New Holland – released by Espresso Books on 25th August

The release date gets ever closer: my mystery novel New Holland will be on sale from Thursday 25th August! As well as Amazon, you’ll be able to buy a copy at Espresso Books. As we’re taking the download-only approach (which has worked so well for music and is becoming an ever more integral part of the book industry), we’ve cut out most of the middle men and women, meaning New Holland will be on sale for just £2 (yes, the big book sellers really do take a massive cut just to have your book on their shelves…)!

In the meantime, here’s a third (and final) extract. The other two extracts can be read by clicking on the link on the right-hand side of this page.

 

Paul checked the office nervously, but she hadn’t heard. He drew his face closer to Jonathan’s. As usual, he smelled of an expensive soap. ‘What are you talking about?’

‘She’s wearing far too much make-up given what’s happened; she says he’s been kidnapped rather than murdered, though there’s been no ransom call; she’s trying to lead me off the trail – do you really think a foreigner would have the balls to kidnap the governor of St. Petersburg?’

‘Depends how much he wants it and who’s helping him.’

‘She made me feel uneasy the moment I saw her; probably wants a crack at the governorship herself. Can you get her out of here?’

Paul moved away slightly, hands clapping in exasperation. ‘Come on Jonathan –
you can do this. I’ll help!’

Jonathan smiled as he looked along the gloomy corridor, wondering whether he should replace the faded wallpaper during the summer. If he could be bothered, he would put a shelf up for his Ladybird book collection.‘You seem very keen on me taking this job on. Who is she, Paul?’

‘Who’s who?’

‘Who’s the woman you’re doing this for? You’re well dressed for a quick visit to me. Surely you’re not…’

Jonathan nodded towards where Olga Andreevna was now looking through the window. She was surveying the grubby courtyard below, head tilted at a disdainful angle.

‘No! Of course not!’ There were a few seconds of silence before Paul spoke again, a sheepish look on his face. ‘But I have been seeing her daughter, Sonya, for a few weeks. It’s going well, but this is a family crisis and she’s really upset. I want to help.’

‘Good for you, but I’m not sure I do, even if I’d be helping St. Petersburg’s number one babnik out.’

‘She’s threatening to move to Italy.’

‘Why?’

‘Because she’s scared of being here! Jon, I feel like she could be the one.’

‘Just like the girl from British Airways, the older woman from Kiev, the lady at the Finnish Consulate…’

‘I only want to give us a chance. You know how it was with you and…’ Paul stopped short of mentioning Olesya, perhaps remembering what had happened last time he’d said her name.

‘That’s not fair. I was in love when I asked you to help me out.’

Paul squeezed his shoulder again, this time more gently. ‘Sorry. But won’t you at least think about this? I want you
to do something with your life – you need to get yourself a proper career. Do you really want to turn forty living in Kolomna?’

‘You sound like a New Russian.’

‘It’s a slum; don’t tell me you like it here.’

‘I do: I don’t have to try too hard. I’m happy collecting evidence on unfaithful husbands for your lady-friends every so often and not worrying about anything else. It keeps me going.’

‘You’ll be doing more than that if you accept this job: she’s offering $100,000.’

Jonathan grasped the doorframe, feeling it jar in his hands. An uncomfortable tingle moved across his neck.

‘How much?’

‘Well, she said $80,000, but I’ll talk her round.’

Jonathan wondered whether Olesya’s husband earned that much in a year. ‘I don’t know – I need to think about it.’

Without waiting for a response he walked back into his office. Paul followed.

‘Olga Andreevna, I’m willing to consider taking this on. But if I were to help you I’d require a slightly higher fee.’

She gave him a patronising look. ‘I knew the money would tempt you. How much extra do you want?’

Paul cut in. ‘$100,000 is Jonathan’s standard fee for dealing with kidnappings, but I can assure you he’ll be well worth it. He will not sleep until your husband is found.’

Olga Andreevna smiled for the first time since she’d got to Jonathan’s flat. ‘Very well – but you need to start working now! Start by speaking to Inspector Bugrov at the 33rd  precinct – he’s in charge of this investigation.’

‘Olga Andreevna, he’ll go there just as soon as you conclude our meeting.’

A red dart of anger shot up Jonathan’s spine, pecking at the back of his neck; the reaction to this used to be rolling a few joints and finding a corner where he could smoke himself to oblivion. Now his world was a little more complicated.

‘Listen, both of you. I haven’t agreed to anything yet – you’ll need to give me some time to think this through.’

Paul’s face went limp. He spoke out of the side of his mouth. ‘But we’ve agreed…’

  1. ‘Paul – this will take over my whole life. I need time.’

Olga Andreevna frowned as she got up. ‘Very well – you have until tomorrow morning. But remember, your home will still look like this then. The tramps will still be drinking samogon outside.’

The pecking exploded and wriggled through his body, and he felt his face grow red.

‘Olga Andreevna: before you go, let me ask a couple more questions. Just now you asked me to go straight to the police, didn’t you?’

The Russian smiled at Paul. ‘That’s what I said.’

‘But when you got here you said they were useless. I don’t understand.’

Paul covered his forehead and looked away. Olga Andreevna scanned the room. Jonathan wondered whether he heard hesitancy in her answer.

‘They’re not useless – just uncultured. They’ve been to the crime scene, so work a little with them. But Bugrov is the only man to trust.’

‘And why foreigners? Surely a better lead would be a Russian –someone with good access to the governor.’

‘Jonathan David, no patriotic Russian would kidnap our governor.

‘But not every Russian is patriotic.’

Her voice got a little higher. ‘At the moment our only leads are the Swedes and Icelanders. They’re staying at the Grand Hotel Europe on Nevsky Prospekt.’

‘Do you have any names?’

‘I’m only the governor’s wife.’

‘So shall I call the hotel and ask to speak to any Swede or Icelander they have staying there?’

‘You’re the investigator – work it out.’

‘And what about the crime scene? I should go there before…’

Olga Andreevna wagged a finger in front of him. Jonathan wondered whether she had a French manicure, though he didn’t really know what one looked like.

‘Bugrov’s team has already been – there’s nothing to see.’

‘Maybe they missed something.’

‘They’re very thorough.’

Jonathan smiled. ‘When they’re not useless. Don’t you want someone else to take a look?’

‘No!’

‘But…’

‘Go there and I won’t hire you!’

Olga Andreevna stormed from the office and slammed the door, not looking at either man. As the flimsy lock trembled Paul
spoke.

‘There’s a little phrase you need to learn: bedside manner.’

‘Paul, this whole thing is dodgy. Look how tense she is. I only asked to go to the crime scene.’

‘She’s upset – even more so now she’s met you. Jon, I know her – she wouldn’t do a thing like that!’

Jonathan looked out of the window. The dishevelled men drinking in the yard gave him an odd comfort. ‘What does she
like doing?’

‘What?’

‘In her free time. I like listening to Nick Drake records and looking out of the window. You like chatting up women at exclusive parties. What does she like?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Then you don’t know her, and that means you can’t be too sure of her. Oh, why didn’t I just say no? If it wasn’t for you I’d be back in bed by now!’

Sitting behind the desk, Jonathan fired up his computer and loaded the web browser.

Paul nudged him. ‘Shouldn’t you go and see this Bugrov guy?’

‘Later. First I’m going to see if there’s anything she’s not telling us about her husband.’

‘You won’t find anything.’

‘Don’t bet on it – these older people don’t know what a blog is, let alone what people put on them.’

Yandex returned over 250,000 hits.

‘You’ll need to refine that, Jon; add a few more search terms.’

Jonathan looked at Paul, a slow smile breaking across his lips. ‘Who’s in charge?’

‘You are, for once.’

A plan was crystallising inside Jonathan’s cluttered mind. ‘Then get yourself off to your day job! You can help me find your girlfriend’s daddy later. I’ll call you when I need you.’

‘Yes sir! I hope I’ll get a decent cut of this hundred grand.’

‘I haven’t said I’ll do it yet. Just make sure you’ve got a tie on by early afternoon.’

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