Tired of big city life and fatigued by the flu, Molly Fraser arranges a quiet sabbatical in a Scottish village by the sea, hoping to finish writing her long-neglected novel. But her peaceful respite is interrupted when, while exploring the countryside with her dog, she happens upon skeletal human remains. Suddenly, Molly is thrust in the midst of a mystery the villagers thought they had put behind them.
She reports the sighting to her new friend, Gregor Balfour, and shows him a brooch she found at the scene; he reveals that his wife, Sarah, has been missing for twelve years and, more shocking yet, that the brooch is hers. As Molly attempts to solve the intriguing puzzle, she learns more about the victim, her relationships, subsequent disappearance, and murder—and soon wonders exactly whom she can trust. Worse yet, Molly soon realizes that someone is willing to do just about anything to stop her from solving the puzzle.
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‘Death beneath the Pines’
‘Thurber was starting to go further afield, his nose to the ground and tail up, a miniature of the classic trailing hound stance. He’d caught the scent of something, likely another rabbit, and he was off, oblivious to Molly’s calls. She left the track and followed him through the woods, moving quickly to keep him in sight. By the time she caught up to the puppy, she was breathless and they were in a darker section of the wood she’d never been in before. It was a quiet, unsettling place. She felt inexplicably ill at ease. Then, suddenly, a movement in the air to her left startled her. An owl flew silently into a nearby pine.
‘Molly took a moment to calm herself. Thurber hadn’t even noticed the bird. His senses focused on the ground. A fence marked the edge of the tract as it abutted private land, with a big stone house some distance away. She clipped the leash to his collar while he snuffled around the massive exposed roots of a newly fallen pine.
‘“There, you brat! If you don’t learn to come when you’re called, you’ll have to be on a leash. What are you doing now?” Thurber was digging under the roots. “Oh no, what have you got now?” She grabbed his head and tried to pry open his jaws. “Leave it! Leave it!” She managed to pull the object from his mouth. It was a bone. She dropped it hastily. Some poor creature. The puppy lunged back at the ground. This time, his prize was something metallic. Molly retrieved it and brushed the dirt away. It was an old blackened brooch, probably silver, with an intricate Celtic design and a dark red stone in the centre. Thurber was digging frantically now. More bones. She dragged him away, fastened him to a tree, and went back for a closer look … and stood in shock, staring at a skull. Thurber whined, straining at his leash.’