In August 1935, Marjory Fenwick, seventeen, and Danny Kerrigan, eighteen, go for a walk on the Cuddies Strip, a lovers’ lane on the outskirts of Perth, Scotland. There is a full moon and, although it is ten o’clock in the evening, the residual heat from the day’s sunshine lingers. Marjory and Danny kiss, hold hands, walk.
In an instant, their lives are changed forever. A shotgun sounds and Danny collapses to the ground. Terrified, Marjory runs for help but she hears footsteps behind her and as she tries to cross a stile she is dragged back into the fields.
What she doesn’t know then is that her ordeal is only just beginning.
Cuddies Strip is a fictionalised account of a true crime which shocked the quiet city of Perth. The novel follows the investigation, as Inspector Conoboy and PC Bob Kelty struggle as much with their own colleagues as they do with the mystery behind such terrible crimes. And it follows the experience of Marjory, for whom justice would become a bitter commodity.
Cuddies Strip details the unfolding investigation as Conoboy and Kelty race to solve the crime before the killer and rapist strikes again, but it also examines the mores of the times and the casual treatment of women in a male-dominated society. It is a novel of hope and belonging, trust and love.
Marjory stood and wiped grass and moisture from the back of her swagger coat and put her hands in her pockets and hooked out an arm to allow Danny to slip his inside. They walked down the Cuddies Strip towards Perth. Trees hung low around them, beeches and silver birches rustling in the wind as darkness settled over Strathearn. Swifts, hundreds of them, circled in the moonlight. The Strip narrowed and dipped and turned, then opened out again and they walked arm-in-arm, laughing into the gathering gloom.
The stand of whins was so innocuous they didn’t even notice it but as they did their lives changed forever. From behind them the evening quiet was shattered by an explosion and Marjory felt a surge of air whistle past her right ear.
“What?” she said.
Danny turned. “Don’t faint here, Madge,” he said. He didn’t have time to look at her before a second report sounded and he collapsed backwards. The noise of his body crashing into the earth was the most terrifying Marjory had ever heard. He lay with his head and shoulders on the grass by the side of the path and she knelt beside him and stared in bemusement. There was blood on his face and on his lovely blue sweater and jacket. He stared upwards but made no movement.
She started to run down the Cuddies Strip towards the stile at the bottom which led onto the path back to the Buckie Braes and the outskirts of Perth. She stumbled over stones and tree roots and gasped as branches whipped against her face. She could think only of Danny, of getting help, of making sure he was okay. There were footsteps behind her and she turned and saw the man in pursuit. She speeded up and he speeded up and they ran together towards the stile.
As she stepped onto it she felt her foot being grabbed and she was pulled backwards onto the path. An arm gripped her throat and a rough hand was forced over her mouth. She could smell woodsmoke, acrid and stale. Helpless, she was dragged into the undergrowth between the path and the wheatfield.
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