HENHOUSE SYNDROME

One might be surprised how many murderers ply their trade in Scotland. One would be shocked, however, to discover just how many don’t do their own shopping.

Whether you were the heiress to a Greek shipping magnate or the American corporate lawyer expatriated abroad, the Highlands offered ample space to dump bodies where they would sooner rot than be found. There were a few exceptions, of course. A deer stalker might stumble upon a corpse left on the heather moors. A coastal crofter might uncover a pale face in the sand at low tide. But even if the police identified the victim, even if the victim was buried with everything from the murder weapon to the clothes the killer killed in, not even the most diligent detective would ever find the perpetrator. Hope was too good at her job.

Midnight in Aberdeen, where the River Dee empties into the North Sea. Across the harbor, the city’s gold lights winked along its endless beach, home to endless people sleeping in endless granite flats. All was dark south of the river, where a crumbling old fort stood sentinel over the bay and—more importantly—where few of those people wandered past twelve on a winter weeknight.

In the passenger seat of the pickup truck, Hope rubbed the invoice between gloved fingers, imagining the fuzzy scratch of overhandled paper. The requested cargo had been odd. Even for him. A consignment that had demanded bribing, smuggling, and a threat to a sketchy curator at the Swedish Museum of Natural History who had the misfortune of being on her radar. She was about to unfold the note—not to review the order, but to admire the handwriting—when the tailgate slammed shut and the driver’s door popped open. Mr. Charles slid behind the wheel. He kept the door open as if he were seated beside an untrained dog and might need a quick exit. The dashboard dinged away at an otherwise silent night.

“We’re square now, eh, Magpie?” After a week’s worth of Scandinavian sing-song, his brash Aberdonian was near unintelligible. “Squared up?”

“That depends on your ability to keep your mouth shut, Charlie,” she said, matter-of-fact. “Wouldn’t wanna owe me another favor. Unless, of course…” She swung an elbow atop the center console and leaned in close, slapping on a sardonic smile. “Are you… No, you wouldn’t be a masochist, now, would you?”

Mr. Charles stiffened. Hands on knees, eyes straight ahead, jaw double-knotted.

“What a scandal that would be, huh, bud?”

His breath came in clipped clouds; hers wafted his face. Made his cheek twitch. She closed her eyes, savoring Charlie’s fear as if it were tiramisu… But, as it happened, Hope rather disliked tiramisu. Coffee belonged in cups. Not dessert.

She dropped the act, reclaiming her classic deadpan. Once she’d checked to make sure her gut hook knife was tucked safe in her combat boot, she slipped the invoice in the pocket of her peacoat and slid out of the truck. “Go home to Marcie and the girls.”

Hope shut the door, smacked it twice, and Mr. Charles peeled down Greyhope Road, leaving naught in his wake but a pallet stacked with crates and the silhouette of a man, leaning in the ancient archway of Torry Battery. The figure descended the small hill to the dirt parking lot. There was no swish of grass, no crunch of gravel. An Irish lilt, smooth and deep, crooned to her from the dark.

“You took your sweet time.”

About the Book

Hope Rippa may look like your average fashionista, but once the sun goes down, the claws come out—because she plays personal shopper to Europe’s richest killers.

Cleaning supplies. Untraceable weapons. Armani suits and a plastic tarp, too. You name it, she’ll find it, launder it, and charge a hefty sum for criminal peace of mind.

If only it hadn’t ruined her engagement.

When she discovered Catholic chaplain Killian Glass moonlighted as a murderer, Hope called off their illicit affair. After fifteen years, he’s become her best client… and the most prolific butcher from Belgium to Belarus. While their relationship remains professional, however, remnants of their toxic love still linger.

As the so-called Bowerbird claims the title of Iceland’s first serial killer in 400 years, Hope’s life goes up in flames—because Killian’s framing her for every crime. In a gruesome game of cat and mouse played in the never-ending night of northern winter, Hope must prove she’s not the monster he thinks she is—all while resisting the pull of carnal obsession.

But there’s a tragic secret that may just confirm Killian’s theory…

How Hope got involved in the business.