Butcher and Bolt Book 2 of the Joe Dean series

In Book Two of the Joe Dean series, Joe finds himself in France once again, this time leading a squad of Commandos on a mission to bring Hauptsturmfuhrer Richter to England to face trial for war crimes. From the moment they hit the beach the mission goes to hell. Forced to improvise, Joe and the nascent French Resistance formulate a plan that will take him far from the coast of France and into more danger than ever.

Rescued from a terrible fate by his former lover Yvette, the pair follow Richter to Paris and become enmeshed in a seedy underworld of black-market racketeers, gangs and corrupt SS officers, for whom everyone is an merely opportunity for exploitation. As the pressure rises on Joe he begins to question his devotion to his duty, but with the Gestapo closing in his options are limited, and he has to take drastic action to try to complete his mission.

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Here’s an excerpt:

The top of the cliff was only feet away. The commando placed his boot in a cleft, loosened his grip on the chalky outcrop and thrust upwards. The boot dislodged a chunk of the brittle rock, and white dust cascaded into the upturned faces of the men clinging below him. No-one coughed. No-one looked down.

The commando reached the top and his hand crept over, searching left and right for a grip, like a demented spider. The hand discovered the root of a shrub and grasped it. The commando pulled himself up until he could peer over the edge into the darkness.

A momentary flare to his left revealed the face of the sentry, huddled with his back to the wind. The match died instantly and the sentry struck another, and another. Then all was blackness again, but for the glow of the cigarette, moving steadily across the face of the cliff, flaring now and again.

The commando waited. He waited until the hand gripping the root was screaming for relief and the footholds in the cliff were crumbling beneath his boots. He waited until the pain seared down to his shoulder, then he forced himself to count to sixty and hauled his long body up and over the edge.

Behind him, his men clambered up and lay rubbing the cramp from their hands. The chalk he had kicked over them clung to the boot-black smeared on their faces, making them look like clowns, or maybe owls, he thought.

Don’t be ridiculous man. Concentrate.

The tiny glow of the cigarette re-appeared, bobbing towards them. None of the five men moved. The moon was behind a cloud for the moment, but out to sea its gleam revealed the white tops of the waves that had created such havoc in the rubber boats on the way in from the motor torpedo boat.

The sentry took the last step of his beat and looked around.

No one moved.

The sentry uttered a muffled curse, ripped away by the wind. Guard duty on a cliff edge in a gale. Not a pleasant duty, if there was such a thing. Not a duty anyone would volunteer for, but a duty that had to be done for a time, until the next unfortunate came to relieve him. Every man lying there knew what the sentry was experiencing.

The sentry set off again the way he had come.

No-one moved.

Before them lay an expanse of grass, so flattened by the wind that it seemed to be fleeing from them. It sloped down towards a grand two-story building, that gazed placidly out over the sea to the north-west. At its front was a driveway of crushed stone, with steps leading up to a pillared entranceway.

It may once have been a lord’s manor. Perhaps carriages pulled up here two hundred years ago to disgorge aristocrats, mused the commando. Perhaps. Now it was a hotel, and in a window on the second floor, light filtered around the edges of the curtain.

In that room was the man they had come for.

The commando flicked his two fingers forward and the men started crawling. They’d made it twenty metres across open ground and were nearing the shadows of the trees when one of them made a sound: it may have been a helmet hitting a rifle butt, a bayonet clinking against a water bottle, but it was not a natural sound and it travelled clearly to the ears of the sentry.

He spun in place, pulled the rifle from his shoulder and pointed it straight at them.

A lantern flickered into life in the undergrowth nearby and a cigarette lighter flared.

“Bang Bang, you’re dead,” came the sardonic voice of the sergeant in charge of the sentries, “training’s over for tonight. You can try again tomorrow night, maybe you’ll get third time lucky. I hope so for your sake, you useless bloody shower, it’s your last try before the real thing.”

Lieutenant Joe Dean lay in the grass and cursed, then hauled himself to his feet and set off for the waiting truck with his men. If they couldn’t pull this off in training, what chance did they have over the Channel?