Books in the Backdoor Angels series (in chronological order)

Imperfectly Deadly

Roland only looks at the screen over his colleague’s shoulder because the victim was a close friend of the chief, but he quickly spots something that the machines haven’t picked up. In less than a fortnight he will wish he hadn’t.

‘Was it the hips?’‘

No,’ said Roland, ‘it was the everything else.’

With the help of the unit’s incorporeal but increasingly less ‘artificial’ assistant, Roland and his team confound their counterparts over at the Met by identifying an unexpected link between two suspicious deaths in the London area and a series of fatal accidents in much more distant locations. And while Mar from the Prosecution Service is impressed both by Roland’s powers of observation and his surprising agility, the chief almost has to look away from the hacked livestream as his protegee seems destined to become the latest victim of an expert and cold-hearted murderer.

The trail of an illegal android leads to a Russian mafia boss living on the ‘Costa del Crime’. Mar is invited to his cocktail party. Roland gatecrashes. Neither of them is asked to stay – or to leave.

‘For future reference, that means I’m scared.’

Roland doesn’t understand why a known gangster would want to cooperate with either a junior police officer or a high-flying prosecutor still on the way up, and Mar isn’t sure why Roland’s boss chose him, rather than a ‘real cop’, to accompany her on the mission – or why he finally volunteered. Both questions and several others will be answered when the Russian gets bored with the adult party games and the ginger-haired young man with the scary eyes, visiting from the Superior Planets Company HQ on the Moon, turns even nastier.

‘The knife’s sticking in my back,’ Mar said. ‘I can feel it starting to bleed.’

A series of ‘implausible accidents’. A distant voyeur. A desperate search to find a link.

‘It’s not really the kind of behaviour you’d expect from a police unit, is it?’

‘Not if they hope to reach pension age.’

People who don’t dance to the tune of the Superior Planets Company tend to have accidents. Roland’s unconventional unit attached to the Metropolitan Police in London has a file full of them, while rumour has it that someone high up in The Company has videos and rewatches them at his leisure. Mar, Roland’s one-time lover, thinks she knows who that someone is. And when the accidents start happening disturbingly close to home, the chief tasks him with trying to prove it.

‘I want you to go to the Moon,’ the chief said, as if he were asking Roland to fetch them both a cup of tea.

A poisoned chalice and another runner. A rendezvous that was never meant to happen, and a desperate struggle to prevent an act of genocide.

‘Is this about Enceladus?’

‘It’s about everyone and everything!’ said the vice-chairman.

The Purple Queen, self-appointed leader of a group of hackers known as the Backdoor Angels, recruits the sensationalist media’s favourite outlaws Roland and Red to meet the latest fugitive fleeing from the Superior Planets Company and receive the suspicious data storage device he has stolen.

‘What could possibly go wrong?’ said Red, looking at Roland. ‘Are you going to tell us or keep it to yourself?’

Roland isn’t really a chef. Delia has never been a hooker. And her friends were just thinking about what happened to the previous waitress when the gangsters were in town. They hadn’t intended to kill anyone.

With a magician and a glamorous waitress in his team, not to mention two talented hackers, all Roland has to do is clean out a group of visiting gangsters and a famous hitman in the monthly poker game at the Great Red Spot Casino. And make it look like he was working alone. And then disappear before the casino security chief and ex-bounty hunter finds out who he really is and shoots him on sight.

‘Presumably you want him at least partly alive?’

They know it wasn’t an accident. Roland has to prove it. And he doesn’t believe in space monsters. Or does he?

‘The claw slashed at him and then there was a flash of teeth and … the sound of … biting and chewing … and screaming …’

The ship crashed, the outer walls of the complex were breached, over a hundred people died, and no one was held responsible. And since then, according to a growing number of the traumatised inhabitants of the neighbouring settlements, The Caves on Callisto have been guarded by a man-eating incarnation of an Egyptian god.

Bob looked him hard in the eye. ‘You can laugh all you like now,’ he said. ‘But it’s just a question of time. You’ll see!’

Roland wasn’t laughing. ‘I’m not laughing,’ he said, to underline the point.