It was a vicious, calculated murder. The killer selected his victim at London’s Euston station, followed her home on the tube, strangled her to death in front of her child. At the same time, killed in the same way, a second body is discovered at the back of King’s Cross station. It is a grisly coincidence that eerily echoes the murders of two other women, stabbed to death months before on the same day.
DI Tom Thorne sees the link and comes to a horrifying conclusion. This is not a serial killer that the police are up against—this is two of them. Finding the body used to be the worst part of the job, but not any more. Now each time a body is found, Thorne knows that somewhere out there is a second victim waiting to be discovered. But while the killers’ methods might be the same, their manner is strikingly different. Thorne comes to realize that he is hunting very different people—one ruthless and in control, the other submissive, compliant, terrified.
Thorne must catch a man whose need to manipulate is as great as his need to kill. A man who will threaten those closest to Thorne himself and show him that the ability to inspire terror is the deadliest weapon of all . . .
“One of the most consistently entertaining, insightful crime writers working today.” —Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl
“Mark Billingham is one of my favorite new writers.” —Harlan Coben, bestselling author of Run Away
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Scaredy CatA Novel
By Mark Billingham
William MorrowISBN: 0066213002
Chapter OneA little after nine-thirty in the morning. The first gray Monday of December. From the third floor of Becke House, Tom Thorne stared out across the monument to concrete and complacency that was Hendon, wishing more than anything that he wasn't thinking clearly.
He was, unfortunately, doing just that. Sorting the material in front of him, taking it all in. Assigning to each item, without knowing it, emotional responses that would color every waking hour in the months to come.
And many sleeping hours too.
Wide awake and focused, Thorne sat and studied death, the way others at work elsewhere were looking at computer screens or sitting at tills. It was the material he worked with every day and yet, faced with this, something to take the edge off would have been nice. Even the sledgehammer of a hangover would have been preferable. Something to blunt the corners a little. Something to turn the noise of the horror down.
He'd seen hundreds, maybe thousands, of photos like these. He'd stared at them over the years with the same dispassionate eye that a dentist might cast over X rays, or an accountant across a tax return. He'd lost count of the pale limbs, twisted or torn or missing altogether in black-and-white ten-by-eights. Then there were the color prints. Pale bodies lying on green carpets. A ring of purple bruises around a chalk-white neck. The garish patterned wallpaper against which the blood spatter is barely discernible.
An ever expanding exhibition with a simple message: emotions are powerful things, bodies are not.
These were the pictures filed in his office, with duplicates stored in the files in his head. Snapshots of deaths and portraits of lives lived to extremes. There were occasions when Thorne had gazed at these bodies in monochrome and thought he'd glimpsed rage or hatred or greed or lust, or perhaps the ghosts of such things, floating like ectoplasm in the corners of rooms.
The photographs on the table in front of him this morning were no more sickening than any he had seen before, but keeping his eyes on the image of the dead woman was like staring hard into a flame and feeling his eyeballs start to melt.
He was seeing her through the eyes of her child.
Charlie Garner, age three, now an orphan.
Charlie Garner, age three, being cared for by grandparents who wrestled every minute of every day with what to tell him about his mummy.
Charlie Garner, age three, who spent the best part of two days alone in a house with the body of his mother, clutching a chocolate wrapper he'd licked clean, starving and dirty and screaming until a neighbor knocked.
Thorne stared out into the grayness for a few more seconds before turning back resignedly to DCI Russell Brigstocke.
As part of the major reorganization of the Met a year or so earlier, a number of new squads had been established within the three nascent Serious Crime Groups. A unit consisting entirely of officers brought out of retirement had been set up expressly to investigate cold cases. This unit, quickly christened the Crinkly Squad, was just one of a raft of new initiatives as part of a fresh and supposedly proactive approach to fighting crime in the capital. There were other squads specializing in sexual assaults, violence against children and firearms offenses.
Then there was Team 3, Serious Crime Group (West).
Officially, this squad was devised to investigate cases whose parameters were outside those that might be investigated elsewhere - cases that didn't fit anybody else's remit. There were those, however, who suggested that SCG (West)3 had been set up simply because no one quite knew what to do with Detective Inspector Tom Thorne. Thorne himself reckoned that the truth was probably somewhere halfway between the two.
Russell Brigstocke was the senior officer and Thorne had known him for over ten years. He was a big man who cut a distinctive figure with horn-rimmed glasses and hair of which he was inordinately proud. It was thick and blue black, and the DCI took great delight in teasing it up into a quiff of almost Elvis-like proportions. But if he was a caricaturist's dream, he could also be a suspect's worse nightmare. Thorne had seen Brigstocke with glasses off and fists clenched, hair flopping around his sweatdrenched forehead as he stalked around an interview room, shouting, threatening, carrying out the threat, looking for the truth.
"Carol Garner was a single mum. She was twenty-eight years old. Her husband died in a road accident three years ago, just after their son was born. She was a teacher. She was found dead in her home in Balham four days ago. There were no signs of forced entry. She'd arrived back at Euston station at six-thirty P.M. on the twenty-seventh, having been to Birmingham to visit her parents. We think that the killer followed her from the station, probably on the tube. We found a travelcard in her pocket."
Brigstocke's voice was low and accentless, almost a monotone. Yet the litany of facts simply stated was horribly powerful. Thorne knew most of it, having been briefed by Brigstocke the day before, but still the words were like a series of punches, each harder than the last, combining to leave him aching and breathless. He could see that the others were no less shocked.
And he knew that they had yet to hear the worst.
Brigstocke continued. "We can only speculate on how the killer gained entry or how long he spent inside Carol Garner's home, but we know what he did when he was there."
Brigstocke looked down the length of the table, asking the man at the other end to carry on where he had left off. Thorne stared at the figure in the black fleece, with shaved head and a startling collection of facial piercings. Phil Hendricks was not everybody's idea of a pathologist, but he was the best Thorne had ever worked with ... (Continues...)
Excerpted from Scaredy Cat by Mark Billingham
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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“Like the best of British and American crime writing rolled up together and delivered with the kind of punch you don’t see coming.”
“Scaredy Cat is an incredibly satisfying and engaging thriller.”