I’m so pleased to be able to share an extract with you today from JV Baptie’s brilliant new crime story, The Departed. I think you’ll agree the cover is stunning but does the story live up to it? Read on to find out!
Here’s the prologue and first chapter:
I know what you’ve been up to.’ Agnes took a step forward. Fists clenched.
‘No, you don’t. You’re ill,’ Reggie McKenzie replied and went back to watching the television. Football was just about to start.
The sash window was open and despite the Forth wind whipping the curtains back and forth the lounge was boiling.
‘I saw you, and I’m going to tell Moira,’ she carried on. ‘Then she’ll leave you.’
‘You wouldnae dare tell her.’ He stood up.
Agnes kept staring back at him unflinchingly.
‘It was only the one time.’
‘No, it wasn’t. I’ve been following you.’ She crossed her arms. ‘Every time.’
‘Tell Moira, then. I don’t care.’ Reggie swallowed and took out a pack of fags from his back pocket.
She didn’t look convinced.
‘Fine, I won’t see her again. You don’t need to tell Moira then, do you?’
‘And you carry on living off her money?’
Low blow. He put the fag to his lips, grabbed Agnes by her scrawny arm and gave her one big shove towards the window.
She stumbled and fell through it, headfirst.
Edinburgh, November 1977
Tina French needed to get home. She buttoned up her woollen coat and picked up the pace, ice crunching underfoot. The sense of unease trickled down her spine, causing her steps to hasten.
The pub she worked in was on the outskirts of the housing estate. Normally, she’d cut around the scheme to get home, but not with the thick blanket of fog that crept in. Maybe it was the chill that seeped through her jacket and made smoke out of her breath – or the man who had been in earlier. Adrenaline ran through her veins, and she shivered, thinking about him sitting at a table near the bar, staring at her with that look on his face. A look she had seen all too often from her husband before he died. Resentment. Disgust.
She had asked around, but no one remembered the man. He was a bit younger than most of the men in the pub, with a bushy moustache and thick glasses you got on the NHS when you couldn’t afford any. A couple of times she nearly went up to him, to ask him what the problem was but then he drained his glass and walked out fifteen minutes before her shift ended.
She looked around again; most of the houses were in darkness, with their curtains drawn. Most people would be in bed. She would’ve been if she didn’t need to work. Candles flickered on the window ledge of one house. Her heart palpitated, and her stomach twitched as she slipped another glance behind her. The street was deserted, as it normally was at this time of night. Just rows of pebble-dashed council houses on both sides. Her palms were clammy, and her handbag slipped in her grasp. The kids would be waiting up for her. They would’ve expected her in by now. A twig snapped near her, and it sounded like someone clicking their fingers.
Footsteps echoed behind her and she risked a glimpse over her shoulder – a man, head down, hands in his pockets. Tina crossed the road and started to run, her skirt pulling her knees together. She stumbled a couple of times. When she looked back round again, she couldn’t see his face and his hair was hidden under a hood.
Turning the corner, she lurched and crashed into the chest of another man who reached out and caught her arm, stopping her from tripping over.
‘I’m sorry.’ She spluttered and wiggled her arm free, her cheeks burning red.
‘Are you alright?’ He looked at her with big brown eyes and smiled. ‘It’s dangerous out here at this time of night. Let me walk you home.’
‘It’s okay.’ Tina held her bag to her chest and started to walk as fast as she could. ‘It’s not far.’ She slipped a glance at his left hand.
He must’ve noticed because he wiggled his fingers and said, ‘My wife died of cancer, but I don’t think she’d be happy if I left you to walk these streets alone. Don’t you read the papers?’
Tina didn’t answer. She read them. A couple of prostitutes had been murdered and dumped on waste land, but that was miles away and she wasn’t a prostitute. The police didn’t seem to be solving that case.
‘You’ll be doing me a favour, anyway. My children are at a party overnight, and I don’t know what to do with myself. It’s their first time…’ He walked along beside her.
‘How many do you have?’ she asked.
‘Just the two.’ He casually slipped out a pair of black gloves from his pocket. ‘I’m freezing.’
She could feel his eyes on her. ‘What’s your name, by the way?’
‘Colin,’ he replied with a nod. Sweat glistened on his pink forehead. ‘That’s a lovely necklace.’
‘Thanks.’ She instinctively touched it.
The quickest way out of the estate was a path lined with trees. Presumably, it had been a railway line at some point. Beyond this path, the bus stop was across the road. She slipped another glance over her shoulder; no one behind them. She listened to his breath quicken. They got half-way along the path when he spoke again.
‘I saw you in the pub earlier. You weren’t in last week, though. I was getting worried.’ He gave her a wet-lipped smile.
Her heart thumped in her chest. ‘I had the flu. Why were you worried?’
‘I didn’t want you to leave after all my planning.’
He grabbed her before she could scream. Then, he pulled her around, ripped the necklace from her throat and shoved her down onto the concrete. Pain shot up her legs and spine.
Recognition dawned as he stared at her, enjoying himself. It was the man from the pub, just without those glasses and moustache. Why was he doing this to her? What has she done to deserve this? A sob burst from her throat.
A moment later, the knife silenced her.
When a body is found in the boot of a car following an accident, DI John Morrison is called to find the killer. The murder bears the hallmarks of a similar crime decades earlier so has the crime been committed by the same person or a copycat?
John’s his ex-girlfriend Trish has been trying to forget the past – until she finds new evidence about her Aunt Moira’s disappearance nearly two decades earlier.
Did DI Helen Carter miss something in the original investigation in 1978? And if she did can she live with the consequences?
This is a very accomplished thriller which met my high expectations after reading The Forgotten last year and seeing this cover. The Departed has a strong plot and compelling characters. I’d highly recommend it to fans of police crime thrillers and tartan noir.
Where to buy
The Departed is available as a paperback £5.99 or ebook £1.99 here