Title: GALLOWS FIELD
Author: Brendan Gerad O’Brien
Genre: Murder Mystery
Dublin 1941 A brutal murder. A missing ledger. And a case of mistaken identity has barman Eamon Foley running for his life. Nine months later Foley is in a crowded pub in Tralee. The music is loud. The singing is louder. His brother-in-law Joe McCarthy is shot dead. In the chaos Foley thinks he sees the Dublin killer rushing through the door. Is this a message? Have they caught up with him at last, looking for the ledger? Or is it as the local Gardaí suspect – Joe was killed by a jealous husband, given his reputation as a notorious womaniser? They dismiss Foley’s concerns. With horrendous results.
The big problem was Raymond Junior. He was too nice. And very quickly both the customers and the suppliers began to take advantage of him. It wasn’t long before the debts started mounting up and Raymond had to go grovelling to the bank. The bank wasn’t interested. But others were. They had money to invest. And very soon Raymond was spending most of this time running around after them and hardly any time on the daily running of things.
Foley was seriously concerned about the dodgy investors and the way they were turning the hotel into a sort of seedy private club, but when he commented on it one evening Raymond went pale with fury. He would have nothing said against his new best friends. Especially by the hired help. And in the blink of an eye, his friendship with Foley splintered. A huge gap opened up between them and they could hardly acknowledge each other anymore. Foley regretted that, but he didn’t know how to fix it.
Then Foley married Katie and the gap widened even more. Raymond thought Foley was a fool. Katie being pregnant was not a reason to marry her. In her profession, any one of her clients could be the father. Still, Foley stood by her and did what he thought was right.
Then one night a guest did some terrible things to an escort girl and Raymond’s bubble burst. He was horrified. The incident was quickly covered up but the shock of waking up to the reality of what his quaint old hotel had become almost drove him over the edge. He physically shrivelled up and all colour left his face. Foley desperately wanted to help his friend but the barrier Raymond had built between himself and Foley was too high now. There was no getting over it.
Even Katie dying so suddenly didn’t bring them any closer. If anything it gave Raymond the excuse to terminate their relationship and he put pressure on Foley to move on.
Still, Foley was leaving with a heavy heart. He loved his job. He would miss this place. As he was about to pick up his suitcase again Annie gave him a beaming smile and pointed to the stairs with her pen. ‘I think he might be in his office, though. A man was looking for him a few minutes ago. He went straight up there and I’m sure I heard voices.’
‘Right.’ Foley straightened up and glanced at where Annie was pointing. ‘Thank you, Annie. So maybe I will just pop my head around the door and let him know we’re leaving.’ Foley guided Micky to a chair and sat him down. ‘You sit here, son. Look after the suitcase. I won’t be long.’
Foley bounced up the stairs. The office was at the back of the building and as Foley turned the corner into the corridor he could hear what sounded like angry voices muffled behind a closed door. He slowed down and approached as quietly as the creaking old floorboards would let him.
Through the glass partition, he could see Raymond sitting bolt upright with his hands flat on the desk in front of him. He looked distressed. Foley could only see the back of the other man. He was stocky and wearing a long overcoat. He had a trilby pulled down over his face. And he was pointing a .45 Webley handgun at Raymond’s face.
Raymond was trembling. ‘I don’t know what you mean,’ Foley could hear him saying. ‘Honest to God. I didn’t do anything. You have to believe me.’
‘Stop it,’ the man told him. ‘Stop embarrassing yourself. We know what you did. Lying about it is just wasting your time and my time. And the result will be the same. You are only delaying the inevitable.’
As Foley moved closer to get a better look at the man his foot clipped a small table and knocked it against the partition. The man spun around waving the gun. Raymond saw his chance, jumped up and with a mad scream threw himself over the desk. His long arms wrapped around the man and they danced across the room like two angry spiders, pulling and grabbing at each other.
Foley crashed through the door and tried to grab the man’s arm but the arm was like a piston and it threw him back against the desk. He fell awkwardly and had to grab the desk to get back up. And as he struggled to his feet there was an almighty bang and a fierce blow caught him in the side like a slap from a wrecking ball. He slammed back against the desk again. Then everything went black.
But it wasn’t for long. Through the buzzing in his head, he could hear footsteps approaching. They stopped close by and a second later a woman screamed. Then the footsteps went back down the corridor, only this time a lot quicker.
Foley almost screamed too when he tried to stand up. The pain was excruciating. It felt as if his ribs were crushed and he was struggling to catch his breath. He grabbed his side and when he saw the blood spurting through his fingers the shock made his head swim. He squeezed a fistful of his coat against the wound as he looked around the room.
Raymond was slumped by the wall with his legs spread out and his hands in his lap. And his face was gone. The .45 bullet had entered under his chin and sliced it right off.
The man with the gun was gone too.
Foley tried to pull himself back up but the strength was pouring out of him along with the blood. He staggered around to Raymond’s big office chair and dropped into it. Then the blackness came down on him again.
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Several five star reviews: Gallows Field is a breath-taking thriller with plenty of twists and turns. The characters are well-drawn with their own backstories. The plot moves at a good pace and kept me vested. Sgt. Edge is a stuffy policeman who follows police procedure to the letter and is an intriguing man. The backdrop is Ireland during world war two. While it’s not a normal setting for a thriller, the historical accuracies are spot-on. The ending stayed with me and I closed the book satisfied.
If you’re looking for a gritty historical thriller in the same vein as James Patterson, pick up Gallows Field today.
My Rating: 5 stars
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I was born in Tralee, Ireland and now live in Newport, South Wales.
I was blessed to have been raised in one of the most beautiful places on God’s earth and, as was usual back in the day, part of a family of eight children and a huge extended bank of relations, so we were never short of company and entertainment. We were lucky to be able to spend our young years playing on the many wonderful beaches that surrounded us and were all within a bicycle ride from our house.
A chance meeting with a beautiful Welsh lady meant a huge step-change and I ended up here in Wales with two wonderful daughters who have encouraged and critiqued my work on many occasion, but always with good humour and affection.
One of the highlights of my childhood years was spending a few weeks in Listowel, Co Kerry, where my uncle Moss Scanlon had a Harness Maker’s shop. It was a magnet for all sorts of colourful characters, and it was there that my love of storytelling was kindled by the likes of John B. Keane and Bryan MacMahon, who often wandered in for a chat and bit of jovial banter.
The numerous short stories I’ve written are based on those characters and have been published in various anthologies and eMags over the years.
My first novel, a thriller set in Wales during WW2, is called Dark September
Gallows Field is my second thriller and is also set in WW2, only this time in Ireland.
A Pale Moon Was Rising is a follow up thriller involving Eamon Foley again.
Footsteps is my latest thriller.
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