Because I am preparing to publish the latest in the Pitkirtly mystery series, here’s a quick preview of A Reformed Character (from somewhere in the middle of the novel).

Jock McLean liked to take his wheelie-bin out last thing at night, so that nobody could see him doing it. He believed firmly in the ill-will of his neighbours, and thought they would seize the opportunity to poke about looking at his leftovers and working out what he had eaten for tea, given half a chance. He wasn’t bothered about the risk of anyone going through his bank statements, even although he didn’t believe in shredding documents before discarding them. He thought life was too short to be paranoid about money matters.

So it was quite late, almost midnight when he went round to the back of the house to drag the bin out. It was a cold night, but at least the rain had stopped, so the task wasn’t too unpleasant. In the darkness by the hedge something moved. He paused. At one time there had been a cat who liked to hunt around there, but he hadn’t seen it for a while. A fox? A hedgehog? He didn’t think any hedgehog worth its salt would have come out of hibernation yet, but maybe with global warming…

‘Mr McLean?’

He jumped, his heart racing, his hand frozen as it reached for the handle of the wheelie bin.

A mysterious hooded shape emerged from the dark space between the bin and the hedge, head bowed slightly like a sinister penitent monk.

As the light from the street lamp outside Jock’s front door fell on the face under the hood, Jock recognised the boy and took a step backwards in surprise. ‘Darren?’

‘Um,’ said Darren. He looked like a rabbit that had been run over, limp, crumpled and defeated.

‘What are you trying to do, give me a heart attack?’ said Jock crossly. ‘Let me get this bin out and then we’ll go into the house.’

‘Thanks, Mr McLean.’

‘Don’t thank me yet. I haven’t done anything.’

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