Wednesday, 4 April 2018

88° North by J F Kirwan + Excerpt

88° North by J F Kirwan
Published in the UK by HQ Digital in December 2017.

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : unavailable
Wordery : unavailable
Waterstones : unavailable
Amazon : from £1.99 (ebook)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

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The deadliest kind of assassin is one who is already dying…
As the radiation poisoning that Nadia Laksheva was exposed to in Chernobyl takes hold of her body, she knows she has mere weeks to live. But Salamander, the terrorist who murdered her father and sister has a deadly new plan to ‘make the sky bleed’. Nadia is determined to stop him again, even if it is the last thing she ever does.
The only clue she has are the coordinates 88˚ North, a ridge in the Arctic right above one of the largest oil fields in the world, three thousand metres below the ice. If Salamander takes hold of the oil field, he could change the climate of the whole planet for generations to come…
But can Nadia stop him before her own time runs out?
The gripping third and final novel in J.F. Kirwan’s brilliant spy thriller series. Perfect for fans of Charles Cumming, Mark Dawson and Adam Brookes.


Tonnochy Road lived up to its seedy night-time reputation. At one end were the hotels, including the one where Nadia and Jake were staying. But towards the middle it took a downturn. They passed a couple of busy bars, one where a band was playing, the singer doing an impressive rendition of Sinead O’Connor in her heyday. But those treading the sweating pavement slowly shifted from small groups of tourists and Western couples, to single men, some arm-in-arm with attractive, mini-skirted Asian girls in cliff-edge heels. Nadia and Jake walked briskly past the girly bars, where typically an older woman sat outside with two young, very attractive girls, as if in easy conversation. The straggling parade of single guys continued to crawl along, checking out the merchandise, sometimes moving on, other times stopping to chat with the girls. Occasionally this ended with the man walking into the bar with a girl, or even both girls, whereupon new girls would emerge. 
A smooth operation. A straightforward business model. Nothing that didn’t have its counterpart in most major cities in the world, though not always so blatant. But something made her stop. Katya. Nadia’s sister had been forced into prostitution for five years. She’d never complained about it, but right now it was as if her dead hands rose up through the uneven paving slabs and seized Nadia’s ankles, anchoring her to the spot. This was a bad idea, she needed to focus on finding Salamander. But she owed her dead sister. Part of the deal that had gotten Nadia out of prison the first time, meant that Katya had been trapped into being – the word stung her – a whore, for five years. She’d see Katya soon, maybe. She wanted to be able to say, ‘hey, I did something for you’. It wouldn’t make it right, but it would be something. 
Jake continued a couple of paces then stopped and gave her a quizzical look.
‘Let’s go inside,’ she said.
The older woman who’d been nursing a cigarette, chatting to one of the girls, jerked her head up. 
Jake’s eyes narrowed. He walked up to Nadia, and spoke quietly. ‘We’re kind of on the clock here. Whatever the reason you want to go inside, it’s not going anywhere. It’ll still be here tomorrow.’
Exactly. She breezed towards the entrance. The older woman rose quicker than Nadia would have given her credit for, and intercepted her at the doorway. The two girls watched with big eyes.
‘I help you?’ she said. She glanced toward Jake, as if to enlist him. A single woman entering such an establishment was clearly out of the norm.
‘I’d like to go inside.’
‘Like girls?’ the older woman asked. No judgment, just a business question.
One that put Nadia on edge. ‘I’d like to go inside.’ She turned to Jake. ‘Come with me?’ she said. 
The older one beamed, a sly smile. She gestured for both of them to enter. As soon as they were inside, everything changed. Super-strong aircon, dazzling purple-white lights that fluoresced the underwear of all the girls inside through their schoolgirl white blouses and short pleated skirts. Four of them danced – well, gyrated – on top of the bar, while half a dozen others milled about with the three punters inside. Ice buckets filled with bottles of champagne – cheap labels she’d never heard of – cluttered the place. The girls with the men were all smiles and giggles, focused on their clients. The others wore faces on a sliding scale between bored and wary.
A local girl, petite with smoky, bedroom eyes, and a tall, vivacious blonde with perfect skin joined Jake and Nadia at a round, stand-up table. ‘Hello handsome,’ the blonde said to Jake, with the hint of a Scandinavian accent, while the dark-haired one came close to Nadia, and stroked her upper arm. 
Nadia shut her eyes a moment, clamped her lips together, and imagined Katya. How she must have felt, so many times. Her stomach tightened into a knot, nothing to do with her sickness. Why hadn’t she gotten Katya out of there sooner? Five. Fucking. Years. She opened her eyes. 
‘Do you want to get out of here?’ she said, addressing both girls, barely keeping her voice under control. Jake stared at her, like he had no idea what she was doing. That made two of them. 
The blonde threw her head back and laughed. ‘It’s customary to have a drink first.’ She waved a lazy finger towards the bar, and a young girl, barely a teen, grabbed a metal bucket, rammed a bottle into the crushed ice, and brought it over. She popped the cork like a pro, deftly filled four glasses, shoved the empty bottle upside-down back into the bucket, and disappeared behind the bar again.
‘I mean get out of this life,’ Nadia said. The other girl was still stroking Nadia’s arm. Her smile had gone, but she said nothing.
The blonde pouted. ‘Oh baby, you’re not going to be a bore, are you? If you’re not here to fuck, you should leave.’ She leaned into Jake, her crimson lips close to his, her breasts pushing against his chest. ‘Be honest, baby. Don’t you want both of us? I only go with Western tourists, never with the locals.’ 
Jake’s eyes remained locked onto Nadia. 
None of this was on her agenda, which was simply ‘Kill Salamander’. But the more she thought about it, about how few days she had left, the more she wanted to rescue at least one person from a dismal life. Jake had said these places would be here tomorrow. There was the problem. No one acted. And soon, for her at least, there would be no tomorrow. 
Nadia turned to the smoky-eyed girl. ‘What about you?’
The girl glanced around furtively, and spoke in a low voice. ‘No way out,’ she said, taking a glass. Nadia seized her wrist before the glass reached her mouth.
‘What’s your name? Your real one.’
More furtive glances. ‘Jin Fe,’ she said. She stared at the bubbles in her glass. ‘It’s a joke. My mother was bilingual, Cantonese and English. Jin means swallow, like the bird. Fe means coffee. Swallow coffee.’ She tried to smile, failed, and took a sip.
The blonde’s eyes hardened. She put down her glass, and pointed four fingers in the air. ‘Have it your way,’ she said, and left the table.
It was well-choreographed. Three of the dancers got down from the bar, joined the girls chatting up the punters, and led them to a back room, champagne bottles and ice buckets and all. Four men in cheap black suits and shoelace ties appeared out of the woodwork, two in front of Nadia and Jake, two behind. All of them were thick-set, heads shaved at the front, ponytails at the rear of their scalps. The one directly in front had a dragon tattoo rising from his collar, coiling up over his chin onto his left cheek, a scaly claw poised next to his left eye. It looked fresh. Must have been bloody painful.
‘Five hundred dollars,’ he said, in a measured, oily voice. ‘And you get to leave on your own feet.’ The way he said it, he was hoping they didn’t have the money.
‘Sure,’ Nadia said, and pointed at the Asian girl. ‘But she comes with us.’ The girl began to back away, but Nadia held onto her wrist.
‘Two thousand for the night,’ the guy said, routinely. ‘And she comes back in the morning.’
‘Ten thousand,’ Nadia counter-offered. ‘And she never comes back.’ The girl stared at Nadia, her eyes a cocktail of fear and surprise, with just a dash of something surrendered long ago. 
Tattoo-man folded his arms, and put his thumb to his lips, as if considering the offer, but Nadia reckoned he wanted to rumble more than he wanted the cash. Probably didn’t like being upstaged by a woman. Then again …
‘One hundred thousand,’ he said, with a lop-sided grin, ‘and you keep the girl. But I’ve been there. She’s not worth it. Maybe you’ll like the taste better.’
The older woman came in from outside. She watched and listened, her narrowed chin making her look like a bird of prey in the stark lighting. No, not a bird of prey. A carrion bird. A crow. She perched at the bar.
Jake spoke. ‘We don’t have—’
Nadia felt Katya watching her. If there was an after-life, then maybe they’d soon be re-united. Or not. It didn’t matter. Nadia needed to right a wrong. This one act was a gift and a penance. In the bigger scheme of things, it didn’t amount to a piss in the ocean. But right here, right now, for Katya, for Nadia, and maybe for this girl, it was everything.  
‘She’s coming with us,’ Nadia stated, like it was a done deal, because whatever else happened, that was the way the future was going to play out. 
The guy’s grin twisted. ‘American Express?’ A metal rod slid from the sleeve of his suit into his right hand.
Nadia reached around behind her, to snatch her pistol from her waistband, but the crow arrived first.
‘We accept your offer of ten thousand American dollars,’ she said.
Tattoo-man’s grin crawled off his face, then he reeled off a machine-gun volley of protest in Cantonese. The crow talked just as fast, but in a lighter tone. Silk versus bullets. His onslaught faltered in the face of her firm rebuttal. His eyes flicked between her and Nadia, and then to Nadia’s waist, and the fact that she’d been reaching for something, and he did the math the crow had already computed. The other three men said nothing, waiting for their cue from the real boss. And then the crow beckoned someone from the shadows. The blonde. The crow said something, and the blonde’s face flashed disgust, then quickly recovered. She escorted Tattoo-man to one of the cubicles at the back.  
The crow gestured to the bar, and Nadia, the girl and Jake walked over. The same young girl who’d delivered the champagne deposited a credit card machine on the counter.
Nadia nodded towards Jake. He pulled out his wallet, and selected one of two gold cards. Not the company one. His own. The three men hung back, but kept their eyes on the trio.
‘I’ll pay you back,’ Nadia said quietly.
‘Birthday present,’ he replied. His phone buzzed, and he cupped his hand over the mouthpiece while he confirmed the transaction. 
‘She needs to get her things,’ the crow said, indicating the back.
Nadia shook her head. ‘We’ll be back to pick them up later,’ she lied. She still held the girl’s wrist. But the girl wasn’t resisting any more. ‘But she needs her passport. Send one of your men to get it.’
The crow stared at Nadia for a moment, then nodded to one of the monkey-suits. She then made a phone call of her own, presumably to confirm the money had been transferred. It took five minutes for the passport to arrive. 
It felt like an hour.

Meet the author:

J. F. Kirwan is the author of the Nadia Laksheva thriller series for HarperCollins. Having worked in accident investigation and prevention in nuclear, offshore oil and gas and aviation sectors, he uses his experience of how accidents initially build slowly, then race towards a climax, to plot his novels. An instructor in both scuba diving and martial arts, he travels extensively all over the world, and loves to set his novels in exotic locations. He is also an insomniac who writes in the dead of night. His favourite authors include Lee Child, David Baldacci and Andy McNab.

Author links: 
Website ~ BlogGoodreadsFacebook ~ Twitter

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by J F Kirwan / Thrillers / Books from England


  1. Ohhh this sounds interesting.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. I think all this trilogy will be exciting reads!