Today I'm kicking off the blog tour for Claire McGowan's latest book The Silent Dead that features forensic psychologist Paula Maguire. I've been looking forward to reading this next installment in the series but despite having a copy on my Kindle I haven't had a chance to read it yet as life has been a little hectic recently but I am hoping to read and review it soon.
Victim: Male. Mid-thirties. 5'7".
Cause of death: Hanging. Initial impression - murder.
ID: Mickey Doyle. Suspected terrorist and member of the Mayday Five.
The officers at the crime scene know exactly who the victim is.
Doyle was one of five suspected bombers who caused the deaths of sixteen people.
The remaining four are also missing and when a second body is found, decapitated, it's clear they are being killed by the same methods their victims suffered.
Forensic psychologist Paula Maguire is assigned the case but she is up against the clock - both personally and professionally.
With moral boundaries blurred between victim and perpetrator, will be Paula be able to find those responsible? After all, even killers deserve justice, don't they?
Thanks to the lovely Katie at Headline, I am able to share with you an extract from Chapter One to whet your appetite.
The car park near the forest was full of police cars and vans. Paula was beginning to realise her bridesmaid’s dress was not the most practical of garments for a crime scene. No matter. She wasn’t going to miss this.
She parked and staggered up to the police cordon on the path leading into the forest. DC Gerard Monaghan, an ambitious Catholic recruit in his twenties, was on his mobile nearby, and burst out laughing when he saw her. ‘Jesus, Maguire. Are you lost on your way to a formal?’
She was panting already, slick with sweat under the man-made fibres. ‘You found something.’
‘A walker phoned in a body in the trees. Some local uniform was first on scene.’
‘And how did we get in on it, if he’s dead?’ They were walking, so she tried to tuck up the hem of her dress.
‘Well, Corry and Brooking are on bestest terms right now.’
‘Hmm.’ Paula wasn’t sure how she felt about this rapprochement between DCI Helen Corry, head of Serious Crime at the regular PSNI in the area, and DI Guy Brooking, their boss at the missing persons unit, seconded in from London. At first the two had thoroughly trampled on each other’s toes, but lately Corry had been nice as pie about sharing jurisdiction. Paula wasn’t sure why.
But none of that mattered right now. ‘Is it definitely one of the Five? Which one?’
‘I doubt they can tell.’ He was leading her to the cordon and nodding to the uniformed officer at the tape. ‘Here’s Cinderella, late for the ball.’ She glared at him and he laughed. ‘She’s with us, pal. Dr Maguire, forensic psychologist.’
The officer eyed her sweaty face and bulging belly, but let them pass.
‘Why can’t they tell?’ Paula asked, as they trotted up the forest path. Dappled sunlight fell on them, and a warm pine scent filled the air. She knew that Gerard, six foot four in his socks, was shortening his stride for her, but even so she felt dizzy with the effort. Around them was the silence of the forest, small clicks of insects and leaves rustling.
‘You’ll see,’ said Gerard. ‘It’s a grim one. You don’t have to be here, you know.’
‘I do. I can’t get a sense of it otherwise.’
‘All right.’ Gerard gave an on-your-head-be-it eye roll and directed her down a small side path. She lifted her skirt to step over roots, her flimsy shoes already in flitters. This was stupid. This was, in a competitive field, one of the more stupid things she’d ever done.
Trees parted to reveal a small gap in the woods, and a cluster of CSIs and detectives surrounding something she couldn’t quite see. Corry and Brooking had their heads together, looking at a piece of paper.
‘Look who turned up,’ said Gerard cheerfully.
Helen Corry was the type of woman who, whatever they had on, you looked at it and realised – that’s exactly what I should have worn. Her short-sleeved white shirt and grey trousers were cool and fresh. She wore gloves, and a stern expression. ‘So I see. Being seven months’ pregnant can’t detain you from crime scenes, Dr Maguire?’
‘Or being at your father’s wedding?’ added Guy.
Paula sighed. They were awful united, much worse than any of their disagreements. It was like being looked after by an extra set of cool, young parents. ‘Who is it?’
Corry peeled off her gloves. ‘We think it’s Mickey Doyle. Hard to tell from the face, but we’ll know soon enough.’
‘So they didn’t leave the country then, the five of them? Do we think they were kidnapped?’
‘Should you really be here, Paula?’ Ignoring her question, Guy moved towards her. He too looked cool in a blue shirt and red tie, his fair hair brushed back from a stiffly controlled face. ‘I mean, the baby—’
‘The baby’s fine.’ She pushed forward, irritated. ‘Let me see him.’
Then she did.
Hanging victims all had a look in common. Eyes popping, tongue protruding, face red and livid. That would be why they couldn’t identify him yet. Also common was the loosening of the bowels, which Paula could now smell on the fresh pine breeze. She’d seen it lots of times, so it was strange and very bad timing that this particular victim should cause her to black out suddenly, the forest floor swimming up to meet her.
‘I told you.’ Guy had caught her before she fell. ‘Look, you’re not up to this. Sit down.’ He marched her to a tree stump. ‘I’ll get you some water.’
Paula acquiesced, breathing and blinking hard. His expression, she realised, was exactly the same one Aidan had adopted towards her, stoical and distant, with just a touch of resentment. Perfectly timed to remind her that, while the pregnancy had granted her a temporary reprieve, as soon as this baby was out, all three of them were going to have to find out which of the two men was the father.
I hope that you're as excited as I am about reading The Silent Dead which is out now as an eBook and will be published in paperback format next March. As an extra treat, Headline are also spoiling us with a sneak preview of the prologue from A Savage Hunter which is also being published in March.
Belfast, Northern Ireland, July 1981
The corpse on the bed was still breathing.
Hardly at all, in a harsh, erratic rhythm, so every few seconds you thought it had stopped. One. Two. Three. Four . . . Then it would start again and you’d drop your head in your hands and think: I can’t bear this. It got so bad you were counting the seconds of silence – one, two, three, four – just hoping in a terrible part of you that it would stop for good, just stop with this bloody agony and let it all be over, for God’s sake. Sixty-seven days of it. No one ever thought he’d be here after so long, still clinging on, still somehow not dead, while outside the walls the world marched, waved banners, howled insults. You wondered could he hear the racket, in this room with bars on the windows, or if his ears had gone as well as his eyes.
He’d gone blind ten days ago, his eyes turning milky, and then a sort of black colour that was terrible to see. He was stretched out on a sheepskin rug, the waterbed under him wobbling obscenely with each snatched breath. His skin would crack and split if he moved, opening in red, sore mouths that quickly turned black. At the foot of the metal bed, like a bad joke, sat a plate of bread; white, with the crusts cut off. Some beef spread; three apples, dried up. Just in case, they said. In case what? He was too far gone now to eat – a bite of that apple would kill him straight off.
You felt a hand drop on your shoulder. It was Rambo. Or so they called him, anyway; a tiny wee rat of a man. Sort of a bad joke. ‘Seen enough, son?’
You couldn’t answer, so you just nodded. You’d not expected this. You didn’t know what you’d expected, but not this. The hospital stink of shit and bleach, the skin so pale you could nearly see the blood struggling underneath, the black, gaping gums – Christ. It was all you could do to keep a lid on it, and you knew suddenly that if you tried to speak you would burst out crying like a wean.
The doctor, who hadn’t said a word or looked at either of you the whole time, took the corpse’s pulse again. Every hour at this point. Checking. Counting. You were waiting, he was waiting, all the crowds outside and watching around the world were waiting for the last moment, where the long, slow slide towards death finally ended, hardened into something permanent. When he finally let out his last breath. You could almost feel the hands on the triggers. The match held to the touch paper.
‘’Mon.’ The other man gestured and you got up, numbly, and followed him out to the corridor. It was less like a hospital out there and more like what it really was – a prison. Your DMs echoed on the stone floor and you blew on your hands. When you’d touched him, he’d been cold as ice, and you just couldn’t get the feeling off your skin. The man was dying. He was dying right in front of your eyes and you weren’t doing a thing to stop it. Somehow, you hadn’t understood that until now.
Rambo lit a roll-up, breathed in. ‘It’ll be soon, they said. Next three days. But it’s not too late – if they get an IV in him—’
‘They can help him?’ It didn’t seem credible. The man was so near death you could feel it in the room, see it moving up his body with his slow blood.
‘Aye. I know he’s far gone. But there’s still a chance to bring him back. They sometimes ask for it, when they’re near the end. When they don’t know where they are.’
You’d heard that. About the families who’d had to swear not to feed their sons at the end, as they screamed in broken voices for someone to take the pain away. Swear to just stand by and let them die.
‘And if he doesn’t go – well, you know how it’ll be. It’ll all be called off. The whole hunger strike. If he stops, they’ll all stop.’
‘The demands. They still don’t agree.’
‘But I thought we were close.’
Somewhere across the water, in leather-lined office rooms and under green shaded lights, people were deciding the fate of this man. Mrs T and her top men. Whether they should bring him back. What would happen if they let him die. Suicide, they’d been calling it, but to the people outside the walls, it was murder.
‘Aye, they’re close. Not close enough. Yet.’ It had gone so far now – the man drawing in death with every breath, the Army outside, the world watching. The Brits couldn’t be seen to back down, give in to terrorists. Your lot couldn’t accept less than they’d asked for at the start. Not when six men had already starved to death.
‘So . . .’
‘Word has it they might give in. Brits never thought it’d go so far. And there’s your man down in Ballyterrin calling for an end to it. People listen to him. If word gets out we’re close to an agreement – well, you see what’ll happen. They’ll take all the fellas off the strike. It’ll be over, and we won’t get what we started this for.’
And the man in there on the bed, the corpse, they could bring him back from the brink. Lazarus, walking out of his tomb.
You didn’t understand. ‘So what—’
‘Son. We need you. Are you ready to do your duty?’
At first you thought they were asking for this – your life, your body, the slow pain of starving to death over months. But then he spoke again, and you saw it wasn’t that they were asking for at all. It was worse.