BY: PAUL HOWARD
The movie set of the Regal Films post-war drama, The Valley of Dreams, is a place of dark menace and evil, where everything isn’t as it seems. Cameraman, Peter Rivers, has a hidden past. Under many different identities, this serial killer has left a trail of victims behind him, a fact the cast and crew of the movie are blissfully unaware of. Charming and confident, he chooses Debbie Duncan, the movie’s co-star, as his new soulmate/submissive, but she isn’t as easy to manipulate and subdue as he expected. Then Detective Inspector Sarah Machin shows up at the movie set in Wales with questions about his former girlfriend’s murder, and things spiral out of control for Rivers. He knows he should flee, but he can’t settle into a new life while one of his intended victims is still alive, resulting in an all-consuming need for him to come after Duncan. Even though she has police protection and the close attentions of friend and confidante, Director Clay Thompson, Rivers will not be denied, leading more than one participant to confront the dark side of their souls…
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Soul Mates by Paul Howard, Peter Rivers is a man with a dark and secret past. When he joins the film crew of the movie The Valley of Dreams, he sets his sights on the film’s co-star Debbie Duncan. Rivers expects things to go as they always have and that Debbie will fall under his spell. But Debbie hasn’t read that script. While she thinks Peter is charming, to her, he is just a fling. Her career is just taking off and she refuses to allow a man to get in her way. When the police begin to investigate Peter in connection with his old girlfriend’s murder, things start to spiral out of control, setting off a chain of events that leave everyone with their own demons to face.
Expecting a romance by the title, I was pleasantly surprised to find a well-crafted, exciting, and fast-paced thriller that I couldn’t put down. A really great read.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Soul Mates by Paul Howard is the story of a film crew making a movie in Wales. What none of them realize at the start is that there is a serial killer in their midst, and he is targeting one of the stars. Peter Rivers hires on as a camera man for Regal Films on their new movie. The director Clay Thompson has a new starlet, and he is excited to be directing her in this film. Debbie Duncan the co-star of the movie was discovered by Thompson at an amateur play, and she is smart enough to know this is her big break. When Peter helps Debbie out of an awkward situation, she is charmed and agrees to go out with him. But Peter isn’t quite as charming as he thinks he is, and instead of worshiping him, as he expects, Debbie tells him after a few dates that their relationship is over. Peter is outraged. He can’t start over without breaking and killing her, and now he may not have the chance as the film is almost done. Debbie doesn’t realize the monster she has unleashed with her rejection, but she is about to find out.
Howard tells an incredibly complex and intense tale of murder and intrigue, one that will have you up late at night turning pages and saying “Just one more chapter.” I highly recommend Soul Mates.
It wasn’t the door slamming that told him Carol was leaving. Nor was it the constant arguments or learning that she didn’t play on the darts team she was supposed to every Wednesday night. The day that Dexter finally realized Carol was planning something, that he’d lost control of the situation, was the day he went to withdraw some money out of their joint account and discovered Carol had cleaned it out.
Dexter fumbled with the wrapper of the plastic tasting cheese he’d taken out the fridge. The invention of polythene—that was the moment. The invention of polythene was the moment when all dairy products started to taste horrible. Dexter originated from Somerset, could remember the real cheese he’d been brought up on, the wonderful succulent childhood product that bore no relation to the muck he was about to grill.
As he cut the cheese, it fell out of his hand and slid under the cooker. Dexter knelt on the hard, tiled floor, tried to reach it using a knife blade. As he stretched toward it, he could smell burning, he sprang up, banged his head on the worktop. In a daze, he managed to retrieve the wheat inferno before the grill completely incinerated it. He blew out the flames, decided the edges were blacker than coal. He dissected it with a table knife as the middle still had a chunk of cheese that was slightly singed but edible. He cut out the middle then doused the rest under the cold tap before throwing it unceremoniously into the overflowing rubbish bin.
He studied the dirt and dust coating his trousers, evidence, if any were needed, that his filthy kitchen floor was not a place to crawl around on. He shook his head, there was nothing to say. He’d been confused for weeks since his Carol discovery. His job was suffering, the house was a pigpen. He rummaged in the bread bin looking for bread that could be salvaged, but all he found was a green spotted roll with an exclusive art deco mold pattern on it. Through recent experience, Dexter was an expert on the intricacies of mold and fungi in relation to food, so much so that he decided if he tried to eat the roll, it could kill him.
It was desperation time. He pulled off the bin lid, rummaged inside the bag, and found the third piece of burnt toast he’d thrown away. It was salvageable. He scraped the coal-black crust off it and smeared the toast in a mountain of butter to counteract its repulsiveness. The first crunch was the hardest. The act of willing the brain to bite into something that you wouldn’t feed a stray dog was the hardest act of all. The horror was soon over. He washed the toast down with a cup of putrid coffee that had been left far too long on the damp window-sill.
He grabbed his mobile phone and rang work—told them the usual lies. He explained that he felt slightly better and might be back later in the week. It was always best to give his employer hope. His boss, Croucher, grumbled. He was a miserable sod. Croucher had been a bachelor all his life, used to bachelor ways. Being used to bachelor ways meant he could never understand the complications of women. He wore the same shirt two days in a row to keep down the washing. It saved money, didn’t save him from being nicknamed the skunk by those who worked under him.
Dexter had seen pictures of young Croucher. He hadn’t always been dirty. In his youth, he looked like a model out of a suit commercial. It was only after he’d clawed his way up the promotion ladder that things started to go wrong. There was often a matter of debate among the juniors as to what had made him stop caring? Some of the boys said he was gay and the sudden change to a skank was brought on by a lover’s rejection.
Once, at a conference, Dexter had been cornered by a drunk Croucher at the hotel bar. He had told Dexter his secrets and unburdened on a disinterested Dexter a sordid tale of lost love. She’d left him for his best friend. Croucher’s friend had been a man that he trusted—a man they’d spent holidays with. Regrettably, a Judas in the making. They’d moved to Portugal to set up a bar and had left Croucher behind to pick up the debris. After his experience, Dexter wasn’t surprised that Croucher was a confirmed bachelor, and had an intense hatred of women.
Dexter had never been fooled by a woman. Carol had thought she was clever, had tried to play games, treated him like an idiot. The money she’d stolen from the joint account was only a tiny part of their assets. For months, Dexter had been diverting money from their joint account to his secret one. He smiled—stupid woman, he was always in control.
Dexter finished his feast and decided he needed to lie down and give himself time to think. He stared across the living-room at the newspapers piled up by the sofa. He’d been meaning to clean them up. He didn’t want to turn into a slob. His mobile phone rang. He would let his voicemail handle it.
In the kitchen, he dropped his cup on top of the mountain of dirty plates, balancing precariously at the corner of the worktop. He’d do the washing up soon—it was only a matter of time until he sorted himself out.
At the top of the stairs, he made a detour to the bathroom. He stared at the sorry sight in the mirror. He hadn’t shaved for days and was starting to take on the remarkable resemblance of a spaghetti western villain. As he shaved, he suddenly felt fresh and invigorated. He towel dried his face, a face that now didn’t look like a hobo. He yawned, hadn’t slept much the last few days. He’d been kept awake by the pressure of planning his next move.
The bedroom was cluttered, clothes scattered to every corner, clothes hangers like booby traps awaiting unsuspecting toes. He trod on one, cut his toe, limped over to the bed, and sat on the edge, commiserating. He was too tired to take his clothes off—he’d slept in the same clothes for days now. He lay down next to her, touched her cold, stiff flesh.
Her skin now had a blue-white sheen, discoloring her once vibrant warmth. It had been over a week. He’d followed the same routine he’d followed with Samantha.
“Good night, darling,” Dexter said, kissing her cheek.
Carol Barnes didn’t answer. Although she said nothing, the kitchen knife that was wedged in her blood-strewn stomach, Dexter decided, said more than any amount of words ever could.
© 2018 by Paul Howard