Book Extract: The Silent House of Sleep by Allan Gaw

Please join me in welcoming Allan Gaw to Novel Kicks and the blog tour for The Silent House of Sleep.

‘No one likes death. It just happens to be our business.’

Nobody who meets Dr Jack Cuthbert forgets him. Tall, urbane, brilliant but damaged, this Scottish pathologist who works with Scotland Yard is the best the new DCI has seen. But Cuthbert is a man who lives with secrets, and he still battles demons brought back from the trenches.

When not one but two corpses are discovered in a London park in 1929, Cuthbert must use every tool at his disposal to solve the mystery of their deaths. In the end, the horrifying truth is more shocking than even he could have imagined.

As he works the case, Cuthbert realises that history rarely stays in the past. And even in the final moments, there is still one last revelation that leaves him reeling.


Allan has shared an extract with us today. We hope you enjoy. 


*****beginning of extract*****


This is the opening section of the novel where we meet the protagonist, the Scottish pathologist Dr Jack Cuthbert, for the first time as he rises to give his expert testimony in an Old Bailey murder trial.

London: December 1928

The rich, oak-panelled room with its high vaulted ceiling of white stucco was designed both to impress and intimidate. High above the courtroom on the domed roof was the gilded figure of a Greek goddess, Themis. Her golden arms outstretched, she bore her sword in one hand and her scales to balance justice in the other. But, contrary to common belief, she wore no blindfold. Justice in this courtroom was delivered with open eyes, and the judge presiding had his fixed firmly on Cuthbert as he rose from the seats in the well of the court to take the stand.

This was the first glimpse the jury had of the expert witness. As he walked past their two enclosed rows of seats, what immediately struck them was his height. Some of the jurors were momentarily distracted from the gravity of the setting by the tall, good-looking man. He was dressed in a black, well-fitted, three-piece suit, showing off his broad chest and slim hips. His boots were polished to a mirror finish and his thick dark hair oiled back and parted with precision. The only glint of colour was the rose gold of the watch chain on his waistcoat.

The ornate sword of state hung vertically above Mr Justice Avery’s high-backed chair on the bench. It reminded everyone present that this man had the power of life and death at his disposal, handed him by authority of the king. Such symbolism was not lost on Cuthbert, but he had little time for the theatricality of the law. However, he did acknowledge the judge and his position with a short, business-like bow of his head. But before taking his oath, Cuthbert also turned to his right and similarly offered his respect to the jury. This was neither conventional nor expected, but Cuthbert was in no doubt as to who held the real authority in this court.

‘I swear by Almighty God that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.’

‘Please state your full name and profession.’

‘John Archibald Cuthbert. Senior pathologist at St Thomas’s Hospital and senior police surgeon with the Metropolitan Police.’

‘Dr Cuthbert, please would you tell the court what you found during your examination of the body of Charles Edward Everett on the 18th of September this year?’

Cuthbert stood erect in the witness box. When he turned to the jury on his right, they caught their first sight of his gaze. His eyes were intense and deep blue, but they also possessed a warmth that was almost cordial. There were eight men and four women all now leaning slightly forward, waiting to hear what this man was going to say.

He spoke directly to them in a manner that no other witness in the trial had used. He brought them into his world and explained in just enough detail the pathological findings in the case. And he used language that was simple yet precise without ever being condescending.

When Cuthbert first came to work in London, he quickly acquired a reputation as an excellent expert witness. Barristers who called upon him knew that he would be an asset to their case. This was not because he was ever partisan, but because they relied on him completely to educate and inform the jury, and indeed the judge, on any and all medical matters. He never needed to consult his notes and was always fully briefed on every detail of the case. And, most importantly, the juries always trusted him.

When he was cross-examined, his expression never betrayed any annoyance at the often childish tactics of some of the barristers. He spoke in measured tones in his deep but soft Scottish accent. When he was grilled, he would occasionally glance over to the jury before answering the more outrageous questions put to him, as if to say, We adults do have to put up with a lot from these children, don’t we? But he was always completely courteous and invariably thanked his interrogator before stepping down from the stand.

He was known to be unflappable, immovable from his conclusions and resolute in his considered opinions. He offered the courtroom confidence and assurance, which was especially welcome in complex cases such as this.

The prosecution alleged that Charles Edward Everett had been poisoned by his wife. She was now sitting across the court from Cuthbert, in the dock of the Old Bailey, on trial for her life. Her husband had died, apparently of natural causes after a lengthy illness, and it was only when suspicions were raised by his younger brother that a call was made to exhume the body and have it re-examined. That post mortem examination had shown he had been the victim of arsenic poisoning. A further re-examination, however, had cast doubt on that conclusion. And it was that second post mortem examination that Cuthbert was now relating to the jury.


*****end of extract*****



About Allan Gaw –

Allan Gaw is a Scot who lives and works near Glasgow. He studied medicine and is a pathologist by training but a writer by inclination. Having worked in the NHS and universities in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and the US, he now devotes his time to writing.

Most of his published work to date is non-fiction. These include textbooks and regular magazine articles on topics as diverse as the thalidomide story, the medical challenges of space travel and the medico-legal consequences of the Hillsborough disaster.

More recently, he has been writing short stories, novels and poetry. He has won the UK Classical Association Creative Writing Competition, the International Alpine Fellowship Writing Prize, the International Globe Soup 7-day Writing Challenge and was runner-up in the Glencairn Glass/Bloody Scotland Short Crime Fiction Competition. He has also had prose published in the literary journal, From Glasgow to Saturn and anthologies from the Edinburgh Literary Salon and Clan Destine Press in Australia. His poetry has been published by Dreich, Soor Ploom Press and Black Bough Poetry. His debut poetry collection, Love & Other Diseases, was published in 2023 by Seahorse Publications.  

The Silent House of Sleep is his debut novel and is the first in the Dr Jack Cuthbert Mystery series. 

Say hello to Allan via his website, Twitter (X) and Instagram

Click to buy The Silent House of Sleep on Amazon UK and Amazon US


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I’m Laura. I started Novel Kicks in 2009. I wanted a place to post my writing as well as give other writers like me the opportunity to do the same. There is also a monthly book club, a writing room which features writing prompts, book reviews, competitions, author interviews and guest posts.

I grew up by the sea (my favourite place in the world) and I currently live in Hampshire. I am married to Chris, have a cat named Buddy and I would love to be a writer. I’m trying to write the novel I’ve talked so much about writing if only I could stop pressing delete. I’ve loved writing since creative writing classes in primary school. I have always wanted to see my teacher Miss Sayers again and thank her for the encouragement. When not trying to write the novel or writing snippets of stories on anything I can get my hands on, I love reading, dancing like a loon and singing to myself very badly. My current obsession is Once Upon a Time and I would be happy to live with magic in the enchanted forest surrounded by all those wonderful stories provided that world also included Harry Potter. I love reading chick lit. contemporary fiction and novels with mystery.

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