It’s just a normal morning for Anna McDonald. Gym kits, packed lunches, getting everyone up and ready. Until she opens the front door to her best friend, Estelle. Anna turns to see her own husband at the top of the stairs, suitcase in hand. They’re leaving together and they’re taking Anna’s two daughters with them.
Left alone in the big, dark house, Anna can’t think, she can’t take it in. With her safe, predictable world shattered, she distracts herself with a story: a true-crime podcast. There’s a sunken yacht in the Mediterranean, multiple murders and a hint of power and corruption. Then Anna realises she knew one of the victims in another life. She is convinced she knows what happened. Her past, so carefully hidden until now, will no longer stay silent.
This is a murder she can’t ignore, and she throws herself into investigating the case. But little does she know, her past and present lives are about to collide, sending everything she has worked so hard to achieve into freefall.
Conviction is the compelling and unique new thriller from multiple award-winner and author of THE LONG DROP, Denise Mina.
– Extract –
The day my life exploded started well.
It was early morning in November and I woke up without the use of an alarm clock. I was pleased about that. It was a concession to our couples counselling: I wouldn’t wake Hamish at six with my alarm clock and he wouldn’t play Candy Crush on his phone all evening while ignoring the children.
I was looking forward to my day. I had a new true-crime podcast series waiting on my phone and I’d heard good things about it. I planned to listen to the rst episode, get a taste for the story before I woke the kids for school, and then binge on it while I trawled through a day of menial tasks. A good podcast can add a glorious multi-world texture to anything. I’ve resisted an Assyrian invasion while picking up dry-cleaning. I’ve seen justice served on a vicious murderer while buying underpants.
I lay in bed savouring the anticipation, watching light from the street ripple across the ceiling, listening as the heating kicked on and the grand old dame of a house groaned and cracked her bones. I got up, pulled on a jumper and slippers, and crept out of the bedroom.
I loved getting up before everyone else, when the house was still and I could read or listen to a podcast alone in a frozen world. I knew where everyone was. I knew they were safe. I could relax.
Hamish resented it. He said it was creepy. Why did I need this time alone, sneaking around the house? Why did I need to be alone so much?
Trust issues, the couples counsellor called it.
I tried to reassure Hamish, I’m not planning to kill you or any- thing. But that was not reassuring, apparently. In fact,Anna, it might sound rather hostile to Hamish, if you think about it from his point of view. Really? (I said it in a hostile way.) Doesthat sound hostile? Then we talked about that for a while. It was a stupid process.We were both hostile and sad. Our rela- tionship was in its death throes.
I tiptoed across the landing, skirting the squeakiest oor- boards and looked in on both of the girls. They were fast asleep in their wee beds, school uniforms laid out on chairs, socks in shoes, ties under collars. I wish I had lingered longer. I would never see them so innocent again.
I went back out to the landing. The oak banister curled softly from the top of the house to bottom, carved to fit the cup of a hand, grainy to the touch, following the wind of the stairs like a great long snake of yellow mar- zipan. It led down to a grand hallway with marble pillars flanking the front door and a floor mosaic of Hamish’s ancestral coat of arms.The house was bought by Hamish’s great-grandfather in 1869. He bought it new from Greek Thompson.
Hamish was very proud of his background. He knew nothingat all about mine. I must emphasise that. I’m not just saying that to protect him, now that everything has come out. He was a senior member of the Bar, hoping to be appointed to the bench like his forebears. He wouldn’t have risked that just to be with me.
When we met I was Anna, the new of ce temp from Somewhere-Outside-of-Aberdeen. I chose Hamish quite carefully. I did love him, I must say that, and I still do, some- times. But I deliberately picked an older man with money and status. A declamatory man, full of facts and opinions. He was the perfect hide.
Hamish was born in that house and had never lived any- where else. His family had been on or near the Scottish judiciary for two hundred years. He didn’t much like foreign travel. He read only Scottish writers. That seemed so weird to me. I think I found it a little exotic.
It was cold in the hall that morning. I walked through into the white-gleaming, German-designed kitchen and made a pot of strong coffee. I picked up my phone. The true-crime podcast series was called Death and the Dana. The description read ‘A sunken yacht, a murdered family on board, a secret still unsolved . . .’
Oh yes: ponderous tone, secrets, murders, it had every- thing. And the case had happened while my girls were small, a time of little jumpers and waiting outside school, standing silently with the timeless phalanx of mothers, ab- sent from the wider world. I didn’t know anything about this murder case.
I poured a big mug of coffee, sat down, put my phone on the kitchen table in front of me and pressed play. I expected an absorbing, high-stakes story.
I had no idea I was about to meet Leon Parker again.
Episode 1: Death and the Dana
I’m Trina Keany, a producer here on the MisoNetwork.
Welcome to this podcast series: Death and the Dana.According to French police this strange and troubling case is closed.They solved it.Amila Fabricase was convicted of the
murder of three members of the same family on their yacht. But Amila Fabricase could not have done it: the murders could only have been committed by someone on board and multiple witnesses, CCTV and passport checks place Amila on an airplane, ying to Lyon, at the time.
On the night in question a wealthy family – a father and his two children – were having dinner on board their docked private yacht, the Dana. The crew had been sent ashore at the father’s insistence and the family were alone.
While Amila was in the air the boat motored out of port in the dark. No sails were set. Radio and navigation lights were off. Still, the Dana navigated the tricky sandbanks of the Perthuis Breton strait, changed course by thirty-two degrees and headed out into the Atlantic. Several miles out to sea an explosion in the hull sank the ship.All three people on board died.
So what could have happened? Why were the authorities so determined to believe something that was provably not true? And why has there never been an appeal against the conviction?
Even before it sank, the Dana had a reputation for being haunted. Superstitious commentators immediately seized upon the sinking as proof that the boat was haunted. A month later, a bizarre underwater lm of the wreck seemed to con rm tales of vengeful ghosts on board.
Trina Keany’s south London accent was soft, her timbre low, intonation melodic. I put my feet up on the chair next to me and sipped delicious coffee.
But let’s go back to the beginning and set the scene.
The Île de Ré is a chichi holiday resort off the west coast of France. It has a quirky history. It’s a long, at island, basically a sandbank between La Rochelle and the Bay of Biscay. For most of its history the island was cut off from the mainland and very poor.The economy depended on salt harvesting and criminal transportations. It was from the island’s capital, Saint- Martin, that French prisoners left for the penal colonies of New Caledonia and Guiana. Dreyfus left for Devil’s Island from Saint-Martin. The author of Papillon, Henri Charrière, left on a prison ship in 1931.
Because it was poor and isolated the island remained undeveloped. It kept its ancient cobbled streets, pretty sun-bleached cottages with terracotta roofs, doors and shutters painted pastel green or blue.
all pink hollyhocks burst from pavements in summer and it has become a UNESCO World Heritage site. But the population is very wealthy now and that’s because of the bridge.
In the late 1980s, at great expense, a long road bridge was built linking it with La Rochelle. French holidaymakers slowly began to discover the unspoiled island. It became a low-key holiday resort, understated, modest in scale. The climate is pleasant, as sunny as the south of France but cooler because of a breeze coming off the Atlantic.The island is at. There are cycle lanes everywhere.
Over the next couple of decades, more and more people wanted a simple life in the bucolic setting. Movie stars, musicians, ex- presidents and captains of industry moved there. Competition for houses became intense. Even modest houses became expen- sive, then unaffordable. Poor shermen’s cottages stand empty, used occasionally by high-end holidaymakers who sail into the marina in the centre of town. Shops no longer sell horsemeat or hardware, they sell Gucci and Chanel. It has an air of wealth.
Locals have resisted. Holiday homes have been burned to the ground. Incomers have reported harassment and prejudi- cial treatment.A family from New Zealand claimed they were chased off the island. But mostly it is peaceful.
As the Dana docked in Saint-Martin that day there were a lot of hobby sailors who recognised and admired her. She was a beautiful ship.
The Dana was not the kind of private yacht we tend to think of now: there were no plasma screens or helipads, no four storeys of white couches and minibars. She was a sailing ship, a schooner. Schooners are louche. In times gone by, pirates and
privateers loved schooners for their speed.They have high sails and a curved bow that sits low in the water like a slick-hipped cowboy’s gun belt.
So the Dana was beautiful and she was famous. Once dubbed ‘the most haunted yacht a oat’, a movie had been made about her in the 1970s in the tradition of The Amityville Horror. Like that lm and other horror movies of that period, The Haunting of the Dana looks creaky to us now, but it was very successful at the time, as was the book that inspired it.The ship’s notoriety followed it, creating a urry of interest wherever she docked.
That afternoon, she docked in Saint-Martin, was tied up, bow and stern, and a gangplank was lowered.
A mismatched young couple were seen approaching the ship. The girl was slim, tanned, blonde and looked very Italian. She wore a sleeveless, ankle-length Missoni dress and sandals. Her companion was a gangly teen boy dressed in baggy shorts, skater shoes and an oversized T-shirt. One eyewitness actually thought the boy was a lucky horror fan who had stumbled unexpectedly on the Dana because his T-shirt had an image from the cult horror movie Drag Me to Hell. The witness remembered thinking that the boy must be very pleased to see the famous ship. He was surprised when a man with the same hair and face, obviously the boy’s father, waved to the boy from the yacht. He wondered if the father had bought the yacht for the boy’s entertainment or if the boy wore the T-shirt for his father’s. It stuck in his mind…
Thanks to the publisher for gifting me a copy in exchange for an honest review and for including me in the blog tour!
– Giveaway –
Win one copy of CONVICTION by Denise Mina. Enter here. Open to UK residents only! Ends on February 28th, 2020