A killer is on the loose, blurring the line between fact and fiction. His prey - the writers of crime novels who have turned psychological profilers into the heroes of the nineties. But this killer is like no other. His bloodlust shatters all the conventional wisdom surrounding the motives and mechanics of how serial killers operate. And for one woman, the desperate hunt to uncover his identity becomes a matter of life and death.
Professor Fiona Cameron is an academic psychologist who uses computer technology to help police forces track serial offenders. She used to help the Met, but vowed never to work for them again when they went against her advice and subsequently botched an investigation. Still smarting from the experience, she's working a case in Toledo when her lover, thriller writer Kit Martin, tells her a fellow crime novelist has been murdered. It's not her case, but Fiona can't help taking an interest. When the killer strikes again Fiona finds herself caught in a race against time - not only to save a life but also to find redemption, both personal and professional.
Rich in atmosphere, Val McDermid's Killing the Shadows uses the backdrops of city and country to create an air of threatening menace, culminating in a tense confrontation between hunter and hunted, a confrontation that can have only one outcome.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|File size:||530 KB|
About the Author
Val McDermid is a No. 1 bestseller whose novels have been translated into more than thirty languages, and have sold over eleven million copies. She has won many awards internationally, including the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year, the LA Times Book of the Year Award and the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger. She writes full time and divides her time between Cheshire and Edinburgh.
Read an Excerpt
Dr Fiona Cameron stood on the very lip of Stanage Edge and leaned forward into the wind. The only kind of sudden death she might have to contemplate here would be her own, and then only if she was more careless than she thought she could manage. But just supposing for a moment she lost concentration on the wet millstone grit, she'd plunge down thirty or forty helter-skelter feet, her body bouncing like a plastic doll on the jutting blocks of rock, bones and skin broken and violated.
She'd end up looking like a victim.
No way, Fiona thought, letting the wind push her back from the edge just far enough to take the danger out of her position. Not here of all places. This was the place of pilgrimage, the place where she came to remind herself of all the reasons why she was who she was. Always alone, she returned here three or four times a year, whenever the need grew in her to touch the face of her memories. The company of another living, breathing human would be impossible to bear up on this bleak stretch of moorland. There was only room for the two of them; Fiona and her ghost, that other half of herself who only ever walked beside her on these moors.
It was strange, she thought. There were so many other places where she'd spent far more time with Lesley. But everywhere else was somehow marred by the consciousness of other voices, other lives. Here, though, she could sense Lesley without interference. She could see her face, open in laughter, or closed in concentration as she negotiated a tricky scramble. She could hear her voice, earnest with confidences or loud with the excitement of achievement. She almost believed she could smell the faint musk of her skin as they huddled together over a picnic.
Here, more than anywhere, Fiona recognized the light she had lost from her life. She closed her eyes and let her mind create the picture. Her mirror image, that same chestnut hair and hazel eyes, that same arc of the eyebrows, that same nose. Everyone had always marvelled at the resemblance. Only their mouths were different; Fiona's wide and full-lipped, Lesley's a small cupid's bow, her bottom lip fuller than the upper.
Here, too, the discussions had been had, the decision taken that had ultimately led to Lesley being wrenched from her life. This was the place of final reproach, the place where Fiona could never forget what her life lacked.
Fiona felt her eyes watering. She snapped them open and let the wind provide the excuse. The time for vulnerability was over. She was here, she reminded herself, to get away from victims. She looked out across the brown bracken of Hathersage Moor to the clumsy thumb of Higger Tor and beyond, turning back to watch a wedge of rain drench one end of Bamford Moor. In this wind, she had twenty minutes before it reached the Edge, she reckoned, rolling her shoulders to shift her backpack to a more comfortable position. Time to make a move.
An early train from King's Cross then a connection to a local train had brought her to Hathersage just after ten. She'd made good time on the steep hike up to High Neb, enjoying the stretch in her muscles, savouring the bunching of her calves and the tautness of her quads. The final scramble that brought her to the northern end of Stanage had left her short of breath and she'd leaned against the rock, taking a long drink from her water bottle before she set off along the flat slabs of gritstone. The connection to her past had grounded her more firmly than anything else she knew. And the wind at her back had exhilarated her, setting her thoughts loose from the jumbled knot of irritation that had woken her. She'd known then that she had to get out of London for the day or else accept that by evening her shoulders would be a tight plane sending waves of pain up her neck and across her head.
The only appointment in her diary had been a supervision meeting with one of her PhD students, and that had been easily rearranged with a phone call from the train. Up here on the moors, no tabloid hack could find her, no camera crew could thrust their equipment into her face and demand to know what Candid Cameron had to say about the day's courtroom events.
Of course, she couldn't be certain that things would turn out in line with her expectations. But when she'd heard on last night's news that the sensational trial of the Hampstead Heath Killer was still on hold after a second day of legal arguments, all her instincts told her that by the end of today, the red-top brigade would be screaming for blood. And she was the perfect weapon for them to use to draw that blood from the police. Better to keep well out of it, for all sorts of reasons.
She'd never courted publicity for the work she'd done with the police, but it had dogged her regardless. Fiona hated to see her face splashed across the newspapers nearly as much as her colleagues resented it. What was almost worse than the loss of privacy was that her notoriety had somehow diminished her as an academic. Now when she published in journals and contributed to books, she knew her work was scrutinized with more scepticism than before, simply because she had applied her skills and knowledge in a practical way that met with pursed lips of disapproval among the purists.
The silent condemnation had only grown harsher when one of the tabloids had revealed that she was living with Kit Martin. It was hard to imagine who, in the eyes of the academic establishment, could have been a less respectable partner for an academic psychologist engaged in developing scientific methods that would help police to catch repeat offenders than the country's leading writer of serial killer thrillers. If Fiona had cared enough about what her peers thought of her, she might have bothered to explain that it was not Kit's novels she was in love with but the man who wrote them, and that the very nature of his work had made her more cautious about starting the relationship than she might otherwise have been. But since no one dared challenge her to her face, she chose not to leap into the trap of self-justification.
At the thought of Kit, her sadness shifted. That she had found the one man who could save her from the prison of her introspection was a blessing she never ceased to find miraculous. The world might never see behind the tough-guy charm he turned on in public, but beyond his sharp-edged intelligence, she had discovered generosity, respect and a sensitivity she'd all but given up hope of ever finding. With Kit, she had finally arrived at a kind of peace that mostly kept the demons of Stanage Edge at bay.
As she strode on, she glanced at her watch. She'd made good time. If she kept up her pace, she'd have time for a drink in the Fox House pub before the bus that would carry her back down into Sheffield for the London train. She'd have had five hours in the open, five hours when she had seen scarcely another human being, and that was enough to sustain her. Until the next time, she thought grimly.
* * *
The train was quieter than she'd expected. Fiona had a double seat to herself, and the man opposite her was asleep within ten minutes of leaving Sheffield, allowing her space to spread herself over the whole of the table between them. That was fine by her since she had more than enough work to occupy the journey. She had an arrangement with the landlord of a pub a few minutes' walk from the station. He looked after her mobile phone and her laptop when she was out walking in exchange for signed first editions of Kit's books. It was safer than the left-luggage facilities at the station and certainly cheaper.
Fiona flipped open her laptop and attached it to her mobile so she could collect her e-mail. A message appeared on her screen announcing she had five new pieces of mail. She downloaded them then disconnected. There were two messages from students, and one from a colleague in Princeton writing to ask if he could have access to some data she had collected on solved rape cases. Nothing there that couldn't wait till morning. She opened the fourth message, from Kit.
From: Kit Martin <KMWriter@trashnet.com> To: Fiona Cameron <email@example.com> Subject: Dinner tonight
Hope you've had a good day on the hill. I've been productive, 2,500 words by teatime.
Things turned out at the Bailey just like you said they would. Trust that female intuition! (only joking, I know yours was a considered judgement based on weighing up all the scientific evidence ...) Anyway, I reckoned Steve would need cheering up, so I've arranged to meet him for dinner. We're going to St John's in Clerkenwell to eat lots of dead animal so you probably don't fancy joining us, but if you want to, that'd be great. If not, I made a salmon and asparagus risotto for lunch, and there's plenty left over in the fridge for you for dinner. Love you.
Fiona smiled. Typical Kit. As long as everyone was fed, nothing too terrible could go wrong with the world. She wasn't surprised Steve needed cheering up. No police officer relished watching a case fall apart, especially one that had such a high public profile as the Hampstead Heath murder. But for Detective Superintendent Steve Preston, the collapse of this particular case would have left a more bitter taste than most. Fiona knew only too well how much had been at stake in this prosecution, and while she felt personal sympathy for Steve, all she felt for the Metropolitan Police was that it served them bloody well right.
She clicked open the next message, having saved the most intriguing for last.
From: Salvador Berrocal <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: Dr Fiona Cameron <email@example.com> Subject: Consultation request
Dear Dr Cameron
I am a Major in the plain-clothes division of the Cuerpo Nacional de Policia based in Madrid. I am in charge of many homicide inquiries. Your name has been given to me by a colleague at New Scotland Yard as an expert in crime linkage and geographic profiling. Please forgive the intrusion of contacting you so directly. I am writing to ask if you would do us the courtesy of providing your services to consult in a matter of great urgency. In Spain we have a little experience with serial killers and so we have no psychological experts to work with policemen.
In Toledo have been two murders inside three weeks and we think they are the crimes of one man. But it is wholly not obvious that they are connected and we need a different expertise to assist us with the analysis of these crimes. I understand that you have experience in the area of crime analysis and linkage, and this would be of great use to us, I think.
I wish to know if in principle you are willing to help us with resolving these murders. You may be assured of proper remuneration for this consultation if you will be our assistant.
I look forward to hearing your response.
Major Salvador Berrocal
Cuerpo Nacional de Policia
Fiona folded her arms and stared at the screen. She knew that behind this cautious request lay a pair of bodies that had almost certainly been mutilated and probably tortured before death. There was likely to be some element of sexual violation in the attacks. She could assume this with some degree of certainty, for police forces were well capable of dealing with routine murders without calling on the specialist help that only she and a handful of others could be relied on to provide. When new acquaintances discovered this aspect of Fiona's work, they usually shuddered and asked how she could bear to be involved in such appalling cases.
Her typical response was to shrug and say, 'Somebody has to do it. Better it's somebody like me who knows what she's doing. Nobody can bring back the dead but sometimes it's possible to prevent more of the living joining them.'
It was, she knew, a glib riposte, carefully calculated to deflect further questioning. The truth was she hated the inevitable confrontation with violent death that her work with various police forces had brought into her life, not least because of the memories it stirred in her. She knew more about what could be inflicted on the human body, more about the sufferings the spirit could sustain than she had ever wished to. But such exposure was inescapable and because it always exacted a heavy toll from her, she only ever accepted a new assignment when she felt sufficiently recovered from her last direct encounter with the victims of a serial killer.
It had been almost four months since Fiona had worked a murder series. A man had killed four prostitutes in Merseyside over a period of eighteen months. Thanks in part to the data analysis that Fiona and one of her graduate students had completed, the police had been able to narrow down their pool of suspects to the point where forensic detection could be applied. Now they had a man in custody charged with three of the four killings, and thanks to DNA matches they were reasonably sure of a conviction.
Since then, her only police consultation project had been a long-term study of recidivist burglars with the Swedish Police. It was, she thought, time to get her hands dirty again. She hit the <reply> key.
From: Fiona Cameron <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: Salvador Berrocal <email@example.com> Subject: Re: Consultation request
Dear Major Berrocal
Thank you for your invitation to act as consultant to the Cuerpo Nacional de Policia. In principle, I am willing to consider your request favourably. However, before I can be certain that I can be of use to you, I need more detail than you have provided in your e-mail. Ideally, I would like to see an outline of the circumstances of both murders, a digest of the pathology reports and any witness statements. I am reasonably competent in written Spanish, so in the interests of speed, you need not have these documents translated for my benefit. Of course, any communications I receive from you will be treated in complete confidence.
For the sake of security, I suggest you fax these documents to my home.
Fiona typed in the details of her home fax and phone then sent the e-mail. At best, she'd be able to contribute to the prevention of more murders and acquire useful data for her researches in the process. At worst, she'd have a valid excuse for staying out of the way of the fallout from the Hampstead Heath trial collapse. Someone or rather a couple of Spanish someones had paid a high price to keep Candid Cameron out of the headlines.
Excerpted from Killing the Shadows by Val Mcdermid. Copyright © 2000 by Val McDermid. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a great book. I could not put it down. The plot, characters and twist are all brilliant. It is a must read!!!
Val McD. is darned good at what she does, though, I must admit that I consider "A Place Of Execution" a better read. She has gained a spot on my list of" favorite crime fiction writers." If you decide to pick this book up, you will have a difficult time putting it down...do not expect to get anything else done!
Very well writen,and an easy read.Three separate cases,but easy to follow.I really enjoyed reading this book.However I thought the ending got a little too Hollywoodish.
Psychologist Fiona Cameron uses state of the art computer programming to develop a serial profiling system, but not the typical sexual based type that dominates the field. The professor believes that other factors can also pinpoint a personality besides the sexual approach. She has helped the police solve several homicides though she is not always believed. Her lover, best selling author Kit Martin, informs Fiona that someone murdered a peer, using a modus operandi found in the deceased¿s novel. Other killings of authors using a page or two out of their books soon follow. Fiona working with the Toledo, Spain police struggles to put together a clear profile of the killer, but refuses to quit because she thinks Kit is on the murderer¿s short list. KILLING THE SHADOWS is an engaging serial killer investigative tale starring a wonderful lead character with a location that embellishes the plot. The enjoyable story line widens the common belief in profiling with a believable technique that is also quite frightening with what Fiona can do with it. Though the reluctance by the police to accept a serial killer on the loose seems ridiculous with the body count, the who-done-it is fun and the heroine is as good a character as Kate Brannigan is. Val McDermid shows why she is an award-winning author with this strong story. Harriet Klausner
A good story but a very slow moving, took a long time to readTold round criminal psychologist Dr Fiona Cameron and her partner Kit, who is a thriller writer, whose life is in danger from a serial killer
Val McD really follows brilliantly the unfollowable `Place of Execution` with this compelling thriller that has three splendid plots all on the go at one time.It`s another of those great reads that keep you up so late that you draw comments from your co-workers about how haggard you have been looking lately.Don`t worry ,it won`t last long.It`s impossible to put this read down once commenced.Enough of my rhetorical rantings and - more about the book ? Nah.It`s every bit as good as I say it is so just go out and buy it.A great possibility for not only another Edgar award but an oft overlooked and long overdue win !