The Guilty Dead by P.J. Tracy – extract

The Guilty Dead is the nineth book in the Twin Cities series from author P.J. Tracy. It was published by Michael Joseph on 23 August 2018.

Michael Joseph have kindly allowed me to share an extract from the book with you.


Hollywood Hills, California

Gus Riskin sipped from a bottle of water as he surveyed Trey’s living room. What he saw infuriated and disgusted him. The priceless Persian rug beneath his feet was filthy, pockmarked with cigarette burns and littered with the castoffs of a dissolute life: pizza and take-out boxes of indeterminate age now housed skittering colonies of roaches; empty beer bottles and martini glasses had drooled out their meager remains, leaving crunchy spots on the expensive silk pile; drug paraphernalia and detritus were scattered around the room like grotesque confetti. Something somewhere was putrefying, or maybe the whole house was so fetid with human decay, both physical and moral, it had permanently saturated the air. None of this was his problem, but he still found it deeply offensive.

‘Okay, Gussy boy, let’s bang.’ Trey’s voice was croaky and manic as he bounced into the room on spindly, scab- rous legs, his margarita glass sloshing more effluent onto the rug. He sank into a sofa, drained what was left of his drink, then bent over the coffee-table and snorted a hearty noseful of coke from a snowy pile. He let out a pleasured sigh. Then his waxen face twisted into an expression of warped mirth. ‘One last party before spin-dry, right?’

Gus smiled, wondering if Trey was asking for validation or just stating a fact. ‘What could it hurt?’

‘Let’s make it a good one. Hey, you sure you don’t want a drink? A bump?’

‘No, thanks.’

‘You’re a clean liver with a clean liver, Gus.’ He laughed at his own bad joke, then rubbed his fingers together in a frenzied, greedy gesture. ‘Gimme, gimme, Mr Sandman, whatcha got for me tonight?’

Gus tossed four glassine packets of heroin onto the coffee-table. ‘Something special. For your last party.’

Trey fondled one of the packets with shaking hands, scrutinizing its contents. ‘Looks good. Not south-of-the- border street shit.’

‘I wouldn’t do you like that, man. This is pure number four, just came in this morning. You don’t even have to heat it up.’

‘You’re the boss.’ He pulled a thick bundle of cash from between the sofa cushions and tossed it over. ‘There’s a little something extra for you this time. You never let me down and that’s worth a lot.’

If there was any genuine sentimentality in that state- ment, it was quickly forgotten as Trey began his ritual with desperate fervor: dissolve the heroin salt, load the syringe, tie off the arm, wait for the stairway to Heaven to open up. Gus was mesmerized, watching the liquid rise into the plastic body of the syringe as the needle greedily sucked it up, like a honeybee with nectar. He winced when Trey stuck the needle into a partially collapsed, infected vein, then sagged in ecstasy as the syringe and the surgical tubing fell to the floor.

‘Can you stick around for a while, Gus?’ Trey asked, in a syrupy voice. ‘You know, just in case.’

‘Sure, I can do that.’

‘I forgot to put on some tunes. I’ve got a soundtrack all cued up.’

‘I’ll take care of it.’

‘You’re the boss,’ Trey repeated, his voice scarcely a mumble now.

Gus took his time turning on the sound system, tweaking the treble and bass, adjusting the volume. When he was finally satisfied with the levels, he checked on Trey. He was unconscious, but still breathing, which was a god- damned miracle, considering the amount of high-quality dope he’d just pushed.

He sat down on a velvet-covered chair and gazed up at the hideously ugly painting hanging above the fireplace, thinking that beauty truly was in the eye of the beholder. But did anyone really think that that painting was beautiful, or was it only beautiful because it was so valuable? Trey had hinted on more than one occasion that it was worth twice as much as the house, which was a notable claim, since the current market value of the place was at least four million dollars, maybe more. He also had some very cool pictures hanging in other rooms, so they probably weren’t as valuable, but Gus liked them. In his opinion, one of them should be hanging above the fireplace instead. He closed his eyes for a moment and imagined himself living up here in the West Hills above Sunset Boulevard. Not with a depraved waste of skin and air like Trey, but with a few nubile young ladies. They’d spend sun-kissed days sipping margaritas by the pool and continue the party until the sun came up. Movie stars and rock stars would drop by to gush about his exquisite taste in art and the amazing sound system. Gus would modestly deny any credit for the shitty artwork, explaining that it had come with the house, but he would take undeserved credit for the sound system because it was truly amazing, the best part of the place, as far as he was concerned. It was an audiophile’s wet dream, and right now it was piping in Johnny Cash’s cover of the Nine Inch Nails song ‘Hurt.’ A paean to heroin addiction. An oldie but goodie that would never go out of style.

He was startled out of his unattainable fantasy when Trey stirred a little on the adjacent sofa and started making unpleasant retching sounds. Gus jumped out of the chair and touched his neck. His pulse was weak and thready.

‘Are you in there, Trey?’ He shook him, sloshed some water on his face, slapped him a few times. His eyes sprang open, empty and unfocused, but not entirely without a remedial understanding of his dire situation.

He watched as Trey’s arm moved spasmodically toward the cocaine-dusted coffee-table, toward a Narcan syringe, the overdose antidote he always kept close at hand. Right now, it was impossibly out of reach. In the background, Johnny Cash’s voice narrated abject desolation in a dark, warbling bass, opining about an empire of dirt.

Gus saw genuine fear and desperation in Trey’s face, and he snatched the Narcan and held it up. ‘I think you need this.’

There was a pathetic flicker of hope in the rheumy eyes, and Gus committed that to his scanty list of precious memories as he flung the syringe across the room with explosive rage. ‘Oops! Sorry about that!’

The flicker of hope died, replaced by confusion and betrayal. Trey made some more unpleasant sounds and his arm dropped.

Gus knelt close to him and watched his eyes ping-pong back and forth in their sockets as they tried to bring his face into focus, tried to comprehend. ‘You don’t remember me, do you? No? Well, I guess it’s not important anymore.’

About the book

Gregory Norwood, wealthy businessman and close friend of Minnesota’s leading candidate for Governor, is found dead on the first anniversary of his son’s drug overdose. It seems clear to Detectives Gino and Magozzi that grief drove him to suicide.

Until they realise the left-handed man seems to have used his right hand to pull the trigger.

And they find the second body.

As the seemingly open-and-shut case becomes a murder enquiry, the detectives begin to delve into the dark secrets of one of the city’s most powerful families. It seems the murders are not the first in the Norwoods’ tragic story – and they won’t be the last . . .

Read more on the Penguin website.

About the author

P. J. Tracy was the pseudonym for the mother-and-daughter writing team of PJ and Traci Lambrecht. Together PJ and Traci were authors of the brilliant best-selling Twin Cities thrillers. PJ has now sadly passed and Traci continues to write the series.


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