latest terrorist atrocity in Westminster rightly evoked anger, compassion for
the injured and the bereaved families, and inevitably calls for all British
police to be armed.
This latter consideration strikes a
memory chord. In my novel The Bread of
Tears, my heroine Sister Rose dwells on that subject:
Abbess was kneeling with her back to the door, praying in front of a rack of
lit candles. She turned her head slightly towards me. ‘Please be patient,
Sister Rose, while I finish my prayers for our dear Sister Leocritia.’ Her New
York accent was still very strong even after many years in England.
I nodded agreement and she turned
back to the candles.
When I joined Northumbria Police I
was Maggie Weaver – though Mike called me Meggie – and I had still attended
church services about once a month. For two years I was in their armed response
unit and when I shot dead my first criminal – David Paul Duggan, a name I
wouldn’t forget, it was like remembering your first love’s name – I lit a
candle for him. At the time I had no doubt that as a multiple murderer he
deserved to die, but I still hoped his soul might find peace. Then my weapon
was seized and sealed for forensic checks and swabs impregnated with a chemical
preservative were taken from my hair, face and hands and my clothing packaged
and sealed. This was to verify that it was my bullet that took Duggan’s life;
perhaps the rule-makers had seen the film The
Man who shot Liberty Valance. I then waited for the inquiry to look into
the shooting – self-defence, with two senior officer witnesses – losing my
sleep and some weight in the process. When I was cleared, I was reassessed to
remain an ‘authorised shot’.
For my second killing – Morgan
Sugden – I also lit a candle and offered a prayer. After more months of
inquiry, I was in the clear again. At that point the post-traumatic stress was
getting to me so it was mutually decided that I’d leave the ARU and continue my
police work without a weapon.
Even in these violent times, when
thousands of British bobbies find themselves armed for one call-out or another,
most gun-carrying police officers rarely draw their weapons and in fact do not
kill many criminals. It was just my bad luck, to be in a situation where the
gun was mightier than any words I could muster. I was commended on both
occasions, because I saved other people by snuffing out the lives of two men,
lives extinguished as easily as a candle.
Some months later, I was chasing an
armed robber, Bill Reavley, over the rooftops when he fell and was seriously
maimed. That was the day when I decided to keep away from the church. I convinced
myself that I could do without that added angst. The priest, Father Collins,
telephoned me once, and then we lost contact. Staying away was easier than
going back with excuses after a long lapse: that guilt thing again.
If someone had told me then that I
would become a nun, I’d have sent for the men in white coats.
The Abbess stood and faced me, her large pectoral cross
glinting in the candlelight. ‘I believe you neglected to turn the other cheek
earlier this evening, Sister?’ Shining brown eyes sparkled, either with anger
or amusement. I didn’t know which, though under the circumstances it was
probably the former. (pp45-47)
The Bread of Tears
Available as paperback and Kindle on Amazon sites here
Before taking her vows, Sister Rose was Maggie Weaver, a Newcastle
policewoman. While uncovering a serial killer, she suffered severe trauma, and
after being nursed back to health she becomes a nun. In her new calling she is
sent to London to run a hostel for the homeless. Here, she does good works, and
also combats prejudice and crime.
As she attempts to
save a homeless woman from a local gang boss, events crystallise, taking her
back to Newcastle, the scene of her nightmares, to play out the final
confrontation against drug traffickers, murderers and old enemies in the
She finds her
spiritual self and a new identity. She is healed through faith and forgiveness.
It’s also about her surviving trauma and grief – a triumph of the human spirit,
of good over evil.
Some review excerpts
This is a gritty and at times downright gruesome thriller. Written in
the first person, Morton has achieved a true sense of feminine appeal in
Maggie, the narrator, and despite her religious calling, she comes over as
quite a sexy woman… I found myself totally empathising with this full-blooded,
gutsy woman... All the characters and horrific events in this crime thriller
are extremely visual and well-drawn, making this a riveting read. It would make
a brilliant TV series! – Jan Warburton, author of The Secret, A Face to Die
… Don’t think that once you’ve recovered from the grim murders of the
opening chapters you can settle down to a straightforward detection model… As
sadistic as Hannibal Lector, this killer will scare you – be warned! – Maureen
Moss, author of More to Life.
Nik Morton knows how to write a thriller. The characters are all well
drawn, especially Sister Rose… There is a serial killer who will make your
spine tingle in Jack the Ripper fashion... I think this is a first rate crime
thriller, which also delivers a strong message. – Keith Souter, author of Murder
… The stuff of all male fantasies rolled into an incredible bundle. And
what a novel! Mr Morton skilfully delivers a well-crafted thriller with more
than a little intrigue, a love story in the making and some subtle twists from
start to finish. The final fifty pages or so seemed to turn by themselves such
was the pace of the climax of the story. I for one have fallen for this deep
thinking female. – Ken Scott, author of Jack of Hearts, ghost-writer of Do
the birds still sing in Hell?