The blog will now be devoted not to boat building but to my 82-year-old Vertue, Sally II, now undergoing a well needed refit at Johnson & Loftus in Ullapool (and gliding...)

Monday, 28 November 2011

To Catch a Fly

Well, they say everyone's doing it the days; publishing books on the internet and crossing their fingers it'll go viral.

So here's the first instalment of a murder mystery, set on the banks of the little river that wanders through our patch of the Highlands. Well, it's not ours, exactly, it just runs through our valley. Kind of like a river runs through it.

To Catch a Fly
An Inspector MacDonald Mystery

One in the eye

The hooded crow, perched on a branch over the river, cast another quick hungry eye on the bright morsel hanging just out of reach. A cold wind ruffled its black feathers and sent the birch leaves rustling. The crow darted a glance, and seizing its chance, made a violent stab, only to lose its balance in a flurry of small, frantic wing beats. This was the third time he had mistimed the attack, failing to coincide with the inward swing of the small, moist, round object that had attracted his attention that morning, the elusiveness of which was now maddening him, blinding him to all sense of danger.

His first attempt had succeeded only in setting it swinging, like a marble on a string. Then the wind had dropped, the swinging had subsided and for a minute or so the crow could only watch the morsel floating, as if suspended in the air, so close, just feet away. A gust breathed through the trees, catching the ball, setting it in motion once again. The crow, judging his moment, made another stab as it swung towards him. This second attempt was more successful. The sharp beak made brief contact. The crow now sensed the sweetness, and the smell – a delicious odour of incipient corruption that obliterated all other instincts.

Using aerial skills honed over the years of scavenging the hills, the crow flapped noisily from his perch, and judging his approach to perfection, took the eyeball in his opened beak and with a delicious sense of triumph, swallowed it whole.

At once he knew he had made a terrible mistake. Who knows what goes on in a bird’s brain? Had this been a human the horror would have been instant. As the last shreds of optic nerve slipped down his throat, the euphoria of greed evaporated. The twin barbs of the salmon fly on which the eyeball had been expertly impaled bit and held. The 20lb monofilament to which it had been turle-knotted, held fast. The more the bird flapped and struggled, the deeper the hook bit.

At the beginning, four hours before exhaustion set in, and for a second or so at a time, the crow, like a hooked fish sensing escape, managed a few, panic-stricken strokes of flight. The line would then tighten, bringing him crashing to the ground in a tangle of broken feathers. Twice he managed to fly to the opposite bank and get a perch on the overhanging branch of a big rowan. But always there was the hook firmly lodged in his throat and the insidous, near- invisible line snaking down towards the river. Twice, having reached the branch, and recovered somewhat, he had taken to the air, only to be dragged brutally down by the strength of the monofilament and the weight of the 10 weight double-tapered Hardy floating fly line to which it was attached via a short length of heavy sink tip.

Once, in his increasingly frantic attempts to escape, the crow managed to lift the rod tip itself, which lay some six inches under the fast-flowing water of the quarry pool, beside which the matching Hardy Expert rod itself lay, complete with gold anodised Orvis Excel large arbour reel, an outfit that had probably cost its owner, who lay face down in the shingle beside it, around £2,000.


  1. That's intense, Adrian! I had a hunch about where this was going, but couldn't stop. Now I'll have nightmares.


  2. Hey! Good start. Mix ornithology, angling, a little botany, biology and mysterious death. Also I like the product placement cleverly woven in from the start. That will pay dividends when it comes to the film rights.

    How far have you got with it? I'm trying to do 2000 words a day on my tale of political corruption, murder, etc. I expect to finish in early January.

    So far I've managed to involve mentions for i-phones, i-pads, BMW cars, Gieves and Hawkes tailoring, and a Swan 38, but, unlike you, I failed to get any important brands in on the first page.

    I must consider this failure when I get to the revision stage.

    In all seriousness, well done. I look forward to the finished book.

  3. Forgot to mention I "product placed" the Savoy Hotel, too, but may switch to the Lanesborough depending on how sweet a deal they offer!

  4. managed to sustain the suspense until the last line!