About the Author:
J.G. Sandom is the author of six thrillers and mysteries, including THE GOD MACHINE, GOSPEL TRUTHS and THE WALL STREET MURDER CLUB, plus the eco-thriller THE WAVE.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Booklist called GOSPEL TRUTHS "a splendid, tautly woven thriller . . . (and) an intelligent mystery of tremendous spiritual and literary depth." And Library Journal termed it, "A masterful first novel, based on a true incident, which spins a complicated web of corruption, greed and deception."
Kirkus Reviews called THE WALL STREET MURDER CLUB "A Big Apple Deliverance, endowing New York culture with all the corrosively dehumanizing power of Dickey's wild nature." And Booklist said, "(Sandom) writes with stunning elegance . . . A sure hit with any suspense reader."
Caroline Thompson (author of Edward Scissorhands) said, "Move over, Dan Brown . . . All hail J.G. Sandom . . . (THE GOD MACHINE) is a thrilling and breathless, rapturously-written and mind-blowing read. It'll keep you up all night, turning pages as fast as your little fingers can manage." And Historical Novels Review said, "History galore, violence, and intrigue fill the pages of this tightly plotted, twisting and turning adventure story . . . THE GOD MACHINE is a very impressive historical thriller!"
Kirkus said, "Sandom's strength lies in the verve of his story, with writing that has both muscle . . . (and) brains . . . (THE WAVE) races from improbable to crazywild, all in good fun, with Sandom always one step ahead . . . A story with enough manic energy to be worthy of a nuclear explosion."
While known mostly as a writer of thrillers and mysteries, Sandom is also the author of several Young Adult (YA) novels, including the award-winning KISS ME, I'M DEAD and CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE BODY SNATCHER. The Washington Post said, "(Sandom) writes with a precision and delicacy unusual for YA fiction," and called KISS ME, I'M DEAD "a subtle gem."
August 10th, 1991
He was late, or everyone else was early once again. Nigel Lyman dug his elbows into his sides and leaned into the morning, moving with the cadence of a military parade. He was not a particularly tall man, but there was a solidity about his body, a tightness of the neck and shoulders, that lent itself by nature to this kind of grim, determined walk. He moved as if to prove the definition of a line.
A fierce breeze plucked the rain, and as Lyman walked he pointed his umbrella at a dozen different clouds, jabbing at the fickle wind. The sidewalk was almost empty. Most of the city was at work already, save for a few resilient shoppers, the tardy secretaries, the intentionally lost. The street coursed dreamily along, the shop walls rising to the rain, the gray slate roofs and grayer sky of London.
Lyman turned off the street and entered the police station. A small crowd waited by the lift. He passed them with a terse hello, and noticed–as he headed for the stairwell at the back–that a line of water trailed his wet umbrella down the hall. It was going to be one of those days, again.
He took the steps two at a time, trying to ignore the dark familiar landmarks of the first few floors, the sergeant constable on duty, the holding cells, the paperwork policemen, where Dotty Taylor worked with rows and rows of numbers in accounting.
When he reached the fourth floor, he stopped and took his scarf and coat off, dropping them delicately across a battery of pipes near the door. Then he hung up his umbrella, the bent spoke closest to the wall.
No one gave him much more than a passing glance as he entered the office, but Lyman knew they registered his presence. It was almost ten A.M. Some were just too polite, he thought, too bloody shy, or too embarrassed to say anything. Some really didn't care. And then there were the rest, who hoped that one day his apparent lack of gumption would be noticed but who refused to drag his failings from the shadows by themselves, afraid perhaps that adding peccadillos to his already damning sins might seem vindictive.
He walked between the rows of desks. Eight policemen shared the office, and most sat with their faces turned away, trying not to look at Lyman. Some read reports with studied concentration. Some talked in whispers on the telephone.
Lyman sat down at his metal desk. It was the tidiest in the room, the surface empty save for an ancient telephone, an ashtray, and a battered old PC.
"Starting early," Inspector Blackwell said beside him.
Lyman turned, facing Blackwell and the open window. It was always open, sun or snow. He reached into his pocket, removed a tin of licorice, and popped one in his mouth.
"By the by," continued Blackwell, "Chief Superintendent Cocksedge wants to see you. As soon as you come in. Hello. Are you there?"
Lyman frowned. "When did Cocksedge poke around?"
"Poke?" Blackwell's eyebrows seemed to skate across his forehead. "The detective chief superintendent does not poke. His representatives may poke. He delegates. He confers."
"Just answer the question, Blackwell."
"He sent the Lemur down at nine."
"Thanks," Lyman answered in a kind of cough. His head hurt. It had hurt since late last night, or even longer. He pushed his chair away from the desk.
"I won fifty pounds in the football pool yesterday," Blackwell crowed.
Lyman ran his fingers through his hair. It was still thick, just grayer round the edges, like burnt paper. "Good for bloody you."
"Now I can pay you back that twenty quid."
Lyman straightened his suit jacket. "Wrong again, Blackwell. It's I owe you."
Inspector Blackwell smiled. "There you go," he said. "Clever lad. And when exactly, if I may ask, are you going to pay me?"
Lyman glanced down at his shoes. They were soaked through. He turned and headed for the door.
"Give him our best," Blackwell called after him. "And don't forget my money."
Detective Chief Superintendent of Police Brian R. Cocksedge, late of the Royal Navy, was fond of quoting Siegfried Sassoon in a dramatic baritone whenever he was struck by the oppressive realization that Man was, comparatively speaking, barely out of the trees of Africa. At times, especially when he had been upstaged again by the New Scotland Yard, he would stand firmly in the doorway of his office, pitching his voice at no one in particular. " 'When the first man,' " he'd cry, " 'who wasn't quite an ape/ Felt magnanimity and prayed for more, /The world's redemption stood, in human shape, /With darkness done and betterment before.' "
Nigel Lyman reflected on this as he waited for the lift. He had never really cared for Siegfried Sassoon. To him redemption was a dubious exercise, an almost Arthurian quest, one which had little to do with real human motivation, and therefore even less to do with crime.
He pressed the button for the lift again and uttered a faithless prayer that the chief superintendent was not in one of his discoursing moods again. Indeed, he thought, given a choice between a grim oration and a short farewell, he would prefer the door. What else could it mean? he asked himself. It was amazing he had lasted quite this long. The lift doors creaked open.
The chief superintendent's secretary, Mrs. Clanger, eyed him with a codlike, blinkless stare. "Ah, Mr. Lyman," she said. "Are you absolutely sure you have the time? I mean, after all." She looked at her wide-faced watch.
Lyman tried to usher up the smile of a conspirator. "Sorry I'm late. I had an early meeting across the river."
Mrs. Clanger did not soften. A moment passed, and finally she poked her vintage intercom and announced his presence.
"Right. Send him through," the chief superintendent bellowed in response.
Lyman walked briskly across the room and opened the door. The chief superintendent's office was cluttered and ill lit, but Lyman took in the details with a single practiced glance: an overfull metal file cabinet; a faded rose-and-foliage shade atop a standing lamp; several photographs in neat walnut frames, mostly old navy friends and famous personages; a sizable portrait of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, artist unknown; a rugger ribbon; an honorary degree from Bristol University; green curtains, standard issue; and a massive coatrack and umbrella stand, barely visible beneath several coats of various weights and textures.
Detective Chief Superintendent Cocksedge stood at the window behind his desk, staring out into the wet gray street. Lollipop crosswalk lights blinked on and off below, lending his already waxy countenance an orange patina. "Nasty, isn't it," he said, pulling at his narrow mustache.
"All week," Lyman answered.
"Yes. All week." Suddenly Cocksedge turned fully round. His face was long and pale, with a pair of creases running up and down both sides of his forehead, like poorly sewn seams. "Good for pike fishing though, eh, Lyman?" He took a reluctant step toward his desk. "It says here you're a . . ." His hand flipped through a file. "A 'fisherman of some experience,' whatever that means. Surely every boy in England over five years old is a fisherman of 'some experience.' What do those people in personnel do all day? It's beyond me, I'm sure."
Lyman remained silent.
Chief Superintendent Cocksedge sighed loudly. He pulled his chair out and sat formally behind his desk. "I'll be honest with you, Lyman. You're in a bloody mess."
"I know, sir."
The chief superintendent raised a hand. "Don't interrupt me, dammit. I'm trying to help you, Lyman. I'm on your side." He turned to the beginning of what Lyman gathered was his file.
There was that picture of his ex-wife, Jackie, on her old bicycle, Lyman noticed. It was stapled to a set of crinkled yellow pages. Personnel always used yellow for dependents. Lyman wondered if there were some logic to the color.
"Now," the chief superintendent continued. "There are certain gentlemen here at City of London and at Metropolitan who are of the opinion that Nigel Lyman's talents are on the wane, that after a promising beginning he has fiddled away his career." He scanned Lyman's face. "I am not one of them," he added gravely. "Of course, I won't pretend to understand your personal feelings concerning that ghastly business in the Falklands. Frankly, and I say this as a father as well as a former officer in Her Majesty's Navy, I don't believe it should have anything to do with the business at hand, with getting the job done. The Falklands war was nine years ago. Think of the boys who died last year and this year in Kuwait. Your son's death, tragic as it was, was but one part of the price we all pay for decency in this country."
"Yes, sir." Inspector Lyman looked beyond the window. He had never even known where the Falklands were before Peter had enlisted. He had only known the name from reading it on those little plastic tags clipped to the lamb his butcher sold in Golders Green. One of Jackie's cousins had once visited the South Atlantic islands. She had even sent some picture postcards back, but Lyman could not remember if they were still down in the cellar, in that box, or if his ex-wife had removed them with the rest of her belongings.
Jackie had gone back to Winchester after the divorce. The Falklands war was all but forgotten. Now everyone obsessed about Iraq. And all that remained of Peter was his little mongrel, George, who had found his roundabout way back to Lyman. Jackie hadn't wanted him. He shed too much. He ruined her clothes. He too was now superfluous.
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.