Monolith, Shaun Hutson’s first standalone novel in five years, is gearing up for its U.S. release on Oct. 1 — but EW has your first look at the cover and an exclusive excerpt below. In the book, the construction of a new building called the Crystal Tower yields a mysterious string of violent deaths. Searching for the truth, a downtrodden journalist and Russian entrepreneur who’s somehow connected to the tower cross paths.
MONOLITH by Shaun Hutson
‘When you have eliminated the impossible, what remains,
no matter how improbable, must be the truth …’
Arthur Conan Doyle.
LONDON; JUNE 1933
The window exploded inwards showering glass in all directions.
Seconds later another impact against the large expanse of glass caused more of the crystal shrapnel to erupt inwards, spraying the interior of the building.
Two more bricks followed, each one shattering more glass.
The little man on the stairs had heard the first crash and that was what had woken him, by the time he heard the second he was already out of bed and heading for the top of the stairs. Despite the fear he felt he knew he had to get down to the scene of destruction, to see exactly what was going on and, if possible, to prevent more of it.
He had felt fear like this before and he swayed uncertainly on the narrow wooden steps, dreading what might await him but knowing he could not hide from it.
He had hidden too much during his life already.
Either run or hidden. Those two methods of existence were becoming much too large a part of his way of life and he’d hoped that they had ceased. The sounds from below him now told him that they had not.
He wiped his face with one shaking hand and advanced further down the stairs, ears alert for more sounds. When none came he swallowed hard, wondering if the ordeal was over. Hoping that it was.
He rubbed his hands together now, large liver spots visible on the thin flesh of both. A legacy of his advanced years. He moved with surprising assurance for a man in his mid-seventies though, just the occasional pain of an arthritic left knee slowing him down.
He stood at the bottom of the stairs listening for interminable moments then moved towards the door opposite him, selecting a key and pushing it into the lock. He unfastened the door and waited a second before he opened it.
Even through the gaps in the frame he could feel a cool breeze blowing and he shook his head and clucked his tongue as he realised what must have been done inside the shop itself.
Sure enough as he emerged into the area beyond the door he felt the breeze more strongly and saw that it was indeed coming through the shattered front window.
There were several bricks or lumps of concrete lying on the floor and he knew they had been used to inflict the damage.
A quick glance around the inside of the shop told him that nothing had been stolen. That had not been the motive behind the attack. The glass display counters were untouched. Whoever had broken the windows had done so in a display of pure anger and aggression but not coupled with a desire to rob him too. He wasn’t sure whether he should be thankful for that or not. At least if they’d robbed him then the ordeal may be over but, he reasoned, once the windows were replaced again then they could repeat their frenzied attacks again and again. It would become a cycle of destruction and renewal.
As it had been before.
He wandered over to the broken window and peered out into the narrow street but it was silent, wreathed in blackness as it stretched away on either side of him. There weren’t even any lights glowing in any of the other windows that he could see through his thick spectacles. The night sky was the colour of burned wood, pure black apart from a sprinkling of stars but there were clouds gathering to the East, buffeted by an increasingly strong breeze.
He sighed and ambled over to a cupboard near the front door of the shop. From inside he pulled out a broom and he began to sweep up the broken glass, pushing it all into a pile so that it could be gathered up and collected more easily.
The task caused him to stop for breath on more than one occasion and once he actually leaned against the nearest glass counter for a moment to regain his composure, feeling a little dizziness.
This wasn’t right, he told himself. He shouldn’t have to endure this. No one should. And yet the overriding emotion he felt wasn’t anger but sadness. Of course there was annoyance at the stupidity and ignorance of those who would cause such damage but he also felt sadness that people found it necessary to act like this against him.
When he’d collected all the glass together he put it carefully into a cardboard box and carried it to the rear of the shop. He’d dispose of it later he told himself, after he’d contacted the police. Not that they would be able to do anything. After all he had seen no one attack his shop, he could identify no one, give them no names. Was it even worth bothering the forces of law and order?
There was a way to fight back, a way that only he knew.
Perhaps that time had come.
Jessica Anderson woke with a start and sat up.
She looked around, her gaze darting back and forth inside the bedroom. Then the headache hit her. She’d been safe while she’d been asleep, cocooned from the pain but now, as she rubbed her eyes and blinked hard, she felt the thumping at the base of her skull.
Jess murmured something under her breath and reached for the glass of water on the bedside table beside her. She took a sip then swung her legs out of bed, sitting on the edge for a moment as she composed her thoughts and tried to think if she had any headache tablets in her handbag. Where, she thought for that matter, was her handbag? She stood up and padded naked across the bedroom towards a chair in one corner of the room where she finally caught sight of her bag. It was just visible beneath her jeans. Her knickers were lying close by, discarded on the floor.
Jess smiled to herself as she picked up her clothes from various parts of the room and dumped them in an untidy heap on top of the bed. She pulled on her top and sat on the bed rummaging through her bag, satisfied when she eventually found some paracetamol. She pushed two of the 500mg capsules from their plastic strip and swallowed them with more of the water. As she turned back to the pile of clothes beside her she noticed something on the other pillow of the bed. It was a small handwritten note which she picked up and glanced at.
HAD TO GO TO WORK. COFFEE IN THE KITCHEN.
CALL ME WHEN YOU GET THE CHANCE. THANKS
FOR LAST NIGHT. YOU WERE AMAZING.
Jess smiled and began dressing.
When she was, she set about looking for her shoes, realised they were still in the living room and decided she’d get them later. She wandered into the kitchen and selected a mug from the wooden tree on one of the worktops while she waited for the kettle to boil. When it did she made herself half a cup of coffee and sipped it as she stood leaning against the worktop, her mind anywhere but the small kitchen she now stood in. At least her headache was beginning to lessen. It had subsided into a dull pain rather than the thumping she’d felt on waking. That, she reasoned, was something. She glanced again at the handwritten note she still held then pushed it into the back pocket of her jeans and headed for the living room.
Sure enough one of her shoes was near the door the other one under a small coffee table. She couldn’t remember taking them off just as she couldn’t remember taking her clothes off but then again there wasn’t a great deal about the previous night that she did remember. Jess pulled the shoes on, ran hands through her shoulder length hair and headed for the front door.
As she reached it she pulled the handwritten note from her jeans and scanned it once again.
CALL ME WHEN YOU GET THE CHANCE.
There was a small table close to the door. Jess folded the note, placed it carefully there then walked out.
She had barely made it out of the door when her mobile rang.
The tower rose from among the other buildings along the banks of the river Thames and loomed above them like a giant surveying a kingdom of dwarves.
Despite the fact that it had only stood for eight months such was its size and presence many who looked upon it could not remember the skyline without it.
Forty-three storeys tall with the first thirty-three of those floors intended as offices for any business rich or vain enough to seek sanctuary within its walls and the other ten floors intended for the kind of apartment buyer who didn’t blanch at the thought of such exorbitant prices for property. It was a monument to the obscenity of wealth or to the glory of capitalism. A sure sign and lasting testament to the fact that money could indeed buy absolutely anything.
That was how some sections of the media viewed the construction. Some had praised its classic design and welcomed its building because of the amount of jobs it had created within the capital. When it was completed and inhabited both by the businesses who were to move in and also by those residents lucky enough to afford accommodation there upwards of one thousand people would be employed to ensure the efficient running and maintenance of the monolithic structure. At least three times that number would live and work within its walls.
Others had dubbed it the most appalling eyesore ever to pollute the London skyline. No one seemed to remember exactly who had called it a concrete and glass boil on the backside of a changing city and the person who had christened it the glass penis had also been forgotten but the name stuck as a source of amusement and derision dependent on who was using it.
So resplendent in its opulence was the tower that some said it should just as easily have been constructed from money. It was a monument to commerce and to everything that vast wealth could accomplish and achieve.
It was wealth on a scale that few could ever appreciate or understand. The building costs had run into billions and thetower still wasn’t complete. Twenty four hours a day people were inside or outside in some cases putting finishing touches to the huge edifice. Rumour had it that the building wouldn’t even be completely finished before its inaugural opening which was drawing ever closer. However, such was the speed with which it had been constructed that many suspected this crucial deadline would be reached one way or another. Perhaps some corner cutting might be involved, some cost saving exercises that would enable the tower to be opened with the pomp and circumstance that was expected at the appointed time. Press releases from the owners of the building had certainly been consistent in their confirmation that there would be no deviation from the date originally given when the building would become fully functional.
And there were large parts of it that were still yet to become so. From the basement car park to the upper floors of the residential area there were jobs to be completed. Some small and some major and yet the fact that work was still continuing with an opening day deadline approaching fast didn’t seem to bother anyone connected with the ownership of the tower or if it did at the moment they were keeping quiet about their concern.
However, as night crept across the city and the sky darkened not everything within the tower was silent.
‘Send it down, Bob.’
Mark Bishop jammed the two-way radio back onto his belt and stepped back from the sliding metal doors that masked the lift shaft.
From behind those doors he heard a low whirring sound and he looked up at the bank of numbers above the entrance, each of them lighting in turn as the descending lift passed the floor.
There was a harsh metallic shriek that made Bishop wince and he reached again for his two-way.
‘Fucking thing’s stuck on twenty-four,’ he said into the mouthpiece.
There was a crackle of static from the two-way followed by another voice.
‘I know. Same as before,’ the voice intoned.
‘I’ll walk up and have a look,’ Bishop said, wearily. ‘Where are you?’
‘I’m inside. There was no problem until it got to twenty-four.’
‘Open it up and I’ll be there in a minute.’
Bishop sighed and headed towards the end of the long corridor he now stood in. Through a set of double doors he emerged into a stairwell which he hurried up before stepping out into another corridor on the floor above. As he strode along he saw a man dressed in dark blue overalls like his own step into view from the open doors of the lift.
‘From thirty-two down to twenty-four it was fine,’ the other man said shaking his head.
‘Might be a sensor inside the shaft playing up,’ Bishop suggested.
‘I hope it’s not the fucking guide rails,’ Robert Wilkinson offered looking towards the open mouth of the lift doors and the car beyond.
‘No, there’d have been something in the reports before now,’ Bishop insisted. ‘That’s a big job isn’t it? If it’s the guide rails they’ll have to re-set the whole fucking shaft. Somebody would have noticed that before now.’
‘The others are fine,’ Wilkinson told him. ‘So are the scenic ones on the outside. It’s just this shaft and from thirty-two down to twenty-four. The lobby up is alright. It’s just coming down.’
Bishop nodded again.
‘Do you want to leave it until tomorrow?’ Wilkinson enquired looking at his watch.
Bishop hesitated a moment then shook his head.
‘No, we’ll try and sort it now,’ he said. ‘It’s a bit of overtime isn’t it? All comes in handy.’
Wilkinson raised his eyebrows.
‘I suppose you’re right,’ he admitted. ‘How do you want to do this?’ He hooked a thumb in the direction of the recalcitrant lift and looked at Bishop.’If we move it up slightly, I’ll have a look inside the shaft,’ Bishop said and his companion stepped back inside the lift and opened the panel on the left hand side of the sliding doors. He pressed a button and the lift rose a few feet. Bishop stepped forward and peered into the darkened maw beyond. He looked up towards the bottom of the lift car and then down. From his vantage point he could see right to the bottom of the lift shaft twenty-four storeys below.
Inside the shaft it smelled of oil and fresh concrete. He slipped a torch from his belt and shone it over the guide rails that ran down either side of the shaft. The metal glinted in the glow of the powerful beam and Bishop swept the light around in a wide arc aiming it at areas he needed to scrutinise.
He muttered something to himself under his breath then stepped back and looked up in his companion’s direction.
‘It’s not the rail,’ Bishop proclaimed.
‘Thank Christ for that,’ Wilkinson replied, only his feet visible from where Bishop was standing.
‘It must be the sensor or one of the cables.’
‘Do you want me to check on top?’
‘Let me have a look at the sensor first.’
There was a narrow ledge running around the inside of the shaft that was barely wide enough for a man to rest the whole of his shoe but Bishop seemed unintimidated by the lack of space or by how high up he was. As he stepped into the shaft he could hear the cables above and below the lift clanking softly in the breeze that was circulating within the vertical concrete corridor.
‘Switch the power off, Bob,’ Bishop shouted, his voice echoing inside the chamber.
There was a drone and then silence.
He moved further out onto the ledge.