and dust that was caked all around the bomb site. “They say it was a teenage white kid—witnesses report that he walked calmly up to a carnival float and detonated a bomb strapped to his body.”
Machin was shocked. After her boyfriend Nick had been gunned down by the serial killer, Peter Rivers, she’d thought there was nothing left that could shock her—that was until tonight. How could a teenager coldly maim and murder like this? She thought about the obvious, the New IRA or Islamic fundamentalists. There was something about all this that didn’t sit right. If it was the work of any of the major terrorist players, why hadn’t they come forward and claimed responsibility for the act? These people thrived on publicity, keeping their cause in the public eye, yet nobody had so far come forward with anything.
Machin needed to view the sea front CCTV footage. She’d have to see the last acts of this crazy kid before he’d murdered all these people. It was a suicide bombing, carried out by a boy that nothing was going to stop. Who was the boy? It was a question that they needed to find the answer to fast.
They’d found no serviceable ID from his splattered body, would try for dental records once they’d pieced together what they could of his jaw-line. So far they had no name and nothing to link him to any organization. As Machin looked across at the desolation and mayhem the boy had caused, all she could think was that the boy had to have a reason, for nobody murdered like this without a cause.
“It’s going to take a while for forensics to piece this one together, ma’am,” Roberts said gloomily.
“That’s it, Roberts, look on the bright side.”
“I’m being realistic, ma’am.”
“Forget realism, can’t you lie to me for a change, Sergeant?”
Machin’s mobile phone rang. She answered it. It was DCI Khan, head of her section. They’d had a break, there’d been a call from a family who’d seen the pictures of the Brighton bomber on the news, the family reckoned that the bomber looked like their missing son. Machin grabbed Roberts and dragged him back to the car. The crime scene could wait until after they’d spoken to the parents.
When Machin and Roberts sat in the humid police interview room opposite the unfortunate parents of the suicide bomber, John Chambers, the room was racked with a putrid mix of loss and tension. Machin didn’t know where to start. Talking to the distraught parents about their dead son was never going to be easy. When people had suffered loss, particularly in such a violent fashion, Machin had seen in the past how impossible it was to comfort them. She started at the beginning by asking, “How long has John been missing, Mr. Chambers?”
“It was four weeks ago tonight,” Mr. Chambers said. “He went out with his mates to the skateboard park near our house. After he had separated from his mates to come home, he disappeared.”
Mrs. Chambers started to cry. Mr. Chambers tried to comfort her, and the room lapsed momentarily into an uncomfortable silence.
“If you’d like to take a short break,” Machin said.
“I don’t want a break, I want to find out what happened to John,” Mrs. Chambers pleaded.
Machin nodded and then continued. “You’ve seen the CCTV footage just before the attack. From that footage, you ID the bomber as your son?”
“The bomber’s, John,” Mr. Chambers reluctantly admitted with a look of abject misery on his fraught, freckled face.
“John never had a violent bone in his body,” Mrs. Chambers said. “This is all a mistake.”
Mrs. Chambers couldn’t accept it. Machin decided she was still in a state of denial. “This is no mistake, Mrs. Chambers, John walked out from the crowd and detonated a bomb strapped to his body near a carnival float.”
Mrs. Chambers began to cry again. Mr. Chambers interjected, “Maybe I should speak to the officers alone, Kathy.”
“Don’t try and freeze me out, Lee!” Mrs. Chambers angrily rounded on her husband , an inflection of despair in her voice that told a stunned Mr. Chambers this wasn’t up for debate.
“I’m not trying to freeze you out, darling,” Mr. Chambers assured her.
“This must be awful for both of you—let’s take a break.” Machin gave the Chambers coffee, and then Machin and Roberts left them alone for a few minutes. Outside in the corridor, Machin quickly came to a bleak conclusion. “Apart from identifying their son, they’re not going to know anything that could help us.”
“Why would a supposedly normal kid from a middle class background do this?” Roberts reflected.
“That’s what we’re paid to find out, Sergeant.”
“Witnesses say that he shouted, ‘Britain for the British,’ just before he detonated the bomb.”
“Then we’ve got to be looking for far right extremists. We need to find out if John Chambers was political, whether he was sympathetic to neo-Nazis, or if he was involved with neo-Nazi groups.” Machin looked at a text message on her mobile phone. “DCI Khan says that another one of the wounded off the float has just died in hospital, that makes ten dead, including John Chambers.”
There was a moment’s sad reflection. “John Chambers was only sixteen,” Roberts pointed out, “the same age as my nephew, Hayden.”
“It’s best not to think about it, Morgan,” Machin said.
Roberts noted that Machin used his Christian name, a rare occasion in their work together, and the use of it showed Roberts how deeply all this was affecting Machin. “Someone supplied him with the bomb,” he said.
“Obviously, but who?”
“This isn’t the organized far right. The modern fascists try to slip under the political spectrum, put themselves over as legitimate democrats,” Roberts remarked.
“I agree. We’re not looking for established loonies, everything points to a loner,” Machin stated. “What we’re looking for is someone who’s pissed off with the far right’s inactivity and wants direct action.” She was thinking more of an individual like the London nail bomber, a nutcase with a grudge.
“We’ll look at everything, ma’am.”
“Because of what Chambers shouted, don’t get too restricted, Sergeant. His shouting of a Nazi slogan might’ve been a ploy to throw us off the mark.” Machin wasn’t going to be blinkered and would look at everything possible, until it was proved otherwise.
“Why would he want to create a smokescreen?” Roberts asked. “If the bombing was a political message, surely the bombers want us to know what that message is.”
“He stepped over the barrier when the West Indian float was almost upon him,” Machin reflected. “Numerous floats passed him by, and yet he targeted that float in particular.”
“An obvious racial attack, ma’am.”
“Not necessarily. If you wanted to kill a specific person and for the hit to go undetected, what better way than to detonate a bomb near the float that they’re on. By making it look like a terrorist attack, you could fool everyone.”
Machin had a point, Roberts decided. “So, you want me to look in detail at the backgrounds of all the people killed on the float?”
“We have to look at everything, Sergeant. Because of all the deaths, the press will have a microscope on this. We need to be seen in their inevitable backlash to have been covering all our bases.” Machin remembered previous mistakes in past cases, like when she’d wrongly accused John Douglas of murder when the real murderer had been the serial killer, Peter Rivers. The press had made a big issue of police incompetence when John Douglas, an innocent dupe, had been found not guilty in a courtroom. Machin had vowed that day in court never to make the same mistake again.
They went back into the interview room to find that Mrs. Chambers had stopped crying and seemed more in control. This time their interview was calmer and more structured. After repeated denials that their son was involved with neo-Nazis and the fact that the Chambers genuinely seemed mystified by what had happened to their son, Machin came to the conclusion that Mr. and Mrs. Chambers knew nothing of what had gone on here and that Counter Terrorism Command’s limited resources would be better off utilized elsewhere.
© 2018 by Paul Howard