Action/Adventure 388 pages
Cover art by Pat Evans
Background photo by A. W. Lambert
ISBN 978-1-61309-095-4 $7.50
ISBN 978-1-61309-908-7 $12.95
When a remote farmhouse burglary results in the death of one of the two elderly sisters living there the police are led to believe only a few trinkets were stolen. But then the surviving sister seeks out Theo Stern and admits that during the raid a priceless painting was also taken. But why were the police kept in the dark? She confides all to Stern, swearing him to secrecy and begging for his help to retrieve the painting.
Stern’s encounters danger at every turn when his investigations lead him from a wealthy, influential French banker with links to the French underworld to a vicious London abduction and a twenty-year reign of unsolved crimes in the UK?
Woodford, a large suburban town in northeast London, occupies the northwestern part of the London Borough of Redbridge. It is located approximately 9.5 miles northeast of Charing Cross, supports its own railway station with links into the centre of London via the Central Line and sits conveniently a little more than two miles from the feed onto the M11motorway.
The motel is situated just a short walk from the railway station. The room is small, measuring little more than a dozen feet square. It houses a bed, alongside which sits a bedside cabinet carrying a shaded lamp, a narrow chest of drawers and a single chair pinched into one corner. Even though an extractor fan hums continually, the sickly aroma of elicit cigarette smoke and stale alcohol combined with hastily sprayed air freshener, hangs in an uncomfortably humid atmosphere.
Today the room has been booked for just a couple of hours and the signature on the motel register is not the real name of the guest, but that is of no consequence to a bored desk clerk, who is more than happy to pocket the full daily rate in cash for just a couple of hours nobody else will ever know about.
Ronnie Price, the real name of the guest, is a jovial, forty-five year old Liverpudlian. He stands no more than five ten in his stocking feet and weighs a little under ten stone; this probably because, to him, food is not of great priority and also because he smokes like a trooper. Price works as a driver on the London underground system and has never missed a day’s work since he was first employed there. He is well-liked by his work mates and is considered by his employers as a conscientious, first class employee and a model citizen. And indeed that’s what he is. In the daytime. At night, however, Price assumes a very different persona. He is, and has been for almost twenty years, what is colloquially known as a cat burglar, one who specialises in entering houses at the dead of night, with a particular forte for high windows and skylights.
And Price is every bit as successful at his night-time activities as he is at the day job. He works totally alone and limits himself to just two or maybe three jobs each year, travelling extensively in his spare time, crisscrossing the country in order to survey potentially lucrative targets, preferring mainly rural counties where police numbers are limited. He is scrupulously selective and plans each job meticulously. As a result, no police database holds his name and, despite extensively contributing to almost every county’s unsolved crime list over the years, his face is completely unknown to any law enforcement agency.
Long ago the press had latched onto the story, headlining it as the UK police force’s most embarrassing case since Jack the Ripper. They’d named him “The Shadow” with front page captions such as The Police Again Left Chasing The Shadow and Once Again The Shadow Evaporates After Daring Robbery. Price revelled in the dichotomy; as The Shadow, he was known to almost everyone in the country and yet his identity was completely unknown to anyone.