The Death Pictures
Released: 25 February 2008
A dying artist creates a series of ten paintings - The Death Pictures - which contain a mysterious riddle, leading the way to a unique and highly valuable prize. Thousands attempt to solve it. But before the answer can be revealed, the painter is murdered.
A serial rapist is methodically working through a series of attacks. He isn't shy to make clear his hatred of women, and his taunting of the police. He leaves his calling card, a witch's hat at the houses he breaks into, each numbered from a pack of six.
The detectives face baffling questions. Why kill the artist when he would die naturally in just a few weeks time? What to make of the attempted break in at his house just before his death? Could it be connected with the rapes, all of which have been carried out in the area around his home?
The media interest in the cases is intense, and Detective Chief Inspector Adam Breen again turns to his friend, TV Crime reporter Dan Groves to help him handle it. Dan does ? at the price of some great scoops, and an involvement in the case that eventually leads him to effectively talk to the rapist, using the stories he broadcasts to lure him into a trap, and finally, discover the extraordinary solution to the riddle.
Below is an exclusive extract from Simon Hall's new book - The Death Pictures
Sometimes it was difficult not to cry, but he couldn't say exactly why the tears were gathering now. Before him was a masterpiece that he had created and which would live on for hundreds of years, perhaps even thousands. And he was dying. Which was the reason for the tears? A little of both perhaps, he thought. Whatever, it didn't matter. All that was important now was the completion of his grand vision, the wondrous legacy he would leave.
He swallowed and felt the tumour, hard and alien within him. It was always there, deep inside, always growing, hungrily eating away at his life. It was a cowardly enemy, but an insurmountable one. It would never show itself and it could not be defeated. And its victory was near now as the momentum of its lethality grew. His only consolation was that the cancer would die with him.
The familiar watering stung at his eyes and he wiped them with a sleeve. She would not see it. She was suffering enough, readying herself for life alone. No more breathless walks on the dizzying, jewelled coast, shared bottles of heady wine in the warm snug of a stone walled pub, even the mundane yet strangely precious nights just watching the television together. And she was prepared for what he had asked her to do. It was a daunting sacrifice for one as good as her. Her role was vital and he knew she was heavy with doubt, but she had promised. He trusted her to carry it all through. It was his last wish, the way he wanted to be remembered. His lesson.
He reached out with the fine brush and mixed a little white into the fluid gold crescent of paint on his pallet. Above the head of the younger of the two images of himself, he added a point to a star. It was complete. The final picture was finished, the last clue to the riddle, the last detail in the spectacular epitaph he was writing for himself.
He laid the pallet down, reached for the light switch and turned to walk back into the house. Another persistent tear tickled his eye. He hesitated. He couldn't face her yet. Not yet, she couldn't see him suffering. It hurt her too much.
He gazed back at the picture and relived the anticipation of the sensation he would never see. It was a fantasy he couldn't tire of. No one would solve the riddle, he was sure of that. It was too clever, too perfect. In a lifetime of wonder, this was the zenith.
He would achieve immortality, joining the exulted ranks of the finest artists with the timeless works they left behind. He still wasn't quite sure which was the most powerful motivation. That, or the opportunity to enforce some justice in an immoral world. He licked a finger and smoothed a spraying eyebrow into order. It didn't matter. The historians could argue about his reasons, and they would, for many long years. All that was important was that it happened.
The thought cheered him, as it always did. He would die within days now. His hand rose to his chest. The tumour had almost finished gorging itself, but time enough remained for all that was required. He reached for the light switch again and this time flicked it off. He could face her now. The knowledge of the amazement, fascination and scandal that he would leave behind had given him strength. It always did.
He glanced back at the silhouette of the canvas and the dark outlines of the two images of himself. Whatever they claimed about him, it could never be said that Joseph McCluskey's death had no meaning.