A tense thriller which begins with a hand being found in the New Forest will be published next month. 

Gallows Wood is the first in a new crime book series by Louisa Scarr featuring Hampshire police dog handler PC Lucy Halliday and her inquisitive pooch Moss.

Louisa, a mum of one who lives in Ampfield, near Romsey, enjoyed previous success with her five-book Butler and West thriller series, set in various locations including Southampton, Portswood, Chilworth, Calshot and Romsey. 

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When a hand is found in Gallows Wood, PC Lucy Halliday and her specialist search dog Moss must find the rest of the body. What they uncover is a killer’s dumping ground. Like every case since her husband’s mysterious disappearance, Lucy wonders if this one will bring her closer to the truth.

Combining traditional police investigative work with the intricate forensics of using dogs to find the dead, Gallows Wood was inspired by Louisa's own dog three-year-old working cocker / springer spaniel Max.

She told the Daily Echo: "He's very reactive, everything is just so exciting and he doesn't stop.

"We went along to scent training as something to occupy him and it gave me the idea for a novel featuring a police dog handler with a high energy dog on the go all the time.

"It's a bit different. Hopefully there are lots of dog and crime novel lovers out there!"

(Image: Canelo Crime)

Louisa's vivid imagination is a big help; she often dreams up macabre scenarios while running through nearby woods with Max or open water swimming in murky lakes. 

The second novel in the series, set in Fordingbridge and involving a missing child and a clever German Shepherd, is ready for release with a third in the planning. 

Louisa, a psychology graduate from the University of Southampton who previously worked in HR, started her writing career using her maiden name Louisa De Lange and has also had several books published under the name Sam Holland.

Gallows Wood will be published on July 11.

It has been described as 'a blistering beginning to the new series' and 'genius'.