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Spain, July 1970

She had caught the young woman’s eye the day before.  By the swimming pool.  The little boy was in a foul mood, still unsteady on his feet and determined to defy his mother.  But it didn’t matter.  She had already decided.  He was the one.

His mother’s smile was strained.  ‘He’s hungry.  He’s always bad tempered when he’s hungry.  His brother’s just the same.’

‘We can all be a bit grumpy when we need to eat.’  It was almost a defence, as if she was empathising with him already.  His mother would remember the conversation for the rest of her life.  And always wonder.  

It was midday then, and across a sun-burnished bay the jumble of white, red-roofed buildings that clustered around the church was reflected in deepest turquoise.  

Now, just two hours after sunset, it was moonlight that spilled across its mirrored surface, seen in a backward glance from where the dark hills folded one upon the other, before the Mediterranean disappeared from view.  Yesterday’s calm anticipation had been replaced by fear verging on panic.  The blood, sticky and dark, was everywhere.  On her hands, on the steering wheel.  A careless moment, the razor- sharp edge of a freshly cut fingernail.  A sleepy hand that grazed her cheek as it reached out to grasp her neck.

From the darkened terrace she had seen his parents in the light of the restaurant on the far side of the pool.  Wine and laughter.  Her whispered words of reassurance to the boy were superfluous.  He was asleep already, his bloody panda left lying on the bedroom floor where it
had fallen.

The road wound down in hairpin turns into the dark of the pine forest, gnarled roots searching among the stones of ancient terraces for a hold on the world, their parasol canopies like clouds shading them from a startling moon.

With the lights of Llança receding in her rearview mirror, the route north made its tortuous way around successive headlands, affording only occasional glimpses of the sea.  Then, below, the floodlit railway junction at Portbou, massive lifting gear straddling a confluence of tracks.  A change of gauge before crossing an invisible line beyond which everything would change.  Language, culture.  The future.  The past.

The French frontier stood at the end of a long climb out of the town.  It was the moment she had feared most.  There was no one on the Spanish side.   A light burned in the customs post, but there was no sign of life.  The barrier was down at the French douane.  A sleepy immigration officer looked up from his desk behind sliding glass as she drew to a halt.  She fumbled for her passport with bloody fingers.  What would she tell him?  If she showed him her card then he would remember her for sure when the alarm was raised.  But he didn’t even look.  He lifted the barrier and waved her through.  He would never see the blood or her card, or register her face, or see the baby boy asleep in a cot on the back seat.

She was through.  It was done.  Only the future lay ahead.

Ninety minutes later she drove past the entrance to the commando training fort on the hill, a narrow road beneath twisting vines in brilliant flower, mired still in the shadow of night, and parked her car next to the little stone cottage that sat on the edge of the cliffs.  She was home.  And with child.  And would spend the next sixteen years raising a killer.


"A cerebral, chilling tale bound to burnish May's reputation" 
Kirkus Reviews

"In May's dark, intense third mystery to feature Scottish forensic scientist Enzo Macleod... an unusually compelling ongoing saga" 
Publisher's Weekly

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