The Shadow Men
As the third instalment in the Anna Scavolini series, The Shadow Men can be enjoyed as a standalone novel without having read the two previous books in the series. However, if you’re new to the series and would like to know more about some of the key past events and characters referenced in it – or if you’ve read them before but need a quick refresher – you may find this brief primer useful.
Characters whose names appear in bold either feature in or otherwise have a significant impact on the events of The Shadow Men.
Christmas 2009… Anna Scavolini, a 27-year-old criminology lecturer who has been studying and working in Rome for the past ten years, returns to her native Glasgow one chilly, snow-swept December night for her former best friend Zoe Callahan’s birthday. At Pulse, the West End nightclub where the gregarious Zoe has dragged her more reserved friend, Anna has a chance encounter with Andrew Foley, an older boy from their school on whom she used to have a crush. Later that night, as Anna and Zoe are walking up the Kelvin Way, they hear a scream coming from inside nearby Kelvingrove Park. Anna enters the park to investigate and finds Foley, stabbed and bleeding to death in front of her.
Anna is questioned at length by the police – led by the gruff but fair DI Norton and the condescending DS Murray – before being released into Zoe’s care. They return to the old Callahan family home in Ruchill, which Zoe now shares with her awkward younger brother Victor. The following morning, the police question Anna again, and Norton, believing her to be an important witness, confiscates her passport. Unable to return to Rome, Anna seeks to channel her frustrations into something productive and begins making her own enquiries. These bring her into contact with Foley’s younger cousin Gavin Price – a lecturer at Glasgow University – and Foley’s widow, Juliet, who reveals her late husband’s multiple affairs – and, more disturbingly, his penchant for sexual violence. That same evening, Anna attends a lecture at the university on the judicial system’s lamentable handling of rape cases, and establishes a rapport with the speaker, Mark Westmore. Later that night, she is accosted by a masked assailant who warns her in the starkest terms to drop her investigation if she values her life.
The following morning, Norton informs Anna that Ross Garvey, a schoolfriend of Foley’s, has been attacked – and furthermore that both men were not merely stabbed but also castrated, lending the killings a symbolism that is impossible to ignore. Undeterred and spurning Norton’s offer of protective custody, Anna continues to dig. Her investigations lead her to Jenny Guilfoyle, another former pupil from the same school who now exists in a state of infantile regression. Recognising something in Jenny’s haunted eyes, Anna grows convinced that she was raped by Foley and Garvey several years ago. She also encounters Jenny’s fiercely protective father, Tony Guilfoyle, a highly decorated former detective, and begins to suspect him of being responsible for the murders. She finds a sympathetic listener in Mark, but her attempts to convince the police of her hypothesis fall on deaf ears, and she makes an enemy out of DS Murray when, fed up with his constant belittlement of her, she snaps and tells him she hopes someone castrates him. Afterwards, Anna reveals to Mark that the reason Jenny’s plight has affected her so deeply is that she herself was raped as a teenager – the aftereffects of which eventually led to a mental breakdown and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Meanwhile, Ted Renfield, another of Foley’s contemporaries, is murdered in the same manner as the two previous victims.
Anna continues to pursue her enquiries, increasingly certain that Guilfoyle is the killer. Suffering from a lack of sleep and the effects of having stopped taking her bipolar medication, she comes to believe that the police are actively turning a blind eye to their former colleague’s murderous rampage, and flees when they attempt to apprehend her. She seeks refuge with Gavin, only to once again flee when he takes advantage of her vulnerable state and tries to seduce her. She returns to the Callahans’ house and, as if to confirm to herself that men are only after one thing, beds and then promptly breaks the heart of Victor, who for years has carried a torch for her. As she lies alone in bed, cursing her own self-destructive behaviour, the police arrive and apprehend her as she attempts once again to escape. The vindictive Murray strip-searches and humiliates her, her ordeal only coming to an end when Norton arrives and brings a halt to the proceedings. Furious with her for interfering with the investigation, he returns her passport and delivers an ultimatum: return to Rome immediately or face criminal charges.
Returning to Zoe’s house to pack her bags, the pair have the mother of all bust-ups, with Zoe labelling Anna a coward who uses people and abandons her friends when the going gets tough, and Anna blaming Zoe for pressuring her to attend the party at which she was raped over a decade ago. With her oldest and dearest friendship in tatters, Anna returns to Kelvingrove Park for one last look at the scene of Foley’s death, only to be accosted by a distraught Guilfoyle, who reveals that Jenny has disappeared.
Guilfoyle now corroborates Anna’s own suspicions that Jenny was raped by the murdered men, but he vehemently denies being responsible. While searching Jenny’s room for evidence of her whereabouts, Anna discovers a picture of her and Gavin as teenagers, and realises they were an item at the time of the rape. Concluding that the killings are the work of a vengeful lover rather than a vengeful father, Anna races to the university to confront him, only to find him gone and Mark lying murdered in his office. She tracks Gavin to the top of the university’s iconic bell-tower, where she finds him standing at the precipice, apparently ready to jump. At that moment, a shape looms behind her. Too late, she realises her mistake: the killer is not Gavin but Victor, holding Gavin hostage at knifepoint.
Meanwhile, Zoe is in bed with Carol Novák – a bartender from Pulse with whom, unbeknownst to everyone, she has been having a relationship – when she receives a text from Victor. Her horror mounts as she reads his confession of the crimes he has committed and what he is about to do…
Back at the bell-tower, Victor forces Gavin to recount what happened ten years ago. Under considerable duress, Gavin reveals that he watched and did nothing while Victor and the three murdered men took turns raping Jenny. Victor, who alone truly grasps the abhorrence of his actions, believes they should all die, himself included. In a last-ditch attempt to prevent further carnage, Anna pleads with him to hand Gavin over to the authorities, but Victor calls her bluff: he knows she doesn’t believe what the courts dispense is justice. He charges at Gavin, but at the last minute is shot by the police, summoned to the scene by Zoe. Victor falls from the tower and tumbles to his death, ending the bloodshed but providing little closure for the survivors.
As the fallout of the events at the university unfolds, Jenny walks into the local police station. Speaking for the first time since she was raped, she announces that she wishes to report a crime.
One year later, Anna again returns to Glasgow – this time to attend a job interview at the university. She visits the Guilfoyles and sees that, while Jenny still doesn’t lack for problems, she at least seems reasonably content with her lot. Afterwards, she heads to Kelvingrove Park, where she encounters Zoe, a shadow of her former vivacious self. Both regretting the terms on which they parted last year, they bury the hatchet and tearfully reconcile. As the evening draws in, Zoe warns Anna that she’ll miss her train. But Anna, having made her peace with the city and her place in it, doesn’t seem to mind.
Summer 2013… Three and a half years on from the events of In the Silence, Zoe, now 31, is having the summer from hell. Glasgow smoulders amid a prolonged heatwave, she’s stuck in a dead-end job with no career prospects to speak of, and her relationship with Carol has become mired in routine. Worse still, a chance encounter with Anna reveals that a date has finally been set for Gavin Price’s trial for his role in the rape of Jenny Guilfoyle, reawakening all manner of conflicting emotions about Victor’s part in both the rape and his subsequent murder of his fellow rapists.
A chance to distract herself from the myriad problems in her own life materialises when she inadvertently stumbles upon the aftermath of the violent assault of her neighbour, Jasmine, a glamorous escort, and succeeds in identifying her attacker as Dominic Ryland, a charismatic up-and-coming politician currently contesting the leadership of the Scottish Conservatives. Zoe persuades a reluctant Jasmine to report the attack to the police, where the detective assigned to the case – strung-out, nicotine-deprived DS Rona Cauley – shows an eagerness to charge Ryland that suggests the two of them have history.
With Ryland released on bail, Zoe attempts to allay the skittish Jasmine’s fears by enrolling them both in self-defence classes. Things take a turn for the worse, however, when heavies acting on Ryland’s behalf strong-arm Jasmine into retracting her allegations. Without her testimony, the case against Ryland is shelved. A despondent Zoe turns to Fin, an enigmatic, outspoken young Irish woman from the self-defence group, for advice. Fin, who has a severely jaded view of the judicial process, opines that men of Ryland’s status will always be protected by the law, and that he can only be brought down if Zoe is willing to take matters into her own hands. They form a pact, agreeing to work together to bring Ryland to justice.
While Fin hits up her shadowy underworld contacts for dirt on Ryland, Zoe digs into his past, assembling a detailed timeline of his meteoric and seemingly unexplained rise from humble origins but failing to find a smoking gun. Having hit a brick wall, she heads out to Ryland’s luxury pad in the neighbouring village of Thorntonhall, where she witnesses Ryland having an altercation with a thuggish visitor whom Fin identifies as Gordon Tannahill, an enforcer for Jim Cottrell, the notorious Glasgow crime-lord who controls half the city.
During this time, Zoe grows increasingly infatuated by Fin and her black-and-white, smash-the-system worldview, which seems infinitely more exciting than her staid domestic existence with Carol. They spend an increasing amount of time together, culminating in them burgling Ryland’s house, where they find a sachet of cocaine stashed in his home office. They make off with his laptop, which turns out to contain all manner of evidence of shady business dealings, as well as a library of violent and degrading pornography, confirming him as a sadist in Zoe’s mind – though the manner in which she came into possession of this information means she has no legal means of bringing him to justice.
The following day, Gavin’s trial begins, and Zoe has no room in her head for anything else. She and Anna secure front-row seats in the public gallery, but she finds the legal process tedious and frustrating, acutely aware of her own powerlessness to affect the outcome. Over the course of the next few days, Zoe avoids thinking about the Ryland investigation – though, unbeknownst to her, Ryland, whose home security system captured CCTV footage of the break-in, is taking steps to track down both her and Fin. The case for the prosecution ultimately collapses when Jenny Guilfoyle breaks down under cross-examination, and the jury retires with Zoe convinced that Gavin is going to walk.
Despondent, Zoe returns home to a livid Carol, who presents her with a paparazzi photo of her and Fin leaving a nightclub together. Accused by Carol of having an affair, Zoe confesses the truth about her investigation into Ryland. These revelations are somehow even worse than Carol’s original suspicions, and she berates Zoe for her recklessness and irresponsibility, before speaking aloud the truth they’ve both known for some time: their relationship isn’t working. She packs her bags and moves out. Later, as Zoe and Fin commiserate, Fin casually offers to have Gavin killed for her.
As the heatwave approaches its apex, Zoe and Anna hurry to court to hear the verdict. Gavin is declared not guilty and a free man with immediate effect. Even as Zoe reels, all her worst fears about the judicial process seemingly confirmed, two men stage a hit on her flat, overpowering Carol – who has returned to pick up some belongings – and making off with her. Zoe now goes into a tailspin. She’s convinced that Ryland, presumably working with Tannahill and/or Cottrell, arranged the kidnapping to get at her, but can’t give the police the full details for fear of incriminating herself in the break-in at his house. Things only get worse when Gavin is knifed to death in the street less than forty-eight hours after his acquittal and Fin disappears from the face of the earth.
Reluctant to involve Anna in her problems, Zoe takes to the streets and wanders them in free-fall, convinced that both Carol’s abduction and Gavin’s murder are her fault. She gets confirmation of the former when a chance encounter with Jasmine reveals that she works for Cottrell as a debt slave, and that she was the one who told him where Zoe lived. Shortly thereafter, Carol is found, alive but badly beaten and left for dead in the boot of an abandoned car. As she recuperates in hospital, she makes it clear that she wants nothing more to do with Zoe for as long as she lives.
Zoe is at her lowest ebb when two separate occurrences provide a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. First, Fin re-materialises, insisting that she had nothing to do with the hit on Gavin – proving that whatever else Zoe might be, at least she’s not a killer. Secondly, upon returning to her flat, she finds an anonymous package waiting for her: a covert recording of a conversation between Cauley and DI Paul Vasilico, a colleague on the Vice Squad, which reveals Ryland as both Cottrell’s illegitimate son and a police informant – forced by Vasilico and his boss, Chief Superintendent Peter Strickland, to inform on his father to them after being caught with contraband in his possession during a drug bust. The conversation, recorded and sent to her by Cauley, is the smoking gun Zoe has been looking for.
Zoe now embarks on a desperate ploy to put an end to all of this once and for all. She exploits Jasmine’s guilt over her role in Carol’s abduction to persuade her to set up a meeting with Cottrell – revealed as an elderly, dying man whose criminal empire is slipping through his fingers. Zoe presents Cottrell with the evidence of Ryland’s treachery in exchange for him agreeing to leave her and the people she cares about alone. Cottrell, almost amused by Zoe’s boldness, agrees to her terms, and also accedes to her plea to release Jasmine from her debt.
Following Zoe’s high-stakes meeting with Cottrell, the heatwave finally breaks. In the days that follow, Ryland is attacked at home by baseball bat-wielding hitmen, with the resulting injuries leaving him confined to a wheelchair and forced to withdraw from the leadership race, but still alive – a last act of mercy from a vengeful father, Zoe suspects. The following week, Fin shows up at Zoe’s door to announce that she’s taking off. She offers Zoe the option of cutting her ties with Glasgow and coming with her, but Zoe can’t bring herself to do it: the city is in her lifeblood, and in any event she now sees that, after drifting for so long without purpose, she must knuckle down and take responsibility for her life.
As autumn approaches, Zoe re-enters the rat race, toiling away in her unfulfilling job, conscious that, thanks to her own reckless actions, she’s had to fight tooth and nail to get herself back to a position of having less than she had to begin with. Cauley, meanwhile, having torpedoed her own career to bring Ryland down, is transferred out to the Styx, while Tony Guilfoyle is revealed as the one who arranged the hit on Gavin, having concluded that it was the only way to get justice for his daughter. The novel ends on a note of foreboding, with Zoe unable to shake the feeling that there’s a whole lot more pain still to come…