I don’t know Glasgow, I’ve never been there, but from all accounts parts of it at least are pretty rough. Not the sort of place you’d want to be if you were down and out.
Especially the part known as Calton. Calton – from the Gaelic for “wood on the hill” – cognate I imagine with the word Caledonia itself. It isn’t like that now. A BBC Scotland report placed life expectancy in Calton lower than the Gaza Strip, Lin Anderson tells us.
Most certainly not the sort of place you would choose to work as a street prostitute. Yet there are “an estimated 1,200 street prostitutes in Glasgow, compared with 100 in nearby Edinburgh.”
That’s the setting.
So when a young woman is found murdered in the Necropolis, the sprawling cemetery known locally as The City of the Dead, the first thing the police ask themselves is: Was she a prostitute? Read this:
When a prostitute was murdered, it was nearly always by someone she didn’t know. No relationship between the murderer and victim meant the circle of potential suspects was limitless. Men using the services of prostitutes didn’t volunteer information, since many had girlfriends, wives and families who didn’t know about their little hobby. The public weren’t interested, unless the death involved an ‘innocent’ young woman out jogging or walking her dog.
‘Is she a user?’
‘Probably,’ Rhona replied. ‘There are marks on her inner thigh.’
‘The press will go for “junkie prostitute found dead in graveyard” and the punters will go to ground.’
Or to put it in a nutshell, “They are shite, killed by shite, who gives a shite?”
But in fact good cops like D.I. Bill Wilson – and good forensic scientists like Rhona MacLeod – do “give a shite”.
And when it turns out that this latest murder is only the most recent in a series involving prostitutes, and that there will most certainly be others, an Orcadian named Magnus Pirie, Professor of Psychology at Glasgow University, joins the hunt. The police, naturally, object to his being imposed on them from above, but there is what Hollywood calls “chemistry” between him and Rhona from the first moment. Well, he does have the looks of a Norse god …
Meanwhile, a blog entitled “Glasgow Pussy” is giving details of the murders. Like this:
Friday July 30th
Two mangy crackheads lying one on top of the other. One fresh meat, the other rotting. The police didn’t even know the rotting one was missing. Told you. No one gives a shite.
And yes, there is another victim buried in a shallow grave under where the first one was discovered. Is it the killer himself, taunting them?
A great read. There are four earlier novels by Lin Anderson featuring Rhona MacLeod (I just happened to pick up the fifth one, as always drawn immediately to stories involving prostitutes) but I don’t think I shall make a point of ordering them. There is too much of the soap opera about the back-story for me to want to read what will now be old news, but I want to know what happens next, so I have already ordered the next one, Final Cut. A good novel makes the place it is set seem so familiar and I have the feeling after reading this one that I would have felt quite at home there at one time, especially in Calton, among the junkies, the mangy crackheads and the shite – and women like Cathy. No, no more. You’ll get to know her when you read it.