“It’s oor ain toon,
It’s the best toon
That ever there be:
Here’s tae Melrose,
gem o’ Scotland,
The toon o’ the free”
Melrose is a town in Scotland that Strike visits while investigating suspect Donald Laing. Laing is from the town originally, and Strike is hoping to have a word with his mother or others who might know Laing’s current whereabouts.
Strike arrives in Melrose at the end of chapter 17 as he drives past a viaduct to his right, and shortly after, passes between two small castles with the words ‘Melrose’ inscribed vertically.
Strike parks in the abbey car park and orders himself a bacon roll and a strong tea from a nearby coffee shop and sits outside.
The abbey is described as having “dark red arches rising against a pale blue sky”.
In chapter 16, the first thing mentioned about the town is a tea towel that is hanging “behind the glass door of a shop on the high street.”
It catches Strike’s eye because the roses on the towel resemble the tattoo that Laing has on his forearm.
When Strike first enters Melrose, he is on the hunt for the Wynd, Laing’s home address from years ago. He misses its entrance at first, and ends up walking “up the sloping high street to the central square, where a unicorn-topped pillar stood in a basin of flowers.”
Then he backtracks, looking again for the Wynd.
He “found a narrow entrance in the walls to his right, only large enough for a pedestrian, which led to a dim inner courtyard.” A “dingy passageway.”
“Laing’s old family home had a bright blue front door and was reached by a short flight of steps.”
(Well, it’s not “bright blue,” but you get the idea.)
He is told by the current occupant of the address on the Wynd that Mrs Laing is now living up Dingleton Road, which Strike decides to walk, regretting it later due to his painful knee.
He walks up the street, which “sloped under a bridge”, for ten minutes, before reaching a row of white bungalows and meeting a dog walker who directs him to Mrs Laing’s house, “the one with the wishing well”. (We couldn’t find a bungalow with a wishing well, but here are some white bungalows in the area, anyway.)
As he soon finds out, Mrs Laing isn’t quite sane; she is “doolally”. The dog walker, delighted to help, calls Mrs Bunyan from the next town to arrange a meeting between her and Strike at the Ship Inn later on.
Before his meeting in the Ship Inn, Strike kills time by walking around the town. He notices a rugby pitch where the Sevens play, the team Laing was kicked out of.
The Ship Inn is described as having white walls and displaying the yellow that Melrose seems to be so fond of. Strike finds it amusing that a pub in a geographically landlocked location is called the “Ship” Inn.
In the Ship Inn, Strike speaks at length with Margaret Bunyan, the former mother-in-law of Laing. Strike has a half pint of John Smith’s and a lunch of haddock and chips.
After leaving Mrs Bunyan, Strike walks down the road to the Millers of Melrose, a family-run butchers shop where he orders two venison pies for his train journey back home from Edinburgh.
Fun fact: J.K. Rowling visited Melrose after attending a book festival nearby, shortly after the release of The Silkworm in 2014. When she went into the Millers of Melrose, she ordered a selection of things, including the venison pies that Strike has in Career of Evil.
Find Melrose on the map here:Go back