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Timothy Blake has nothing to lose. He’s headed to an isolated house in rural Texas with a hammer in his pocket and murder on his mind. His target is Fred, the ringleader of a criminal empire on the dark web. Once Fred is gone, Blake can disappear for good.

But it turns out that Fred isn’t alone. Five other psychopaths live in the house. They work together and call themselves the Guards. Torture, extortion and death are their business. Blake manages to convince them that he’s one of their online associates. Soon they think he’s a monster, like them. They’re not wrong.

Blake decides to pick them off one by one. But when a Guard is found with a bullet in his skull, Blake realises that someone else in the house may have the same idea – and he might be their next target.

Meanwhile, who are the desperate people chained up in the building behind the house? One of them will change everything . . .

A bloody, twisted roller-coaster of dark action and suspense from the acclaimed bestselling author of Hangman.

‘Gloriously messed up . . . A crime series like no other.’ – Gabriel Bergmoser, author of The Hunted

‘Heath will make your spine tingle and your fingers flip pages.’ – Candice Fox, author of Crimson Lake

‘Thrilling, grisly and inventive: Jack Heath has single-handedly increased my carbon footprint through lights left on.’ – Benjamin Stevenson, author of Either Side of Midnight

Author Q&A

Why did you decide to write about a cannibal?

Timothy Blake needed to have something shocking, something it would be hard for the reader to forgive. Otherwise, when they do eventually forgive him, it wouldn’t feel like they’d been on a journey. Also, we all have complicated relationships with food, and with each other. Blake’s relationships with other people is a relationship with food, and that was a pleasure to untangle on the page, often with wordplay.

What kinds of research did you do?

There are plenty of how-to guides out there, but a lot of them are satirical. Similarly, most real-life examples of cannibalism turn out to be exaggerated or fictitious. This gave me the freedom to invent details that served the story, rather than being bound by truth.

Why is the series set in Houston, Texas?

There were some practical considerations – I needed Blake to have access to death row inmates, for one thing – but I always loved the Southern Gothic genre, and wanted to write something with that flavour. (See? Wordplay!)

I find it much easier to write about Houston than about Canberra, Australia. I think if you live somewhere, you know more about it, but you’re also less likely to notice the things that make it unusual.

Why aren’t the answers to the riddles in the book?

Because the books that give you the answers never make you think. Because the readers would flip to the back of the book instead of considering the riddles for long enough to solve them. Because the answers are in the book, hidden within the chapters. Because I don’t like doing what I’m told. Take your pick.

But why?!

Fine! Here you go.

What’s the weirdest question you had to ask someone while writing this series?

“If I wanted to poison someone and then eat them, without getting poisoned myself, what should I use?”

The volume, variety and detail of the responses was terrifying.

How do you like your steak?

Less and less, with every one of these books I write. Blake thinks eating a person isn’t much different to eating an animal – the series is popular among vegetarians, who share that view. I’m coming around to it myself.