Published by Canelo (29 January 2018)

Available in ebook

318 pages



 

|   About the Book  |

In a razor-sharp legal thriller, Jack Kowalski must win two challenging trials to save his reputation and his career

Junior barrister Jack Kowalski is crushed. His client Timothy Smart appears to have committed a monstrous crime while on bail – a bail application Jack fought hard to win.

When a high-profile Polish footballer is charged with rape and demands a fellow countryman represent him, Jack must overcome his guilt and get back to work. Before long he takes on a second case, a GBH for instructing solicitor Lara Panassai, who Jack remains desperate to impress. But neither case is what it seems, and Jack will face an extraordinary uphill battle to see that justice is done…

The second Jack Kowalski novel, Unconvicted is a gripping courtroom drama written with the expert insight of a practicing criminal barrister, perfect for fans of William L. Myers, Deborah Hawkins, and Scott Turow.

 

It’s the final day of the the blog tour for Unconvicted.  My thanks to Ellie at Canelo for the invitation to take part and to Olly for providing the guest post.

 

WRITER’S BLOCK

by Olly Jarvis

When I was about thirteen, my best friend and I were trying to come up with ways to raise money so that we could go to Kensington Market and buy ourselves some suede Chelsea Boots and a spur to go with our silk baggies (trousers). We were what was known as ‘futurists’ in 1980.

Seeing an opportunity to salvage something positive from the situation, my father (another writer) said that if my friend and I could come up with a twenty-five page novel, he would pay us a pound a page – a huge sum. Easy money, or so we thought.

Off we went to my bedroom for an initial brainstorming session. We quickly had a title: ‘Queen Bitch’ – it was to be a horror about my pal’s irritating younger sister. The first line came easily: ‘His greasy quiff flopped down over his acne covered forehead.’ (It was also to be loosely autobiographical).

But then, nothing. The hours passed and still we couldn’t think of anything. We couldn’t understand it. Of course, we could’ve just written a load of rubbish, even gobbledygook. For some unknown reason, even at that age we weren’t prepared to desecrate this ancient art by just putting down a jumble of words. But on the other hand, we fell into the trap of not writing anything at all unless it was going to be mind-blowingly brilliant.

So, heads bowed, we slunk downstairs and shame-faced, handed in our one solitary title page and demanded a quid. ‘’fraid not, boys,’ My dad replied, his hands staying firmly in his pockets. ‘Publishers only pay if you finish the book.’

Needless to say, it led to a heated exchange about our right to an advance on the hitherto, unfinished novel, until finally, we had to accept that with our proven pedigree, perhaps we weren’t entitled to that kind of trust.

It took me thirty years before I had the confidence to try again. I’ve since learned that the trick is just to get something down and worry about it later. Otherwise, you never write anything at all. The juices will start to flow and you can get that story down. Clumsy sentences can always be changed and edits made.

As long as you can put pen to paper, you are a writer – then anything is possible.

 

 

|   About the Author   |

 

Olly Jarvis is a writer and criminal defence barrister, originally from London but now working in Manchester. Drawing on his experiences, he writes both fiction and non-fiction with a particular understanding of the pressures and excitement of life in the courtroom. He wrote the highly acclaimed Radio 4 drama Judgement, and wrote and presented the BBC documentary Mum Knows Best. He is also the author of Death by Dangerous. Olly has two children and lives in Cheshire.

 

Author Links:  Website   |   Twitter   |   Amazon UK   |   Goodreads

 

Published by Penguin

Available in ebook, Hardback and Paperback (1 February 2018)

288 pages

Source: Copy for review from publisher



|   About the Book   |

 

One day in 1940 Rene Hargreaves walks out on her family and the city to take a position as a Land Girl at the remote Starlight farm. There she will live with and help lonely farmer Elsie Boston.

At first Elsie and Rene are unsure of one another – strangers from different worlds. But over time they each come to depend on the other. They become inseparable.

Until the day a visitor from Rene’s past arrives and their careful, secluded life is thrown into confusion. Suddenly, all they have built together is threatened. What will they do to protect themselves? And are they prepared for the consequences?

 

I’m delighted to be joining the blog tour to celebrate the paperback release of Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves.  For my turn today, I have a fascinating guest post from Rachel on the family history aspect of the story and if you’d like to read my review, this is at the end of the post.

 

Black Sheep, White Sheep

by Rachel Malik

Most people have a black sheep in their family if they travel back far enough. Often, it’s someone who’s had a brush with the law: the poacher ancestor who is sent to Australia as a convict, the great uncle who was a bigamist and so on. Distant enough and they add interest or even glamour to your family history. Closer to the present and your feelings towards them can get rather messy.

There are different shades of black of course and some are pretty grey. Who would condemn their soldier grandfather, then seventeen, who slipped away from the brutalities of a first world war battlefield? Black sheep are often wayward, disobedient: they don’t follow rules, aren’t reliable. How we feel about black sheep depends on how we feel about the rules they’re breaking. When the black sheep is a woman, her refusal to be a conventionally nurturing wife and mother can loom large.

My grandmother, Rene Hargreaves, one of the two central characters in Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves, was a black sheep in more ways than one. I probably wouldn’t have been able to write this novel if she hadn’t been. Because she was caught up in a murder trial in the early 1960s, a lot of evidence was collected about her life.

First and most shockingly, Rene left her three young children and her husband in Manchester in 1939 and literally disappeared into World War Two. Britain in wartime was full of regulations and documentation but there were also opportunities for someone who wished to escape – as Rene did. The Women’s Land Army knew there was a Rene Hargreaves working as a Land Girl on a smallholding in the Berkshire countryside. What it didn’t know was that she was married with three young children – because she put her maiden name down.

I don’t know for certain why Rene left her family; there’s no way of finding out now. There were rumours about her husband and it seems he was a gambler – and I’ve drawn this into the book. Because of Alan’s gambling, Rene lives in a state of constant anxiety. She doesn’t know if she’ll have money to cook the next meal or when the bailiff will turn up next to take away her furniture or saucepans. But that’s not the whole story – it had to be more complicated – and I wanted to hint at this. It’s not easy for readers to sympathise with a character who leaves her children, it certainly wasn’t easy for me – given that Rene was my grandmother and one of the children she left was my mum. I didn’t necessarily want readers to like Rene as a character throughout, but I did want them to really think about why she left and why she stayed away – it couldn’t have been that simple.

In real life and in the novel, Rene also becomes a very different kind of black sheep in Berkshire – one I uncomplicatedly admire. She makes a new life, working on the land and living with a woman, Elsie – the Miss Boston of the title. This can’t have been easy in the 1940s and 1950s. Prejudice and hostility were still society’s ‘normal’ responses if you were lesbian or gay. Big cities afforded some opportunities, particularly for the young. London, for example, had the Gateways or ‘Gates’ club with its green door, where lesbian and bisexual women could meet openly. But for two working-class women living in the remote countryside it wasn’t an option. Nor was it necessarily something they would have wanted. Rene and Elsie weren’t ‘bohemian’, in many ways they were very conventional for their time. But when I was reading the trial documents, I got tantalising glimpses of a shared life. It was a hard life but it gave Rene and Elsie a measure of freedom. In the novel, as in reality, this life, so carefully and precariously built, comes under threat from a dangerous and unwanted visitor. In the process, Rene becomes another type of black sheep: the woman accused of murder.

A black sheep is nearly always a rarity, standing out in a field of white or cream ones. A rarity can often look like an oddity. But Rene isn’t the only black sheep in the novel; there’s a whole field of black sheep in Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves. Elsie is the other major contender. She is viewed as eccentric by most of her neighbours and some dislike and resent her. This goes back a long way – even as a child she made people uneasy. She has an extraordinary way with animals – a source of admiration and suspicion – she seems to understand nature rather too well. But if you look at most of the other characters, you will see that they don’t quite fit either, for better and for worse. There are women who live together in all manner of ways, children on extended ‘loan’ to other relatives, runaways, cuckoos who push in or tread their way carefully into households, some of whom do terrible damage. There are men who live alone and women who live alone, contentedly. Maybe black sheep aren’t as rare as you think.

 

|   My Thoughts   |

 

Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves is the author’s debut novel and is the fictionalised story of her own grandmother, the Hargreaves of the title. What an accomplished debut this is – the prologue of a woman being released from Holloway prison pulled me in straight away – who is it and why? It is a very intricate and gentle story of two woman, neither of whom fit neatly into a pigeonhole of how society considers that they should live. For themselves, they are happy enough in their own lives and just want to be left alone to live how they wish.

When Rene Hargreaves first meets Elsie Boston, it is as a Land Girl in 1940 when Rene has been sent to Elsie’s small farm, ‘Starlight’ in Berkshire. Elsie is a fair bit older, set in her ways and the more reclusive of the two; being used to her own company – she doesn’t take to strangers and is not too keen on the idea of Rene coming to live with her but after a while the two women settle into a comfortable and co-dependent friendship/relationship.

Unlike Elsie who has always lived in the country, Rene lived in Manchester and enjoyed the city life especially the movies. However Rene leaves her old life behind, reinvents herself and becomes a Land Girl. She has a history of her own and her actions do not show her in a particularly good light; as much as I admired her for her fortitude and strength of character, I did find it hard to forgive and found it difficult to really warm to her.

Although it is never made explicit, it seems clear that a relationship forms between the two woman, they look out for and care for each other and it is this which sustains them through difficult times. Following a great injustice by the authorities during the war, they are forced to become itinerant workers, travelling around the country seeking work and accommodation. Through hard graft and Elsie’s talent for making a comfortable home from not very much together with Rene seeking work from wherever she can to bring in money, they manage to live quite contentedly with their animals until someone from Rene’s past endangers everything they have and their life together.

Rachel Malik has a very engaging way with words and very ably weaves the factual with the fictional to produce an engrossing tale. The descriptions of the landscape, wherever the setting, are rich with detail and the characters are brought to life with their foibles and flaws and the simplicity of their lives. As soon as I started reading, I thought that the carefully constructed narrative together with the descriptive prose and the gentle pace would make it a perfect fit for the literary fiction genre, perhaps more so than that of commercial fiction. Although having said that I think that anyone who favours historical fiction would enjoy this.

This is not a book to race through but one to be savoured and I thoroughly enjoyed being transported to both a different era and way of life, immersing myself in the lives of Elsie and Rene and going through every triumph and tribulation with them.  It’s not all about feeding chickens and their domestic routines of who makes the cocoa, however. There are some surprises within the story and the courtroom drama in the second half made for compelling reading. The story is set between 1940 and the 1960’s and the prejudices against people who dare to want a different life to the norm are clear to see.

The story of Misses Boston and Hargreaves is one of friendship, love and loyalty. It is also a commentary of those times. I definitely recommend that fans of this genre give it a try.

 

My thanks to the publisher for the copy to review and for including me on the blog tour.

 

 

 

|  About the Author   |

 

Rachel Malik was born in London of mixed English and Pakistani parentage. She studied English at Cambridge and Linguistics at Strathclyde. For many years, Rachel taught English Literature at Middlesex University. Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves is her first novel.

 

Author Links:  Website   |   Twitter   |   Facebook   |   Amazon UK   |   Goodreads

 

Published by Avon

ebook & paperback (25 January 2018)

448 pages



Perfect Death is the third in the DI Luc Callanach series from Helen Fields.  My thanks to Sabah from Avon for including me on the tour and for providing this extract.

 

Extract Seven: Chapter 8, pp.50-51

‘You sound hesitant,’ Callanach said. ‘What is it?’

‘Probably nothing,’ Ailsa replied, typing as she spoke. ‘But for argument’s sake, say I was experiencing moderate to severe stage hypothermia, enough to make me strip off my clothing and throw it down the hillside. What sort of state am I in?’

‘Agitated. Probably distressed. Frantic even,’ Callanach guessed.

‘Exactly,’ Ailsa replied, pointing to another photo on the screen. Lily Eustis lay on the ground as Callanach had first seen her, on her back, fully naked, shades of blue already darkening to black, arms out at her sides, as if she had just fallen asleep.

‘What’s your point, Ailsa?’ Ava asked.

‘She doesn’t look distressed or frantic here, does she?’ Ailsa asked. ‘She looks as if she’d decided she was a wee bit tired and wanted to take a nap. Her body isn’t folded up, twisted, scrabbling. Certainly there are no signs of terminal burrowing syndrome that can occur near death, during which she would have been curling up, seeking shelter, making herself as small as possible. There’s nothing unexpected beneath her fingernails. No dirt, no skin. There is only a single mark on her skin, about two centimetres long over her abdomen, which is the imprint of a zip.’

Callanach looked down at his own notes. ‘The log shows she was wearing zip-fastening jeans. We have them in the evidence vault.’

‘Exactly. It’s as if she was struggling with the zipper for a long time, perhaps in her confusion becoming clumsy and pressing the metal into her skin as she tried to get the jeans off. Other than that she’s exceptionally clean, as if she never experienced any trauma through the whole process of losing heat and passing away.’

‘You say that as if it’s a bad thing,’ Ava snapped. ‘Are we supposed to have wanted her to be traumatised?’

 

|   About the Book   |

 

There’s no easy way to die…

Unknown to DI Luc Callanach and the newly promoted DCI Ava Turner, a serial killer has Edinburgh firmly in his grip. The killer is taking his victims in the coldest, most calculating way possible – engineering slow and painful deaths by poison, with his victims entirely unaware of the drugs flooding their bloodstream until it’s too late.

But how do you catch a killer who hides in the shadows? A killer whose pleasure comes from watching pain from afar? Faced with their most difficult case yet, Callanach and Turner soon realise they face a seemingly impossible task…

 

|  About the Author   |

 

Helen can be found on Twitter @Helen_Fields for up to date news and information. A former barrister, Helen now writes a Scottish set crime series – D.I.Callanach and D.I. Ava Turner. Her debut novel Perfect Remains and the second in the series Perfect Prey are Amazon best sellers. Her next book ‘Perfect Death’ is due out on 25 January 2018. She currently commutes between Hampshire, Scotland and California, and lives with her husband and three children.

 

Author Links:  Website   |   Twitter   |   Facebook   |   Amazon UK   |   Goodreads

 

Published by Harper Collins

ebook (25 August 2016)

232 pages



66 Metres is the first book in the Nadia Laksheva Spy Thriller Series and my thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for including me on the tour and for providing this extract.

EXTRACT

Once back at Kadinsky’s country dacha, she stood in the large lounge with its single bay window overlooking the dry fountain, a chipped statue of Pan in its centre. Inside, oil paintings of battles, including one above the fireplace featuring a victorious Napoleon, hung around the white, corniced walls. Kadinsky ordered Katya not to speak, then walked around Nadia. He looked her up and down, then shook his head. He dropped into a wide leather armchair. Katya was perched on an antique wooden dining seat opposite. Nadia stood between them, and Kadinsky’s two henchmen – one grossly fat, the other slim as a snake and with pockmarked cheeks – leaned against the far wall.

‘You have grey eyes,’ he said, wagging a finger at her. ‘Like a fucking tombstone. Who’d want to make love staring into such eyes?’ He glanced at Katya. ‘Are you sure she’s your sister?’

Katya’s gaze dropped to the carpet. She nodded, her own eyes a deep blue, like her mother’s. Nadia had her father’s eyes. Killer’s eyes, he’d once joked, when she’d been too young to realise it was a confession.

Kadinsky swirled the ice in his whiskey tumbler with a pudgy index finger. ‘What else can you do, girl?’

Nadia never knew where her answer came from, possibly revulsion against a life of prostitution, but she thought of her father, and the words slid out of her mouth. ‘I can shoot. I never miss.’

Kadinsky’s thugs laughed. He didn’t. ‘I detest exaggeration,’ he said. ‘So American.’ His mouth moved as if he was going to spit.

‘Let’s see if you can really shoot. Give her your pistol,’ he said to one of the henchmen, the one with a pockmarked face – Pox, she named him – who immediately lost his sense of humour.

She took the weapon from his outstretched hand, weighed it in her palm. An old-style Smith & Wesson. God knows why the guy had it. Most blatnye preferred semi-autos, Makarovs or the older but higher-velocity Tokarevs. She checked that it was loaded, all six bullets nestling in their chambers. She glanced at Kadinsky, thought about killing him. But the other henchman, the fat one with slicked black hair – hence, Slick – had his Glock trained on her, his lopsided leer daring her.

Kadinsky waved a hand towards Katya, five metres away. He tilted his head left and right, then settled back against the soft leather, took a gulp of whiskey, and smacked his lips. ‘The red rose in the bowl of flowers behind her left ear. Shoot it. From where you stand.’

Slick’s eyes flicked toward Katya, gauging the angles. His leer faded.

Nadia stared at her sister and the rose. Most of it was behind her head. Only one leaf of the scarlet blossom was exposed. She swallowed, then lifted the revolver, and took up a shooting stance like her father had taught her. Right arm firm, elbow not fully locked, left hand under the fist, prepared for the recoil. She had to do it before anger built and disrupted her concentration. She cocked the hammer, lined up the shot, then spoke to Katya’s serene, trusting face: ‘Love you,’ she said. Then she breathed out slowly, as if through a straw, and squeezed the trigger.

Masonry exploded behind Katya. The crack was so loud that three other men burst into the room, weapons drawn. Kadinsky waved them back as Pox peeled the revolver from Nadia’s stiff fingers. Petals fluttered to the floor amidst a plume of white powder from the impact crater in the wall. Katya sat immobile, pale, the hair on the left side of her head ruffled as if by a gust of wind. A trickle of blood oozed from her left temple, and ran down her cheek.

Katya, lips trembling, beamed at Nadia. ‘Still alive,’ she said, her voice hoarse. She touched the graze with an unsteady forefinger.

Nadia began to shake. She folded her arms, refusing to give Kadinsky the satisfaction.

***

Later that night, while she slept in Katya’s bed, holding close the sister she’d almost killed, Slick and Pox burst into the room. Katya woke, leapt out of bed and told them to fuck off, for which she received the butt of a revolver across her mouth.

Nadia half-planned to try to grab one of the guys’ guns at a crucial moment, but they knew what they were doing. One held her down, while the other did whatever he wanted. She retreated into a corner of her mind, a memory, the first time her father had taught her to hold a gun, his arms around her, helping her aim, shooting at empty beer bottles. He’d been so proud of her when she’d hit one. But she couldn’t hang onto the memory. It hurt, what they were doing, it fucking hurt, and she knew this was a wound that would never heal. She tried to scream STOP! But Slick clamped his hand over her mouth. Katya leapt onto his back, aiming to pull him off, but Pox punched her in the stomach, then in the mouth. Katya went down, didn’t reappear. Nadia continued to struggle, thought of her father, how he’d be raging in hell if he could see this, knew what he’d do to these two bastards if he were there. She clung to his rage like a lifeline…

Eventually they left, and Katya, her chin smeared with blood, an ugly bruise rising on her left cheek, came back to the bed and held Nadia tight. Nadia’s body was strangely still, as if it belonged to someone else. She wished it did. While her eyes stayed dry, her elder sister cried and whispered apologies, repeating how it would be all right, the worst was over, and the important thing was that they were together. For the first time ever, that night, Nadia held her sister until she fell asleep, rather than the other way around.

At dawn Nadia woke to find her sister gone, presumably to Kadinsky’s bed. She considered their predicament. Katya was locked into Kadinsky’s world, and now she owed him too, and he wasn’t about to simply let her off. She was trapped. Her mother’s prediction came back to her: a killer or a whore. Maybe both.

She dressed, crept downstairs and stole outside, timing it to get past the guard by the main door when he went to take a piss. Snow crunched under her boots. She got a couple of miles from the dacha before she collapsed from the biting cold, and lay down in the crisp silence. ‘It’s okay,’ she heard her mother say inside her head, with a kindness she’d not heard from her in years. ‘Better this way.’ She closed her eyes and went to sleep, hoping never to awaken, unless to join her father.

But she did wake, and found herself back in the dacha on a sofa, buried in blankets and fur coats. She shook violently. People were shouting in the room next door. Katya, Slick, and Pox, then that low growl that cut off everyone.

Katya came in. She wiped away tear streaks on her bruised face, and closed the door behind her. She braved a smile and walked toward Nadia. ‘They won’t touch you again,’ she said, her voice shaky. ‘Nobody will.’ She sat down next to her.

Kadinsky entered, a gold-rimmed coffee cup in his hand, a sad-looking golden retriever trailing him. ‘Here’s the deal, girl.’ He spoke to the bay window rather than her, and took a swig before continuing. ‘I could use a female operative who doesn’t wet herself under pressure. Maybe that could be you. You’ll work for me for five years. Your training will take three, including eighteen months in Britain. I want your English impeccable – not like a newsreader, like a local.’ He stared at her, his gaze hard. He stooped to pat the dog ineffectually, as if he didn’t really know how, then stood tall, downing the last of the coffee. He spoke to the window again. ‘Katya stays here. Do ten ops for me, then I’ll let you both go.’ He nodded to himself as if concluding the contract. ‘Ten ops, five years. Then, svoboda… freedom.’

He left, not waiting for an answer. The dog followed, its head bowed.

Kadinsky’s words echoed in her mind. Five years. Half the life she would have lost in prison. If she’d have lasted. Thinking of her cell helped. Katya had gotten Nadia out of her own personal hell. But would Kadinsky really let them both go afterward?

Katya hugged her, and she succumbed to the embrace, because the only person she cared for in this brutal world was Katya. ‘It’s going to be all right,’ Katya said. ‘You can trust him. Pyotr Aleksandrovich is a hard man, but he keeps his bargains.’

She knew what Katya was trying to do, using Kadinsky’s first name and patronymic, making him seem like family. But something inside her hardened, as if the tears that should have come earlier turned to glass. She promised herself she would go and retrieve her father’s Beretta the very next day, strip it, clean it, begin practising again.

Ten ops. Five years. Then, one way or the other, she and her sister were through with Kadinsky.

‘It will be all right, Katya,’ she said. ‘Whatever it takes, I promise one day I’ll make it right.’

 

|   About the Book   |

 

The only thing worth killing for is family.

Everyone said she had her father’s eyes. A killer’s eyes. Nadia knew that on the bitterly cold streets of Moscow, she could never escape her past – but in just a few days, she would finally be free.

Bound to work for Kadinsky for five years, she has one last mission to complete. Yet when she is instructed to capture The Rose, a military weapon shrouded in secrecy, Nadia finds herself trapped in a deadly game of global espionage.

And the only man she can trust is the one sent to spy on her…

 

 

 |   About the Author   |

J. F. Kirwan is the author of the Nadia Laksheva thriller series for HarperCollins. Having worked in accident investigation and prevention in nuclear, offshore oil and gas and aviation sectors, he uses his experience of how accidents initially build slowly, then race towards a climax, to plot his novels. An instructor in both scuba diving and martial arts, he travels extensively all over the world, and loves to set his novels in exotic locations. He is also an insomniac who writes in the dead of night. His favourite authors include Lee Child, David Baldacci and Andy McNab.

 

Author Links:   Website   |   Twitter   |   Facebook   |  Amazon UK   |   Goodreads

 

 

 

Published by Head of Zeus (11 January 2018)

available in ebook, hardback and paperback

417 pages



 

|   About the Book  |

Kate Fordham fled to Spain to start a new life. Amid the sunlit streets of Granada and the earthly paradise of the Alhambra’s gardens, towers and courtyards, she’s left her past far behind. But fate is about to bring her face-to-face with her greatest fear.

Five centuries ago, a message was hidden in the Alhambra’s walls. There it has lain, undisturbed by the tides of history – the fall of Granada, the expulsion of its last Sultan – until Kate discovers it.

Born of love in a time of desperation and danger, Kate’s discovery will be the catalyst that changes her life.

 

Welcome to my turn on the final day of the blog tour for Court of Lions. I have an extract to share. I really do want to read this one, not only does the cover look stunning, it sounds wonderful and just the type of historical story that I love.

 

EXTRACT

 

In the end, it was taken out of our hands. The people of Málaga, in their desperation, surrendered, against the wishes of their governor and lord, and what followed broke every tradition of civilized warfare. The city’s Jewish population was imprisoned for ransom—thirty doblas for every man, woman and child. Who was left to pay for them? Who could afford it? They had lived there in great extended families. One hundred captives were sent as slaves as a gift to the pope in Rome; others were parcelled out among other Christian rulers with whom Isabella and Ferdinand wished to curry favour. Christians who had converted to Islam were used for spear practice or were burned at the stake.

Worse was to follow. Instead of honouring the terms of the treaty, King Ferdinand marched on the towns of Vera, Mojácar, Vélez-Blanco and Vélez-Rubio; and all capitulated without a fight, having heard what had happened in Málaga. Momo’s uncle continued to fight on, doggedly, furiously, fuelled by hatred.

Upon hearing of Ferdinand’s treachery, I thought Momo was going to have a falling fit like his father. He mastered himself with difficulty. “It must be a misunderstanding. The king will surely return my towns to me once my uncle is removed from the field of play. This is his way of ensuring the land is withheld from him. Ferdinand is closing down his paths of escape; his hunting dogs are fanning out to run their quarry to ground. Yes, that’s what he’s doing.”

I knew he didn’t believe it; knowing the truth made him irascible, prone to headaches and small outbursts of temper. He threw a chess piece at me on a morning I’d heard Mariam crying in the harem, and though he immediately apologized and tended the wound with his own hand, it left a scar I have to this day.

Then five Muslim clerics begged audience with him. They did not make obeisance or even bow. Their headman went straight to the point: “We believe the emirate should be handed over to Moulay Abdullah al-Zaghal. Your father was clearly not in his right mind when he bestowed it upon you, as has been made abundantly clear by your many failures to defend our land and people.”

Momo paled. Then flushed. His eyes went as hot as embers. “This is treason. Seize them!” he told the captain of the royal guard. “Hang them from the Gate of Justice.” And when the man hesitated, he unsheathed his sword.

I saw Qasim’s face in that moment. The vizier was never surprised by anything, but now he looked stunned. He’d thought the situation under control; that his clever stratagems for managing Momo were all working. Now he saw his error.
The guards dashed forward, secured the clerics and hustled them away. I heard they had taken them to the cells rather than executing them immediately, no doubt believing the sultan would change his mind.

He did not.

 

 

|   About the Author   |

My website is www.janejohnsonbooks.com and there you can find an email contact form: do write – I love to hear from my readers and always reply!

I update and blog regularly about writing, publishing and cooking Moroccan food (my husband is a Moroccan chef).

I am from Cornwall and I’ve worked in the book industry for 30 years as a bookseller, publisher and writer.

In 2005 I was in Morocco researching the story of a family member abducted from a Cornish church in 1625 by Barbary pirates and sold into slavery in North Africa (which formed the basis for THE TENTH GIFT), when a near-fatal climbing incident (which makes an appearance in THE SALT ROAD) made me rethink my future! (The whole story is told on my website.)

I went home, gave up my office job in London, sold my flat and shipped the contents to Morocco. In October of that year I married Abdellatif, my own ‘Berber pirate’, and now we split our time between Cornwall and a village in the Anti-Atlas Mountains.

I still work, remotely, as Fiction Publishing Director for HarperCollins and am the editor for (among others) George RR Martin (Game of Thrones ), Sam Bourne, Dean Koontz, Robin Hobb, Mark Lawrence, Sam Bourne (aka Jonathan Freedland), SK Tremayne (aka Sean Thomas) and Raymond Feist.

I was responsible for publishing the works of JRR Tolkien during the 1980s and 1990s and worked on Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, spending many months in New Zealand with cast and crew. I have also written several books for children.

 

Author Links:  Website   |   Twitter   |   Facebook   |   Amazon UK   |   Goodreads