Wednesday, 8 May 2019

The Suspects by Katharine Johnson + #Giveaway + Excerpt

The Suspects by Katharine Johnson
Published by Crooked Cat Books on the 25th March 2019.

Add The Suspects to your Goodreads

Shallow Grave meets The Secret History in this quirky psychological thriller

Bristol, 1988. Five young graduates on the threshold of their careers buy a house together in order to get a foot on the property ladder before prices spiral out of their reach. But it soon becomes the house share from hell. 

After their New Year’s Eve party, they discover a body – and it's clear they’ll be the first suspects. As each of them has a good reason from their past not to trust the police, they come up with a solution – one which forces them into a life of secrets and lies. But can they trust each other? 

"The hugely talented Katharine Johnson has, again delivered a tense thriller! This is a compelling novel - up there with Erin Kelly and Sophie Hannah." 
Val Penny, author of The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries.

“Gripping and frighteningly realistic. The twists and turns kept me guessing to the very end.”
Jo Fenton, author of The Brotherhood.


The body of a young woman has been found in woods near Ashton Court in Bristol. Police are investigating a possible link with the murder of Lily Ambrose who was abducted from the same area...

November 1989
There was nothing remotely funny about Xanthe’s funeral except that she fulfilled so many predictions by being late for it. The ice had left potholes all over the place so I suppose it was inevitable that the hearse should get stuck in one.
     I could just see her, pale green eyes wide and alight with indignation, saying “I mean, there I was...” the way she’d started most of her anecdotes.
     Because with Xanthe nothing went according to plan. She’d come breezing into the office, her witchy hair blown about as though she’d been walking on the moors instead of driving her 2CV, seemingly oblivious to her editor’s sarcastic “Nice of you to turn up” and say, “You will not believe what just happened...”
     Ignoring the editor’s pained “I don’t want to know” she’d swizzle round in her chair as she recounted her latest misadventure, covering her face with her hands like a child playing hide-and-seek, her laughter coming in great, gurgling gasps. The cuffs of her black jumper were stained, stiff and jagged, her black painted nails nibbled and cracked and those long, raised scars on the underside of her arms just visible. A smudged phone number invariably decorated the back of one hand.
     The editor usually cut her off before she reached the climax of her tail and stuck her on Product News for the rest of the day as punishment for her lateness. The magazines in our company had titles most people had never heard of and wouldn’t care about if they had. Ice Cream Retailer, Radiator Supplies Monthly, Furniture Maker. There’s a magazine for everything somewhere - even one called The Embalmer - Xanthe used to love that one. It seemed funny at the time.
     In the church at her funeral the organ played, people whispered, a woman in front of us rooted in her bag for tissues and blew her nose with an explosive hoot. Someone crackled a sweet wrapper. Stuart looked round in disgust.
     It was a large church, most of the pews still empty. There were flowers decorating the pew ends - nice ones, left over from a wedding I supposed.
      Zak raked his hand through his dark mop and rubbed the stubble on either side of his face. You could hear his skin rasping. He’d been the last up that morning, sitting sockless and dishevelled in the kitchen, drinking one coffee after another. I knew he’d been awake half the night. I’d heard his floorboards creaking, the window opening and closing and strains of Xanthe’s Everything But The Girl album - the one Zak had threatened to throw out of the window if she played it one more time.
     He caught me looking at him in the pew and gave me a half smile. “All right, Em?”
     I managed a quick smile back, although it was the first time we’d communicated in days. As I leaned forward to put my bag under the pew I felt him studying me.
    “Is that dirt or bruises?” he asked at last.
     I clapped one hand to the back of my neck while turning up my jacket collar with the other. I’d hennaed my hair that morning and done my usual trick of forgetting to check that I’d washed all the dye off my skin. Zak looked away in an unsuccessful attempt to hide a smile.
     The four of us were crammed into the pew. I don’t know what people thought of us sitting there. I’m sure they wondered how we knew each other, let alone how we’d known Xanthe. Imogen with her punky platinum cropped hair, wearing a baggy, black jumper and leggings; Stuart in his sports jacket and roll-neck, Zak in his jeans and biker jacket, and me in the stalwart black Lycra dress I’d worn to the office, press launches, shopping and parties but would never, I realised at that moment, wear again.
     Imogen’s hand on my knee alerted me to the fact that it had been jiggling up and down. It had even ages since I’d been inside a church. Just talking about religion made me cringe. Zak said to me once, “How come you’ll answer any question above it sex but you go all panicky when someone asks if you believe in God?”
     “It’s just too big a question,” I said, squirming.
     “It’s Yes or No,” he replied. “Or I don’t know.”
     “Just don’t go there, okay? Can of worms.”
     The smell of dust, wood polish, lilies and old coats, the silky pages of well-thumbed hymn books, dragged me back years. Those oppressive, quiet moments I always longed to break by streaking down the aisle shouting obscenities. It had left me with a fear of silence, a need to fill gaps in any conversation, however inappropriately.
     But I didn’t want to misbehave that day. I’d have given anything not to. It just happened. I saw the name Charlotte Lucy Clarke on the funeral pamphlet. Jumping out of my seat,I blurted, “We’re at the wrong do.”
     I don’t even know why I used the word do. It’s something my granny would say about a sherry party.
     “It’s Xanthe,” said Imogen, tugging me back down into the pew.
     Of course the police had been calling her Charlotte for weeks by then but I’d imagined Xanthe must at least have been her middle name.
     “See that couple?” Imogen whispered. “Her parents.”
     “Foster parents,” I reminded her, looking over at the middle-aged couple in the front pew. “The real ones died in a plane crash, remember?”
     Imogen’s blonde brows twitched. “It seems not.”
     “And that’s her sister?”
     “The nun? The one who...?”
     Imogen barely blinked and yet her cool, blue eyes signalled she’d tell me later.
     It made me wonder if we’d ever really known Xanthe.

Meet the author

Katharine Johnson was born in Bristol and now lives in Berkshire. She’s worked as a journalist on lots of magazines and has written a history book about Windsor. When not writing you’ll usually find her with a book in one hand and a coffee in the other, restoring a house in Italy, walking her spaniel or playing netball (although not usually at the same time.)

Author links: 
BlogFacebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Pinterest ~ BookBub ~ Publisher

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

Win copies of The Suspects and The Silence
(Open Internationally until the 11th May)

1st Prize - signed paperback of The Suspects
2nd Prize audiobook of The Silence – any region

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Katharine Johnson / Crime fiction / Books from England


  1. I do enjoy the occasional psychological thriller and this sounds good.

    1. I love the idea of the Bristol setting because I know this city quite well

  2. WOW! This sounds like the perfect plot for a movie. I do love anything set in Britain! ;) Thanks for sharing the excerpt too. I love getting a taste of the writing. ❤️