Homicide detective Kate Farrer took a four-month leave from the force when the stress of the job threatened to crush her. Now she's back, at a crime scene as brutal as any she's ever witnessed. The charred corpse of a young woman, burned beyond recognition, smolders on a bed near a bag full of baby items. An autopsy reveals that the victim had recently given birth. Yet no child has been found.
Teaming up with a new partner, Oliver Parke, Kate struggles to hold her own demons at bay—while also pursuing leads in the seemingly unrelated affair of a missing teenager who was keeping secrets that may have cost her her life. But as disturbing clues begin linking their two investigations—and another unspeakably cruel murder secures the knot—Kate and Oliver realize with horror that a desperate killer's next victim might be the most innocent one of all.
|File size:||572 KB|
About the Author
Kathryn Fox is a medical practitioner with a special interest in forensic medicine. Her bestselling debut novel, Malicious Intent, received international acclaim and was awarded the Davitt Award for adult fiction. Kathryn currently lives in Sydney, Australia.
Read an Excerpt
Skin and Bone
Kate Farrer struggled to open the car door. The muscles in her chest had tightened like a vise. If only she could get more air. Her cramped fingers clawed at the contents of the glove-box, spilling a map and interstate guidebook onto the floor.
Pulse erratic, and struggling to stay focused, she located the bag. Burying her mouth and nose in the open end, she breathed in, then out, counting two, three, four. The paper crackled with each deflation. The flow was slow but reassuring. The light-headedness began to recede as Kate's chest muscles loosened their grip on her rib cage.
Pull it together! Her body now coursed with anger, and her fist paid the price with a jarring thump on the steering wheel. Despite three months off work, the trauma remained raw. She had two choices—one was to stay a victim, the other, to become a survivor. Until today she had worked hard—damned hard—to be a survivor.
A fireman passing the passenger window startled her. She shoved the bag into the glove-box and closed the lid, rubbing the heel of her hand. For twelve weeks she had tried to come to terms with her emotions. At this moment, her stomach felt like a spin dryer with a cat trapped inside. The worst part was feeling out of control, not knowing when the panic symptoms would take over—again.
She knew it was now or never. Taking two deep breaths, Detective Sergeant Kate Farrer yanked on the door handle and stepped out of the sedan. Residual smoke stung her nostrils, and the smell of wet burned wood was heavy in the air. The fibro cottage at the end of the tree-lined Moat Place bore littleresemblance to other dwellings in the street. The left section of the house had been decimated and only a shell of the rooms remained. Black soot stained the outside walls, having escaped through shattered windows. The sound of glass smashing caused a flurry of firefighters to rush to the side of the house. Flames poured through the window in a plume and ignited the external overhang and the roof.
Kate stayed well back, talking into a hand-held recorder as teams hosed water from inside and out to extinguish the fire. Despite being at least fifty feet from the flames, her face tingled with the intensity of the heat.
She thought of her psychologist. He had made her scoff the first time he described linking thoughts and feelings as "detective thinking." The irony of his analogy was completely lost on him; so much for professionals having insight.
"Think of a stressful situation and ask yourself, 'What's the worst that can happen?' Then ask yourself, 'How likely is it?' "
The trouble was, Kate knew exactly what could happen on the job and how probable it was. She had seen hell, locked away by a psychopath for days, and she continued to suffer nightmares and flashbacks. A phrase, smell or noise that reminded her of her captor could reduce her to a sobbing mess in seconds. Now, her leave was almost up and she had been asked to return early because of a staff shortage. Police work was what she had always done best, until the abduction.
She imagined how a firefighter would deal with the psychologist's questions, designed to trivialize the causes of anxiety. The worst that could happen to any of them was that one day they'd go to work, attend a fire and get cremated on the spot. So much for police shrinks. Some neuroses were justifiable, particularly in the emergency services. The difficulty, she knew too well, was in controlling them.
Stay calm, you can do this. Back to basics. Work the scene, from the outside in.
Despite the beginnings of fine drizzle, portions of the garden continued to smolder. Police tape cordoned off most of the Castle Hill road, restricting the number of curious onlookers. Ambulance officers waited, backs to their vehicles. Two other white sedans were parked in the area, along with a fire-truck and investigator's station wagon.
The arrival of a television van at the blue and white tape caught her attention. Damn reporters were like tow trucks and blowflies. The uglier the carnage, the faster they appeared and multiplied. More used to feeling irritated than vulnerable, she looked around for her new partner while continuing to dictate: "At eight thirty a.m., four local constables maintain crime scene. Fire investigators present. Press pack beginning to push their luck."
"Detective Sergeant Farrer?"
A slim, tall man in a gray suit adjusted his lilac tie. His fair hair was cropped close to his head, without looking too military. "Oliver Parke," he said, with an outstretched hand. In the other, he held two takeaway coffee cups in a cardboard tray. "Hello, and good to meet you."
Kate had been briefed about her partner the previous week when she was asked to cut short her leave. The unit's long-term issues with chronic understaffing and old-style attitudes had led to the recruitment of new blood, mostly academic types. The last thing she wanted was an inexperienced partner with no common sense and a university degree that had nothing to do with the real world. She had no say in the matter, though, and at that moment just wanted to re-establish a healthy work routine.
She shook the newly-promoted detective constable's hand and noticed the strength of his grip. He was obviously trying to make a good first impression.
"I took the liberty, seeing as though I went right past the coffee house. One's black, the other's white."
Mouth dry, Kate had to admit he had good timing. She accepted the black.Skin and Bone. Copyright © by Kathryn Fox. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
SKIN AND BONE has all the elements of a good crime novel. Well-developed characters: a suitably absorbing plot with intertwining threads and enough clues to allow the reader to solve the mystery. Kathryn Fox¿s first two novels (Malicious Intent and Without Consent) featured Dr. Anya Crichton. Farrer was the investigating detective in Malicious Intent. In featuring Farrer as the protagonist in SKIN AND BONE, author has given herself scope to create two separate series. This also firmly establishes Fox in Australia¿s growing pool of talented crime writers.If you enjoyed Fox¿s first two books, then you won¿t be disappointed in SKIN AND BONE. I read Without Consent early in 2007 and thoroughly enjoyed it. If anything, I think SKIN AND BONE is even better. If you are new to Fox¿s work, then SKIN AND BONE won¿t suffer from the reader not being familiar with her earlier books.
Another bad Fox book starring that self-righteous bint Kate. Time you killed her off already.