Source: Review copy
Publication: 6 January 2022 from Head of Zeus
Dan Raglan, former Foreign Legion fighter, alias The Englishman, returns. The new high-octane international thriller from David Gilman.
Someone’s trying to start a war. And Raglan’s just walked into the kill zone.
It has been many years since Dan Raglan served in the French Foreign Legion, but the bonds forged in adversity are unbreakable and when one of his comrades calls for help, Raglan is duty-bound to answer.
An ex-legionnaire, now an intelligence officer at the Pentagon, disappears. He leaves only this message: should he ever go missing, contact Raglan. But Raglan’s not the only one looking for the missing man. From the backstreets of Marseilles, Raglan finds himself following a trail of death that will lead him to Florida, to the camaraderie of a Vietnam vet in Washington D.C., and into the heart of a bitter battle in the upper echelons of the US intelligence community.
Pursued by both the CIA and a rogue female FBI agent, Raglan’s search will place him in the cross hairs of an altogether more lethal organisation. Tracking his old comrade, he finds himself in the midst of deadly conspiracy, and on a journey to a fatal confrontation deep in the Honduran rainforest.
I am delighted to bring you an extract from David Gilman’s explosive international thriller, Betrayal. Easily read as a stand- alone, Betrayal is the second book in a series which begins with The Englishman. Of that book, critics said: ‘The pace is relentless, the action and fight scenes superbly choreographed and Raglan is nicely complex: an action man with inner depths… The Englishman is a cracking, finely crafted thriller’ Financial Times.
‘The Englishman is electrifying proof that high-tension international thrillers are back – and with an absolute vengeance’ William Shaw, author of Deadland.
‘Fight scenes, car chases, sex scenes, lots of foreign locations and dead goons, and even a bondesque escape by snowmobile… Vivid and inventive’ Sunday Times.
‘Full of thrills’ Literary Review.
‘The pulse-pounding pace just never lets up’ Peter May, author of Lockdown.
‘A sweat-inducing tour de force’ The Times.
‘Verve, pace, shocks and intrigue, this is spy thriller writing by an author at the zenith of his powers’ — Peter James
So , it’s no wonder that we are champing at the bit to see how he surpasses that in Betrayal, which publishes tomorrow!
I’m giving you a sneak preview here and am confident that once you have read this extract, you’ll be searching out more pretty quickly.
Raglan walked along the narrow street that separated the single-storey terraced houses from the city’s main railway station. Rich people didn’t live on this side of the tracks. Streets were barely wide enough to manoeuvre a car through their labyrinthine one-way system, so Raglan stayed on foot. The Rue du Petit Sol lengthened behind him. Plenty of scope to watch for anyone tailing him. The call for his help had come through his former French Foreign Legion friend, Serge ‘Bird’ Sokol. Contacting the Russian ex-legionnaire was the only way for anyone to find Raglan. Especially when they needed help. And Jacques Allard had made the call. One veteran to another. Could Raglan meet him today?
As he walked past the only small tourist hotel in the street, he smelt the wafting temptation of a small patisserie at the end of the road. The sole shop and bakery in the area would do a steady trade. And they would know what there was to know about the locals. Better to hear if there was anyone other than Jacques in the house before he stepped through the door.
The house he sought was less than fifty paces away from where the narrow street bellied out into a small square. Hardly a square. More like a lay-by which gave access to a nondescript backstreet garage workshop. The house was next to it. He feigned disinterest in the glossy, green- painted sheet of iron that served as a gate to the rundown building. His knowledge of the area told him it was likely to be only three rooms and a bathroom. He kept walking towards the bakery, keeping his peripheral vision on the house. Overgrown shrubbery clambered for daylight above the wall. A dog barked. He checked behind him. No one. It seemed that in every street of France a chained dog barked. But it wasn’t in the target house. There, nothing moved. Not even a breeze to lift the torn lace curtain that he could just make out behind a cracked windowpane.
He bought a fresh croissant. The woman smiled, thanked him, wished him a pleasant day. French civility ruled.
‘Madame,’ he said, taking his change from a ten, ‘I’m looking for an old friend who lives in these parts.’
‘Oh, then you’ve come to the right place. My husband and I have run our business for over thirty years. We know all our customers.’ She hesitated and took a second look at the tall, stubble-faced man dressed in jeans and a weatherproof oiled cotton jacket. ‘Your accent. It’s not from around here.’
‘No,’ Raglan answered. There was no need to tell her anything more. Fifteen years in the Foreign Legion’s specialist commando unit and since then his work as a freelance asset for intelligence services could twist an accent this way and that. ‘His name is Jacques Allard.’
French civility disappeared.
Her lip curled. ‘You’re not welcome here. You and your kind. Get out before I call the police. We’re sick of drug dealers. You shame us. Go on.’
‘Madame, I apologize but I have nothing to do with drugs. My friend and I served in the army together,’ he said to placate her. If the elderly woman was correct and Jacques was dealing or using, then he was already implicated in the woman’s mind. She was a perfect police witness if trouble erupted.
She shouted after Raglan as he left the bakery: ‘Soldiers! You’re good for nothing! Better you should get yourselves killed than come back home and disturb decent people.’
Raglan was already out of sight. The half-eaten croissant tossed for the foraging birds. There was no other crumb of kindness to be had in these backstreets.
The sheet-metal gate was locked from the inside. Raglan checked over his shoulder. The street was empty. He climbed over. The broken canopy across the front of the house flapped forlornly. The old door hadn’t seen a lick of paint since Napoleon Bonaparte had stopped for a mouthful of abuse at the corner bakery. Raglan wiped a layer of grime away from the frosted glass set in the door. There was no bell, no door knocker. He pressed his palm against the wood and, with little effort, felt it give. Someone had already forced the door and eased it closed behind them.
If an intruder was still inside and this was drug-related, then odds-on he was armed. Raglan reached inside his pocket and took the four two-euro coins the woman in the bakery had given him as change. Big coins. Decent weight. Pressing aside the door, he stepped into the gloom of the narrow entrance hallway. Most houses like this had a room on either side and another at the back that served as a kitchen and place to eat. The first of the two rooms had a bed and enough detritus to make it look like a squat. The second room was worse. The whole house stank.
He stepped down the passageway, rolling his feet to lessen any chance of hitting a creaking floorboard. Someone was moving in the back room. A muted grunt of exertion and then the sound of a drawer being wrenched open. There was another small door on his left at the end of the passageway, but he was too close to the intruder to open and check it. Pressing his back against the wall opposite the door, he dared a glance around the corner. A man was bent over, rummaging in a low chest of drawers. He wore a leather jacket, jeans and trainers. Dark-haired. Stocky.
Lying on a threadbare sofa, whose springs had long since gone, was Jacques Allard, wearing only a pair of boxer shorts. Impervious to the cold. Dead.
Raglan was about to step into the room when the door to his left opened. A burly man, head down, struggling with his shirt tails caught in the trouser zip.
‘It doesn’t flush…’ he muttered, and then he looked up.
Raglan hit him in the throat. A short savage blow that crushed the man’s larynx. He crashed back into the toilet. Raglan stepped into the back room as the second intruder turned on his heel and flicked open a folding knife with a curved blade, the crescent moon gap cut in its tempered steel to accommodate blood flow. He was a pro. Raglan hurled the coins into the man’s face. He flailed, trying to protect himself from the metal striking his eyes. Raglan took two strides, levelled a kick at the man’s leg and heard the kneecap snap. As the man yelled in pain, leg folding, Raglan blocked the knife and struck him in the temple. He collapsed like a felled ox in a slaughterhouse.
Raglan stepped over him, checked the small lean-to kitchenette, saw there was a back door and then turned his attention to his friend. Either Jacques had already been dead from the syringe in his arm or they had made it look like an overdose – which made no sense if the unconscious men had wanted something Jacques had hidden. Perhaps the ex-legionnaire had overdosed and his interrogators had arrived too late. He checked the dead men. They carried no wallet. No driving licence. No credit cards. If caught by the authorities, they couldn’t be immediately identified. He turned the second man’s palm over. Acid burns had taken off his fingerprints. Organized-crime hitmen? Drug enforcers? What the hell did Jacques have that had scared him enough to call for help? What could have been so important? Raglan checked the man in the toilet. His head had cracked the toilet bowl. Neck broken. He was dead.
It took only a moment for Raglan to decide that whatever information Jacques held, it had either died with him or was hidden elsewhere. Raglan jammed shut the broken front door then made his way back into the kitchenette. As with many a drug addict’s home, there was little sign of food. He checked the cupboards. They revealed nothing more than a box of stale crackers and a bag of half-empty sugar. Sugar could help stave off the cravings. Maybe Jacques had been trying to get clean. There were some blackened rags dumped in a bowl. Raglan stepped back into the room and checked Jacques’s hands. They had been washed clean but were still ingrained with oil. He rolled the body over and pressed his hands down the crack between the sofa’s cushions. He found a small cheap mobile phone. He checked the calls and messages. There were few of them: all looked to be local. Two girls. Three or four men’s names. Maybe trying to score? He pocketed the phone.
In the bedroom, Raglan saw the mechanic’s oil-stained overalls. He slipped his fingers into the pockets and fished out a small key on a Foreign Legion fob. The motto was inscribed around its rim: Legio Patria Nostra. Damned right, Raglan thought. The Legion was their home and, for most veterans, it always would be. So many fell through the cracks after they had served their time. Indifference often replaced that camaraderie, and sometimes downright hostility. Unemployment and loneliness beckoned. The key looked as though it might fit a small padlock. There was no sign of any such lock on any of the cupboards or single wardrobe.
Raglan heaved aside the bed in case there was a loose floorboard that might hold a strongbox. There wasn’t. Nor in the second room. It took time to clear away the mess and shift the bed, but once again there was no sign of anything hidden. Chances were there was only one place left to look.
Raglan checked his watch. Almost twelve. The French close shop for two hours at midday so they can enjoy lunch. Very civilized. And convenient. He heard the doors being rolled shut on the garage next door. A car started. Then it fell quiet. He waited ten minutes then went through the kitchen door. The enclosed yard’s outside walls shared a common boundary with the garage. What better place was there for a mechanic to live than next to his place of work?
A raised corrugated asbestos roof, the rafters resting on the wall, allowed cool air to flow through the workshop. Raglan clambered on top of an abandoned washing machine and squeezed through the gap, dropping into the workshop. An old Renault stood over a pit, a toolbox on a workbench lay open. Everything pointed to an owner-garage that used an extra mechanic. Jacques Allard. Two lockers stood in a side room off the dingy office. Dirty tabletop, a grimy phone.
Finger-smudged papers and invoices. Raglan tried both of the padlocks. It was the second one. Inside the locker were a second pair of overalls, a pair of oil-slicked industrial shoes and a couple of photographs of when Jacques had served in the Foreign Legion’s 2nd Parachute Regiment. The lean, tanned and muscled man who grinned back at him was not the same person whose shell lay dead inside the house next- door. Reverse metamorphosis. A caterpillar pupa digests itself and emerges as a thing of beauty. Jacques Allard had been consumed from within by whatever despair had seized him. The result was ugly.
Various car and men’s magazines were stacked on the shelf. Raglan shuffled through pictures of aircraft and helicopters. Another photo from the past fell to the floor. A soldier mechanic stood with his arm around Jacques. Legionnaire buddies. The same man appeared in an article about an air museum in the USA in an aircraft enthusiast’s magazine; the page corner had been turned down. The man had left the regiment and returned home.
Raglan searched his memory. And remembered the man’s name. Rudi Charron. He tugged out the mobile phone he’d found in the sofa and scrolled down the names. But Charron wasn’t listed. And then Raglan realized that neither was Serge Sokol’s name. For anyone to contact Raglan, Sokol’s name was essential. There was nowhere left to search. As a final thought he patted down the overalls but there was nothing in the pockets. He bent down and lifted out the mechanic’s steel-capped shoes. Something black and shiny slid forwards into the toe. Raglan pulled out the second phone and switched it on. More than twenty names and faces stared back at him. This was the phone that Jacques did business with. In the time and date call list was the call made to Serge Sokol, seeking Raglan. Every legionnaire had the right to assume a new identity when he enlisted and there was a text from an American ex-legionnaire called Robert de Vere, who had been known as Rudi Charron. It was a simple message. Find the Englishman.
Wasn’t that fabulous? A brilliant start to a high octane thriller that I know is going to keep us engaged all the way to it’s explosive finale. You can buy Betrayal here:
David Gilman has had an impressive variety of jobs – from firefighter to professional photographer, from soldier in the Parachute Regiment’s Reconnaissance Platoon to a Marketing Manager for an international publisher. He has countless radio, television and film credits before turning to novels. From 2000 until 2009 he was a principal writer on A Touch Of Frost and nominated for a BAFTA. The Englishman is a new thriller series introducing Dan Raglan, a contemporary knight errant who served in French Foreign Legion. The second book in the series, Betrayal will be published on January 6th, 2022.MASTER OF WAR is the first book of David Gilman’s series that follows the fortunes of Thomas Blackstone, a village stonemason in England sent to fight with King Edward’s army as an archer against the French in 1346. In the bloodiest of conflicts, he discovers friendship, love, and sacrifice but his destiny has yet to be played out. From humble beginnings this common man’s reputation becomes legend. Rich in historical detail, MASTER OF WAR propels the cast of characters on an epic journey through the violence and political intrigue of the 100 Years War.David is also author of two standalone novels for adults, The Last Horseman, shortlisted for the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Award set during the Boer War and Night Flight to Paris, a WW11 novel that pits a reluctant hero against the Nazi forces in Paris in 1943. He has lived and travelled the world gathering inspiration for his exotic adventure series along the way. Now, David is based in Devonshire, where he lives with his wife, Suzy Chiazzari.