Authors: Craig Russell
Tags: #crime, #thriller
A girl’s body lies, posed, on the pale sand of a Hamburg beach, a message concealed in her hand. ‘I have been underground, and now it is time for me to return home…’
Jan Fabel, of the Hamburg murder squad, struggles to interpret the twisted imagery of a dark and brutal mind. Four days later, a man and a woman are found deep in woodland, their throats slashed deep and wide, the names ‘Hansel’ and ‘Gretel’, in the same, tiny, obsessively neat writing, rolled tight and pressed into their hands.
As it becomes clear that each new crime is a grisly reference to folk stories collected almost two hundred years ago by the Brothers Grimm, the hunt is on for a serial killer who is exploring our darkest, most fundamental fears. A predator who kills and then disappears into the shadows.
A monster we all learned to fear in childhood.
Craig Russell was born in 1956 in Fife, Scotland. He served as a police officer and worked in the advertising industry as a copywriter and creative director. In 2007, his second novel,
, was shortlisted for the CWA Duncan Lawrie Dagger, and in the same year he was presented with a
(Police Star) award by the Polizei Hamburg for raising public awareness of the work of the Hamburg police.
For more information about Craig Russell and his books, please visit
I had a lot of fun spinning this dark yarn. I would like to thank everyone who both helped me and made the experience even more fun:
First and foremost, my wife, Wendy, who was a great enthusiast of
from the start, and whose support and comments on the first draft helped make this a better book. My children, Jonathan and Sophie, my thriller-fan mother, Helen, and my sister Marion. I owe special thanks to Bea Black and Colin Black, to Alice Aird and Tony Burke, and to Holger and Lotte Unger for their friendship, support and invaluable advice.
I am enormously grateful to my agent, Carole Blake, whose energy, commitment and drive has made the Jan Fabel series an international success, as well as Oli Munson and David Eddy of Blake Friedmann Literary Agency. Paul Sidey, my editor, has always been a great champion of my work and I thank him for all of the time, effort and thought he has devoted to this book. Thanks also to my accountants, Larry Sellyn and Elaine Dyer, who have offered such key advice and support throughout my writing career.
Again, I owe great thanks to the excellent Dr Bernd Rullkötter, my German translator, who worked closely with me on the English as well as the German
. Thanks, Bernd, for caring so much, and for all your help.
I have to make very special mention of the following people who offered their help and support freely and enthusiastically. I offer my deepest gratitude to:
Ulrike Sweden of the Polizei Hamburg for reading my first draft and correcting technical inaccuracies as well as for all of the information, help and contacts she supplied; the journalist Anja Sieg who read my manuscript to ensure I got the East Frisian details right, and made a host of other invaluable comments; Dr Anja Lowit, who likewise read and commented on the first draft; Dirk Brandenburg and Birte Hell, both of the Hamburg murder squad; Peter Baustian of the Davidwache police station and Robert Golz of the Hamburger Polizeipräsidium; Katrin Frahm, my German language tutor, who has done a wonderful job in taking my German to new levels; Dagmar Förtsch, of GLS Language Services (and Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany in Glasgow) for her enthusiastic support and help; Udo Röbel, former editor-in-chief of
and now, himself, a crime author, for his enthusiasm and friendship; Menso Heyl, editor-in-chief of
, for his interest in my work and for sending me an airmail copy every day to help me keep totally up-to-date with events in Hamburg.
And very special thanks to my German publisher, Marco Schneiders, for his enthusiasm for and commitment to my work.
I gratefully acknowledge everyone at my publishers in the UK, in Germany and around the world, who has made a positive contribution to the Jan Fabel series.
And, of course, to all of the people of Hamburg:
ich bedanke mich herzlich
For more information about Craig Russell and his books, please visit
Fabel stroked her cheek gently with his gloved hand. A stupid gesture; probably an inappropriate gesture, but one that he felt was somehow necessary. He saw his finger tremble as it traced the curve of her cheek. He felt something tight and panicky in his chest when he realised just how much she reminded him of his daughter Gabi. He smiled a small, tight, forced smile and felt his lips tremble as the muscles of his face strained under the effort. She looked up at him with her large eyes. Unblinking, azure eyes.
The panic grew in Fabel. He wanted to wrap his arms around her and tell her that it was all going to be all right. But he couldn’t; and it wasn’t going to be all right. She still held him with her unblinking, unwavering azure gaze.
Fabel felt Maria Klee’s presence beside him. He withdrew his hand and stood up from his squatting position.
‘How old?’ he asked without turning to Maria, keeping his eyes locked with the girl’s.
‘Difficult to say. Fifteen, sixteen, I’d guess. We don’t have a name yet.’
The morning breeze scooped up some of the fine
sand of the Blankenese beach and swirled it like a drink stirred in a glass. Some of the grains blew into the girl’s eyes, settling on the whites, but still she did not blink. Fabel found he could not look any more and tore his gaze away. He shoved his hands deep into his coat pockets and turned his head, looking, for no good reason except to fill his eyes with something other than the image of a murdered girl, up towards the red and white striped spindle of Blankenese lighthouse. He turned back to Maria. He stared into her pale blue-grey candid eyes that never told you much about the person behind them; that sometimes suggested a coldness, a lack of emotion, unless you knew her well. Fabel sighed as if some great pain or sadness had forced the breath from him.
‘Sometimes I don’t know if I can do this any more, Maria.’
‘I know what you mean,’ she said, looking down at the girl.
‘No … I really mean it, Maria. I’ve been doing this job for nearly half my life and sometimes I feel like I’ve had more than a bellyful of it … Christ, Maria – she’s so like Gabi …’
‘Why don’t you leave this one to me?’ said Maria. ‘For now, at least. I’ll deal with forensics.’
Fabel shook his head. He had to stay. He had to look. He had to hurt. Fabel was drawn back to the girl. Her eyes, her hair, her face. He would remember every detail. This face that was too young to wear death would remain in the galleries of his memory, along with all those other faces – some young, some old, all dead – from years of murder inquiries. Not for the first time Fabel found himself resenting the one-way relationship he was forced to have with these people. He knew that, over the coming weeks and
months, he would get to know this girl: he would talk with her parents, her siblings, her friends; he would learn her routines, the music she was into, the hobbies she enjoyed. Then he would delve deeper: he would tease solemn secrets from closest friends; he would read the diary she had kept hidden from the world; he would share the thoughts she had chosen not to share; he would read the boys’ names she had doodled in secret. He would build a complete picture of the hopes and dreams, the spirit and personality of the girl who had once lived behind those azure eyes.