The devils kingdom, p.1
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       The Devil's Kingdom, p.1

           Scott Mariani
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The Devil's Kingdom


  The Devil’s Kingdom


  Published by Avon

  An imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd

  1 London Bridge Street

  London SE1 9GF

  First published in Great Britain by HarperCollins 2016

  Copyright © Scott Mariani 2016

  Cover Design © Henry Steadman 2016

  Scott Mariani asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

  A catalogue copy of this book is available from the British Library.

  This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

  All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins.

  Source ISBN: 9780007486212

  Ebook Edition © November 2016 ISBN: 9780007486403

  Version: 2016-10-24

  Join the army of fans who LOVE Scott Mariani’s Ben Hope series …

  ‘Deadly conspiracies, bone-crunching action and a tormented hero with a heart … Scott Mariani packs a real punch’

  Andy McDermott, bestselling author of The Revelation Code

  ‘Slick, serpentine, sharp, and very very entertaining. If you’ve got a pulse, you’ll love Scott Mariani; if you haven’t, then maybe you crossed Ben Hope’

  Simon Toyne, bestselling author of the Sanctus series

  ‘Scott Mariani’s latest page-turning rollercoaster of a thriller takes the sort of conspiracy theory that made Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code an international hit, and gives it an injection of steroids … [Mariani] is a master of edge-of-the-seat suspense. A genuinely gripping thriller that holds the attention of its readers from the first page to the last’

  Shots Magazine

  ‘You know you are rooting for the guy when he does something so cool you do a mental fist punch in the air and have to bite the inside of your mouth not to shout out “YES!” in case you get arrested on the train. Awesome thrilling stuff’

  My Favourite Books

  ‘If you like Dan Brown you will like all of Scott Mariani’s work – but you will like it better. This guy knows exactly how to bait his hook, cast his line and reel you in, nice and slow. The heart-stopping pace and clever, cunning, joyfully serpentine tale will have you frantic to reach the end, but reluctant to finish such a blindingly good read’

  The Bookbag

  ‘[The Cassandra Sanction] is a wonderful action-loaded thriller with a witty and lovely lead in Ben Hope … I am well and truly hooked!’

  Northern Crime Reviews

  ‘Mariani is tipped for the top’

  The Bookseller

  ‘Authentic settings, non-stop action, backstabbing villains and rough justice – this book delivers. It’s a romp of a read, each page like a tasty treat. Enjoy!’

  Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author

  ‘I love the adrenalin rush that you get when reading a Ben Hope story … The Martyr’s Curse is an action-packed read, relentless in its pace. Scott Mariani goes from strength to strength!’

  Book Addict Shaun

  ‘Scott Mariani seems to be like a fine red wine that gets better with maturity!’

  Bestselling Crime

  ‘Mariani’s novels have consistently delivered on fast-paced action and The Armada Legacy is no different. Short chapters and never-ending twists mean that you can’t put the book down, and the high stakes of the plot make it as brilliant to read as all the previous novels in the series’

  Female First

  ‘Scott Mariani is an awesome writer’

  Chris Kuzneski, bestselling author of The Hunters

  The adventure began in Star of Africa.

  Now, in this thrilling sequel, Ben Hope is in the most desperate situation of his life …

  Table of Contents


  Title Page


  Join the army of fans who LOVE Scott Mariani’s Ben Hope series …



  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47

  Chapter 48

  Chapter 49

  Chapter 50

  Chapter 51

  Chapter 52

  Chapter 53

  Chapter 54

  Chapter 55

  Chapter 56

  Chapter 57

  Chapter 58

  Chapter 59

  Chapter 60

  Chapter 61

  Chapter 62

  Chapter 63


  Read on for an exclusive extract from the new Ben Hope adventure by


  About the Author

  By the same author

  About the Publisher



  The man stood at the high, broad window and spent a few moments gazing pensively at the view. From the house, the landscaped gardens of the Al Bu Said residence sloped gently down towards the sea. Palm trees swayed in the Indian Ocean breeze. He could see the light dappling the water like liquid gold around the gleaming white hull of the family’s superyacht, moored in its private marina in the distance. It was a late afternoon in November, but the sun was warm through the bulletproof glass of the window.

  What a way to live, the man thought. He drank in the spectacular view for a few moments longer before dragging himself away. Dreams were all very well. But it wasn’t his view, and such opulence would remain infinitely beyond his reach if he lived to be a thousand years old. Not everyone could be born into such unimaginable wealth. Maybe that was just as well.

  Turning to look back at the rest of the big room, he faced the darker reality of the situation.

  And what a way to die, he thought, shaking his head sadly. Their money had done them no good in the end.

  Most physical signs of the brutal quadruple murder were long gone, erased since the forensic team had finished their work. The bodies of
Hussein Al Bu Said, his wife Najila, and their two children – Chakir, twelve, and seven-year-old Salma – had been housed in a mortuary at the family’s privately owned hospital in Salalah until they had finally been laid to rest yesterday, amid scenes of unbelievable public mourning.

  It had been the most shocking incident. Two weeks after the murders, all of Oman was still stunned. Not because the super-wealthy businessman had necessarily been an adored figure – but because if highly protected members of one of the oldest noble family dynasties in all of the Persian Gulf could be targeted by criminals and butchered in their own home like cattle, then who was safe?

  Now all that remained was to catch the perpetrators of this terrible crime. That job belonged to the man standing in the window. His name was Zayd Qureshi, and he was one of the most senior detectives of the Royal Oman Police’s Special Task Force. The ROP had pledged that they would not rest until the perpetrators were brought to justice.

  The Al Bu Said residence was empty except for Qureshi and his number two, Detective Faheem Bashir, who had served in some slightly mysterious capacity in the Sultan’s Armed Forces before transferring to the police. Qureshi had long ago given up quizzing Bashir about his secretive background. And at this moment, it was the last thing on his mind. He liked to revisit the scene of the crime when all had gone quiet. It helped him to still his thoughts, and get into the head of the criminal. To catch a crook, sometimes you had to think like a crook, see the world through their eyes.

  Qureshi’s investigation team had managed to trace certain leads. A car seen racing away from the scene of the murder had been traced to its owner, who told the police it had been stolen; his story was confirmed by CCTV footage of the theft, although the thief’s identity was still unknown. So far, the police had produced no solid results. The only thing they knew for sure was that this was a highly professional robbery to order, evidenced by the fact that the thieves forced Hussein Al Bu Said to open the safe but left a fortune in cash and jewellery unmolested.

  ‘There’s only one reason why anyone would do that,’ Qureshi said out loud, to nobody in particular. ‘But what did they take?’

  Faheem Bashir, who had no better idea of the answer than his superior, said nothing and went on looking around the desolate crime scene as though it might cough up more clues for them.

  Neither Qureshi nor Bashir noticed the presence of the third man who had stepped silently into the room behind them.

  ‘They took the Star of Africa,’ the man said. ‘Hussein’s diamond.’

  The detectives turned, startled. It was highly unusual for anyone to be able to sneak up on Bashir like that.

  ‘Who are you?’ Qureshi demanded. ‘How did you get in here?’

  The stranger made no reply. He was about ten years younger than Bashir and twenty years younger than Qureshi; somewhere in his early thirties, lean and compact in build. His black hair was swept back from a high brow and a chiselled face that radiated a brooding, simmering energy. His dark eyes were mournful, and yet filled with a contained fire of rage that Qureshi found unsettling.

  The stranger gazed around him, apparently uninterested in the detectives, as though all he’d come for was a last look at the place. Then he turned and left the room without another word.

  Qureshi went to go after him, but Bashir stepped into his path, gently pressed a hand to his boss’s chest to block him, and shook his head.

  ‘What are you doing? Get out of my way, I want to talk to that guy, find out who he is and what he’s talking about. What diamond?’

  Bashir let his hand drop, but he was still shaking his head.

  ‘I could tell you who he is,’ Bashir said. ‘But I’d have to kill you.’

  Chapter 1

  The Democratic Republic of Congo

  It was a rough road that the lone Toyota four-wheel-drive was trying to negotiate, and the going was agonisingly slow. One moment the worn tyres would be slithering and fighting for grip in yet another axle-deep rut of loose reddish earth, the next the creaking, grinding suspension would bump so hard over the rubble and rocks strewn everywhere that the vehicle’s three occupants were bounced out of their seats with a crash that set their teeth on edge.

  At this rate, it was going to be several more hours before they reached the remote strip where the light chartered plane was due to pick up the two Americans and fly them and their precious cargo to Kinshasa. Once they got to the airport, the pair intended to waste no time before jumping on the first jet heading back home and getting the hell out of here. But safety and escape still seemed a long way beyond their reach. They were still very much in the danger zone.

  The battered, much-repaired old Toyota was one of the few possessions of a local man named Joseph Maheshe who now and then hired himself out as a driver and guide to tourists. Not that many tourists came here anymore, not even the thrill-seeking adventurous ones. It was a precarious place and an even more precarious trade for Joseph, but the only one he knew. He’d been a taxi driver in Kigali, back over the border in neighbouring Rwanda, when the troubles there twenty years earlier had forced him and his wife, both of them of Tutsi ethnicity, to flee their home never to return. Joseph had seen a lot in his time, and knew the dangers of this area as well as anyone. He wasn’t overjoyed that the two Americans had talked him into coming out here. He was liking the grinding sounds coming from his truck’s suspension even less.

  While Joseph worried about what the terrible road surface was doing to his vehicle, his two backseat passengers had their own concerns to occupy their minds. They were a man and a woman, both dishevelled and travel-stained, both shining with perspiration from the baking heat inside the car, and both in a state of great excitement.

  The man’s name was Craig Munro, and he was a middlingly successful freelance investigative reporter based 7,000 miles from here in Chicago. In his late forties, he was twice the age of his female companion. They weren’t any kind of an item; their relationship was, always had been and would remain professional, even though the lack of privacy when camping out rough for days and nights on end in this wilderness sometimes forced a degree more intimacy on them than either was comfortable with.

  The woman’s name was Rae Lee, and she had worked for Munro as an assistant and photographer for the last eighteen months. Rae was twenty-four, second generation Taiwanese-American, and she’d been top of her law class at Chicago University for a year before switching tracks and studying photography at the city’s prestigious Art Institute. She had taken the job with Munro more for the experience, and for ideological reasons, than for the money – money being something that wasn’t always in good supply around her employer’s shabby offices in downtown Chicago. The camera equipment inside the metal cases that jostled about in the back of the Toyota was all hers. But as expensive as it was, its true value at this moment lay in the large number of digital images Rae’s long lens had captured last night and early this morning from their concealed stakeout.

  It was an investigative journalist’s dream; everything they could have wished to find. More than they’d dared even hope for, which was the reason for their excitement. It was also the reason for their deep anxiety to get away and home as fast as possible. The kind of information and evidence they’d travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo to acquire was precisely the kind that could get you killed. And the Congo was a very easy place in which to disappear without a trace, never to be seen again.

  The hammering and lurching of the 4x4’s suspension made it impossible to have any kind of conversation, but neither Munro nor Rae Lee needed to speak their thoughts out loud. They were both thinking the same thing: when they got back to the States, their work would begin in earnest. The physical danger would be behind them, but the real grind would await them, and Munro’s endless deskbound hours of writing the sensational article would be just part of it. There would be scores of calls to make, dozens more contacts to chase, many facts to verify before they could go live with this thing. It was se
rious business. While what they’d found would cause a substantial stir in certain quarters, not everyone would be supportive. Some very wealthy and powerful people would use every ounce of their influence to block the publication of this information in every way possible. But what they had was pure gold, and they knew it. They were going to be able to blow the lid off this whole dirty affair and open a lot of eyes to what was really happening out here.

  ‘How much further?’ Munro yelled, leaning forwards in the back and shouting close to Joseph’s ear to be heard.

  ‘It is a very bad road,’ the driver replied, as if this were news to them. He was a French speaker like many Rwandans past a certain age, and spoke English with a heavy accent. ‘Two hours, maybe three.’ Which put them still a long way from anywhere.

  ‘This is hopeless,’ Munro complained, flopping back in his seat.

  Rae’s long hair, normally jet-black, looked red from all the dust. She flicked it away from her face and twisted round to throw an anxious glance over her shoulder at the camera cases behind her. The gear was getting a hell of a jolting back there, though it was well protected inside thick foam. ‘We’ll be okay,’ she said to Munro, as much to reassure herself as him. ‘Everything’s fine.’


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