Dead Girl Walking is the latest thrilling novel from one of Scotland’s most treasured crime writers, as well known in his native country as Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, and Denise Mina. Christopher Brookmyre’s books have sold over one and a half million copies worldwide, and in Dead Girl Walking , he has written his most addictive thriller yeta gripping story of sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll, and murder.
Life is dangerous when you have everything to lose. Famous, beautiful, and talented, Heike Gunn has the world at her feet. Then, one day, she simply vanishes. Meanwhile, maverick Scottish journalist Jack Parlabane has lost everything. Once highly regarded for his tireless investigation of even the most unpleasant of Glasgow’s gangsters, his involvement in a scandal involving a lost government laptop has cost him his career, his wife, and his self-respect. A call from an old friend offers Parlabane a chance for redemptionbut only if he can find out what happened to Heike, the lead singer of the internationally renowned folk rock band Savage Earth Heart. Pursued by those who would punish him for past crimes, Parlabane enters the secret-filled world of Savage Earth Heart, a group at its breaking point. Each of its members seems to be hiding something, not least its newest recruit Monica Halcrow, whose speculated relationship with Heike has become a public obsession. Monica’s own story, however, reveals a far darker truth. Fixated on Heike from day one, she has been engulfed by paranoia, jealousy, and fear as she discovers the hidden price of fame. And she may not be the only one suffering.
From Berlin to Barcelona, from the streets of Milan to remote Scottish islands, Dead Girl Walking is a whirlwind tour of the dark side of the music industry from one of Britain’s masters of crime writing.
About the Author
Christopher Brookmyre is the author of seventeen previous novels, including his acclaimed and internationally bestselling series featuring Jasmine Sharp and Catherine McLeod. He has won many awards for his work, including the Critics’ First Blood Award, the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, and the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Award. His latest novel is Bred in the Bone.
Read an Excerpt
Her world collapsed around a single moment. A single act. That was all it took for what she understood as reality to be altered for ever.
She watched the blood splatter from the girl's open mouth like vomit, engulfing and uncontainable. The knife must have gone in right to the hilt, driven as it was by so much force, like he had been trying to punch right through her. She tried and failed to apprehend her thoughts before they turned to the massive organ damage necessary to have precipitated such an eruption. The girl would bleed out in a matter of minutes, maybe seconds.
There was no numbing moment of disbelief to anaesthetise her fear. This was real. This was now. She was better wired than most people to fundamentally understand this.
Just as she had learned that dreams can come true, that things you have merely fantasised about can suddenly become everyday reality, so was she starkly aware that the darkest dreads could be made manifest too. Most people's dreams didn't come true. Most people didn't get to play their music to thousands of people in city after city, night after night. Most people didn't see a human being murdered before their very eyes and know that they were next.
The girl now slumped to the ground, collapsing in stages; one hand clutching her stomach, the other extended to steady herself, as though a fear of toppling over were the chief of her concerns. Then she flopped forward on to her face, folded up like a doll.
The attacker barely cast a glance towards his victim. Now that she had been dealt with, and was no longer of value to him, the girl ceased to merit his consideration.
In those brief seconds, she thought of the years she had lived, and of all the time and effort it had taken to reach this stage in her career. The doors that were opening. The places she was yet to go. It seemed so unfair that all of it could be gone in the blink of an eye. Yet she knew just how sudden, how arbitrary and capricious fate could be.
Watching the blood pour from a scared, astonished mouth, she had just as immediately grasped the implications for anyone who could testify to having seen it happen.
He was moving forward, simmering with an aggression he could tap into at will. Those muscular arms, that body honed and sculpted to brutal purpose.
She thought she saw movement from the floor, but it was just the blood pooling around the girl's waist.
She felt a cold, iron paralysis, a crippling fear of flight that fear of death could not overcome. She was petrified. She was powerless.
She was next.
The payment was gone, the only leverage, and it had bought nothing.
That thought seemed almost random, flashing past like just another piece of debris in the vortex of this tornado. Once upon a time, the notion of losing that much money would have been catastrophic. Right now it was barely relevant.
It didn't look like she would be needing it.CHAPTER 2
They didn't look like cops. Not at first, when he walked to his seat on the other side of the table. More like lawyers, surrounded as they were by piles of notes and stacks of folders, binders and hard-bound volumes. They seemed a little swamped, a little distracted, referring to various loose sheets and plastic-wrapped documents as he sat down, as though they had to remind themselves of who he was and why he was there.
It wasn't like any interview room he'd been in before either. It was a bright and airy upstairs office, lots of windows, a couple of framed prints and the walls covered in a recently painted soothing shade of light blue. All very neutral, very non-threatening.
This was in marked contrast to the language and tone of the missives by which he had been compelled to come to London. They had made it clear that if he didn't cooperate by travelling voluntarily, he'd be doing so in the back of a van. Yet now they were acting like it was at his own convenience. He even had an appointment. It was like visiting the proctologist; all very polite, respectful and professional, but ultimately you knew that the point of the exercise was for someone to ram their finger up your arse.
'I'm Detective Sergeant Ben Mitchell; this is Detective Constable Audrey Pine. We are both with Metropolitan Police Specialist Operations, operating under the auspices of the Westercruik Inquiry, whose full powers we are at liberty to command.'
The preamble went on for a bit after that, like the terms and conditions you never read before clicking Yes to installing a piece of software: the details and the legalese weren't important, as you both knew there was no option but to proceed. The appointment thing was a bit of paradoxical mummery to establish their credentials too. Its purpose was to underline that he was not even that important in the greater scheme of what they were about here and to remind him that this thing was a juggernaut, so step carefully lest you end up under the wheels.
It was Pine who spoke first.
'Alec Forman,' she stated matter-of-factly, like she was taking the register.
'Present,' he replied, eliciting a grimly weary look. She wasn't in the mood for humour. That was fine, because neither was he.
Pine looked late thirties or early forties, pale and skinny with a dyed-blonde bob. She might have been younger: her impassive expression and a complexion betraying a committed smoking habit were probably putting a few years on her. She seemed all the more pallid next to Mitchell, who was brown of skin and jet black of hair.
'You've been publishing under that byline for roughly the past three years.'
When I've been published at all, he thought.
'You've been in journalism more than two decades. You've worked in London, Los Angeles and Scotland. You've largely been freelance since the mid-nineties. You started off in Glasgow then moved to London when you were hired as an investigative reporter on the ...'
On and on she went, with the expression and the tone of voice that conveyed an indefatigable stamina for bureaucratic detail, far more than a mortal man like him could possibly endure. His only salvation might be her need to nip out for a fag. If she had Nicorette gum, he was doomed.
He wasn't so sure about her strategy, it had to be said. She just kept telling him things about himself, which didn't strike him as a likely means of tripping him up. There were a few hazy periods, granted, but he was generally accepted as the world authority on the subject of his own life.
These were mere overtures, however. They were circling, trying to make him wonder where they'd come from when they finally decided to attack. Either that or the plan was to remind him of just how far he had fallen in order to have made the desperate mistakes that had ultimately brought him to this room.
'Your time in London, working for the Exposure team, you carved out a bit of a name for yourself. You were very much ahead of the curve.'
Mitchell was speaking, glancing back down at a document as he did so, like he hadn't had enough time to prepare for this. Aye, right.
The journalist occasionally known but decreasingly published as Alec Forman still said nothing.
'In fact, you were cited by name several times during the Leveson Inquiry and reference was made to quite a range of, shall we say, improvisational methods of procuring information. It was alleged that, in order to stand up your stories, you employed computer hacking, unauthorised, invasive and covert electronic surveillance, even burglary. This is going all the way back to the early nineties. You truly were a trailblazer for all that ultimately became rotten about modern journalism.'
No, they didn't look like cops: not until they started asking questions, at which juncture the humourless condescension was unmistakable. They must teach it at Hendon.
He knew he was being goaded and he ought to deny the cop a response. Maybe three years ago he'd have been strong enough to resist. These days his skin had worn a lot thinner from being the whipping boy.
If you prick me, do I not bleed? If you wrong me, shall I not fuck your shit right up?
'Those were allegations made by individuals and organisations bearing long-term grudges about having their own sharp practices exposed.'
'Your editors at the time stated at the inquiry that highly sensitive documents and other evidence frequently came into your hands through unnamed sources: sometimes documents and evidence that had previously been quietly resting in a safe.'
'Yes, and they were so uncomfortable about the provenance of my information that they said absolutely nothing about it until they were in front of an inquiry and needing to offer up a sacrificial goat.'
'So where did all those documents come from?'
'Unnamed sources. Many and various sources. That's journalism, or at least it was, once upon a time. As far as I remember it, no specific evidence was produced to support these allegations.'
Mitchell glanced intently down at the fire hazard of loose leafs in front of him, like there might be a citation there that would refute this last statement. There wasn't, but he had a pretty good comeback nonetheless.
'In the year 2000 you were found guilty of breaking and entering, were you not? You were jailed and served a total of seven months.'
Mitchell ran a finger down the sheet he was looking at, like he was double-checking.
'Oh, sorry, that's not strictly true. Part of that prison time was while you were on remand for a charge of murder.'
Mitchell spoke with a very measured pronunciation, like he savoured his own elocution. There were trace elements of Brummie in there, but mainly his accent spoke of good schooling and attention to detail. He seemed dynamic and determined, a permanent searching seriousness about his expression.
Mitchell looked a good bit younger than Pine, but was clearly the one in the driving seat. Probably highly ambitious and dexterously political too, to have got himself a gig on this inquiry. His suit looked good on him as well, the bastard.
He winced inside as the import of the moment struck home. Comes to us all, sure enough: he had just told himself the polis were looking younger.
Somebody shoot me in the fucking head, he thought.
'Does it mention anywhere in your documentation that I was completely exonerated?' he asked, trying not to sound rattled but succeeding only in alerting Mitchell to the fact that he was.
Mitchell responded by stepping things up.
'Did you break into an apartment in Knightsbridge while it was being used for sexual liaisons by Sir Anthony Mead?'
He responded with a blank look, then wondered if that appeared more guilty than an outright denial. Acting like you don't know who Anthony Mead is: yeah, that'll fox him.
'Did you break into Anthony Mead's home?'
'I couldn't even tell you where that might be. Home Counties are all the one to me.'
That was payback for Pine saying London, Los Angeles and Scotland. Really sticking it to them here.
'So you know his house is in the Home Counties.'
'Did you plant a bug or a DVR to record him?'
'Did you hack his mobile phone?'
'Did you hack Angela Goldman's phone?'
'Did you break into Angela Goldman's flat?'
'Were you aware that Angela Goldman was having an affair with Anthony Mead? Did you use this information to blackmail either of them into revealing his encryption password?'
Round and round they went, back over the same ground several times. He figured it couldn't be to see whether he contradicted himself, as it's hard to contradict one-word answers, especially when the answer is almost invariably no. He couldn't be sure what the endgame was, what agendas were at work, but he did know there was one thing they would definitely be seeking, sooner or later. He was also sure they wouldn't be getting it. It was one of the few things he could consider himself sure of these days.
'How did you feel during the Leveson Inquiry?' Pine asked.
'I wasn't watching it through my fingers, if that's what you think. I wasn't watching it with a bucket of popcorn either, though if I was I'd have been throwing it at the screen. It was like Glastonbury for humbug and hypocrisy. An all-time-great line-up of self-serving wankers.'
'Not your profession's finest hour.'
'Look who's talking. Met, did you say?'
He'd have given them points if one of them had said touché. They just stared back, that cop thing where you don't know whether they're playing the humourless bastard angle to keep you uncomfortable or whether they simply are humourless bastards.
'The real damage came after Leveson for you, though, didn't it?' asked Mitchell. 'You used the phrase "sacrificial goat".'
'Yes. Kind of like the "one bad apple" defence synonymous with accusations of police brutality or corruption.'
Mitchell didn't bite.
'It seemed expedient for a lot of your former employers to distance themselves from you.'
'Aye, but give them credit for an impressive exercise in having their cake and eating it. They denied they knew how I operated, but made me the totem of everything they now considered verboten.'
'But the bottom line was that you were effectively unemployable. Was that when you started using the name Alec Forman?'
He said nothing. They knew this shit. It was written down in front of them. Were they trying to get him to relive the moment? Start blubbing right there at the table and open up to them when they offered a hanky?
'It was also around this time that your marriage broke up, wasn't it?' asked Pine; though again, she wasn't really asking.
Still he said nothing, but this time because he really didn't want to go there.
'You're divorced now?' Mitchell enquired casually, like he needed to dot an i.
Christ. He had got a lump in his throat there, and he hoped it hadn't been detectable in his voice. What the hell? He hadn't felt like this in ages. Why was it threatening to surface now, in front of these bloodless stiffs? And where were they going with this?
Well, he knew the ultimate destination, but was starting to get confused by the route, like a tourist being gypped by an unscrupulous cab-driver.
'Did Leveson and the resulting fallout contribute to the break-up of your marriage?'
'We're still married,' he replied.
Aye, right, said another voice.
'That kind of exposure must have put an intolerable strain on your relationship,' Pine suggested.
'We were having problems before that. It certainly didn't help,' he conceded, hoping the acknowledgement would get them off the subject.
Fat chance. Mitchell had good sense for this stuff. He knew when to press home.
'Was your ex-wife aware of your methods?'
'Or was she appalled to learn of them through the same channels as her friends, her colleagues, her family?'
'Did she feel ashamed? Was she angry with you? Did you feel shame for what you put her through?'
Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you.
(Yes. Yes. Yes.)
'She's not my ex-wife,' he managed to state.
Mitchell consulted the documents again.
'You haven't lived together for some time. More than a year, I believe.'
'What's it to you?
'Listen, I'm not some automated vessel of the state on a bureaucratic errand. I've a task to carry out, but I'm not without sympathy. We deal in human emotions here in this job: when you strip away the extraneous detail, that's where the answers usually lie. I'm trying to develop a picture of your state of mind, post-Leveson, post your separation, when you began working on this story.'
'I had been working on it before either of those things. The time-frame isn't as simple as you think. Proper investigative journalism can be a very long game. It's about cultivating contacts, following up small possibilities, keeping track of things that might not immediately appear significant.'
'And yet you stepped up the pace rather precipitously, didn't you? In a manner displaying an impatience and a failure of judgement quite out of keeping with your previous record. That's what I'm getting at. You were trying to get back in the game with one swing: prove everybody wrong about you being washed up; show the world – show Sarah – that there was a massive, moral, public-interest justification for the methods over which you'd been vilified.'
He said nothing, trying to remain impassive, but he was struggling. Especially when Mitchell spoke her name. That wasn't the worst part, though: the worst part was that the fucker was right on the money.
'A conspiracy orchestrated by British and US intelligence and security forces to blame terrorist organisations for atrocities they themselves carried out. That's real tinfoil-hat stuff.'(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Dead Girl Walking"
Copyright © 2015 Christopher Brookmyre.
Excerpted by permission of Grove Atlantic, Inc..
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