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Extract: Garnethill by Denise Mina

Garnethill is the award-winning debut crime novel by Denise Mina, author of The Long Drop. First published twenty years ago, you can now get your hands on a beautiful new anniversary edition complete with an introduction by Val McDermid.

When psychiatric patient Maureen O’Donnell finds her boyfriend dead in her living room, she is thrown into a difficult situation. Glasgow police view her as both a suspect and an unstable witness – and even her mother is convinced of her involvement.

Feeling betrayed by friends and family, Maureen begins to doubt her own version of events. Panic-stricken, she sets out in pursuit of the truth and soon picks up a horrifying trail of deception and suppressed scandal. Then a second body is discovered. Maureen realises that unless she gets to the killer first, her life is in danger…

Read on for an extract from Garnethill by Denise Mina!

Denise Mina


Douglas was tied into the blue kitchen chair with several strands of rope. His throat had been cut clean across, right back to the vertebrae, his head was sitting off centre from his neck. Splashes and spurts of his blood were drying all over the carpet. One long red splatter extended four feet diagonally from the chair, slashing across the arm of the settee and nearly hitting the skirting board on the far wall.
She couldn’t seem to move. She was very hot. She had been scuttling back down the hall from the toilet when the blood-drenched cagoul lying just inside the living-room door caught her eye. A trail of bloody footprints led to Douglas, tied to the chair in the dead centre of the room. The footprints were small and regular, like a dance-step diagram.
She didn’t remember sliding down the wall into a foetal crouch. She must have been there for a while because her backside was numb. She couldn’t see him now, just the cagoul and two of the footprints but the sweet heavy smell of blood hung like a fog in the warm hall. The yellow plastic cagoul was drenched in blood. The hood had been kept up; the blood pattern on the rim was jagged and irregular.
He could have been there all night, she thought. She’d gone straight to bed when she got in. She’d slept in the same house as this.
Eventually, she got up and phoned the police. ‘There’s a dead man in my living room. It’s my boyfriend.’


She was standing still next to the phone, sweating and staring at the handle on the front door, afraid to move in case her eyes strayed into the living room, when she heard cars screaming to a stop in the street and people running up the stairs. They hammered on the door. She listened to the banging for two long bursts before she could reach over and open it. She was trembling.
They moved her into the close and asked her where she had been in the house since coming in. A photographer took pictures of everything.
Her neighbour, Jim Maliano, came out to see what the noise was. She could hear him asking the policemen questions in his Italian-Glaswegian rat-a-tat accent but couldn’t make out what he was saying. Maureen was finding it hard to speak without drawling incomprehensibly. She felt as if she were floating. Everything was moving very slowly. Jim brought her out a chair to sit on, a cup of tea and some biscuits. She couldn’t lift the cup from the saucer because she was holding the biscuits in her other hand. She put the cup and saucer down on the ground, under her chair so that no one would knock it over, and balanced the biscuits on her leg.
The neighbours from downstairs gathering vacantly on the half-landing, standing with their arms crossed, telling each new arrival that they didn’t know what had happened, someone had died or something.
A plainclothes policeman in his early thirties with a Freddie Mercury moustache and piggy eyes cautioned Maureen.
‘You don’t need to caution me,’ she mumbled, standing up and dropping her biscuits. ‘I haven’t done anything.’
‘It’s just procedure,’ he said. ‘Right, now, what happened here?’
He said yes to everything she told him about Douglas as if he already knew and was testing her. He interrupted Maureen as she tried to explain who she was. ‘You lot,’ he said tetchily to the assembled neighbours, ‘you’ll be contaminating evidence there. Go back indoors and wait for an officer to come and see you. Give your names and addresses to her.’ He gestured to a uniformed policewoman and turned back to Maureen. She threw up, narrowly missing the policeman’s face but hitting him squarely in the chest, and passed out.

It took her a minute to work out where she was. It was a large bed, a black-lacquered mess with small tables attached at either side. It looked like the devil’s bed. Jim Maliano was third-generation Italian immigrant and proud. His house was a shrine to Italian football and furniture design. On the wall at the foot of the bed a black and blue Inter Milan football shirt was squashed reverently behind glass and framed with tasteful silver. It was wrinkled and fading like a decaying holy relic.
Her mother, Winnie, was sitting by her feet stroking them histrionically. Winnie liked to drink whisky from a coffee-cup first thing in the morning and most days were a drama from start to finish. She coughed a sob when she saw Maureen open her eyes. ‘Oh, honey, I can’t believe it.’ She slid up the bed, cupped Maureen’s face in her hands and kissed her forehead. ‘Are you all right?’
Maureen nodded.
‘Sure?’ Winnie’s breath stank of Gold Spot.
‘What on earth happened?’
Maureen told her about finding the body and passing out in front of the policeman. Winnie was listening intently. When she was sure Maureen had finished talking she said that Jim had left a wee brandy for her, for the shock. She lifted an alcoholic’s idea of a wee brandy from the side table.
‘Mum, I’ve just thrown up.’
‘Go on,’ said Winnie, ‘it’ll do you good.’
‘I don’t want it.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘I don’t want it.’
Winnie shrugged, paused and sipped.
‘It’s good brandy,’ she said, as if the quality of drink had ever made a difference. Maureen would phone Benny and get him to come over. Benny was in Alcoholics Anonymous and Winnie couldn’t stand to be in the same house as him.
Winnie sipped the brandy, nonchalantly taking bigger gulps faster and faster until it was finished while Maureen got up and dressed. Jim had left out a Celtic football shirt and black jogging trousers for her. She took off her sticky T-shirt and slipped them on. Just as she was tying the drawstring on the trousers she caught sight of herself in the full-length mirror on the far wall. She had one panda eye from last night’s makeup and her hair was dirty and stuck to her head. She had only washed it the morning before. She ran her index finger under her eye, wiping off the worst of the nomadic mascara.
The moustachioed policeman looked around the door. The front of his jacket and shirt were wet, he had washed Maureen’s vomit off too vigorously and although he had tried to pat them dry the jacket lapels were losing their shape and his shirt front was see-through. Maureen could see an erect nipple clinging to the wet material. ‘Are you decent?’ he said, looking her up and down.
He was followed into the room by the policewoman and an older officer with rich auburn hair flecked with grey. Maureen had seen him directing the Forensics team. His pale face was dotted with orange freckles, oddly boyish in such a serious man. He had a big gap between his two front teeth and watery china blue eyes. She remembered him for his courtesy when he moved her into the close.
‘I don’t usually dress like this,’ said Maureen, smiling with embarrassment at her outfit. ‘Can I get my own clothes?’
‘Is that what you were wearing last night?’ asked the Moustache, gesturing to the discarded T shirt on the bed.
‘Um, yeah.’
He pulled a folded white paper bag out of a pocket and took a biro from his breast pocket. He slid the pen under the T-shirt and poked it into the bag.
‘We’d like you to come with us, Miss O’Donnell,’ said Moustache Man. ‘We’d like to talk to you at the station.’
‘You can’t arrest her!’ shouted Winnie, her voice a startling wail.
‘We’re not trying to,’ said the policewoman calmingly. ‘We’re just asking her to talk to us. If she comes down to the station it’d be voluntary.’
Winnie put out her hand in front of Maureen in a dramatic, brandy-induced gesture of maternal protectiveness. ‘I demand that you allow her to see a solicitor,’ she said.
Maureen shoved Winnie’s hand out of the way, ‘Stop it, Mum,’ she said, and turned back to the police officers. ‘I’ll come down with you.’
Jim Maliano watched from the living-room doorway as the motley crowd walked down the dark hall. When Maureen came past him he reached out and squeezed her shoulder gently. His small gesture of empathy touched Maureen unreasonably and she vowed not to forget it.
The rest of it was a bit of a blur. She remembered Winnie crying loudly and a small crowd parting outside the close to let her through. The red-haired man got into the driver’s seat of a blue Ford and the policewoman helped Maureen into the back seat, climbing in next to her. He asked if she had been cautioned. She said she had but she wasn’t really listening. He recited it for her. Within minutes they were in Stewart Street police station.
It was just round the corner from her house but Maureen hadn’t paid much attention to it before. The three-storey concrete building sat on the edge of an industrial estate and was fronted with reflective glass. It looked more like an office block than a police station. They drove round to the back and pulled into a small car park. It was surrounded by a high wall topped with spiralled razor wire. Looking up at the back of the building from the car park, she could see small, mean, barred windows.
The red-haired man helped her out of the car, holding onto her elbow longer than he need have. She must look a bit wobbly. ‘Now, don’t you worry,’ he said. ‘That’s the worst bit over. We’re only going to talk to you.’
But Maureen wasn’t thinking about that. She just wanted to see Liam.

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