#BookExtract: A SUDDEN DEATH IN CYPRUS by Michael Grant

sudden death in cyprus

David Mitre is leading an uneventful life in Cyprus until he’s witness to a brutal murder. When the authorities start investigating, they find a common link between the victim and David . . . they’re both fugitives. Fighting his instincts to flee, David is embroiled in helping the FBI solve the case in the hope of getting them off his back permanently.

 

 

 

David Mitre is a fugitive facing an impossible decision in this fascinating new thriller. There are many thousands of fugitives out there. Two are about to turn up in the same place. One is going to die… Read a short extract below.

At any given moment there are about two hundred thousand fugitives from American justice and about forty thousand fugitives from Her Majesty’s justice, running free in the world. Two of those fugitives, one from each nation, were within fifty yards of each other on the beach a bit north of Paphos, on the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus.

One was about to die. The other was not.

I was the ‘not.’

A SUDDEN DEATH IN CYPRUS is available now in the UK and from 1 February in the US. Read more here.

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Behind the Book: SWEET TASTE OF REVENGE by Mary Ellis

9780727888341Having had her memories rekindled during therapy, Kate is on a quest to clear her brother’s name for his part in a homicide sixteen years ago. Meanwhile. after a despised socialite is found dead aboard her luxury yacht, her daughter hires Kate to investigate. Will history come back to haunt both cases, or can Kate get to the bottom of them?

 

 

Sweet Taste of Revenge is the second gripping Marked for Retribution mystery featuring private investigator Kate Weller. Mary Ellis explains that Kate must return to where she grew up in northwest Florida to confront her troubled past…

I started my PI’s illustrious career in Savannah, then moved Kate Weller to Charleston to work her first real case in Hiding in Plain Sight. For Sweet Taste of Revenge, I decided it was time Kate faced the skeletons in her closet. Bringing my central character back to Pensacola to find the killer of a dead heiress forces her to deal with a mysterious enemy. Someone has been keeping tabs on her since the day her brother went to jail for murder. I loved setting this book in the Florida Panhandle, an area rich in contrasts: old and new; land and water, rich and poor. Kate moves between the luxurious beachfront home of her client, to the maximum security prison, home of her brother and thousands of dangerous inmates, to the pristine National Seashore, home to thousands of protected birds, back to the hardscrabble farm on a dusty country road where she’d been raised. My settings in Sweet Taste of Revenge become a study of contrasts in the Florida Panhandle. Being an adopted child myself, I loved taking Kate Weller on this journey as she discovers what the term ‘family’ truly means.

SWEET TASTE OF REVENGE is available now in the UK and from 1 February in the US. Read more here.

Behind the Book: THE SHAKER MURDERS by Eleanor Kuhns

9780727888372

Shortly after Will Rees and his family arrive at a peaceful Shaker community, a series of unfortunate accidents occur killing several people. The community want to believe nothing sinister is happening, but Rees thinks otherwise. When he begins having nightmares about his family’s safety and a girl disappears, he must rush to find answers.

 

 

In the latest book in Eleanor Kuhns’s Will Rees mystery series, a peaceful Shaker community is rocked by a series of bizarre accidents. But who are the Shakers? Eleanor explains their history and why she chose to write about them . . .

Although considered the first American religion, the Shakers had their birth in Great Britain. Mother Ann Lee was a Quaker but found the faith too plain for her. The small band of Shakers (so-called from Shaking Quakers) landed in the new United States in 1775 and established their first colony near Albany, New York.

A visit to Sabbathday Lake in Maine inspired me to write about the Shakers. After we toured the village with the tour guide, I went back to the shop and bought all the books they had.

One of my hobbies is weaving (actually I enjoy all the textile arts) so I made my main character a weaver. Weaving in the 1790s was done by both men and women. This offered Rees the chance to interact with women as well as men. That would have been much more difficult if I’d made him a bricklayer.

While women wove in the home, some of the male weavers were itinerant. Because I did not want Rees to just solve mysteries in a small town in Maine, (I call that the Cabot Cove Curse after Murder she Wrote – Jessica Fletcher lived in a small town with a murder every week) I made him a traveller. This also gives me the opportunity to send him to other locales. For example, in Cradle to Grave, he solves a murder just north of Albany that involves the Shaker community there. In Death in Salem, he visits Salem, Mass that was, at that time, the sixth largest city in the U.S. as well as the wealthiest because of the trade with India and China.

Rees himself is based on my father, anger issues and all. But my father was also a craftsman who could do almost anything with his hands. I wanted to pay tribute to a time when people made things. Every book features at least one job that was important to the times. In Death of a Dyer I describe dyeing, in Cradle to Grave it is barrel making, and in Death in Salem I focus on sail and rope making. In The Shaker Murders I describe several of the items the community made to sell such as clay pipes, whip handles, brooms and more.

THE SHAKER MURDERS is available from 31 October in the UK and from 1 February in the US. Read more here.

Behind the Book: A SUDDEN DEATH IN CYPRUS by Michael Grant

sudden death in cyprus

David Mitre is leading an uneventful life in Cyprus until he’s witness to a brutal murder. When the authorities start investigating, they find a common link between the victim and David . . . they’re both fugitives. Fighting his instincts to flee, David is embroiled in helping the FBI solve the case in the hope of getting them off his back permanently.

 

 

Fight or flight? The stakes couldn’t be higher for David Mitre in this super-charged thriller. Where did the inspiration for his fascinating lead character come from? Michael takes us on a journey back into his own past . . . 

In my twenties I was a burglar, and for two decades more I was a fugitive from justice. The starting point for A SUDDEN DEATH IN CYPRUS and the David Mitre character was a contrafactual fantasy: what might I have become had I remained a criminal? The book and character are fictional, of course, but after 150 books for Young Adults, this is as close as I’ve come to an autobiographical character. Unlike David Mitre, I quit crime and wrapped up my legal problems, but that guy is still very much part of me. A SUDDEN DEATH IN CYPRUS takes on crime fiction from the POV of the criminal, albeit a criminal who has been blackmailed into doing good.

A SUDDEN DEATH IN CYPRUS is available from 31 October in the UK and from 1 February in the US. Read more here.

Behind the Book: A FAR HORIZON by Brenda Rickman Vantrease

9780727888402_FCSummer, 1643. King Charles I and Parliament continue to wage a gory war where no one is safe. Caroline Pendleton, a young widow, must fend for herself in London, while Lucy Hay, the beautiful Countess of Carlisle, juggles her conflicting allegiances, and Queen Henrietta faces exile to France again . . . but will her pregnancy scupper her escape?

 

 

As the English Civil War reaches its bloody climax, three women must fight for survival in the captivating conclusion of the Broken Kingdom series. Brenda Rickman Vantrease explores the connection between war and religion, and how it relates to her writing . . .

Ever since Cain killed Abel, the world has been at war over religion and its rites. Even people of faith who claim to worship the same God make war against each other. More human bonfires have been lit, more blood spilled, more bodies broken under torture, more massacres and atrocities committed in the name of religion than for any other cause. As a woman of faith this observation disturbs me. As a student of history, it intrigues me. As a human being it alarms me.

Do away with religion, the secularist will say. Religion is the cause. Really? Perhaps. Religion is a man-made practice, a system, sometimes connected to faith. Sometimes not. Often, religion cloaks itself in the trappings of perceived faith, a noble disguise to facilitate a means to an ignoble end. A closer look at centuries of conflict (and the principle actors) reveals more about human greed and lust for power than simple faith. Consider the European wars of the Reformation. Examine the struggle between the medieval Roman Church and the translators of the Christian Scriptures into the vernacular of the people. Why was so much blood spilled, is still being spilled among people of ‘peaceful’ faiths? Unwind the strand of that question and it follows a crooked path straight to human lust for wealth and power. Why did Roman Church authorities oppose the translation of the Scriptures enough to burn the martyrs like Jan Hus, William Tyndale and John Frith and even those who dared to own or read a Bible? This is the history that informs my first three books. Set between 1379 with the first stirrings of reform through the reformation, the characters in my novels endure and sometimes even overcome this religious strife. This is also the history that I explore in the two-volume series of Broken Kingdom, which is set in the seventeenth century during another religious war and the bloodiest ever fought on British soil, The English Civil War.

A FAR HORIZON is out 31 October in the UK and 1 February in the US. Find out more here.

Editor’s Pick November 2018 UK/March 2019 US: COOKIN’ THE BOOKS by Amy Patricia Meade

 

November’s Editor’s Pick is the deliciously dark COOKIN’ THE BOOKS by Amy Patricia Meade.
Cookin' the Books

 

Hungry for a fabulous new mystery? Get ready to devour this tantalising new culinary cozy and first in a brand-new series from Amy Patricia Meade, an exciting new author for Severn House.

Letitia ‘Tish’ Tarragon has just moved to Hobson Glen and opened a new restaurant and catering business, Cookin’ the Books Cafe. So when her new landlord, Schulyer Thompson, recommends her to Binnie Broderick, the executive director of the local library, Tish is delighted. Binnie needs a last-minute caterer to create a literary inspired three-course dinner for the library’s annual fundraiser, one of the highlights of Hobson Glen’s social season. But there’s a problem: Binnie Broderick is a notoriously difficult woman to please. And when she chokes to death from arsenic poisoning after dousing her main course in hot sauce, Tish suddenly finds herself fighting to save her business – and her reputation. It seems that very few of Hobson Glen’s residents escaped Binnie’s disapproval. But who would want her dead, and why?

This warm and witty mystery is a delectable treat, perfect for gobbling up in one sitting! Tish Tarragon is an extremely likeable, flawed and intriguing heroine that I instantly warmed to. Putting her failed marriage behind her, she is determined to get back on her own two feet and start again, and what better way to do so than by combining her love of food and books? But there are numerous hurdles to overcome, and when the villainous Binnie is poisoned and Tish has to fight to clear her name, I found myself rooting for her more than ever. Now, when your back is firmly against the wall, having a dishy landlord is not always a bad thing, and the romantic tension between Tish and Schulyer Thompson adds an enjoyable dynamic to the story. Throw in a cast of characters who all have credible motives, as Tish uncovers scandalous secrets, betrayal, lies, tragedy and old grudges, add a splash of cuteness courtesy of Langhorne, an adorable pet parrot (oops, sorry, I meant conure!), and you have all the ingredients for a page-turning and thoroughly entertaining read. With shocking revelations coming thick and fast, and a keep-’em-guessing plot that kept me hooked until the dramatic denouement, I was left craving another helping, and with the second in the series coming next year, I’m glad there isn’t long to wait before I am reacquainted with Tish – and Langhorne!

COOKIN’ THE BOOKS is available from 30 November in the UK and 1 March in the US. Read more here.

 

 

 

Book Launch: THE HANGING PSALM by Chris Nickson

hanging psalm

Leeds, 1820. Simon Westow, a Leeds thief-taker, knows all about lost property. But when he is asked to find the kidnapped daughter of a successful Leeds businessman, Simon and his assistant, Jane, face a challenge like no other. Could the answers lie within the streets of Leeds and a figure from Simon’s own past?

 

 

 

The book launch for THE HANGING PSALM by Chris Nickson took place in Leeds last week, and it went rather well! From shocking truths and a noose (eek!), to the sheer bliss of signing your own book, Chris looks back on a memorable evening at Waterstones Leeds.

 

 

A book launch is one of those events that authors tend to love and dread in equal measure. Finally the book is out there after so long writing it, revising, going through edits and proofs. You have your copies. It’s real, it’s tangible, and finally you have the chance to tell people about it. That’s the good side. Then there’s the fear that no one will show up, or that they’ll have it, or that no one will buy a copy . . . the stuff that fills nightmares.

I enjoy launches; all public appearances, in fact. It gives me a chance to be storyteller, actor, even a bit of a stand-up, to interact with people. The launch for THE HANGING PSALM was no different. I’d made notes, thought through my material in advance. Simon Westow, the book’s main character, is a thief-taker in 1820 Leeds. Talk a little about what a thief-taker did, about the policing then, or lack of it. About Simon’s background – the opening of the book summed that up, horrifying testimony to a commission about child labour. Enough to silence an audience, to shock them. Even more so when I explained I’m simply paraphrased real testimony for slightly after the period. Tell them about Jane, his teenage assistant, the circumstances that led her to become a street child at the age of eight.

I had them, I could feel it. And that in spite of the refurbishment of Waterstones Leeds going on all around us (trust me, creating an atmosphere with a circular saw buzzing on and off in the background isn’t easy). I had them and I held them, talking about the dangers of the night, the thieves and the whores, the pitch black streets and the constant stink of industry.

Get me started on Leeds, on injustice, on our history, and I can speak with the fervour of a preacher. It’s my passion, my subject. More than anything, it’s a case of knowing when to stop . . .

And to finish, because you always need a big finish, I read the proper hanging psalm (Psalm 51) while tying a noose. They were surprised. They may even have been impressed. I was simply relieved that I didn’t make a mess of it, as I hadn’t tied one in weeks. No, best not to ask more about that. So far the police haven’t come knocking at the door.

Some questions, maybe even a few answers. And prepare them before going out to Light Night in Leeds, a warning of what can lurk in the darkness, the quiet screams, the knife at the throat . . . in 1820.

Then they wanted to buy books. My new book. It’s a feeling like no other, signing your name with a Sharpie on the title page and thanking some because, dammit, they want to buy your book. It’s pure, blissful magic.

The deflation comes later, once the adrenaline wears off and you fade from the high. But while it lasts . . . yeah. Oh yeah.

THE HANGING PSALM is available now in the UK and from 1 January in the US. Find out more here.

BEHIND THE AUTHOR: an essay by Gerald Elias

G Elias B&WGerald Elias, internationally acclaimed violinist, composer, conductor, and author, shines a spotlight on the dark corners of the classical music world with his award-winning Daniel Jacobus murder mystery series – find out more about his novels at the end of the post.

A recent essay he wrote called ‘War & Peace. And Music’ has won the Nonfiction Creative Essay first prize on Utah Division of Arts and Museums Original Writers Competition. It is a wonderfully perceptive piece about last year’s Boston Symphony trip to Japan, and the role of music in bringing humanity together. You can read it below!


War and Peace. And Music.

An international concert tour’s main ingredient is, of course, music making. But as I wait at crowded Takadanobaba subway station in central Tokyo, I reflect there’s also a large dollop of goodwill cultural ambassador. And, looking ahead to my evening’s destination, a dash of culinary adventure thrown in.

A cheerily Smurflike tune signals my train’s arrival. Every Tokyo station has its own unique eight-second jingle—it’s a stretch to even call it music. Perhaps the reason for them is so that blind riders—or hung-over businessmen—can tell at which station they’re arriving. Just a theory.

I am on my way to join decades-old Tokyo friends who are treating me to a gourmet kaiseki dinner in the upscale Yoyogi Uehara neighborhood to celebrate the successful conclusion of the Boston Symphony’s smoothly planned and executed autumn 2017 concert tour. Its only hiccup—other than when I drank too much sake—was when the cargo truck from Tokyo carrying our string basses and all of our music arrived in Nagoya four hours late, delaying and abbreviating our first rehearsal. (The audience never knew the difference.)

For the dinner, my friend, Tetsuro, has brought along a buddy of his, a Japanese violinist named Kiichi Watanabe. As the first courses are served, Watanabe tells me in admirable English he had played for a time in the New Japan Philharmonic, on occasion with my old boss, Seiji Ozawa, the longtime music director of the Boston Symphony whose tenure with the orchestra ended in 2002. I mentioned that though I had performed with the Boston Symphony on the just completed tour, I had in fact left my full-time position with the orchestra years ago to become associate concertmaster of the Utah Symphony.

“Joseph Silverstein!” Watanabe says, his eyes lighting up. “He conducted in Utah. Did you know him?” The answer was yes, and in many capacities. Before becoming the music director of the Utah Symphony he had been a renowned concertmaster of the Boston Symphony when I was a full-time member there. Before that, he had been my violin teacher at Yale University.

Thus began a long evening of “who do you know.” It was fortunate the dinner had so many courses because the connections were extensive. Watanabe had studied at Indiana, one of the foremost conservatories in the US, and in the early ‘90s was a student at the Tanglewood Music Center at the same time I was performing with the BSO, and where his chamber music coach was the eminent violinist and pedagogue, Louis Krasner (who, like Joey, had been one of my former teachers). Watanabe had revered both, calling Silverstein “a genius.” Not unusual among musicians, shared experiences had formed deep, enduring bonds that transcended cultural and national boundaries. When Tetsuro asked me whether a few weeks had been enough time for me to practice the music for the concerts, Mr. Watanabe burst out laughing even before I did, replying, “Of course. He’s a professional musician!” The fraternity is universal.

How the broader relationship between Americans and the Japanese has mended in the past seventy years is close to miraculous. A mere two generations ago, members of Tetsuro’s family were killed by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Now, Tetsuro’s seven-year old son calls me Uncle Jerry.

That’s not to say there aren’t reminders of the former divide. Arriving in Nagoya after a seemingly endless flight over the Pacific, I regained the use of my legs on the orchestra’s free day, exploring Nagoya’s modern, attractive downtown, rebuilt upon war-charred ruins. My destination was Nagoya Castle, the city’s prominent historic landmark, where today children romp in the surrounding gardens, and tourists like me lick green tea ice cream cones and take too many snapshots.

Adjacent to the fortress is the ancient palace, which was totally destroyed in the war. Currently in the final stages of painstaking reconstruction, using the same materials and exact design as the original, every detail down to the color of the tiger’s eyes in the silk screen murals has been lovingly recreated. It’s a spectacular achievement, a tribute to the stunning artistry and architecture of old Japan and the patient dedication of new Japan to throw substantial financial and artistic resources into reproducing it. The imposing castle fortress, with its massive stone works, is a reconstruction too, but was rebuilt back in 1959 with modern concrete and steel simply to provide the appearance of the original exterior. The inside, of modern design and functioning as an exhibit space, contains a gut-wrenching photo display of the wartime strafing of the city and castle.

Though the destruction of all that exquisite beauty was tragic and perhaps unnecessary, what must also be considered is the castle’s original politico-military purpose: to effectively unleash its own dogs of war when deemed necessary, inflicting untold casualties and death upon the enemies of the military rulers of the day. Indomitable for centuries, Nagoya castle finally succumbed in 1945, as all castles—real or metaphorical—inevitably do. Poetic justice? Perhaps not, but in one form or another, Nagoya Castle bears witness to the seemingly endless human cycle of brutality and reconciliation.

After spending four comfortable days in Nagoya—performing once there, followed by a run-out back and forth to Osaka, then by a concert in Kawasaki en route to Tokyo—the positive swing of history’s cycle could not have been more powerfully demonstrated than at the Boston Symphony’s concert in the embracing acoustics of Tokyo’s Suntory Hall on November 7. The featured work on the program was the Shostakovich Symphony No. 11, entitled “The Year 1905.”

Like many of Shostakovich’s symphonies, the eleventh is a musically graphic depiction of historic Russian events, in this case the Revolution of 1905. More specifically, it portrays the tragedy that triggered it: the massacre of innocent, peaceful petitioners—men, women, and children—mercilessly shot to death by the Tsar’s military forces on January 22, 1905 in front of the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg. Depending on which source one believes, anywhere from ninety-six to four-thousand people were killed. In the symphony we hear prayers, we hear armies marching, we hear the shooting, we hear the death and mourning. Finally, we hear the overpowering warning bell, called the tocsin. Shostakovich intended it as a warning not only in the historical context of the piece; it also tolls for the audience itself to beware! Beware of liberty deprived. Beware of the forces of despotism and militarism.

In the audience of the Tokyo performance on November 7 were two special guests: Crown Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako, a couple beloved by the Japanese and respected around the world. As we played the Shostakovich, I couldn’t help but wonder what might be going through their minds, and from time to time I looked up at them—they were sitting in the first balcony in a direct line cross-stage from me—to see if I could read their faces. I was curious because here was the son of the emperor of Japan, the royal equivalent of the Tsar of Russia, whose grandfather, Emperor Hirohito, approved the order to attack the United States at Pearl Harbor. Yes, music is to be enjoyed, just like the art at Nagoya Castle. But for Shostakovich there was much more at stake. Music was his power: the power to inform and, in the process, to teach, to foment, and to heal. (Being true to royal form, the Prince and Princess betrayed no other sentiment than to appear to greatly enjoy the performance.)

What a mysterious phenomenon music is! A select group of people spend their lifetimes learning to blow air through tubes, scrape with horsehair on strings pulled taut over a wooden box, and bang on stretched skins with sticks, all to create uniquely complex sets of vibrations, the instructions for which appear as black dots on paper, many of them centuries old. This group of blowers, scrapers, and bangers then travels around the world where thousands of people with a different culture and history, who have worked many hours in order earn enough money to pay for the opportunity to gather en masse in a big room, absorb those vibrations into their bodies. When it’s over, the listeners slap their hands together and go home. Somehow, miraculously, even when the vibrations are about strife, the strife is gone.

Maybe that’s why it will be music that saves humanity from the wanton cruelty we seem determined to inflict upon each other. Maybe that’s why the goodwill component of tours such as the Boston Symphony’s to Japan is more critical than we ever imagined. As I say good-bye to my friends after our big dinner on the town, I recall a written sign at Takadanobaba station as the train arrived and I heard that innocuous little jingle. At first I merely took the sign’s meaning at face value. Now, upon reflection, it carries the same portentous weight of Shostakovich’s tocsin. The sign read, “Doors close soon after the melody ends.”


Want to read more by Gerald Elias?

His most recent novel, Spring Break, is available now from Severn House.

spring break

Reclusive, blind violin pedagogue Daniel Jacobus is about to become enmeshed in a culture of sexual harassment and its cover-up at the highest levels. When a faculty member dies of natural causes, only the curious behaviour of a violin student at Jacobus’s master class is an indication to him that something may be terribly amiss.

Find out more about this title here.

#BookExtract: A SUDDEN DEATH IN CYPRUS by Michael Grant

sudden death in cyprusDavid Mitre is leading an uneventful life in Cyprus until he’s witness to a brutal murder. When the authorities start investigating, they find a common link between the victim and David . . . they’re both fugitives. Fighting his instincts to flee, David is embroiled in helping the FBI solve the case in the hope of getting them off his back permanently.

 

 

 

Fight or flight? Fugitive David Mitre faces an impossible decision when he becomes involved in a deadly conspiracy on the stunning island of Cyprus. Featuring a fascinating lead character and a clever plot, this fast-paced thriller by Michael Grant, a new author for Severn House, kept us on the edge of our seats. Take a sneak peek at the first chapter below . . .

At any given moment there are about two hundred thousand fugitives from American justice and about forty thousand fugitives from Her Majesty’s justice, running free in the world. Two of those fugitives, one from each nation, were within fifty yards of each other on the beach a bit north of Paphos, on the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus.
One was about to die. The other was not.

I was the ‘not.’

 

I wasn’t strictly on the beach, rather I was on a stool beside the tiki bar drinking Keo, the execrable local beer, and wondering if the immediate vicinity was sufficiently sparsely-populated that I could light a cigar without causing a riot. Cypriots probably wouldn’t care, but this was not a Cypriot beach, it was a tourist and expat beach. The Paphos region at the extreme western edge of Cyprus is home to thousands of expats, mostly Brits, but with Russians, Germans, Israelis, Lebanese, various Balkan types, Scandinavians and the occasional American thrown in for good measure.

The British fugitive, the one who was about to be subtracted, was a woman, perhaps forty-five, with forgettable brown hair and shoulders that glowed faintly pink, suggesting a failure of sunblock. She lay on a blue-and-white-striped canvas chaise longue, facing the sea, her back to me. Her chaise was tilted at just the right angle to aim her cleavage in my general direction, though I doubt it was intentional, but as I had already seen a fair bit of the Mediterranean, and all of the beach, and there was nothing more compelling presenting itself, I spent some time contemplating those sunburned swells.

She was not on sand – there are precious few sand beaches on Cyprus, and the Turks have the best of them – but on the grass just before the sea wall which left her two or three feet above the narrow, pebbly strand below. Her chaise was in a row of identical chairs and she was reading a book on actual paper. A bottle of local white wine – rather better than the beer – rested in a bucket at her elbow. Like approximately all women over the age of bikini, she wore a broad straw hat and whenever she looked up, the back of her hat came down and blocked my view. When she looked back down at the book, I saw plump pink breasts and a blue one-piece bathing suit and legs that probably looked better without perspective turning them into tapers ending in tiny sandals.

‘Peek-a-boob,’ I said to Theodoros, the barman, as the hat brim lifted again.

Theodoros – twenty-something, dark bed head, dark bedroom eyes, with competent but accented English and a degree in chemistry – stopped polishing a glass and stared at me.

I grinned at him. ‘See, it’s peek-a-boob because—’

‘I understand, Mr Mitre. I’m just not going to encourage you with a phony laugh.’

I couldn’t see the book the woman was reading, but my few needy glimpses of the cover assured me that it was not one of mine. I write. Now. Didn’t always write, but now I write and have produced five reasonably well-received, and moderately successful – or perhaps not entirely unsuccessful – mystery novels, all set in the city of New Midlands, a fictional locale located almost exactly where you’d find Chicago. New Midlands: Chicago, but with far more rich and attractive people committing far more complex and fascinating crimes than actual criminals have the energy, imagination or resources to pull off.

‘I’ve heard you phony-laugh for customers before, Theo,’ I said.

‘My contempt for that particular . . . jape . . . is evidence of my underlying respect for you, Mr Mitre.’

I liked Theodoros because he spoke English well enough to get a joke. Everyone on Cyprus speaks English, or thinks they do, but Greek to English is a big leap and few manage it. There aren’t many bartenders who can drop jape into conversation.

‘Well, grab me another beer, Theo, and I’ll come up with a more sophisticated witticism.’

My name is David Mitre, at present. I’ve gone through a few names, including the insufferable ‘Carter Cannon,’ which was ridiculous, like a superhero’s alliterative secret identity. I’ve also been Martin, Alex, Frank, Thomas, Michael and now, David. The David Mitre Wikipedia page uses the word ‘reclusive’ three times. There’s an author headshot but it doesn’t take much Google-fu to discover that it’s a stock photo. The model looks a bit like me, but not really. For one thing, Mr Stock Photo grows a much more convincing beard than I could ever manage; I stay clean-shaven. Mr Stock Photo also doesn’t quite capture the subtle fight-or-flight paranoia that radiates from me.

Here is why I kept focusing on the woman with the cleavage: because of the way she was looking around. People generally do look around a bit when they’re on a pleasant green verge beside sparkling water, but there are different ways of doing it. A person waiting on someone will look and then check their watch or phone. A person enjoying scenery will let their gaze wander, left, right, up, right again, maybe whip out that phone for a picture. But she wasn’t looking for a waiter – she had barely touched her wine. And she wasn’t looking for a toilet, she’d gone ten minutes earlier.

Ms Cleavage – probably not her real name – was looking around in a more methodical way. She would read her book for almost exactly two minutes, then scan left to right. All the way left, all the way right.

If I were a character in my own fiction, I might claim to have pulled a Sherlock and immediately deduced that she was one of the fugitive tribe in which I hold membership. But that would be stretching a point. I was looking at her because something about the way she scanned the world around her bothered me, and I have no better explanation than that. Just something off.

I didn’t really sense anything unusual was about to happen until I caught sight of the waiter, entering stage left.

Want to read more? Watch out for the second gripping instalment, coming soon!

A SUDDEN DEATH IN CYPRUS is our Oct 2018 UK/Feb 2019 US Editor’s Pick.

Find out more about this title here.

The Dickens connection: THE HANGING PSALM by Chris Nickson

hanging psalmLeeds, 1820. Simon Westow, a Leeds thief-taker, knows all about lost property. But when he is asked to find the kidnapped daughter of a successful Leeds businessman, Simon and his assistant, Jane, face a challenge like no other. Could the answers lie within the streets of Leeds and a figure from Simon’s own past?

 

 

 

This intriguing first in a new historical mystery series introduces us to thief-taker Simon Westow and his fascinating, deeply complex assistant, Jane. It also shows the Leeds of 1820 in all its dark industrial glory. Chris Nickson explains the parallels between his home city in 1820 and Dickens’ descriptions of London.

There are two Dickens references in the book. There’s a character named the Vulture who has some similarities to Fagin. There are also scenes in an old blacking factory. Mind you, Dickens worked in a blacking factory. Why? Because the Leeds of this book is as dark as the London of the poor that Dickens described. Worse, in some ways, because Leeds also had the factories, slowly taking over everything, yet not in complete control of industry yet. Dark, satanic mills indeed – and a similar time to Blake’s ‘Jerusalem.’

Leeds was dirty. Most places had no running water, and there was still nothing in the way of sewage; that would come a couple of decades later. One tiny area had gas street lighting, the rest was dark as pitch at night. It was two towns, industry during the day, crime and desperation at night.

THE HANGING PSALM is out now in the UK and is available from 1 January in the US. Read more here.