We're delighted to present an extract from Guilty, the new crime thriller by Siobhan MacDonald, published by Constable.
Doctor Luke Forde has the perfect life. A respected heart surgeon, he has a rewarding job, a successful wife, and a daughter, Nina. From their beautiful house overlooking Carberry Lough in County Clare, they present a portrait of family bliss. But over the course of a weekend, Luke's life spirals into chaos...
Something told Luke not to watch, to turn away, that he'd be sorry if he looked. But his eyes were drawn above him where he stood. A white flash seared overhead. It gathered mass and started falling. It tumbled, spinning ever downwards, ever brilliant against the darkening sky. In a drunken pirouette, it cast a spinning shadow as it fell towards the earth. Luke was in the creature’s path. He stepped aside just in time. There was a sickening thud as it hit the ground.
The creature quivered, inches from him. It was mangled, its neck was broken and its blood-soaked feathers splayed as if reaching out. It blinked with a glazed eye and he shied back. The creature shuddered and gave a long, low, piteous moan.
Luke bolted upright against his pillow convinced that he’d cried out.
'Sophie . . .’
The woman beside him was breathing gently, her long hair tousled, tired from the night before. Luke sat shaking, a cold sweat prickling his brow. He stared nervously into the dark, listening to the sound of the water lapping outside. It had been a while since the white bird called to see him.
Last night’s shift was heavy going. The girl had been critical. According to her friend she’d taken some pills at a party. She was young – fifteen – three years younger than Nina. It had taken hours to get her stable. Everyone called him a hero.
Wide awake, he sat and waited for the dawn. When light streaked the sky, he dressed quietly and slipped downstairs. Through the kitchen, out the heavy door and down the glass cor- ridor to the boathouse. The air was damp and it was cold for April. His breath formed in ghostly clouds as he stepped into his boat. It felt good to be up and about.
Checks complete, he steered the cruiser out into open water. Powering up the engine, he planed slowly through the waves before picking up speed. It was the first Saturday in a month he wasn’t on call. He’d left his mobile in the glove compartment of the car and his laptop in the boot. He was under orders.
The sky was bruised and sullen, and rain was in the air. He’d head first for Carey’s Island then cruise across to Lisheen Bay before heading back to Kilbawn Pier. Out here, alone, Luke could think. He often thought about escaping, of floating off to some- where safe. As he watched, a bank of trees sheared away from the pine-green stubble of the hillside down towards the lough. The rain had been relentless. Mudslides had closed roads all around Lough Carberry and the forecast warned of further flooding.
The surface of the water wrinkled as the breeze picked up. On the northern hills, turbines were staked in the ground like giant white crucifixes, their long arms turning in the rain-soaked wind. In the distance, Luke saw folds of starlings swishing one over the other, dispersing then coming together in great bisecting arcs of flight.
Something had disturbed these starlings. He scoured the hillside for a bird of prey. Luke’s days were driven by reason and logic. Birds of prey were driven by instinct and impulse alone. He envied their simplicity, the pureness of a kill to sate an appetite, not cursed by doubt or
conscience. There were things in life he couldn’t control and Dr Black was helping him with those. There were also things he couldn’t accept. Things that lay between him and sleep. Things so dark no one would want to know.
The wonder of the starlings lingered as he approached the house. Seeing his home from the water made him feel sad. It was a project he and Alison had worked on together. Locals had dubbed it the Glasshouse and the name had stuck. Three large cubes of flat-roofed, glass-panelled walls, off-set slightly from one another. They linked to the boathouse by a long glass corridor over the lawn. The house had won several design awards. That had made Alison happy. His wife liked beautiful things.
But there was something else. Foreboding. As he looked out for the inlet marked by a rocky outcrop and an old bench, he sensed that something was out of place. He spotted what it was. Something painted on the lough side of his boathouse. Drawing close, he made it out.
Six white letters in fresh paint:
Guilty by Siobhan MacDonald is published by Constable on 11th June 2020