Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Red Road by Denise Mina (Orion Books 2013)




Morrow shrugged and looked up at the flats. The body was gone and that was good. A body was always a distraction at a murder scene. It tended to draw the eye and evoke sparks of empathy, or, for Morrow at least, distracting ponderings on why she wasn't feeling empathy. The site was so spectacular, it would be hard enough to focus on details.

The Red Road flats were twenty-seven storeys tall, five hundred yards wide and being stripped for demolition. All the walls, the casing and especially the windows were being removed before the explosives were set, to avoid a glass storm. They couldn't get into the scene of the murder before this  morning: without health and safety paperwork she couldn't even pass through the protective fencing. Morrow didn't like heights terribly much.

Early in her career Morrow had policed the crowd when the high flats in the Gorbals were demolished. The officers had to stand with their backs to the show, watching the crowd for three or so hours. People brought food, drinks, things to sit on. The fevered atmosphere was unsettling. Morrow watched the crowd swell and grow boisterous, scanning for drunks and trouble and pickpockets. Over the afternoon she listened as people tried to explain away their excitement. It's a bit of history, they said, history of the city. But that didn't satisfy, it didn't explain the buzz of anticipation running through the crowd so they began to falsify complaints against the high flats: we had damp, my auntie died there, I saw a man go out a window. Excuses, because they knew there was something venal about their lip-licking excitement. It was a modern public hanging. They were there to see something bigger than them die, to participate in an irreversible act of destruction.

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