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  • Published: 7 November 2023
  • ISBN: 9781405954778
  • Imprint: Michael Joseph
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $22.99

The Butcher and the Wren

A chilling debut thriller from the co-host of chart-topping true crime podcast MORBID



Chapter One

Jeremy hears the screaming through the vents. Hears it but doesn’t react. His nighttime routine is essential. The mundane, everyday tasks that he engages in make him more himself. The simple act of wrenching on the ancient faucet on his tidy bathroom vanity grounds and centers him. His night usually ends standing in front of this mirror. He is freshly showered, and, normally, he follows it with a close, leisurely shave. He likes to crawl into bed with a clean body and mind. He takes the time to ensure these preparations happen nightly, regardless of any outside disruption.

Tonight, a particularly loud screech pulls him from his routine. He stares into the mirror, feeling rage entangle itself into his senses. He can feel it rising like an invasive rot. He can’t think with the almost rhythmic screaming now rising from the basement. For as long as he can remember, he has hated loud noises. As a child he would feel his surroundings close in on him like a vise whenever he was amid the sounds of a crowded place. Now, the only noises he craves are those of the bayou. Its symphony of creatures soothes him like a warm blanket. Nature always makes the best soundtrack.

He tries to block out the screaming. This routine is sacred. He sighs, pushing a piece of blond hair that has fallen lightly against his forehead back into place and flicking on the radio next to the sink. The only other time he can find solace in sound is when he listens to music. As he prepares for relief, “Hotline Bling” by Drake blares through the speakers, and he flicks it off immediately. Sometimes he feels like he was born in the wrong generation.

He slowly washes away the blood and grime from his hands, trying not to concern himself with the muffled, agonized moans that loudly escape through the heating vents. He looks hard at his face in the mirror. Each year, he feels as though his cheekbones have risen slightly and become more prominent. It is an oddly satisfying consequence that aging has thrust upon him, and he feels blessed for it. A lot of well-adjusted people admire a well-sculpted skull. Most of them don’t even understand how primitively ominous that particular fixation is. Most people don’t allow themselves to see the savage side of a psyche that was crafted millions of years ago out of their ancestors’ often brutal need to survive. These are the traits that evolution deemed to be useful. People are just too dumb to understand that their own predilections are suggestive of a gene pool that is rooted in brutality.

He doesn’t necessarily look like someone entangled in depravity. He appears innocuous, and, at times, could look downright wholesome. That’s why it all works. There is a plant called Amorphophallus titanum that is colloquially referred to as the corpse flower. It’s large, beautiful, and without any outward mechanism that would suggest it is dangerous. Yet, when it blooms, every ten years or so, it releases an odor that resembles rotting flesh. It survives though. It thrives. He is not so different from the corpse flower. People flock to this curious plant, and it has cultivated a base of admiration despite its quirks.

The Butcher and the Wren Alaina Urquhart

An instant #2 New York Times bestseller: the addictive and chilling debut thriller from the co-host of True Crime podcast Morbid

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