Haunted loner, ex-soldier Samantha (Sam) Riley becomes embroiled in a plot to kill the husband of the beautiful, manipulative Monica Cohen. Double crossed by Monica and forced to turn informer by unscrupulous Detective Inspector Wendy Morrison, Sam is tempted to cut and run. But when ironic fate casts her as guardian to street-smart and savvy ten-year-old Brando Cohen, they are forced to face their enemies together. A motley crew of dangerous characters is set against them. Big Jim Carver, a gangster with a taste for pederasty; homicidal ex-pimp Gerard Fowley, Spanish drug-dealer Felipe Garcia, and Mr Swindley an enigmatic hit man. And behind them all, plotting the demise of both Sam and Brando is the woman who could prove to be Sam’s nemesis — Monica.
Truth Lies Buried – Chapter One
2am Friday 11th April 2003
Pitch-black and we’d been digging for an hour.
‘This should be deep enough, eh?’ Typical Joe, he never wants to do any physical work.
‘Couple more feet, I reckon,’ I said.
Headlights from the nearby road swept across the ground and he ducked for cover.
‘Don’t be stupid,’ I said. ‘Nobody can see anything through the trees.’
‘Not taking any more chances. That’s me done.’ He chucked his shovel out of the hole.
‘Me too, then.’ I climbed out after him to pick up my end of the tarpaulin. ‘Can you lift it?’
‘It!’ He snorted his displeasure at my blunt choice of words. ‟Him, you mean. Have a little respect.’
One, two, three and the tarpaulin-wrapped bundle landed with a thud in the makeshift grave. Joe let out a grunt and threw the gun in beside Benny Cohen’s corpse. We worked in silence, filled in and levelled the ground. Finally we chucked rocks and leaves on top to conceal the newly turned-over earth.
‘Sorry to have upset your finer feelings,’ I said after we’d finished and walked back to Joe’s Land Rover. ‘You haven’t got religion, have you?’
I slung the shovels into the back of the car while Joe started the engine. I climbed into the passenger seat, keeping my gloves on. Joe took his off and threw them onto the back seat before he stuck a ridiculous plastic fag in his mouth. He drew on it hard as he backed the motor out on to the country road. ‘That man,’ he said, ‘was a sentient being. He had thoughts, hopes, fears, a soul.’
‘And children, a wife, a couple of mistresses, a dog that no doubt worshipped him, a puddy tat that purred on his lap.’
‘Now you’re taking the piss.’
‘He was a stranger and you got paid. What do you care?’
Joe grunted. He’d been doing a lot of grunting on this job. I reckoned he was losing his bottle. We’d done a couple of jobs together in the North years ago and back then he was as cool as. But these days he’d got twitchy. A dangerous thing is twitchy.
‘And what’s with that?’ I gestured towards the ‘cigarette’.
‘A mate of mine brought them back from China for me.’
‘They’ll never catch on.’
‘Smoking real ones is bad for your health.’
‘And you think you’ll live long enough to feel the benefit, do you?’
‘Nobody knows it was us.’ Joe gripped the plastic thing between his teeth. We were heading away from the woods now but the road was still clear. ‘Do they?’
‘Only the person who paid us.’
‘And we don’t know who that is.’
‘But we can hazard a guess,’ I said.
‘Guessing is bad for your health, too.’
‘So is getting all cosmic about some dude you’ve just shot in the head.’
Joe’s body stiffened as he glanced in the rear-view mirror. ‘Jesus, Riley — there’s a car behind us.’
‘This is a road, Joe. We may even encounter one in front of us shortly.’
‘I think it’s following us.’
Joe put his foot down but the other car kept pace. He turned hard left into one of those upmarket residential estates, each of the houses different but somehow all out of the same brick mould. Medium-sized boxes, each with their standard-issue families sleeping the sleep of the contentedly mortgaged. We made another left then slowed to a crawl. The other car did not follow.
‘Paranoia,’ I said. Joe grinned, blew out his cheeks with relief and we drove full circle back on the same road we had entered.
‘Bloody hell, ‘ he said, ‘how much must these houses cost? You’d think you’d get more than one road for your dosh.’
‘It’s social control,’ I said. ‘When the natives eventually get restless, there’ll be fewer roads to block. That’s what they taught me in the army, anyway.’
‘Dead serious,’ I said. ‘But let’s get back to the motorway. Get you home.’
‘Yeah,’ he agreed. ‘Give me the frozen north any day. I hate unfamiliar places.’
We exited the one-way estate and I barely noticed the car parked on the other side of the road. Not until the driver hit the lights, started the engine and latched on to our tail once more.
‘Do you think he knew that road went around in a circle?’ Joe was agitated and drawing hard on his faux fag.
‘Yeah, must be a local.’
‘Or a cop?’
‘No, they’d have come mob-handed.’ I turned around to check out the headlights. ‘This is something else entirely.’
‘Leave behind no witnesses, you mean?’
‘Stop the car, Joe.’ I opened the glove compartment and pulled out a handgun.
‘Fuck me, Riley! I thought we’d got rid of those.’
‘Insurance,’ I said.
He pulled off the road onto a grass verge beside the remnants of forest. A Mercedes with tinted windows stopped a couple of hundred yards behind us. I took a deep breath and opened the passenger door.
‘I’ll come with you,’ Joe said.
‘No, you stay here. I’ll go and talk to this geezer, see what’s going on.’ I held the gun by my side. ‘If you hear shots and I’m not still standing, then take off.’
I moved towards the full-beam glare, conscious of the heft of the Glock in my right hand, blood pounding in my ears, and tried to get a look at the number plate. It had been muddied, that old trick, but even the numbers I could make out weren’t familiar to me. The car’s tinted windows revealed no interior shadows but I half-expected a hand to emerge shootered up and my imagination revved into overdrive. Bang! I could almost feel the thud as the bullet hits, jerks me backwards, throws me off my feet. Then the screech of tyres as Joe drives away and I’m left on the ground with nothing but the full April moon reflected in my eyes.
But there was no stealthy hand and I could hear the thrum from the Land Rover’s idling engine behind me, sense the faint purr of the black car ahead. The hundred yards I had to cover seemed more like a marathon.
The driver’s window was down. I peered into the dark interior. Nothing, nobody; it was the Marie-fucking-Celeste. Where was the bastard?
I looked back towards Joe’s vehicle and spotted a shadow slither from between the trees. Sudden flashes in the Land Rover’s cab and a muffled pop, pop, pop. I took cover beside the Merc, gun aimed two-handed across the bonnet at whoever might be about to try and take me down too. The shadowy figure straightened up, dressed all in black like a ninja. But it was a female silhouette that emerged from the darkness into the full beam of the headlights. A silenced gun was in her left hand and, in one fluid movement, she pulled the black balaclava from her head with the other. Monica! Her blonde mane fell loose to her shoulders and she screwed her eyes up against the harshness of the lights that made her look half-devil, half-angel. She smiled tentatively in my direction, dropped the gun on the ground and held out her arms to me.
‘I had to do it, Sam,’ she whispered. ‘To keep us safe. You’ve got to understand.’
I stood and faced her. ‘Joe didn’t even know who Benny was, Monica. Joe was solid. He’d never grass on me.’
‘Better this way.’ She slid into the Merc’s front passenger seat. ‘So get over it. Get rid of the guns and take me home.’
Monica was the wife of Benny Cohen, a semi-retired gangster. He’d have had us both filleted if he’d cottoned on to our affair. She’d convinced me that was true. ‘Benny will kill me. He’ll never let me go.’ So we had to get rid of him, didn’t we? Pretend it was a commission job by an out-of-towner. My old Manchester mate Joe Murphy was collateral damage. I felt sick about it but this was no time for regrets or recriminations. What was done was done. Professionalism kicked-in. We had to get away from the scene —fast.
And Joe’s simple plan had been so perfect. Benny Cohen and his distinctive gold Lexus would disappear on the way to Benny’s late-night meeting. Police would be informed next day, by which time the Lexus would already be in a dockside crate headed for Nigeria, courtesy of Joe’s steal-to-order ‘specialist motor exporter’ contact. The Lexus was already on its way to Southampton. But the final element of Joe’s plan was now well and truly down the Swanee. Six months was supposed to go by, one phone call to Joe and what remained of Benny would be ‘discovered’ by people camping on that very spot. With Monica by then officially a widow, we’d hop it to Spain together and live happily ever after.
But now with Joe being whacked tonight, all our plans were screwed up, irrevocably. Come the morning, some nosy dog-walker would take a butcher’s into the Land Rover and get a very nasty surprise. A gang hit and a missing villain on the same stretch of road would be too much of a coincidence for even the local plod to ignore. The cops’ woof-woofs would sniff out Benny in no time.
Monica must be crazy. And I was in far too deep to back off now.
Reviews from other writers
A gripping gangster novel
The plot of Truth Lies Buried twists and turns as tightly as a corkscrew. A gripping gangster novel with a fantastic protagonist. Like a cross between Cassavete’s ‘Gloria‘ and ‘The Long Good Friday.’
Paul D. Brazill- Author of Guns Of Brixton, The Gumshoe, Kill Me Quick
A fast ride that keeps you guessing
This hot new author’s second novel hits the ground digging, right in the middle of the action, then maintains a fast, twisty trajectory throughout its generous length. A tough female protagonist, credibly motivated with a military background that rings true, becomes the Guardian of a dead gangster’s son, a child old before his time. They soon face vile, ruthless opposition in a struggle for survival. As with Elmore Leonard, the ever-changing plot is foremost, with satisfying interesting characters. The unlovely changing face of English crime, wide open to utterly unscrupulous migrants, is well drawn. If you’ve always viewed nouveau riche Essex villains with some distaste this will confirm your suspicions while allowing you a vicarious wallow in the lives of the rich and tasteless, just as one can enjoy the Sopranos at a safe distance. Either well researched or owing something to insider knowledge, maybe both, this fast ride will keep you guessing all the way to the end.
Mark Ramsden – Author DREAD:The Art of Serial Killing, The Dungeonmaster’s Apprentice.
More than a match for Jack Reacher
In Truth Lies Buried, Lesley Welsh gives us Sam Riley, former soldier with mad skills, who, if Jack Reacher ever got off the bus and met her, would immediately climb back on and go someplace far away… proving he was both very, very smart and a man who knew his limitations.
Les Edgerton – Author, The Rapist, The Bitch, The Genuine Imitation Plastic Kidnapping and others.
Sharp, sexy and very smart
A very British noir; dirty deeds and dirty minds described in some very clean, crisp, spare prose. Truth Lies Buried is sharp, sexy, and very smart. Its female characters are strong and seductive, its plot satisfyingly complex.
Geoff Nicholson – Author, Bleedins London, Gravity’s Volkswagon, City Under The Skin, The Hollywood Dodo and many more
Page turner with emotional depth
Lord knows there are enough police procedurals out there that the world doesn’t need any more for a while. But reading ‘Truth Lies Buried’ made me realise how rarely we hear from the people who are caught up in the action itself rather than the officers of the law, and that is exactly what happens in this sexy, fast moving great British Noir novel.
So often crime isn’t a straightforward business, and that certainly proves to be the case here. Some of the characters in this book are both ruthless and rotten to the core, as you would expect from your noir thriller, But that’s certainly not the case with the primary character – former soldier Sam – who is caught up in the unfolding drama, not exactly through no fault of her own, but by virtue of the simple human folly being blinded by lust and coerced into committing a crime, which comes with far reaching consequences.
This is a very easy book to read, yet it is far from over-simplistic. The action is instant, and the story is complex, with many twists and turns along the way, but the author’s pared down, clean style means that as a reader you won’t get bogged down in any non-essentials. At the same time you find yourself rooting for the good guys, and caring about what happens to this rough diamond, and the people that she loves. It’s no mean feat for a writer to achieve emotional depth while providing us with a thoroughly entertaining page turner, but with ‘Truth Lies Buried’ Lesley Welsh does just that.
Suzy Prince co-author of ‘The Graphic Art of the Underground- A Counter Cultural History’
Brilliant Novel That Deserves To Do Well
First off, I like the clever title, juxtaposing Truth and Lies. The addition of Buried is made very clear at the outset when a local gangster is interred in a shallow grave, thanks to Sam Riley, ex-Army, who’s doing it for a very potent reason. Sam wants to spend the rest of her life with the deceased’s wife, Monica. Unfortunately, Monica also has a son, Brando – ‘Reservoir Pup’, Sam calls him: ‘just eleven years old and already a greedy, heartless little tosser.’
By now you should have a very strong flavour of the tone, the dry and dark humour of the book. To be savoured.
There are some great lines dropped in the narrative, too many to list here, but here are a few: ‘Carver’s voice always threw me, that high-pitched squeak emanating from his bulky body. Years before, a bullet in the throat had left him talking like a mouse on helium.’ Some more: ‘The Gangster, His Wife and The Lesbian.’ (p36); ‘…your knight in shining Armani,’ (p47); and ‘They say Orientals are inscrutable but they’ve got nothing on lawyers.’ (p80) Acute observation is evident, and couched in fine prose, for example: ‘Rubbish flew about like tattered birds…’ (p225)
Throughout, Welsh captures Sam’s voice to perfection, her emotions and strength of character, notably when she undergoes a transformation as she gets to know Brando, a great wise yet vulnerable character, eleven going on thirty. A number of chapters are third-person, and these enable the reader to get into the minds and under the skin of other characters, particularly the despicable Monica. Lenka is a fine surprise, too! As Sam says, ‘She really was something else.’ (p315)
To relate the storyline in any detail would be to spoil the discoveries along the way. For there’s a dark incident in Sam’s past that has poignant bearing on her present situation. Twists and turns in the plot kept me flipping the pages, whether that’s the good suspense, the cat-and-mouse with the DI, the confrontations with the other gangland members out to carve up Monica’s inheritance. There are many instances where the tension is raised in fraught moments. Sam’s encounter with a local hood on the threshold of the house is gauged just right.
Deaths lead to more deaths, and it all starts spinning out of control among the godless… The local gangsters have to contend with Chinese triads and Russian mafia, as well. I found the action scenes to be well-choreographed, tense and believable.
Sam is a rounded character, and opinionated, too, which is good; for example, her view of the PC crowd: ‘I loathe these people, the ones who have implanted these admonitory words in our brains. What kind of screwed-up Orwellian nightmare are we living in when a simple act of human kindness comes with cautionary, defensive and even reproachful strings attached?’ (p129)
Irony, pathos, it’s all here, and Welsh is superb on relationships – the good and the bad. ‘Maybe we are all haunted in one way or another. But some of us have more persistent ghosts.’ (p248)
As hinted at already, despite the grimness of gangland violence and threat, there’s plenty of humour, black and light. ‘He was straight from the Ugly Agency. Looking for an interesting character for a new film are you, Mr Spielberg? Want to frighten the living daylights out of the kiddies, do you? Then I know just the man for the part.’ (p314)
There are dark moments, since this is the underbelly of what passes for the human condition: ‘… an uneasy feeling settled on her shoulders like a dark shroud and she couldn’t shake it off.’ (p337) We sense that as we read on, wanting Sam to overcome the many obstacles in her path.
Welsh has created an intriguing and likeable heroine in Sam. ‘…Some people have clean hands but dirty soul. You have dirty hands but clean soul, I think.’ – (p382) It would be a shame if we were not to meet her again.
A brilliant novel that deserves to do well, giving the likes of Martina Cole a run for her ill-gotten gains.
Nik Morton – Author, Sudden Vengeance, CATalyst, The Tehran Text and many more