Today is my stop on the blog tour for BBNYA 2021 WINNER May Day by Josie Jaffrey. A huge congratulations to Josie!
For my stop, I am excited to be sharing an extract from the book with you all!
Title: May Day
Author: Josie Jaffrey
Release Date: 9th July 2020
Page Count: 392
Publisher: Silver Sun Books
Buy It Here: Amazon UK (affiliate link), Amazon US, Amazon CA, Book Depository (affiliate link)
If the murderer you’re tracking is a vampire, then you want a vampire detective. Just maybe not this one.
It’s not that Jack Valentine is bad at her job. The youngest member of Oxford’s Seekers has an impressive track record, but she also has an impressive grudge against the local baron, Killian Drake.
When a human turns up dead on May Morning, she’s determined to pin the murder on Drake. The problem is that none of the evidence points to him. Instead, it leads Jack into a web of conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the country, people to whom Jack has no access. But she knows someone who does.
To get to the truth, Jack will have to partner up with her worst enemy. As long as she can keep her cool, Drake will point her to the ringleaders, she’ll find the murderer and no one else will have to die.
Body bags on standby.
May Day is the first book in Josie Jaffrey’s Seekers series, an urban fantasy series set in Oxford, England.
I previously read and reviewed both May Day and the 2nd book in the Seekers series, Judgement Day. You can find my reviews here:
Let me tell you the problem with university students: they’re stupid as fuck.
Even the most intelligent cohort will have a few members who are entirely devoid of common sense, or who are willing to gamble their safety in some extravagant stunt for the admiration of their peers. Only it’s not admiration they get, it’s ridicule, but they’re too stupid to tell the difference.
Case in point: May Day.
This is one of Oxford’s many strange traditions. Every year on the first of May at six in the morning, the junior boys from Magdalen College School troop over Magdalen Bridge and up Magdalen College tower to belt out their anthem of spring at the top of their little lungs. Their voices carry down to the crowds listening on the bridge below, clear as crystal in the dawn air. It’s really rather beautiful.
Or at least, I can imagine it might once have been, before it got ruined.
Because the students have their own tradition, and it’s stupid. Making it to May Morning has become a point of pride, but only if you do it by staying up drinking all night on the last day of April. The last ones standing congregate in time for the singing to start and then, for no reason at all, they hurl themselves off the side of the bridge to land in the river below.
Which is about two feet deep in hot weather, and filled with discarded bikes and glass bottles, not to mention the other students who’ve already had the same idea; mostly boys, because isn’t it always?
Inevitably, they land on top of each other, and not gently. The rugby players in particular can pick up some decent speed on the twenty-foot drop. The result is cracked bones, lacerations, internal bleeding – you get the picture. The students apparently don’t.
Stupid, like I said.
When I first came to Oxford, before I was recruited, May Day was a cavalcade of broken legs and ribs. It’s different these days. Since the students wouldn’t give up the lemming routine on their own, the police now erect ten-foot barriers along the edges of the bridge every year. Which the students still try to climb, making the drop on the other side even steeper, and the experience all the more Instagrammable. The bigger the audience, the bigger the stunt, and the bigger the risk, because followers are worth dying for, right?
My point is that students are fucking stupid. That’s why I’m here, standing in the rain at five-thirty in the morning with an unruly crowd that exudes a fog of last night’s alcohol. If it were up to me then I’d let Darwinism run its course, but apparently we have enough death to contend with in this city already. So says the captain. I didn’t argue when she issued her orders, but it’s an irregularity. We’re not generally in the business of guarding the humans from themselves. We only exist to guard them from others like us.
The captain’s not here this morning. She gets to stay in bed while rain drips down the back of my collar and under my leather jacket. It’s the worst kind of English rain, the kind that falls in thick drops that soak you to the bone no matter how effective your coat, the kind that makes me wish I could put aside my vanity and pick up an anorak instead.
I smell like wet dog.
I’m not the only one, either. The crush is growing, steam rising from bodies like hot mist. I’m standing at the end of the bridge closest to the tower, a prime position, so I have to get my elbows out to avoid being shunted from my place at the barrier. On the other side of the road, Cameron is doing the same. Naia and Boyd are here somewhere too, just in case, but they’re out of sight at the moment.
None of us is expecting the kind of trouble we get.
A few minutes after the boys start singing, the walkie buzzes in my ear and Naia’s voice comes through.
‘Idiots on your ten, Jack.’
I look across the road and, sure enough, there’s a group of lads hoisting each other up the side of the barrier. It’s smooth board, so they’re taking their time about it, scrambling for handholds on a surface that offers none.
‘I’ve got it,’ Cam says, heading off to drag them down. There’s too much attention on them for him to move at supernatural speed, but he makes it there quickly and, for the moment at least, disaster is averted.
But there’s nothing we can do about what happens next.
While everyone’s watching the lads at the fence, a body drops from somewhere near the top of the tower. The choristers don’t see it, protected by the crenellations, but the screams from the bridge are enough to stop their singing. I turn my head quickly and just manage to spot the dark shadow as it finishes plummeting with abrupt finality, by which time the crowd is already shoving desperately in every direction.
The scent of Silver violence reaches my nostrils quickly in the damp air. We have maybe ten seconds to act.
‘Cam,’ Boyd says over the walkie, then they’re gone in a gust of air. No one’s paying attention to us anymore, so no one notices when Cam blinks out of sight.
Boyd doesn’t need to say anything to me or Naia; we know what needs to be done. We can’t disappear the body now – everyone’s seen it – but we need to gather our evidence before the crowds or the police destroy it. We know how to do our jobs at Silver speed when the situation requires it.
I concentrate on the visual clues, while Naia collects samples. We move invisibly, shifting position so the spectators will only see a whirl of motion that they might mistake for the wind. With the rain coming down like it is, no one will ever know we were here.
The whole thing takes only a couple of seconds, start to finish. The police have barely started moving in our direction by the time we make our exit, Naia stowing her bag of swabs as I mentally catalogue what I’ve seen.
The captain will want to hear my account in detail, though something tells me our news won’t entirely surprise her.
‘You knew,’ Boyd says.
The captain doesn’t try to deny it.
‘That’s why you sent us to May Morning.’
She sighs and gestures us towards the small meeting table in her office, ignoring the muscle that’s clenching in Boyd’s jaw. He doesn’t like to be out of the loop.
‘I heard from London,’ she says, claiming the biggest chair for her small frame. Captain Langford is a smartly-dressed woman, besuited today as usual, and she wears her short blonde bob brushed back from her face. She doesn’t take any shit from us and her raised eyebrow is to be feared and respected, on pain of grunt duty.
‘It was a hunch,’ she goes on. ‘They noticed some unusual activity.’
‘What kind of unusual activity?’ Boyd is practically vibrating with tension. He’s an imposing man, over six-feet tall with dark skin and darker eyes. He doesn’t talk about his past, and we don’t ask.
‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ he asks the captain. ‘If we’d known what we were looking for, then maybe–’
‘Sit down, Deputy,’ the captain says, ‘and we’ll discuss it.’
He stays standing for a moment, but then the captain raises her eyebrow and he does as he’s been told. We all know from experience that you don’t want to mess with that eyebrow.
‘They’ve had a couple of scab kills,’ she says.
Scabs are what we call those of us who live outside the rules, those who murder humans instead of finding other ways – sanctioned ways – to get the blood they need to live. The restrictions aren’t that rigorous. As long as the humans never work out we exist, everyone’s happy.
‘They’ve been confined to traditional events so far,’ she goes on. ‘The New Year’s Day Parade, the Boat Race, the Palm Sunday Procession. The guys in London got close to catching the scab at the Boat Race, so they thought he might move on to a new city. We’ve been waiting see which one it would be.’
If Boyd was angry before, then now he’s livid. ‘And you didn’t think you should warn me about this? If we’d known to expect something, then we might have had a chance of collaring him. As it was, he caught us off guard and got away.’
‘It was a hunch, Deputy. Nothing more. Please try to control yourself.’ Not Boyd’s strong suit. ‘I trust you learned something from your pursuit and your assessment of the scene. I suggest we concentrate on that.’
But the news from Boyd and Cam isn’t good.
‘We never got near him,’ Cam says, taking over while Boyd tries to calm himself down. ‘We were up the tower in a couple of seconds, but the room the dead guy was pushed from was already empty, and there was no trail to follow. The scab was moving at speed. He could have gone anywhere.’
‘We had more luck at the scene, though,’ Naia says. She’s muscular, and the patterns of ink on her brown skin make her forearms look like coiled snakes. The resemblance is apt, because she can lash out like a cobra when she needs to. ‘I managed to get all the usual swabs and pulled his driving licence. The name was David Grant, a property developer with a local outfit. It matches this.’ She pulls a business card from her pocket and hands it to the captain. ‘The swabs are already at the lab with Ed.’
‘There was also a ticket in his pocket, stub removed. I left it there for the police. It was for a performance at the Playhouse last night, an opera.’
‘That would explain why he was wearing a suit,’ I say. ‘Though I didn’t think people bothered dressing up for the opera these days.’
‘Nevertheless, he made it to the performance,’ says the captain. ‘We can assume that much. Now we just have to work out what happened between him arriving there last night and ending up on the pavement this morning. Do we have any further information, Deputy?’
‘Jacqueline?’ Boyd says to me. He’s the only one who uses my full name, and he only does it because he knows how much it annoys me. He’s that kind of dick.
I push away my irritation and recall the scene. It blazes to life in my mind, fully-formed and vital, almost as though I’m once again standing in the dawn rain.
This is why they made me a Seeker.
Well, sort of. I’d like to think they recruited me because I’m clever and observant, but the truth is that I got turned Silver – vampire, if you prefer – due to a colossal fuck-up. The Seekers took responsibility for me after that, but the captain didn’t do it out of the goodness of her heart. It was the Seekers’ fault that I got turned in the first place, so they owed me. That’s what I argued, anyway. It bought me some time, during which they noticed I had a pretty decent memory, verging on photographic. That gave the captain an excuse to keep me on indefinitely, but in truth I think she did it just to stop me nagging her.
Score one for sheer bloodymindedness.
About The Author:
Josie is the author of nine self-published novels plus short stories. She is currently working on a range of fantasy and historical fiction projects (both adult and YA), for which she is seeking representation. Ultimately, she hopes to be a hybrid author, both traditionally- and self-published.
After finishing her degree in Literae Humaniores (Classics) at the University of Oxford, Josie wasn’t sure what to do with her life.
She slogged through a brief stint working for an investment bank in London during the 2008 credit crunch, then converted to law and qualified as a solicitor specialising in intellectual property. She worked at a law firm for five years before moving to a UK-based international publisher in 2016. Whilst she loved law, in the end she didn’t love it quite as much as writing, which she now does almost full time.
Josie lives in Oxford with her husband and two cats (Sparky and Gussie), who graciously permit human cohabitation in return for regular feeding and cuddles. The resulting cat fluff makes it difficult for Josie to wear black, which is largely why she gave up being a goth. Although the cats are definitely worth it, she still misses her old wardrobe.
YOU CAN FIND JOSIE HERE:
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