Monday, October 23, 2017

Happy release: Zenka by Alison Brodie

by Alison Brodie
-Thriller, Romance
Release date: November 6, 2017
Amazon | Goodreads

"She's the one to die for"

Zenka is a black comedy/crime/romance set in gangland London in the months leading up to Christmas.

Ruthless, stubborn and loyal.

Zenka is a Hungarian pole-dancer with a dark past.

When cranky London mob boss, Jack Murray, saves her life she vows to become his guardian angel – whether he likes it or not. Happily, she now has easy access to pistols, knuckle-dusters and shotguns.

Jack learns he has a son, Nicholas, a community nurse with a heart of gold. Problem is, Nicholas is a wimp.

Zenka takes charge. Using her feminine wiles and gangland contacts, she aims to turn Nicholas into a son any self-respecting crime boss would be proud of. And she succeeds!

Nicholas transforms from pussycat to mad dog, falls in love with Zenka, and finds out where the bodies are buried – because he buries them. He’s learning fast that sometimes you have to kill, or be killed.

As his life becomes more terrifying, questions have to be asked:

How do you tell a crime boss you don’t want to be his son?

And is Zenka really who she says she is?


An hour later the doorbell buzzed.


Nicholas turned down the lighting, turned up the Mozart, grabbed a sparkler from the mantelpiece and lit it. This would make her laugh. He ran down the stairs, flung the door wide and waved the sizzling stick above his head.

It wasn’t Zenka. It was a baby-faced man bowed under the weight of a long black-plastic parcel thrown over one shoulder.

‘Package for Jason Sloane,’ the man said, eyeing the sparkler with suspicion.

Nicholas recovered from his disappointment. Zenka could still turn up. He studied the package. It was obviously heavy. ‘Shall I take it?’ he asked half-heartedly.

‘Nah, you’re awright.’ The delivery man mounted the stairs as if he knew the way. ‘Sodding traffic. Thought I’d never get ’ere.’

Nicholas, buoyed up with thoughts of Zenka, followed behind. ‘What’ve you got there?’ he quipped. ‘A dead body?’

The man - obviously lacking a sense of humour - failed to laugh. Nicholas had already guessed what it was. A rug. A large rug by the look of it. What would it be: fake zebra-skin or yellow shag-pile? Jason’s pathetic attempt to stamp his identity on an elegant Louis Quatorze apartment.

As the delivery man banged into the flat, Nicholas called out merrily, ‘Jason! Delivery for you.’

In the sitting room, the man paused. ‘Where do you want it?’ Without waiting for an answer, he dumped the package on a dining chair. It bent to the angle of the chair, giving the strange illusion of a seated human figure. Nicholas was still staring at it when Jason appeared, towelling his hair dry.

The delivery man grinned. ‘Mr Acid Bath himself!’ He shook Jason warmly by the hand. ‘I’m Lloyd. Pleasure to meet you, at last.’

Jason allowed his hand to be pumped hard. ‘Lloyd-?’ he queried.

‘Gibson. Didn’t the boss mention me?’

‘Um, no.’

‘He will. Anyway, sorry to spring this on you, but Charlie’s up to his ears in nappies.’ The man jerked a thumb in the direction of the package. ‘But I want you to know I’m not taking all the credit for this. Mr Murray’s going to know this was a joint effort.’ As if to confirm this, he held up a pink disposable camera. He produced a flick knife, strode to the package, slit an opening in the top section and pulled apart the black plastic.

Nicholas stared. It looked too dead to be real. But Nicholas had seen a dead face before, and he knew what he was looking at. Jason obviously didn’t.

Because Jason laughed.

Lloyd grinned back at him. ‘Merry Christmas Mr Murray, eh?’

Nicholas, wrenching his gaze from the corpse, stifled a whimper as Lloyd approached and thrust a camera into his hand. ‘I want you to take a photo of us,’ he instructed.

Nicholas gazed at the camera. Everything had become dream-like and fuzzy round the edges. He heard Lloyd whisper to Jason, ‘Is he, you know, a bit simple?’

‘Yeah, sad, isn’t it?’

Lloyd held a sprig of mistletoe over the corpse’s head. ‘Okay, Jace, you stand the other side. Ready?’

Jason got into position. ‘Ready.’

‘I could have given him chocolates,’ the man chatted, ‘but it’s always chocolates, isn’t it? The photo’s to put in his Christmas card. From the both of us,’ he added quickly. ‘Merry Christmas from ….’ He shrugged, at a loss. ‘Who?’

Jason deliberated. The answer, when it came, was flat and uninspired, ‘“Waste Management”?’

The man laughed. ‘Good one.’

Waste Management! Nicholas’ brain grabbed on to this. That was where Jason worked. The boss. Christmas card. Up to his ears in nappies. Lloyd Gibson obviously worked for the council and had found this dummy in a skip, and decided to give the boss a good laugh.

There was nothing for Nicholas to worry about.

So why was his brain still screaming in horror?

He went forward, pulling back the plastic, as if posing the right shot. He stared at the ginger freckles on white skin, the curly ginger hair. He touched the skin. It was real. He opened his mouth and took in gulps of air, feeling himself about to faint. He backed off, afraid that he would make some shocking noise, a bark of terror, a high-pitch whinny.

Jason and Lloyd were complaining about the traffic on the North Circular. ‘So, what’s your speciality, Jace?’ Lloyd enquired.


‘Recycling?’ Lloyd shifted uneasily. ‘What?’ He swallowed. ‘Like in,’ his gaze dropped reluctantly to the body beside him, ‘pig feed?’

Jason threw Nicholas an impatient look: ‘Are you taking the photo, or what?’

Nicholas’s brain told him to run, but his knees had turned to jelly. He lifted the camera to his eye and framed the three heads under the mistletoe. Lloyd pursed his lips in an exaggerated kiss. Seeing this, Jason smiled at such silliness, and did the same.

The minute the camera flashed, Lloyd straightened up. ‘Sorry, Jace, I’ve gotta love you and leave you.’

Jason called after them: ‘’Bye Lloyd.’

‘’Bye Jace.’ The man guided Nicholas along the hall. ‘I want a little word with you, sunshine.’

Nicholas felt as if his tongue had doubled in size. ‘Okay.’

They reached the door and, here, the man released his arm. ‘I’m going to walk out of here and you won’t see me again. But if you snitch to the Old Bill, I’ll be back.’ Then he was gone, his shout of “Merry Christmas” echoing in the stairwell.

Nicholas closed the door and slid to the floor. He saw Jason’s face loom large, coming in and out of focus. Suddenly, he felt a sting lash his cheek. The pain shocked him out of his stupor. Jason had slapped him.

‘You silly sod!’ Jason cried. ‘It’s only a dummy.’ His face was alive with laughter. ‘I’m obviously in the wrong department. I’d love to meet this Mr Murray. I bet he’s a scream.’

Nicholas groped along the wall and into the sitting room. He turned up the overhead light. Up close he could see every acne scar, every hair. He could smell the earthy scent of dried blood. A sob lodged in his throat.

‘My God, he’s good, isn’t he?’ Jason muttered.

Nicholas swung to him, his eyes hot with unshed tears. It was a moment before he could speak. ‘You idiot, you stupid fucking idiot.’

Jason chuckled. ‘What do you think it is, eh?’

A corpse. A cadaver.’ Nicholas’ voice rose to a shriek. ‘A fucking dead man!’

Jason gave a patronising sigh. ‘Oh, Nick-’

‘Look up his nose.’ Nicholas was inhaling deeply and letting out long shaky breaths.


‘Look up his nose.’

‘What am I looking for?’ Jason stepped forward and with his head to one side, stared up the nostrils.

He remained in that position for some time.

‘Well?’ Nicholas demanded.

Jason straightened slowly. The silence continued and then the words came, crawling on a long low moan, ‘Oh, God …’ When he turned his face was bloodless. He stared at Nicholas, his eyes wild with a quiet, but desperate, appeal.

‘He’s … real.’

Nicholas fought to keep his hysteria from breaking loose and sending him spiralling into madness. ‘I fucking know!’ He clung to his anger like a drowning man clinging to a life-raft.

‘Call the police!’ Jason lunged for the telephone.

‘No!’ Nicholas grabbed him back. ‘He’ll kill me. He said if I snitched to the Old Bill he’d be back.’

Jason stared at him in acute horror. ‘But he called me … Jace.’

Nicholas was trying to think, trying to assimilate what had happened. Their visitor had asked for “Jason Sloane”. He had walked into this flat as if he’d been here before. And he had welcomed Jason like a long-lost friend.

Nicholas bunched his fists and confronted his flatmate. ‘Okay, who is he?’

Jason glanced at the corpse. ‘How the fuck should I know?’

‘Not him. Lloyd.’

‘You think I know him?’


‘Why? Because he called me Jace?’

‘No, because he snogged you under the mistletoe.’

Jason’s voice was low and venomous. ‘What are you accusing me of?’ Suddenly, he pointed a finger in Nicholas’ face. ‘You were the one who let him in.’

‘Because he had a package for Jason Sloane.’

‘A package I didn’t fucking ask for!’

‘Well, sunshine, you’ve got it now, haven’t you?’


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