Donald Laing, one of Strike’s three suspects, was a private in the King’s Own Royal Borderers who SIB investigator Strike helped convict for torturing his wife, Rhona, in Cyprus. Although Laing’s conviction was a sixteen-year sentence, he was released from prison after serving only ten.
Strike describes Laing as “a clever, devious animal; a sociopath — the real deal.” The Scotsman, who is from the town of Melrose, gets away with a lot of his malevolent behavior because he is able to turn on the charm and manipulate others. He first tangles with Strike in the boxing ring in the Army, a match in which Laing attacks Strike in an unsportsmanlike manner.
In his SIB file, Laing is described as having “strong indications of anti-social and borderline personality disorders … likely to present continuing risk of harm to others.” Physically, he is “broad and pale” with hair “the dark red of fox fur” and “the small, dark eyes of a ferret.” He has a yellow rose tattoo on his left forearm.
When Laing is finally located in present day, living in a Wollaston Close flat in Elephant and Castle, he is battling psoriatic arthritis, has a pockmarked face, has gained substantial weight and looks considerably older than his actual age of thirty-four.