Blog tour: 31 August to 16 September 2022
He changed his identity.
He moved to Hong Kong.
He changed his life.
But can he change who he really is?
Charles Balcombe, sophisticated, risk-taking lothario was a special investigator. He thinks that taking a PI job to find a missing boy will distract him from is urges. But once a killer …
In this new series from Murray Bailey, set in Hong Kong in mid-December 1953, we meet Charles Balcombe (not his real name!) also known as the mysterious BlackJack, who has featured in the Ash Carter thriller series. It’s fascinating to get to know Balcombe, especially having read other books in which he played an intriguing role!
He moved to Hong Kong three months ago to escape his past, change his name and his life. He’s only 24 and a bit of a player and thinks nothing of seducing the local, older, married women and having regular liaisons with them in various locations! He enjoys gambling on the horses, is addicted to taking risks and has murderous urges that he struggles to control.
Balcombe tells his special ladies that he’s working undercover for the British government and also used to be a detective but pretends to others that he’s a successful investor on the stock market. In fact, he was a member of the elite Special Investigations Branch of the Royal Military Police and when he’s approached by Grace Toogood, who asks him to find her missing 20-year-old stepson, Roger, he reluctantly agrees to help search for the banker.
Balcombe is a nasty violent killer but also has a more caring side, as shown by his actions when confronted with a business selling young women, and he becomes friendly with a rickshaw driver called Albert, who he enlists to ferry him around.
Alongside Balcombe’s story, we also follow 40-year-old recently promoted Detective Inspector ‘Babyface’ Munro, who faces a tough start to his new role with lots of paperwork after some very suspicious deaths: a woman who was found dead in a pig cold-store room and a body in a laundry with the victim experiencing an unusual method of killing.
These two strands are separate but as various clues and elements are revealed, with red herrings and some clever misdirection along the way, we learn exactly how everything is linked as we come to the conclusion of the story. With a Murray Bailey book, you know it’s going to be a cleverly plotted ending that catches you by surprise!
Overall, Once a Killer is a well-written, action-packed and gripping read! It’s fast paced with lots of action, lots of tension and some terrifying twists and turns. There are startling revelations and some shocking and disturbing scenes, but all in keeping with the story. The characters are well drawn and both main protagonists are intelligent but also rather reckless at times, which adds to the excitement as you never know what they’re going to do next!
I enjoyed meeting Balcombe, in particular, and seeing the other side to his BlackJack character. There was definitely more to him than meets the eye!
As with other books from the author, the story is set in a rather tense and volatile time period and area. Various gangs add a sense of menace and danger and there are also military and police tensions and elements of corruption and abuse. It’s a clear case of trust no one and I was suspicious of all as I was reading – everyone seems to have their own agenda and is looking out for themselves and can’t be trusted.
Hong Kong, its culture and its various suburbs and areas are richly described and I could really picture the location and the contrast between the richer and poorer areas.
I really enjoyed the original Ash Carter thrillers and this follow-on series is gripping and entertaining but also a slightly different style to the others. It’s an excellent addition to the author’s list and I look forward to another book soon!
Buy the book
Once a Killer by Murray Bailey is available on Kindle and can also be bought in paperback and hardback from Amazon. See also Ethical Book Search.
About the author
Murray Bailey got his first taste of success when he was published in The Times at 18 and in his local newspaper. Although he went on to pursue a different career, he continued to write and edit and became the editor of an international magazine and editor of four technical books.
I Dare You was the first of his books to be published in 2016. It was followed by Map of the Dead, the first of the series based on his interest in Egyptology. His main series, however, is the Ash Carter thrillers, inspired by his father’s experience in the Royal Military Police in Singapore in the early 1950s.
Murray was born in Greater Manchester, England and has been moving south ever since. He now lives on the beautiful Dorset coast with his wife and family.
Thanks to Murray Bailey for my digital copy of Once a Killer and for my place on the blog tour.
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