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Introducing Alice Quentin, a London psychologist with family baggage, who finds herself at the center of a grisly series of murders
Alice Quentin is a psychologist with some painful family secrets, but she has a good job, a good-looking boyfriend, and excellent coping skills, even when that job includes evaluating a convicted killer who's about to be released from prison. One of the highlights of her day is going for a nice, long run around her beloved London―it's impossible to fret or feel guilty about your mother or brother when you're concentrating on your breathing―until she stumbles upon a dead body at a former graveyard for prostitutes, Crossbones Yard.
The dead woman's wounds are alarmingly similar to the signature style of Ray and Marie Benson, who tortured and killed thirteen women before they were caught and sent to jail. Five of their victims were never found. That was six years ago, and the last thing Alice wants to do is to enter the sordid world of the Bensons or anyone like them. But when the police ask for her help in building a psychological profile of the new murderer, she finds that the killer―and the danger to her and the people she cares about―may already be closer than she ever imagined.
With gripping suspense and a terrific new heroine, Kate Rhodes's Crossbones Yard introduces a powerful new voice in crime fiction.
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KATE RHODES was born in London and lives in Cambridge, England. She completed a doctorate in American literature, then taught English at universities in Britain and the United States. She has published two collections of poetry, and has received a number of honors and awards for her writing. Crossbones Yard is her debut novel.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
1 I peered into the metal box without stepping inside. It had the familiar smell of all hospital lifts, handwash and antiseptic, an undertone of urine and fear. I had only managed the twenty-four-storey journey to the psychology department once, with my eyes closed, holding my breath. It wasn't the speed that got me, just the space itself. Tiny and airless, no windows to escape through. I forced myself over the threshold, keeping the door open with my hand, but panic kicked in immediately, a surge of adrenalin just under my ribcage. My reflection stared at me from the mirrored back wall. My face was white and pinched, eyes glittering with anxiety. I looked like a small blonde child dressed up in her mother's smartest clothes. I backed out of the lift and the doors snapped shut, almost catching my fingers. My only option was to take the stairs, all two hundred and seventy-eight of them. By now the signs on every landing were imprinted on my memory: oncology, urology, orthopaedics, X-ray. But at least the daily climb was keeping me fit -- at a steady pace the ascent took less than six minutes. I was out of breath by the time I arrived at my consulting room, with just a few minutes to spare before the first appointment of the day. I changed out of my running shoes into a smart pair of heels. One of the unwritten rules is that psychologists must be well dressed, to convince their patients that the world is safe and orderly. But I needn't have bothered.There was a handwritten note on my computer, informing me that my morning appointments had been cancelled, and a police officer would collect me in an hour's time. For a second my legs felt weak. I pictured my brother locked in a holding cell, just like last time, swearing his head off at anyone who tried to question him or bring him a cup of tea. Then I remembered that my name was on the rota for Met duty that week, and my heart rate slowed again. My inbox was crammed with new emails: an invitation to speak to the British Psychological Society in April, eight GP referrals, dozens of circulars from drug companies offering extravagant bribes. I should have worked on my case notes, but my eyes kept drifting towards the window. The sky was a dull January white, threatening to snow, but the view was still staggering. London Bridge Station laid out like a train set, with half a dozen miniature engines arriving or leaving, and to the east the Thames curving past Tower Bridge to Canary Wharf. Red lights were blinking on the roofs of banks, while the money men cheated at sums. In the opposite direction office buildings lined the river, almost as tall as St Paul's. To a girl from the suburbs it was still the most glamorous view in the world. Switchboard called just after ten to say that a visitor was waiting for me in reception. When I reached the ground floor an enormous man was standing by the entrance. He was wearing a pale grey suit, and from a distance he looked almost completely round. 'Dr Quentin?' He walked towards me with surprising grace for a man carrying at least twenty stone. 'DCI Don Burns, from Southwark police. Thanks for giving me your time.' His accent was an odd hybrid of raw south London and genteel Edinburgh. Behind his thick black-rimmed glasses, his eyes were small and inquisitive in the pale moon of his face.I offered a polite smile in reply, but felt like reminding him that I had no choice. The department was obliged to carry out assessments for the Met whenever a request came in. Any other work, no matter how important, was put on hold. When we reached the car park, DCI Burns took several minutes to squeeze behind the steering wheel of his drab blue Mondeo. The car smelled of stale coffee, cooking fat and smoke. He must have stopped at McDonald's on his way to work, followed his breakfast with a quick fag. 'I could have walked to the station,' I commented, 'saved you a trip.' 'We're not going there. I'll fill you in on the way.' He drove south, swearing under his breath at the traffic on Borough High Street. He seemed to have forgotten he had a passenger, completely absorbed in the journey, until we reached the embankment. 'Detective Chief Inspector. That's top rank, isn't it?' I asked. He kept his eyes fixed on the road. 'Not far off. I look after most of the borough.' 'Quite a responsibility. Couldn't one of your underlings take me?' 'I didn't want them to.' We drove past Battersea Power Station. It looked like a massive table lying on its back, concrete legs pointing at the sky. 'We're going to see Morris Cley. Have you heard of him?' 'Vaguely. He killed someone, didn't he?' 'That's him,' he frowned. 'A prostitute called Jeannie Anderson in Bermondsey four years ago. He gets out of Wandsworth tomorrow because some hotshot lawyer got his sentence cut in half.' 'How come?' 'Unsafe evidence,' Burns sighed, 'which is total bollocks. He managed to con the judge into thinking Cley's got learning difficulties.' 'And he hasn't?' 'No way.' He scowled at the traffic jam ahead. 'Slippery little bastard pretends to be simple, but he kept us running round for weeks. I want to know how closely to watch him when he's out.' 'Sounds like he's not your favourite client.' 'Not exactly. The bloke's as dodgy as they get.' Burns gave the indicator an angry flick, like he would have preferred to snap it off and hurl it through the window. 'Guess who his mum's best mates were?' 'Who?' 'Ray and Marie Benson.' I couldn't think of a reply. I knew plenty about the Bensons because a friend from the Maudsley had been consultant psychologist during the court case, and Ray and Marie had kept the tabloids happy for months. Pictures of the girls they killed appeared on every front cover, as if they were movie stars. Some of them were found under the patio of the hostel the Bensons ran off Southwark Bridge Road. One in the garden, another sealed inside a disused chimney, and a few more dumped on waste ground. Anyone who could read or owned a TV knew more than they wanted to about the couple's grisly recreational activities. Wandsworth Common appeared in the car window. Women were pushing prams along the footpaths, joggers running slow laps round the perimeter, like there was all the time in the world. 'Ever visited Wandsworth before?' Burns asked. 'I haven't had the pleasure.' 'Paradise,' he muttered. 'Sixteen hundred blokes, high as kites on every drug under the sun.' The prison looked like a cross between a Gothic castle and a Victorian workhouse, with filthy windows and a gate bigenough to drive a juggernaut through. It was so vast it blotted out most of the sky. 'Welcome to England's biggest clink.' Burns flashed his ID at the entrance and we were waved inside. The interview room was miles along a corridor that must have been white once upon a time. I was beginning to regret the clothes I'd chosen that morning. My skirt was too tight to take a proper stride, and my high heels clattered on the tiled floor like a pair of castanets. Rivulets of sweat were pouring down Burns's face. 'He's in the Onslow Centre,' he puffed, 'for his own protection. The bloke won't be getting many bon voyage cards tomorrow.' 'How did he kill the girl?' I asked. 'There's no nice way to put it.' Burns wiped his face with a large white handkerchief. 'Basically, he shagged her, then smothered her with a pillow.' 'They were in a relationship?' 'Christ, no.' He looked appalled. 'He says they were, but you'll see why not when you clap eyes on him.' 'I can hardly wait.' Burns pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose with a stubby index finger. 'She looked a bit like you, actually.' His gaze rested on me. 'Petite, green eyes, shoulder-length blonde hair.' 'You mean, I'm his type?' 'I'm afraid so, yeah.'
Footsteps grew louder in the corridor. I've always hated prisons. Everything about them makes me want to run for the door, especially the way sounds carry. You can hear keys twisting in locks half a mile away. When Morris Cley was shown into the interview room I could see why he had to payfor sex. Grey hair jutted from his skull in awkward tufts, and everything about his face was slightly wrong. Heavy eyebrows lowered above eyes that had sunk so deep into their sockets that I couldn't tell what colour they were. From the dullness of his skin I guessed that he hadn't been outside for weeks. When we shook hands he held my fingers for a few seconds too long. His touch was clammy, and it made me desperate to run outside, find somewhere to scrub my hands. 'Afternoon, Morris,' Burns barked from his seat in the corner of the room. Cley's thin shoulders were hunched around his ears, his eyes flitting from the floor to the window and back again. He lowered himself on to the plastic chair cautiously, as if it might be booby-trapped. 'I hear you're going home tomorrow,' I said. 'No home to go to.' His voice was high-pitched and breathless. 'Rubbish,' Burns snapped. 'You're going to your mum's.' 'She's dead,' Cley frowned. 'How long ago did you lose your mum?' I asked. Cley looked confused for a minute, then did a slow calculation on his fingers before answering. 'Five months, one week, two days.' 'I'm sorry to hear that,' I told him. He studied the backs of his hands, thin fingers twisting into knots. 'What about you, Morris?' Burns's voice was cold enough to freeze anyone in listening distance. 'Are you sorry for what you did?' The question had an immediate impact. Cley's head slumped over his knees, as if someone had cut the string that held him upright. 'It wasn't me,' he whispered. 'I never touched her.' 'Shut up,' Burns hissed in disgust. 'I'm sick...
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