The first book in a taut, action-packed new series set in St. Andrews, Scotland.
Murder. It’s the only word in a note clutched by the dismembered hand found on the lush green of a golf course in St. Andrews, Scotland. When DCI Andy Gilchrist learns the note is addressed to him, he realizes the thing he feared most has come to pass: a killer is deliberately targeting him. Though Gilchrist is no new hand at solving murders, this time he is overwhelmed by the flood of seemingly unconnected crises—the note clutched in the hand, his son’s missing girlfriend, his ex-wife’s failing health, and his boss’s decision to pair Gilchrist up with a scumbag detective from his past, who in turn is hiding evidence. Worse, the hand turns out to be just the beginning, and soon he’s faced with relentless parade of body parts.
About the Author
Frank Muir was born in Glasgow, but from a young age he has had the urge to see more of the world than the rain sodden slopes of the Campsie Fells. Thirty-plus years of living and working overseas helped him appreciate the raw beauty of his home country. Now a dual US/UK citizen, Frank makes his home in the outskirts of Glasgow, Scotland, and he visits St. Andrews regularly to research the town’s many pubs and restaurants. He is also the author of Tooth for a Tooth.
Read an Excerpt
Seventeenth Hole, Old Course
St. Andrews, Scotland
Tam Dunn watched the golf ball take a hard kick left and slip into the infamous Road Hole Bunker, a sandy-bottomed pothole that fronted the seventeenth green.
Bud Amherst, one of an American four-ball that teed off at
7:00 that morning, first on the ballot, threw his five-iron to the ground. “Goddammit,” he shouted, turning to Tam. “Course’s nuthin but sand traps. Why didn’t you tell me it was there?”
The way Bud played golf it would have made no difference if
Tam had first led him by the hand and stood him in the bunker.
But Tam the caddy, always hopeful of an American-sized tip, bit his tongue. “My mistake, sir.”
Close to the green, the bunker looked more like a hole in the ground, its face a vertical wall of divot bricks that even the pros struggled to overcome.
“Whaddaya think?” Bud asked Tam.
“I know that, goddammit. Which way’s it gonna break?”
“About three feet from the left.”
“As much as that?”
“At least, sir.”
Tam kept tight-lipped as Bud took a few clumsy practice swings. The only way Bud was going to get the ball onto that green, he thought, was to lift it and place it. Bud turned to the bunker, prepared to step down into it, then stumbled backwards.
“Aw God, aw God.”
Bud slumped to his knees. The sand-iron slipped from his grip.
One of the Americans, the tall one called JD, trotted across the green. “Hey, Bud, you okay?”
Bud stretched an arm out and flapped it at the bunker.
Tam stepped to its lip and stared down at the hand, at skin as white as porcelain, bony fingers clawed like talons. Even from where he stood he could tell it was a woman’s hand, a fine hand,
he thought, except the wrist looked butchered and bloodied, like a cut of meat hacked, not sliced, the bone glistening like a white disc smeared with blood.
And all of Tam’s hopes for an American-sized tip evaporated in the cold Scottish air.
“You’d better get down here, Andy.”
“Where’s here, Nance?”
“Seventeenth green on the Old Course. Next to the Jigger.”
Gilchrist drew his Mercedes SLK Roadster to the side of the road and pressed his mobile to his ear. It had been a while since he had heard DS Nancy Wilson as breathless. Not since they had run the length of the West Sands chasing what’s-his-name. Blake.
That was it. Murray Blake. Rapist, serial shagger, petty thief.
How some people thought they could get away with it never failed to amaze him.
“What’s got you fired up?” he tried.
“Severed hand in a bunker. Victim’s in her early twenties, late teens—”
“Her early twenties?”
“Sorry. Yes. It’s a woman’s hand.”
Gilchrist tugged the steering wheel, felt the tail-end throw out as the Merc spun in a tight circle. “Any rings?” he asked. “Moles?
“Nothing obvious. Fingernails are short. Not varnished. Skin’s a bit rough.”
“As in manual labour?”
“As in someone who doesn’t use hand lotion.”
“Or couldn’t afford to.”
“It couldn’t have come from the mortuary or been cut from—?”
“Not a chance, Andy. She’s been murdered.”
“Get on to the University. Find out if any students have gone missing, called in sick, not turned up, whatever.”
“Has Mackie seen it yet?”
“Just arrived. Along with the SOCOs.”
“Make sure they take fingerprints and run them through the
If the victim had no criminal record, the Automatic
Fingerprint Registration System would draw a blank. But it was worth a shot. “Estimated time of. . . .” He wanted to say, death,
then chose, “. . . amputation?”
“How about the other bunkers?”
“We’ve got a team walking the course. Nothing back from them yet.”
“Any thoughts?” he asked.
“Nothing definite. The sand was smooth, which might suggest the hand was placed in the bunker.”
“As opposed to thrown in?”
“Odd, don’t you think?”
“Maybe.” Gilchrist was again struck by the undercurrent of excitement in Nance’s voice. He thought back to her statement—
Not a chance. She’s been murdered—and knew from the firmness of her response that there had to be more. “What’re you not telling me, Nance?”
“She, I mean . . . the hand was holding a note. Addressed to you.”
A frisson of ice touched his neck. He booted the Merc to seventy.
“What’s it say?”
Murder? “So whoever severed the hand is sending me a message.”
“Looks that way.”
“How was the note addressed?”
“On the envelope. Your name. DCI Andrew Gilchrist.”
Andrew. Not Andy. Was that significant? “Typed? Or handprinted?”
“Looks like a computer printer. Ink hasn’t run. Maybe a laser printer.”
Something tugged at his mind. “I thought you said note.”
“Inside the envelope?”
“Someone opened the envelope?”
“It wasn’t sealed.”
Although the envelope was addressed to him, found in the clutches of a severed hand, it niggled him that it had been opened and read. “Why use an envelope to put a note inside?” he asked.
“Why not just the note? Why the envelope, then the note?”
“To keep the note dry?”
“Greaves wants to assign you as SIO.”
Senior Investigating Officer. Gilchrist laughed. “I would have thought a severed hand clutching a note addressed to me would make it obvious that I should be SIO.”
Hearing his own words made something slump to the pit of his stomach. He had always dreaded this moment, the day when he would be targeted by some sick pervert. And the pervert who severed the hand had asked for Gilchrist to be involved. No,
more than that, wanted Gilchrist to be involved. But why? Was the woman someone he knew? At that thought, a surge of panic jolted his system.
“Describe the hand again, Nance.”
“Left hand. Skin’s flawless, except for the fingernails. They’re cracked.”
Relief powered through him. It was every policeman’s fear that their family would be the victim of revenge, their lives threatened by some criminal bent on getting even for some long-forgotten score. The thought that the hand could have been his daughter’s had hit him with the force of a kick to the gut. Maureen lived seventy miles away in Glasgow, but bit her nails and picked the skin. Despite the gruesome task ahead he almost smiled.
“Fingernails look as if they’ve been trimmed,” Nance went on.
“But the cracks still show.”
“Not sure. But it might help ID her.”
Gilchrist was fast approaching traffic. He eased his foot off the pedal. “I’ll be with you in ten minutes,” he said, and hung up.
Dear God. Now this. A young woman’s hand. What had happened?
Had her hand been severed in the course of torture? Was she still alive? No, he thought. She was already dead. But where was the rest of the body?
He floored the pedal, overtook three cars.
And why a hand? Why leave it where it was sure to be found?
Simple. Because the perpetrator of this crime wanted the hand to be found.
Hence the note. For him.
But who was this young woman?
Being forty-seven, Gilchrist did not know too many young
women. His daughter, Maureen, of course. But she had never invited him to meet her flatmates or friends. Not that she hid them from him, but she lived away from home, ever since Gail left him. And then there was Chloe, his son’s girlfriend. And that was about it as far as young women were concerned.
Still, he needed to put his mind at rest.
He located Maureen’s number and felt a flush of irritation as her answering machine cut in. Leaving messages seemed to be his way of communicating with her these days. He kept this one short, ordered her to give him a call, then he called Jack. It was a wild thought. But better to be sure.
“Hello?” Jack’s voice sounded tired, heavy.
“Did I wake you up?”
“What time’s it?”
“Almost eleven. The day’s nearly done.”
Jack coughed, a harsh sound that seemed to come from his chest, which made Gilchrist think he had started smoking again.
“And to what do I owe this pleasure?”
“Isn’t a father allowed to call his son and ask how he is?”
“Come on, Andy. First thing in the morning?”
Gilchrist let out a laugh. Jack was a freelance artist whose creative side seemed to flourish only on the other side of midnight
and sobriety. Midday could be an early start.
“How’s Chloe?” Gilchrist asked.
Gilchrist thought Jack’s answer was too quick. “I’d like to talk to her,” he said.
“Why? What’s up?”
Because we’ve found a severed hand and I’m scared to death it might
“Might be interested in buying one of her paintings,” he said.
“Can I talk to her?”
“Sure. I’ll get her to call when she gets back.”
“Out shopping, is she?”
“Something like that.”
Gilchrist pressed the mobile to his ear. Jack had a cavalier attitude about most things, but his voice sounded lifeless.
“Everything all right?” he tried.
A sniff, then, “We had a lover’s tiff.”
“And she’s stomped off to cool down.”
“She’ll get over it.”
“Good.” And Gilchrist meant it. Chloe was the best thing that had happened to Jack. An artist too, she had a calming effect on his wild son, even assuring him that Jack no longer smoked cigarettes or any other substances. He almost hated to say it, but he trusted Chloe more than he did his own son. He held on,
expecting Jack to continue, but it seemed as if the topic of Chloe was over.
Gilchrist decided to change tack and felt a flicker of annoyance that he had to bring the subject up. But he needed to know.
“How’s Mum?” he asked, and grimaced as he waited for the answer.
“Not good, Andy. Not good at all.”
“Couple of months. Maybe less.”
“They’ve got her on morphine.”
“Is she still at home?”
“You know Mum.”
Gilchrist pulled to a halt behind a traffic jam. Ahead, the grey silhouette of St. Salvator’s spire and the Abbey ruins lined the dark skyline. By the University buildings, black rocks fell to a blacker sea. He closed his eyes, dug in his thumb and forefinger.
Gail. Sometimes he felt as if he still loved her. Other times he was not sure if it was being betrayed that had given him the right to wallow in self-pity. He never understood why he still cared for her. Was it hurt over her infidelity? Or her utter rejection of him once she left? Or jealousy at her having found someone else? And now she was dying and—
Gilchrist looked up. “Sorry, Jack. Stuck in traffic. Is Maureen still helping out?”
“You heard from her?”
“About a week ago.”
“I’ve left umpteen messages on her answering machine.”
“That’s Mo for you.”
“It runs in the family.”
“Hey, we’re talking. Right?”
Gilchrist chuckled. “If you talk to her, Jack, tell her to check her messages and give me a call.” Jack grunted, which he took to mean yes. The Citroën in front lurched forward with a burst of exhaust. Gilchrist followed. “Thanks, Jack. Catch you later.”
Gilchrist thought it odd how different his children had become. Maureen and Jack were growing apart, had grown apart,
professionally, politically, socially and, even though he hated to say it, financially. Where Mo was self-reliant and careful with money, taking part-time jobs for extra cash, Jack could go months without selling a sculpture or painting, and no commissioned work in sight. He often wondered how Jack survived, then ditched that thought for fear of the answer.
But Mo was different. A young woman with definite views on how to run her life, with no sympathy for those who struggled. If
Gilchrist struggled with his relationship with his daughter, what chance did Jack have of getting through to her?
He pulled onto the road that led to the Driving Range, then powered towards the Old Course Hotel. He found a parking spot close to the Jigger Inn. Beyond the stone dyke that bounded the course, a white Transit van spilled Scenes of Crime Officers in white hooded coveralls—six in total. The putting green was encircled with yellow tape that trailed to the walls at the side of the road for which the Old Course’s Road Hole was infamous.
Nance caught his eye as he cleared the dyke. Behind her, the stooped figure of Bert Mackie, the police pathologist, was slipping into the bunker, his assistant, Dougie Banks, helping him down. Nance signalled to Gilchrist as she walked across the green, away from the bunker and the SOCOs.
Puzzled, he followed her.
When she stopped, he said, “You look worried.”
“Ronnie?” Then the name slotted into the tumblers of his mind with a surge of disbelief. “Ronnie Watt?” He eyed the green, settling on the back of a broad-shouldered man in a dark blue suit, felt his legs move as if of their own accord—
Something clamped his arm.
“He’s not worth it.” Nance tightened her grip. “He’s Crime
“Not on my shift, he’s not. Alan can take over.”
“No he can’t. Greaves has assigned Ronnie.”
Gilchrist shook his arm free. “Is Greaves out of his bloody mind?”
“Andy. Don’t. It’s in the past.”
But Gilchrist was already striding away.