Today, we have an excerpt from The Last Girl to Die, the new novel by Helen Fields. The latest mystery from the author of the D.I. Callanach series, this appears to be a stand-alone. Due to be published by Avon Books tomorrow, here’s the synopsis:
In search of a new life, seventeen-year-old Adriana Clark’s family moves to the ancient, ocean-battered Isle of Mull, far off the coast of Scotland. Then she goes missing. Faced with hostile locals and indifferent police, her desperate parents turn to private investigator Sadie Levesque.
Sadie is the best at what she does. But when she finds Adriana’s body in a cliffside cave, a seaweed crown carefully arranged on her head, she knows she’s dealing with something she’s never encountered before.
The deeper she digs into the island’s secrets, the closer danger creeps – and the more urgent her quest to find the killer grows. Because what if Adriana is not the last girl to die?
Now, on with the excerpt…
My next trip was to the police station. A woman came to the desk as I entered.
‘Hi,’ I said. ‘Could you help me? I wanted to speak with an officer but I didn’t catch his name when he pulled me over. Tall, thin, mid-thirties, scar on the back of his right hand.’
‘That would be Constable Bathgate.’
‘That’s it! Honestly, my brain. Is Constable Bathgate here at the moment?’
‘He goes off shift at 5 p.m. It might be easier if I passed your query on to an officer who’ll be here longer?’ she suggested.
‘This won’t take a minute. Could you tell him Sadie Levesque is here? I just want to thank him for how helpful he was.’
The woman disappeared through the door behind her and called his name. A minute later the door opened again and Bathgate appeared.
‘What do you want?’ he snapped.
‘That’s not very friendly, Constable, given how close you seemed to think our relationship was last night. I just need a favour. I’d like to know a bit more about someone. You have access to the Police National Database. Could you take a look for me?’
He leaned over the counter and down to my ear.
‘Now why the festering fuck would you be under the impression that I’d step an inch out of my way for you?’ he asked.
I smiled, shook my head and wagged a finger at him.
‘Such awful words coming from such a pretty mouth,’ I said loudly, before whispering, ‘Because if you don’t help me, I’m going to play the audio recording I made with my cell phone that was in my pocket the whole time last night. I’m guessing using police powers to pressurise a member of the public into having sex with you would probably get you sacked in what… about twenty-four hours? Shall we find out?’
‘Show me,’ he demanded.
‘The first time I’ll play this will be in front of Sergeant Eggo and anyone else I can find here. There’s also a copy on the cloud waiting to be sent to a journalist I know called Lance Proudfoot who lives in Edinburgh. Look him up by all means. Wanna play chicken?’
He glared at me as I kept a slight smile on my lips. Constable Bathgate should have negotiated, of course, but the threat of losing his job was potent.
‘Who is it?’ he hissed.
‘Rhys Stewart from the Mull Historical Emporium.’
‘Oh come on, is that all the Clarks are getting for their money? You identify the one guy in town with a learning difficulty and some developmental problems, and decide he’s the culprit? Put your prejudices away.’
‘You’re giving me a moral lecture?’ I laughed. ‘Maybe I just want to exclude him. Are you going to help or not?’
He flashed an angry look at his watch.
‘Come with me,’ he said, lifting the moveable section of countertop and opening the door in the rear wall.
We walked past one office and into another that bore the legend ‘Sergeant H Eggo’ on the door. Sitting at the desk, Constable Bathgate began typing furiously into Eggo’s computer.
‘This is blackmail,’ he said as he typed.
‘I have no idea what you’re talking about. I asked for help with an investigation. You’re entitled to look anyone up on that database. As yet you’ve shared no information. No crime has been committed. You’ve given me precisely nothing so far.’
‘The sergeant’ll be back any minute,’ he said.
As he finished typing, the computer’s internal fan whirred and the printer began chugging. I reached for the sheet.
‘No you don’t,’ he said, pulling it from the printer. ‘Me first.’ His facial expression went from stubbornly bored to confused to concerned. ‘What do you know that we don’t?’ he asked.
‘Nope, you go first,’ I said.
‘He has a record for possession of category C indecent images. Got a year’s probation.’
‘He lives in your community. How did the police not know about this?’
‘He wasn’t put on the sex offenders register, and this offence happened on the mainland, not here. It dates back to when he was nineteen. Now he’s thirty-four. We didn’t have cause to check him out.’
‘Well you do now. Did he provide a statement explaining his whereabouts on the night Adriana was killed?’
‘Did who give a statement?’ Sergeant Eggo asked from the doorway.
Constable Bathgate and I exchanged a glance, shifting gears from enemies to co-conspirators in a heartbeat.
Helen Fields’s The Last Girl to Die is due to be published tomorrow by Avon in the UK.