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Journalist Laura Ackroyd has a lot on her plate. Having recently discovered she is pregnant, she must now gather her courage to tell her partner, DCI Michael Thackeray. So she could have done without the task of profiling Sir David Murgatroyd, the wealthy venture capitalist taking over a local school, especially as, apart from learning from learning of the tragic suicide of his mother, Laura finds him to be an elusive subject. Gradually, Laura discovers more about Murgatroyd, his beliefs, and his power to persuade those around him to his way of thinking. But is there a more sinister side to him that Laura has yet to discover? Meanwhile, Thackeray, in the dark about his impending fatherhood, is busy with the disappearance of Karen Bastable, a young woman who went missing after an illicit meeting in the local forest. As the two parents' careers collide, a web of secrecy is revealed, and Laura must think of her own safety as she becomes entangled in a reality that is far darker than she could have ever imagined.
know what sort of alternative he thinks he’s offering? And you might ask him what he thinks he’s going to get out of it, an’all. It seems a funny sort of thing to do with your money, however much of it you’ve got, propping up a run-down comprehensive.’ ‘I’ll do some digging around then, shall I? See if I can get an interview with him?’ Laura asked, not displeased with the idea. ‘If you like, we could do a full page about it next week if I have any luck. I’ve got something Jane did on the plans
of uncovering who’s behind anything like that are pretty remote. It could originate anywhere.’ ‘We’ll have to get them all in again. And I intend to start with Maxwell personally, whatever the chief constable thinks,’ Thackeray said. ‘I didn’t believe half of what he was telling me last night. And this time we’ll ask them all to volunteer a DNA sample and fingerprints – for elimination. If they refuse, we’ll have to consider our options, but I don’t believe none of them had sex with Karen.
will corroborate your story. As will the DNA sample and fingerprints that I am sure you are going to volunteer after we finish this interview.’ Thoroughly deflated now, Maxwell nodded helplessly. ‘I need a solicitor,’ he said dully. ‘That’s up to you,’ Thackeray said. ‘You’re not under arrest and I only have one more question for now. I want you to think back very carefully to last summer and try to remember who drew your attention to the ad in the Gazette that first took you to Bently Forest.
Green, Mr Murgatroyd?’ Murgatroyd met Thackeray’s gaze directly for the first time and he shrugged slightly. ‘Not that I can recall,’ he said. ‘Is there any particular reason why you think I might have done?’ ‘You both had some connection with a church in Bayswater, I understand,’ Thackeray said. ‘Do you remember that?’ Murgatroyd continued to stare at Thackeray blankly for a moment and then slowly nodded. ‘You must mean Stephen Wright’s worthy effort? What did he call it – the Congregation
those with you?’ Thackeray asked, his own voice like ice. ‘Old habits die hard. I had a knife.’ Sanderson shrugged. ‘I told you. I can’t remember the details. I must have lost it completely at some point.’ ‘Can you recall why you cut off her hair?’ Thackeray asked. Sanderson looked at him blankly for a moment and then laughed. ‘I really don’t like red hair,’ he said. ‘I’d have taken the bottle-blond one for preference, but she went off in a car with her friend, didn’t she? Safety in numbers,