Fever of the Bone


Hachette Digital

Published by Hachette Digital 2009

Copyright © Val McDermid 2009

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, not be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

eISBN : 978 0 7481 1469 6

This ebook produced by JOUVE, FRANCE

Hachette Digital

An imprint of

Little, Brown Book Group

100 Victoria Embankment

London EC4Y 0DY

An Hachette Livre UK Company

For the gallimaufry that is my family, both biological and logical. I may hate camping, but this is one big tent I’m proud to inhabit.


Dr Gillian Lockwood sparked the first idea for this book with a chance remark. Kelly Smith made a crucial connection on the beach that opened up all sorts of possibilities. Professor Sue Black was invaluable as ever on all things relating to pathology and identity. Thanks also to Brian and Sue from Huddersfield whose blog of their canal boat trips is the kind of site that makes me love the internet.

I want to thank everyone at Little, Brown who has made this new adventure so satisfying, particularly my unflappable editor, David Shelley. Anne O’Brien the Mistress Yoda of copy-editing continues to be. Jane Gregory and her team at Gregory & Co have steered me through choppy waters to safe harbour.

And finally, thanks to Kelly and Cameron, who make me laugh.

No contact possible to flesh

Allayed the fever of the bone


Whispers of Immortality

T.S. Eliot

It all comes down to blood in the end. Some wrongs you can get past. File under lessons learned, dangers to avoid in future. But certain kinds of betrayal need to be answered. And sometimes only blood will do.

Not that you take any pleasure in the killing itself. That would be twisted. And you’re not twisted. There’s a reason for what you’re doing. This is about healing your life. This is about you needing to do this so you can feel better.

People talk a lot about starting over. But not many of them actually do it. They think just moving house or switching jobs or changing lovers will make everything different. But you understand what it really means. Dealing with your list, it’s a cleansing. It’s like someone going into a monastery and burning their worldly goods, watching what holds them earthbound going up in flames. And once that history has turned to smoke, you can truly start over. A whole new set of aspirations and ambitions. An acceptance of what’s possible and what’s past.

And this is such perfectly balanced payback. Betrayal matching betrayal, life balancing life, loss corresponding to loss. It feels like liberation when the last breath fades and you can be about your work with the knives and scalpels. And as the blood oozes steadily, you feel like you’re finally doing the right thing, the only logical thing you could do in the circumstances. Of course, not everybody will see it like that.

Some might say NOBODY will see it your way. But you know that’s not true either. You know other people would applaud you for taking this line if they were ever to find out what you’ve done, what you’re doing. People who’ve had their dreams trashed like you have. They’d totally get it. And they’d wish they had your resources so they could do the same thing.

If this gets out, you could start a trend.


The vaulted ceiling acted as a giant amplifier for the conversation bouncing round the room. A jazz quartet was putting up a filigree fight, but the competition was too strident. The air was thick with a broth of smells; cooked food, alcohol, sweat, testosterone, cologne and the exhaled breath of a hundred or so people. Not so long ago, cigarette smoke would have deadened most of the human tang, but as publicans had discovered since the ban, people were a lot less fragrant en masse than they liked to think.

There were few women in the room and most of them were toting trays of canapes and drink. As would have happened at this stage of any police retirement do, ties had been loosened and faces had reddened. But the hands that might once have wandered were stilled by the presence of so many senior officers. Not for the first time, Dr

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