THE INVISIBLE GUARDIAN
28th January 2015 | Paperback £7.99 | Ebook £6.89
‘Eerily atmospheric’ Sunday Times
A killer at large in a remote Basque Country valley , a detective to rival Clarice Starling, myth versus reality, masterful storytelling – the Spanish bestseller that has taken Europe by storm.
The naked body of a teenage girl is found on the banks of the River Baztán. Less than 24 hours after this discovery, a link is made to the murder of another girl the month before. Is this the work of a ritualistic killer or of the Invisible Guardian, the Basajaun, a creature of Basque mythology?
30-year-old Inspector Amaia Salazar heads an investigation which will take her back to Elizondo, the village in the heart of Basque country where she was born, and to which she had hoped never to return. A place of mists, rain and forests. A place of unresolved conflicts, of a dark secret that scarred her childhood and which will come back to torment her.
Torn between the rational, procedural part of her job and local myths and superstitions, Amaia Salazar has to fight off the demons of her past in order to confront the reality of a serial killer at loose in a region steeped in the history of the Spanish Inquisition.
About the AuthorDolores Redondo was born in Donostia-San Sebastián in 1969. She studied Law and Gastronomy. She began writing short stories and children's stories and in 2009 published her first novel, The Privileges of the Angel.
The Invisible Guardian, first volume of the Baztán Trilogy, was published in Spain in 2013, with rights sold in thirty languages, and has sold over 100,000 copies. The second novel in the trilogy, The Legacy of the Bones, went straight into the Spanish bestseller lists at number one.
Extract - Chapter 2Inspector Montes had chosen an eye-catching, and doubtless very expensive, violet tie that morning, which stood out against his lilac shirt. The overall effect was elegant, but it did have an incongruous air of Miami Vice about it. The cops who joined them in the lift must have thought the same thing and Amaia didn’t miss the disapproving looks they exchanged as they got out. She glanced at Montes since it was likely he’d noticed too, but he carried on checking the messages on his smart phone, enveloped in a cloud of Amaia aftershave and apparently unaware of the effect he was having.
The meeting room door was closed, but before Amaia could even touch the handle it was opened from inside by a uniformed officer, as if he’d been stationed there expressly to await their arrival. He stepped aside, giving them a clear view of a light, spacious conference room and more people than Amaia was expecting. The Commissioner was at the head of the table with two empty spaces to his right. He waved them forward and began the introductions as they moved into the room.
‘Inspector Salazar, Inspector Montes, you already know Inspector Rodríguez from Forensics and Dr San Martín.This is Deputy Inspector Aguirre from Narcotics and Deputy Inspector Zabalza and Inspector Iriarte from the police station in Elizondo. They happened to be out of town when the body was found yesterday.’
Amaia nodded a greeting to those she knew and shook hands with the others.
‘Salazar, Montes, I’ve called you here because I’ve got a suspicion Ainhoa Elizasu’s case is going to be trickier than expected,’ said the Commissioner, taking his seat and gesturing to them to do the same. ‘Inspector Iriarte contacted us this morning to share some information that could be important when we see how the case you’re working on develops.’
Inspector Iriarte leant forwards, putting his enormous aizkolari woodsman’s hands on the table.
‘A month ago, on January 5th to be precise,’ he said,consulting a small black leather-bound notebook that was almost hidden by his hands, ‘a shepherd from Elizondo was taking his sheep to drink at the river when he found the body of a Carla Huarte, a seventeen-year-old girl. She disappeared on New Year’s Eve after going to the Crash Test nightclub in Elizondo with her boyfriend and a group of friends.
She left with him at around four in the morning and he returned alone about three quarters of an hour later. He told a friend they’d had a fight and she’d become so angry she’dgot out of the car and stormed off. The friend convinced him to go and look for her and they went back an hour later but they couldn’t find any trace of her. They say they weren’ttoo worried because there were a lot of courting couples and stoners around the area. Furthermore, the girl was very popular so they assumed someone had given her a lift. We found hair belonging to the girl and one of those silicon bra straps in the boyfriend’s car.’Iriarte paused for breath and looked at Montes and Amaia before continuing.‘And here’s the bit that might interest you. Carla’s bodyturned up in an area about two kilometres from where Ainhoa Elizasu was found. She’d been strangled with parcel string and her clothes had been cut open from top to bottom.’
Amaia looked at Montes in alarm.‘I remember reading about this case in the papers. Had her pubic area been shaved?’ she asked.
Iriarte looked at Deputy Inspector Zabalza, who replied,‘The truth is, there wasn’t much of it left; her whole pubic mound had been torn away by what looked like animal bites.The autopsy report mentions tooth marks from at least three different types of animal and hairs from a wild boar, a fox,and possibly a bear.’
‘A bear? Are you serious?’ exclaimed Amaia with an incredulous smile.
‘We’re not one hundred per cent sure, we sent moulds of the tooth marks to the Institute for the Study of Pyrenean Plantigrades. Apparently, since bears walk on all fours with flat feet, they fall under their area of expertise. We haven’t heard back from them yet, but . . .’
‘What about the little cake?’
‘There wasn’t a little cake . . . well, maybe there was. That would explain the bites around the pubic area, since the animals would have been attracted by such a sweet, unfamiliar smell.’
‘Were there bite marks elsewhere on the body?’
‘No, although there were some hoof and paw prints.’
‘What about pubic hair arranged around the body?’ asked Amaia.
‘We didn’t find that either, but you should keep in mind that Carla Huarte’s body was found in the River, submerged from her ankles to her thighs, and there had been torrential rain in the days following her disappearance. If there was anything, the rain would have washed it away.’
‘Didn’t you remember this case when you examined the girl yesterday?’ Amaia turned to the forensic scientist.
‘Of course,’ agreed San Martín, ‘but it’s not that simple,they’re only similarities. Do you have any idea how many bodies I see in the space of a year? There are common elements in many cases that are entirely unconnected. Anyway, yes, I did think of this case, but I needed to consult my notes from the autopsy before saying anything. In Carla’s case, everything pointed to a sexual assault by her boyfriend. The girl had alcohol and all kinds of drugs in her system, several love bites on her neck and a bite mark on her chest that matched the boyfriend’s dental imprint. We also found suspicious fragments of skin under her nails that matched a deep scratch on his neck.’
‘Did you find traces of semen?’
‘What did the boy have to say for himself? And what’s his name, by the way?’ asked Montes.
‘He’s called Miguel Ángel de Andrés. He told me he’d been drinking and had also taken cocaine and ecstasy, and I’m inclined to believe him,’ Aguirre smiled. ‘We arrested him on the sixth of January, during the Reyes Magos Epiphany celebrations and he was as high as a kite then, too. He tested positive for four different drugs including cocaine.’
‘So where’s this little treasure now?’ asked Amaia.
‘He was refused bail and is on remand in the prison in Pamplona, awaiting trial for sexual assault and murder . . .He’s got previous drug-related convictions,’ said Aguirre.
‘I think this calls for a trip to the prison to question Miguel Ángel de Andrés again, don’t you? Perhaps he wasn’t lying when he said he didn’t kill the girl.’
‘Could you give us a copy of Carla Huarte’s autopsy report, Dr San Martín?’ asked Montes.‘Of course.’
‘What we’re most interested in are the photos taken at the scene.’
‘I’ll get them to you ASAP.’
‘And it’s probably worth inspecting the girl’s clothes again now we know what to look for,’ added Amaia.
‘Inspector Iriarte and Deputy Inspector Zabalza are leading the investigation at the station in Elizondo,’ intervened the Commissioner. ‘That’s where you’re from originally, isn’t it,Inspector Salazar?’ Amaia nodded.
‘They’ll give you all the help you need,’ said the Commissioner and he got to his feet, bringing the meeting to an end.