“The leaf moved and scurried in a circular motion, he realised it was a tiny shrew. It was too late to brake or swerve, Victor glanced in the rear view mirror a split second later, the shrew was still there in the centre of the lane, going about its business, known only to itself; an insignificant creature in the grand scale of things, but important to itself as we all are.”

A long established simple country life is shattered by a conspiracy of violence and deceit; that reaches far beyond a small country village.

“Dare to venture into the dark woods?”

Victor Drew, the gamekeeper at the Brockleston shoot, receives a threatening letter from what appears to be a group of animal rights activists, threatening the future of his job and the continuation of sporting activities on the estate. But he knows that Richard Mowbray, Lord Hugo Brockleston’s land agent, has no loyalty to the estate’s long-standing traditions.

Victor cannot imagine the size of the storm that is just over the horizon, nor the strength of the forces stacked against him and the countryside traditions he upholds.

The Shrew brilliantly encapsulates one man’s attachment to traditional rural life and culture in the face of the depredations of an uncaring, modern world.

It's that time of year again....
It's getting darker and colder as autumn again embraces it's old friend winter.
The long winter nights are ideal for settling down by a nice fire and enjoying a good read; and what better is there than `The Shrew` a book written for those with a love of the countryside, its sports, traditions and characters with a liberal helping of drama, mystery and crime thrown into the mix.
Since it was published under my assumed name of Nicholas Gordon back in December 2008, The Shrew has had a fairly reasonable run for a book from new author and continues to feature with online book sellers.
I still have a good supply of the hard back first edition available for direct sale and these can be personally signed to create a very unique gift for Christmas or any other occasion.


This book grabbed my attention from the first sentence, with its combination of tight writing, fast paced action, and yet sensitive characterisation. The theme is partly a protest against those who do not understand the part field sports can play in preserving wildlife. However, the author displays a grim realism about contemporary society and the way the global economy impacts on the environment and traditional ways of life, not only in rural England but in other parts of the world. Indeed, things turn out not so simple as they first appear when the embattled gamekeeper, Victor, receives a menacing letter apparently from animal rights activists. In addition to sharp description of the countryside and field sports, the book provides thriller/mystery and good sociological insight. There is much here to interest many people.
A review written by Stephen O'Kane for The Shrew

What a great story The Shrew is! Gordon is obviously a man who himself is close to the land, and out from his closeness to nature he tells a tale of the cruel theft of a man’s livelihood. The Shrew is a story about sabotage: lives, whether they be human or animal. It is a fine example of how ancient and passionate traditions are disappearing in Britain and are being forced into history, insignificant to the greater many and remembered only by the few. I enjoyed reading The Shrew, and like all good books that find a permanent home on my bookcase, I shall take great joy in reading it again.
A review written by Deborah Berkeley for The Shrew

An excellent book for lovers of country life, with an exceptional attention to detail showing a deep understanding and love of its infrastructure, warts and all. It deals with both a reflection on past glories and changing times equally but without sentimentality through the eyes of its characters: nothing is permanent, and all things change however much the characters might wish otherwise.
A review written by Val Cornish for The Shrew

Set on what remains of a once extensive game shoot on a declining great estate, the shrew tells the dark and haunting tale of a solitary gamekeeper trying to protect his livelihood and traditional rural lifestyle against an unknown and largely unseen malevolent force that is set against him. Victor Drew the central character of the book is the real `shrew` in the tale, like the tiny solitary mammal, he shows his true determination and aggression when faced with impossible odds. The other characters in the book are very realistic and developed with a great understanding of the intricacies of how individuals of all social levels interact through field sports such as shooting and hunting. The unwelcome visitors to the estate who are the source of Victor’s problems are described with an unnerving accuracy and far too deep a knowledge for the reader to be comfortable with. If Thomas Hardy was still around in the 21st century, I could imagine producing similar tales. Not only does it provide some excellent observations of the sport of shooting both past and present; it also has the elements of a good thriller and crime novel. Anyone with an interest in the countryside in general is likely to find it an interesting and absorbing read. Far from being bland political statement; the book is a finely crafted tale with an intriguing and at times very disturbing plot and so in many ways it should have wide appeal. The imagery in the book is extremely vivid, it is clear that Gordon\'s writing is based on his real life experiences. The fine detail of events and scenes is very informative and the reader could almost be there with him and the tale roles on at a cracking pace towards its surprising and tragic end and The chapters outside the UK are excellent and at times it almost becomes a travel book; such is the accuracy of its research, this shows in the descriptions of events during a big game hunt in South Africa and a contrived business trip to the Amazon in Ecuador. I was put in mind of a reincarnation of Hemmingway at times.
A review written by George Lewis for The Shrew

A review written by Phil Curlin for The Shrew

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Chapter One

 It was a day like any other working day in October; the nagging wind hinted at oncoming rain and the clouds rolled across the distant hills, as dark and depressing as Victor Drew’s current mood. He trudged on through the peaty mud that lay thick in the ride which cut through Solomon’s Wood, his black Labrador bouncing along beside him, as excited as always despite his lengthening years. He hardly noticed the dog at all, his constant companion of the last ten seasons obscured from his mind by his black mood. It was almost half past three and it was going dark early, the daylight fading prematurely as the storm clouds gathered. He had six other feed hoppers to fill before he could call it a day and they were spread across two of the largest woods on the shoot. Suddenly the distinctive `rusty hinges` shriek of a cock pheasant echoed from within a nearby rhododendron; the Labrador darted into the bush after the bird. Victor was shaken from his thoughts and shouted at the dog, “Storm, you bloody mongrel, get back here now.” The old dog sprang out of the tangle of leaves and branches and returned to his side, cowering in apology. Victor smiled to himself and patted the dog’s head; he couldn’t stay mad at his old friend, whose only crime was enthusiasm. By the time he had filled the last of the hoppers and checked the release pens in The Long Gorse, the rain had set in as predicted; he could already feel the chill of the water as it made its way through the holes in his worn out waxed jacket. His right shoulder ached as the damp aggravated an old injury. He made his way back to his old Land Rover across a field of maize stubble, the greasy wet clay clinging to his boots, making walking hard work as his feet slid backwards and sideways at each step. He suddenly got a strange feeling that someone was watching him; he looked up from the slimy clay and stubble and stared out across the fields to his left. He had not been mistaken; about 300 yards away, on the other side of a hedge, two figures in red waterproof jackets were looking in his direction, their hoods up, keeping out the driving rain. He didn’t really give them much thought. He just dismissed them as some townies in the latest colour of designer outdoor jackets taking in the quaint yokel and his dog. A story that would be later told during the coffee and mints at their next dinner party, he thought to himself with a wry smile. He opened the back door of the Discovery and old Storm jumped in without invitation, glad to be out of the weather. He took off his rain sodden coat and threw it in next to the dog. As he left the field gateway and entered the lane, turning left to drive towards the village and his home, his thoughts returned to the cause of the afternoon’s bad mood. A letter, which had arrived in the post that morning, an unwelcome intruder into his life which now occupied his thoughts more than Saturday’s opening shoot:

Dear Mr Murdering Gamekeeper,

If you think you’re going to have another winter of fun with your toady employers, killing defenceless birds, think again.

We’re onto you mate, so watch out, it’s not going to be as easy this season.
You and your bloated tweed clad cronies are going to pay.

How you can call what you lot get up to a sport is beyond us, give it up now before we make you!

The Animal Defenders.

At one time he would have dismissed it as the work of some socially inept crank, but in the current climate it looked far more sinister and as he was now the only keeper left on the shoot after the estate had ‘downsized’ its sporting enterprises, it worried him greatly. The current land agent of the Brockleston Estate was not a countryman and any bit of confrontation no matter how small might lead to him closing down the shoot altogether. The end of an era going back to Victor’s grandfather’s day and more pressingly the end of his job and occupancy of his tied cottage. Since the death of his father, Hugo, the current Lord Brockleston, had placed his total trust in Richard Mowbray his agent; any decisions Mowbray made regarding the estate were normally ‘rubber stamped’ without question. Hugo saw the estate as a business enterprise, its sole purpose to fund his lifestyle, which was centred on his luxury yacht and the social circle that he kept in the Bahamas. To Victor’s knowledge, Hugo had only visited Brockleston on three occasions in the last five years, the last occasion being two years previous for his father’s funeral and the business of transferring the estate. As Victor drove towards Brockleston village in the fading light and now torrential rain, his eyes caught what at first he thought was a leaf lying in the road just ahead of the Land Rover. The leaf moved and scurried in a circular motion; he realised it was a tiny shrew. It was too late to brake or swerve; Victor glanced in the rear view mirror a split second later; the shrew was still there in the centre of the lane, going about its business, known only to itself; an insignificant creature in the grand scale of things, but important to itself as we all are. He couldn’t help pitying the creature, imagining it still being there when the next vehicle came down the lane; its life being ended by a rolling wheel, the driver being totally oblivious of its presence; the shrew’s limited knowledge of the world being ended without prior knowledge or afterthought. The similarity to his own existence struck him like a cold piece of steel deep in his heart.

Victor arrived back at his cottage in the village. As he pulled into the short driveway past the collapsed wooden gates, which lay like two old battered dogs at the entrance, the rain seemed to come down even harder. The storm reached its zenith as the tyres crunched to a halt on the sodden chippings. Victor jumped out, ran to the back, grabbed the old Lab that was now lying comfortably on his coat and got himself and the dog in through the cottage door as quickly as he could manage. The whole process was so uncomfortable and hurried that it worked out just fine for the occupants of a small blue hatchback vehicle that just happened to be passing as he turned into his drive. The driver and passenger paid an unhealthy interest in the dilapidated dwelling as the vehicle slowly passed its entrance before speeding off out of the village in the general direction of the motorway and Limcester. There were no lights on in the house when Victor entered, nor was there a welcoming fire in the hearth or a smell of food coming from the oven of the ancient solid fuel cooker. Victor had lived alone for the last five years, apart from old Storm who rarely left his side. His late wife Susan had been taken from him at the whim of a ‘boy racer’ (as the hard-nosed traffic cop that dealt with the accident had described him). This happened one Saturday afternoon in a particularly hot June, as they were returning home from a trip to view some new pheasant poults in the next county. He threw a few small logs into the cooker to spark it up and get some heat going then turned to feeding old Storm. The Labrador was doing his usual manic dance around the kitchen at just the suggestion of food. Just as he was starting to consider food for himself, the telephone began to ring; he cursed and went to answer it. It was Mowbray; he cursed again under his breath.  “Ah Drew, how’s things, everything ready for Saturday’s show?”  He hated these conversations with Mowbray at the best of times; they were never easy, but this time it was far worse, despite the fact he knew all was as it should be for that weekend’s shoot. He had worked hard at all the little details his late father had taught him. The nagging fear and doubt that the letter had caused taunted him as he spoke to the agent. He knew he should really inform Mowbray about the threats, but doing so would play into his hands and strengthen his arguments against the continuation of sporting activities at Brockleston. So his silence regarding the matter was maintained as he assured Mowbray that all was ready and that good sport was guaranteed. “Good man, see you at the shoot shed at 10am on Saturday then. I’ve a few matters to go over with you regarding the day’s drives. Take care Drew.” Mowbray rang off, the cottage was again silent, apart from the sound of an empty dog bowl scraping across the kitchen tiles as the old dog tried to extract the last microscopic fragments of his meal from inside it.

Victor prepared his own simple meal then sat silently in the old armchair next to the fire; he stared into the flames, his mind wandering, unable to relax. He had turned the television set on before he sat down; he did it out of habit but he rarely paid much attention to it, the room just seemed slightly less empty with it on. As he sat in the half-light of the room his thoughts turned to past times as they all too often did since the loss of Susan. The previous mention of the shoot shed triggered thoughts of an evening in June several years ago when she had still been with him. They had argued about something, it was hard to recall exactly what; no doubt some trivial matter or other that often causes tired couples to flare up with each other at the end of a hard day. He could remember being in a real rage almost to the point of hitting her. It hurt him to recall how angry he had been; it made the sense of her loss even sharper. He had walked out of the cottage, not thinking of where he was going or why; he just wanted to get away from her. He left so suddenly that not even Storm was able to follow. He walked a short distance up the lane out of the village and climbed over a stile onto an ancient footpath that crossed a pasture field; this had recently been cleared for silage. For once he was wearing what he would call `town` shoes and `going out` clothes, as they had intended to go out for the evening prior to the argument taking place. He had already got himself ready. He was not dressed for cross country travel. As he climbed over a fence and into an adjoining field he stepped down into long grass that had been left for hay. It was already damp with the condensation of approaching night and the moisture caused the fallen grass seeds to cling to his shoes and gather in the eyelets. He noticed this as he strode out across the field but paid little heed to it, such was his mood. In the corner of the hay field he came to a group of three old oak trees, huddled like old men in hiding from the 21st century, their little corner of the world having changed little in the few hundred years they had stood there through all weathers and wars. The grass under the trees was short, dead and dry; it had the pale creamy pink colour that low lying grass in these shaded and sheltered places always had at that time of year. Victor sat down with his back resting against the trunk of the central oak; it was like sitting with old friends, and they neither questioned nor judged, they were just simply there. The place was silent apart from the lonely ghostly calls of a pair of buzzards that circled high up above the three trees. He sat back and watched the birds, feeling small, insignificant and sad, his anger gone, replaced with a feeling of emptiness and solitude. After a few minutes the sound of a tractor approaching from the far end of the field disturbed his thoughts; the field was being mown in preparation for the hay. Victor immediately took to the cover of the hedge, realising how ridiculous the sight of the gamekeeper sitting `dressed up` under an oak tree in the middle of nowhere would look. As depressed as he felt, he wasn’t prepared to trade that for embarrassment. He slipped away through the hedge with the practised ease of a wild creature, even though he was dressed for a civilised night out. As he emerged on the other side another resident sat looking at him in total surprise and bemusement. Charlie fox had been on his haunches waiting for rabbits to leave the hedgerow; he fixed Victor’s gaze for a few seconds before cantering off across the field. Despite his mood Victor smiled to himself at Reynard’s surprise, feeling some respect and affection towards his constant bane around the pheasant pens. Victor walked on, now keeping in the lee of the hedgerows to hide his presence from others, as he always did when his thoughts were not clouded by the flames of bad temper. He found himself walking toward the Brockleston Home Farm, a collection of old farm buildings with the addition of a few modern livestock sheds which one of the tenants used to house pigs and cattle. The Home Farm had been one of the late Lord Brockleston’s passions and he had taken great interest in the running of it in conjunction with his trusted farm bailiff Reg Jones. Now both men lay in the soil of Brockleston churchyard, no doubt spinning in their respective tombs at the thought of how untidy and uncared for the old place looked. The original farmyard was cobbled and it was surrounded by traditional red brick buildings which had slate roofs. To one side of the yard closest to the road lay what once had been a stable for the working horses. This was now what was referred to as the shoot shed and had been used as this ever since Victor could recall. Victor reached up to a little ledge by the door where the key was kept; he unlocked the door and went inside, no doubt the first person to enter since the last day of the previous season, the keeper’s day on the first of February. The late evening light pierced through the dirty windows to one side of the shed. It shone across the trestle tables which were along three sides of the room where only mice had played for the last five months, no doubt eating what remained of discarded food crumbs left from countless midday and tea time gatherings of guns and beaters. Amongst the dust and mouse droppings a few tokens of last season still remained. An empty whisky glass, an old shoot card and a tweed cap lay on one of the tables, a beater’s stick had been left by the two rows of nails where the bag of birds was always hung at the end of the day’s shooting. Victor sat at the centre of the table that faced the windows, in the seat where the shoot captain always sat. Behind him on the whitewashed wall in scribbled pencil were dozens of dates and names, mainly records of who had won `the sweepstake` for the number of birds shot on a particular day. All written in a drunken relaxed hand at the end of another day spent with friends in the glory of the countryside. Some of the names would never be written again, there were some close friends that had shared a drink in the shed for a final time; his father being amongst them. He thought how strange it was to be in the place in such silence, almost like a surreal nightmare, a place that normally rang with good humour and friendship, sitting still and brooding like a forgotten tomb.  He had never set foot in the place outside the shooting season before and had vowed never to do so again if unaccompanied; the thoughts were too strange to bear. He left the shed, locking the door and its strange feelings behind him, and made off across the fields towards home as darkness started to fall. There had followed a couple of days of only ‘half’ speaking to each other after the episode. But as usually happened they both got fed up with this and life then resumed as normal, rows between them were rare but when they did happen they were proper ones he thought as he smiled to himself, before getting up to stoke the fire and pour himself a whisky.

*  *   *

About twenty-three miles and a whole culture away from Brockleston the small blue hatchback left the motorway and took the turning for the nearby town of Limcester. As it entered the town it headed for one of the rougher areas, the sprawling Brandley Park. A huge warren of a council estate, its reputation for being the local centre for drug dealing, handling stolen goods and any other criminal activity was well deserved. Since its construction back in the late 1960s it had quickly developed into a place where you only went if you lived there or had to visit under pressing circumstances. The hardworking decent folks who were forced to live amongst the criminal classes had their daily lives made a complete misery. Over the years, tens of thousands of taxpayers’ pounds had been poured down the stinking drain of the area in the form of council schemes and police projects, all with little effect. It was a lost cause from the start. The two occupants of the car, an ageing Ford Fiesta, were no strangers to the members of the local constabulary. Apart from those areas of criminal activity that were deemed `unrespectable` by even the average career criminal, such as sex crimes, child pornography and the like, there were not too many avenues of crime that they had not travelled down over the years. The pair had met in a young offenders’ institute when they were both serving time for vehicle related offences and burglaries early on in their careers; since then they had run together like a pair of wayward mink, leaving misery and despair as they went. Now in their late twenties, with plenty of hard earned experience regarding the methods of the police and criminal justice system behind them, they were not so easily caught out and relied far less on luck to keep them running free. The ringing of a mobile phone broke the silence in the car. Scott Hampton the passenger answered the call with his usual impeccable phone manner, “'Ello what do ya want?” “It’s me, how did it go, did you manage to check the place over?” the voice on the other end asked. “Oh 'ello boss, yeh it went ok; we saw everythin’ we needed to, shouldn’t be any prob to sort it for Saturday.” The car driver, Michael Elvis Aaron Hatton (his teenage mother had been a one time fan of the great man)* strained to hear the conversation over the driving rain and the roar of the car’s illegal exhaust system. The voice said, “Alright that’s good, just as long as it’s all in place for Saturday; is there anything else you need?” On hearing this Hatton leaned across towards the phone and said, “Tell ‘im to send us another two ‘undred quid, there’s a few things we need to source yet.” Hampton passed on the message; with a reluctant tone the voice at the other end agreed to send the money then rang off. The Fiesta entered the estate and pulled up on the car park of the flats where the Hatton and Hampton partnership were based. They made the descent up the stairwell to the third floor flat.  They had lived there long enough not to notice the acrid smell of the combined urine of dog, cat and man that pervaded the place. As long as their door was still intact when they got home all was well in the world.


Just over four thousand miles and a whole lifestyle away from Victor’s world, Hugo Brockleston languished on the deck of the ‘Lucy B’, his luxury yacht. It was just after 1pm in the Bahamas and the weather was pleasant and bright. There had been a fairly early end to that year’s rainy season and the absence of the short heavy showers which characterised it meant that long relaxed lunches in the open air could now proceed uninterrupted. Hugo sat back in his chair and lovingly put a match to a large Cuban cigar; he looked across the deck and contemplated the curve of Jane Rotherby-Hyde’s bottom as she dried herself following a lunchtime swim. Jane was Hugo’s latest conquest, the daughter of a successful Lloyd’s name, Richard Rotherby-Hyde. Rotherby-Hyde had shrewdly gone into underwriting in the aftermath of the big disaster of the early nineties. Jane seemed to possess very little of her father’s business acumen, but to Hugo this was of little consequence. She knew how to live the high life and organise his social gatherings and that was all that mattered aboard the 'Lucy B’. They had met at a house party in Nassau, just after Hugo returned to the Bahamas from England following the funeral of his father. The two had become known as an ‘item’ in the islands shortly afterwards. They immediately became firm friends and soon after Jane moved aboard the ‘Lucy B’. “Jane old girl, what do you fancy doing this weekend? I hear Johnnie Marchington is planning a bit of a regatta over near Cat Island,” Hugo shouted across to Jane. Jane slowly turned to face Hugo, smiling as usual; she let the towel fall to the deck as she walked over to him. “Yes that sounds like fun, not seen Johnnie for months, but I hope we are not going on the island, I find it so spooky with all that spirit stuff they believe in, gives me the creeps,” she said as she collapsed on the deck lounger next to him. The two lazed in the afternoon sun, sipping cold drinks, picking at the food laid out at the side of them and talking casually about the proposed schedule for the weekend. There were no other more pressing matters to spoil the air of tranquillity as the ‘Lucy B’ bobbed at anchor on the warm blue waters.

* Elvis Aaron Presley 1935-1977, `The King`.

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