In the end he ran, simply because it was the only sane thing left to do.
When Kyle had suggested they pile into his beaten-up Fiat and drive to the woods, Billy had groaned. Half an hour sandwiched on the back seat, littered with old burger wrappers and empty beer cans was a grim prospect, especially on a branding-iron hot day like this.
He thought back to the last time he’d been in the death trap on wheels. Shaun Miller had rummaged down the back of the seat looking for a fiver he swore he lost the week before. Instead of money, he’d found a used condom and had spent the next ten minutes dangling the shrivelled rubber in front of Billy’s face, laughing hysterically as he tried to twist away. In the end, Kyle had draped it over the rear-view mirror displaying it proudly like some grotesque air freshener.
So begins The Needle House, the first book in the hugely successful DS Lasser series written by Robin Roughly. This week sees the publication of the fifteenth Lasser novel, The One With All The Pain. With a long-running series like this one it can be tricky to know where to start – even if each novel is a standalone story in its own right. So here’s our introduction to Lasser himself, a likeable copper with a warped sense of humour. If you like the cut of his jib then pop back at the end of the week when we’ll have copies of The Needle House up for grabs.
In the meanwhile, here’s what author Robin says about his gruff detective. Lasser is ‘flawed as a human being’ but not weirdly so. ‘I didn’t want him to be tortured by something in his past or have any annoying quirks, or be able to solve the crimes with ease. I wanted him to be believable and slightly downtrodden with the grind of the job… He is a hard man in the physical sense but underneath he feels things deeply.’
Now read on, and enjoy the opening events from The Needle House…
Now as the sun dipped towards the horizon, he found himself collecting wood for the fire, foraging beneath the towering beech trees, kicking his way through drifts of burnished leaves, searching for timber that was dry enough to burn.
While he trudged back and forth, his arms laden with fuel for the fire, the others occupied themselves with the serious business of getting off their faces on cheap lager.
Billy dropped the last of the kindling onto the ground, doused the timber with lighter fluid, and tossed the empty can into a patch of nettles. Striking a match, he studied the flame for a moment before flicking it towards the small pyre. Instantly, the vapour ignited and the searing blast sent him staggering back; the eruption of flame threw tall shadows careering against the trees.
Above the roar, he could hear the others laughing hysterically at his near incineration, eyes streaming, he coughed and spat out the acrid taste of smoke from his lungs. When he was sure the fire had taken hold, Billy flopped down onto the leaf-littered ground, listening as the others talked about the two topics that ruled their lives, fucking and fighting.
Yawning, he rubbed the sting of smoke from his eyes and let his mind wander. He had heard the stories countless times before and with each new telling, the embellishments bloomed as mushrooms fed on bullshit.
As the night wore on and the fire died down to a crackle, he rose to his haunches, alert for a discarded joint or any half-full can of lager tossed carelessly to one side.
Things changed when Tommy dished out the small white pills. This was nothing new; simply another part of the ritual, whether it was smoked, sniffed or swallowed was irrelevant, as long as they got the ‘buzz’.
When two of the gang became aggressive, Billy felt a familiar twist of unease.
Starting with the obligatory pushing and shoving, it quickly escalated into outright warfare. The eruption of violence ended when Shaun Miller slipped and clattered to the floor. Tommy burst out laughing and Kyle choked, spraying a mouthful of lager onto the hot coals, the liquid hissing like a stamped-on cat. Despite his unease, Billy nervously joined in with the laughter until Miller whipped his head around, fixing him with a glare that promised violence.
‘Come here, you little prick!’ he snarled.
Billy licked his lips. ‘Sorry, Shaun.’
‘You fucking will be.’
Loving it so far? Great! Come back on Friday when you can enter our giveaway to win an ebook edition of The Needle House.
Or bounce over to Amazon where you’ll find all of Robin Roughley’s crime fiction