"This is real man-hunt stuff, with tension and action galore . . . Readers who like their thrills and spills coming at them at a hectic pace will revel in this tale of life and death" - Shotsmag
"This series is ace. There are deservedly strong Lee Child comparisons as the author is also a Brit, his novels US-based, his character appealing, and his publisher the same." - Sarah Broadhurst, The Bookseller
"This is a writer, and a hero, to watch." - The Daily Mail
"Sean Black writes with the pace of Lee Child, and the heart of Harlan Coben." - New York Times Bestseller, Joseph Finder
"Like Lee Child's Jack Reacher, Lock is an ex-military policeman. Unlike Reacher, he has a job (as an elite bodyguard), a home, friends and a sense of humour. Lock's likeability contrasts with Reacher's pomposity and Black's style is supremely slick" - The Daily Telegraph
EXCERPT - All Rights Reserved
Santa Barbara, California
It was eight o'clock on Friday evening and the bars and clubs that ran the length of State Street were already filling up. Three frat boys wove an unsteady path out of the James Joyce Irish bar, before collapsing in a good-natured heap on the sidewalk where one of them grabbed his two buddies in a fraternal headlock. Outside the Velvet Jones nightclub, a bouncer carded two young co-eds, making a big show of examining their no doubt fake IDs before unclipping the red rope and letting them inside. He watched as they wiggled past him and into the club.
Up and down the town's main party drag, the same scenes of mostly good-natured youthful debauchery played themselves out, as they had done every year for about as long as anyone in the wealthy California beach community could remember.
Charlie Mendez stood on the corner of State and West Haley and surveyed the scene. He plucked a fresh cigarette from the pack of Marlboro Reds tucked into the rolled-up sleeve of his T-shirt, dug out a Cartier lighter from the front pocket of his jeans and lit up. He pulled the smoke deep into his lungs as he continued to scan the street. A crowd of girls passed, one, a long- legged brunette, turning to smile at him. Charlie gave her his best California-surf-bum smile in return and ran a hand through his thick mop of blond curls. She giggled and looked as if she was about to say something to him, but her friend grabbed her elbow and pulled her back along the street.
Charlie took out the small digital camera he always carried with him for just such opportunities and called after her, 'Hey, beautiful! Smile!'
The cheesy line and the picture-taking would have earned most men of Charlie's age a raised middle finger or a look of disgust, but Charlie wasn't most men. In his late teens and twenties, he had been good enough to work for a time as a model in New York, and despite his lifestyle, his looks were still merely faded rather than entirely departed. His hair and teeth were perfect, and his face, beaten by sun, sand and surf, was rugged.
The girl blushed, whispering something to her friend, then walked on with the rest of her group.
He gazed at the image on the screen. She must have been startled by the tiny flash because her eyes were closed. It gave him a shiver of anticipation for what might come later.
These were the nights he lived for. There were many things he loved about the town where he had grown up, but perhaps none was greater than the opportunities it afforded a man like him. Every year the seniors left, and every year the freshmen arrived. The town was in a state of constant transfusion and replenish- ment. But Charlie remained constant. Watching. Waiting. Choosing his moment. Always ready to add to his collection.
He glanced at his wristwatch, a very un-surferlike, five- thousand-dollar Rolex Oyster Submariner. The night was young. He would go home and get things ready. Then, around eleven, he would return to see what the rest of the evening held for him. Tomorrow the students would begin to drift away, and over the following few days Santa Barbara would shift from college town to tourist town. The people who lived in LA or San Francisco but kept summer homes in the area would arrive. Couples. Families. None of them any use to him. They would crowd the beach he surfed every morning and generally make his life miserable.
That meant he had to make tonight count. He had to make it special. Tonight would have to sustain him through the long, lonely months of summer before fall semester when fresh meat arrived.
He turned and walked back to his car, a low-slung red Aston Martin convertible. He jumped into the driver's seat, gunned the engine and took off, heading northwards up the coast, eager to set the scene for what lay ahead.