Someone is about to dig too deep...
1869, Sutherland, Scotland, and the Kildonan Gold Rush is in full swing. And then one of the panners is murdered, and strange scratchings left on stones where he is found. Brogar Finn and Sholto McKay are on hand to investigate the extent of the Gold Rush, and it falls to them to solve this murder, and the others that soon follow.
The language is rich with the places and times Gray leads her readers into, from the volcanic eruption in Iceland that covers the land with ash, to the icy wastes of Finnmark, where Scandinavia and Russia meet. And from this snowy frontier a stranger comes, intent on tracking down the lost loose-ends of his past, all of which end up in Kildonan, and the woman who is single-handedly trying to breathe life back into the valley after the decimation of the Clearances half a century before.
And there are also the Brora Bowls, a valuable historical find discovered when Solveig McCleery blows up the mines down in Brora, which act sets in motion the sequence of events that brings all these disparate people together, with terrible consequences.
Deadly Prospects is a sumptuous and satisfying mystery that explores the rich history and heritage of the Highlands, and in particular of Sutherland, Helmsdale, Brora and Kildonan.
Read an Extract....
In a curl of the Suisgill burn, a huddle of canvas had been erected over sticks and branches to shelter the men who went out hacking at the banks, loosening the gravel, sieving it for gold. Their pickaxes were better cared for than their tents, were regularly oiled and cleaned, methodically wrapped in waxed sacking to keep them from the rain. Every morning, they left the camp at daybreak, returned with the setting down of the sun. It was hard work, unremitting, unrewarding and dull, barely yielding enough to pay the next month’s license, the last month’s food, enlivened all too rarely by wild shouts of victory as someone luckier than themselves, somewhere further up the valley maybe, or further back into the bank, uncovered an actual nugget, no matter how small, or a rich seam of grit with plenty of discernible dust. And then their tired hears leapt with hope, and they all piled on down to the camp to celebrate with their new best mate, take a little share in his good fortune, broke out an illicit keg of beer or spirits, and quietly swore they would carry on until their own little piece of luck found them, for god knew, there was nothing much else in their lives they had to look forward to.
The Kildonan gold rush had never amounted to much, but at least it had been something. Willie Blaine had started early doors, only a few weeks after his old mining mucker Robbie Gilchrist had started the whole thing rolling by finding a nugget the size of a baby’s fist, and gone running to the Sutherlands with it. And if Robbie could find something here, in this very river, then it stood to reason there must be more, and Willie had not been alone in thinking that sudden riches had come within his grasp. Over two hundred licences had been issued back in June alone, with men coming from as far abroad as Elgin and Aberdeen, for if Robbie had found such a nugget, then why couldn’t they all?
That it had all gone to crap was what Willie Blaine had been thinking as he’d set out that morning a little earlier than all the rest. Hadn’t wanted company, hadn’t wanted to chat, had just wanted to get on with it, get it over. He hated it here, had almost quit the day before when he’d been interrogated by that bastard Tam Japp, who had come up to inspect the Suisgill miners, suspicious that none of them’d been down to the Baile an Or this last week to declare their findings. That he’d singled out Willie in particular had been no coincidence, for it had been noted that Willie had taken several trips down to Helmsdale these past few months, it being presumed he’d been cashing in his gold dust there directly, bypassing the cut he was due to the estate for the pleasure of having grafted so hard to find it. Which, of course, was exactly what Willie Blaine had done – and why the hell not?
By Christ, but he was sick of the lot of it.
Sick to the very back of the teeth he no longer had very many of.
Sick that he’d slaved his life away for nothing, and that there was nothing more ahead but more of the same, more hard graft, more pandying to people he’d no respect for, more handing over of his hard-earned cash and wage for little return. He’d have up and quitted already had not the man from Lundt and McCleery’s arrived a couple of days before, a geologist no less. His arrival had given Willie renewed hope, for surely there really must be gold of some amount to be found in the Suisgill and Kildonan, for why else would they have bothered to bring in somebody to investigate it? And just because of this, he had given himself one month more to go the course, one month, no more, no less, and though he knew the chances of striking it big within that time-frame were so minimal as to be almost laughably non-existent, he couldn’t entirely dismiss the hope of it. He longed for a reprieve from servitude and poverty, for an escape from the family he’d not wanted and didn’t care for, from the pretty little thing he’d hooked up with in Helmsdale that first trip, who was so good at winkling from him the little bit of cash he’d managed to earn.
He was a man who had lost in life, and he knew it, felt the shame and waste of it rotting him from the inside out. He listened to the krek krek krek of a corncrake somewhere down in the hay fields towards the broader river of the Brora, or the Ullie, as he had always known it, into which the gold-bearing burns of Kildonan and Suisgill finally flowed. It was late in the season for such a bird, King of Quails, to be abroad, at greater risk from the gamesmen’s guns the longer it stayed, and he felt a sudden urgency for it, wanted to force it into flight, wanted it to take him with it where ever it was that it went over the long winter months, though where that was, he had no idea.
But Willie Blaine wasn’t going anywhere.
Willie Blaine had got exactly as far as he was ever going to get.
The man on the knoll just above him had already raised his boulder and let it fly.
No last words.
No Bless me Father, for I have sinned.
Nothing left from one second to the next.
Willie Blaine falling like the rain all around him, nowhere to go but down.
Willie Blaine wiped out in an instant, like dog-shit from a shoe.