Excerpt from The Blackhouse by Peter May, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Blackhouse

By Peter May

The Blackhouse

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The splash of urine hitting water filled the bathroom with the comforting sound of normality. It was always with silence that his depression came. But tonight the usual void was occupied. The image of the man in the anorak had displaced all other thoughts, like a cuckoo in the nest. Fin wondered now if he knew him, if there was something familiar in the long face and straggly hair. And suddenly he remembered the description Mona had given the police of the man in the car. He had been wearing an anorak, she thought. Had been about sixty, with long, greasy, grey hair.

II

He took a bus into town, watching the rows of grey stone tenements drift past his window like the flickering images of a dull monochrome movie. He could have driven, but Edinburgh was not a town where you would choose to drive. By the time he reached Princes Street the clouds had broken, and sunlight swept in waves across the green expanse of the gardens below the castle. A festival crowd was gathered around a group of street entertainers who were swallowing fire and juggling clubs. A jazz band played on the steps of an art gallery. Fin got off at Waverley Station and walked over the Bridges to the old town, heading south past the university, before turning east into the shadow of Salisbury Crags. Sunshine slanted across the sheer green slope rising to the cliffs that dominated the skyline above the city's "A" division police headquarters.

In an upstairs corridor familiar faces nodded acknowledgement. Someone put a hand on his arm and said, "Sorry for your loss, Fin." He just nodded.

DCI Black barely looked up from his paperwork, waving a hand toward a chair on the other side of his desk. He had a thin face with a pasty complexion, and was shuffling papers between nicotine-stained fingers. There was something hawklike in his gaze when, at last, he turned it on Fin. "How's the Open University going?"

Fin shrugged. "Okay."

"I never asked why you dropped out of university in the first place. Glasgow, wasn't it?"

Fin nodded. "Because I was young, sir. And stupid."

"Why'd you join the police?"

"It was what you did in those days, when you came down from the islands and you had no work, and no qualifications."

"You knew someone in the force, then?"

"I knew a few people."

Black regarded him thoughtfully. "You're a good cop, Fin. But it's not what you want, is it?"

"It's what I am."

"No, it's what you were. Until a month ago. And what happened, well, that was a tragedy. But life moves on, and us with it. Everyone understood you needed time to mourn. God knows we see enough death in this business to understand that."

Fin looked at him with resentment. "You've no idea what it is to lose a child."

"No, I don't." There was no trace of sympathy in Black's voice. "But I've lost people close to me, and I know that you just have to deal with it." He placed his hands together in front of him like a man in prayer. "But to dwell on it, well, that's unhealthy, Fin. Morbid." He pursed his lips. "So it's time you took a decision. About what you're going to do with the rest of your life. And until you've done that, unless there's some compelling medical reason preventing it, I want you back at work."

The pressure on him to return to his job had been mounting. From Mona, in calls from colleagues, advice from friends. And he had been resisting it, because he had no idea how to go back to being who he was before the accident.

"When?"

"Right now. Today."

Fin was shocked. He shook his head. "I need some time."

"You've had time, Fin. Either come back, or quit." Black didn't wait for a response. He stretched across his desk, lifted a manilla file from a ragged pile of them and slid it toward Fin. "You'll remember the Leith Walk murder in May?"

Excerpted from The Blackhouse by Peter May. Copyright © 2012 by Peter May. Excerpted by permission of Silver Oak. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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