Its that time again, its Blog tour time! I’m super excited to bring to you an extract from Graham Brack’s latest book, Lying and Dying. Here’s a little bit about the author…
Graham Brack hails from Sunderland and met his wife Gillian in Aberdeen where they were both studying pharmacy. After their degrees Gillian returned to Cornwall and Graham followed. This is now called stalking but in 1978 it was termed “romantic”. They have two children, Andrew and Hannah, and two grandchildren, Miranda and Sophie.
Graham’s foray into crime writing began in 2010 when he entered the Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger competition and was highly commended for The Outrageous Behaviour of Left-Handed Dwarves (reissued as Lying and Dying), in which the world was introduced to Lt Josef Slonský of the Czech police. The Book of Slaughter and Forgetting (reissued as Slaughter and Forgetting) followed and Sapere Books have published book three, Death On Duty,
In 2014 and 2016 Graham was shortlisted for the Debut Dagger again. The earlier novel, The Allegory of Art and Science, is set in 17th century Delft and features the philosophy lecturer and reluctant detective Master Mercurius. Sapere Books will publish it as Death in Delft in 2018.
Now lets dive into the extract…
Dr Novák knew Slonský of old. Each had a healthy public contempt for the other’s profession tempered by the knowledge that the other was a good exponent of it. The detectives let Novák do his work for a few minutes before curiosity got the better of them.
‘Any idea who we’re looking for?’ asked Slonský.
‘You’re after a left-handed dwarf, red hair, slight stoop, smokes French cigarettes.’
Navrátil flipped open his notebook.
‘Don’t bother,’ Slonský told him. ‘Dr Novák always blames things on left-handed dwarves. If we ran them all in this would be a crime-free paradise.’
Novák smiled. Behind his thick glasses his luminous blue eyes glinted with pleasure.
‘It’s hard to get a good time of death because she wasn’t killed here. There’s no blood and the livid patch isn’t the lowest point, so the body has been moved. I’ll do the usual back at the mortuary, but for now I’m satisfied that she was strangled somewhere else and brought here. I know the temperature here, and I know her temperature now, but I don’t know what it was when she was left here or where she was before that. My guess — but don’t hold me to it — is that she was killed around midnight and brought here about two to three o’clock.’
Slonský nodded. ‘There are people coming and going up until midnight, so the murderer would risk being seen. On the other hand, you don’t want to be stopped driving around Prague with a stiff in the passenger seat.’
‘How do you know she wasn’t in the boot?’ asked Navrátil.
Novák grinned. ‘Tell him!’
Slonský put a fatherly arm around Navrátil’s shoulder.
‘You see, son, women are a lot heavier than you’d think when they’re dead. Try lifting a dead one out of a car boot, even assuming you’ve been able to fold her into it, and you’ll do yourself a mischief. Look at how she’s lying. She was sitting in the passenger seat, probably with a seat-belt holding her upright. In the dark she would just look like she was having a nap to anyone who spotted her. Then when they arrived here the murderer reversed into the space, opened the door, and just gave her a nudge. Then he pulled the feet free of the car, checked no-one was looking, and took off.’
‘How do you know he reversed?’
‘Because you have to do any criminal the courtesy of assuming he isn’t a complete idiot. First, he would want to tip the body out on the side away from the main road in case anyone passed by. Second, the front seat is marked by where she fell on the ground. If he drove in forwards, she would be almost on the grassy bank and nearer the end of the concrete. Unless, of course, she drove herself here after she was strangled, in which event we’re looking at the wrong side of the car. But all in all, I think you’ll find my hypothesis is more likely.’
Novák was directing the photographer’s attention to the key points he wanted recording.
‘He’s a bright lad, is old Slonský. Listen to him, son, and one day you might make it to the dizzy heights of lieutenant.’
Slonský took it in good part. ‘Haven’t you got an anus to swab somewhere?’
‘All in good time. Don’t mind me. I’ll carry on here while you go and talk to that nice man who found the body.’
Slonský could see no reason to put it off any longer and ambled across to the car. The policemen swiftly urged Bear to get out to speak to the lieutenant.
‘Tell me what you saw.’
Bear told him.
‘There wasn’t anyone taking a length of rope off the neck of the woman when you got here?’
‘I know. Just hoping. One day, by the law of averages…’
Slonský turned back to look at Novák busily gesticulating to the photographer, the paramedics with their body bag, and a passer-by who was passing by too close.
‘Thanks for calling us, Mr … Bear. Why do they call you Bear?’
Bear opened the top two buttons on his shirt to reveal a mat of black hair.
‘Fair enough,’ said Slonský. ‘If we’ve got your address you can go.’
‘Gave it to these boys,’ Bear replied, and began to walk along the side road, keeping well away from the body on the other side.
Slonský called after him. ‘Bear! One last question.’
Bear turned round and stopped.
‘Where’s the best place around here to get a sausage?’
Navrátil cradled the hot coffee.
‘Not hungry?’ asked Slonský.
‘I know. I saw you. But you’re a growing lad.’
Slonský shrugged. Young men today! He took another slug of coffee, a bite of his párek and sighed with satisfaction.
‘Not a bad sausage, this. For fifty crowns, that is.’
‘Sir,’ began Navrátil, ‘shouldn’t we be out … doing something?’
‘We are doing something, Navrátil. We’re preparing ourselves for a long day with a decent breakfast.’
‘But the murderer —’
‘Keep your voice down! He could be here, for all we know.’
Navrátil gulped. ‘He could be getting away.’
‘He could,’ conceded Slonský. ‘But since we don’t know who he is and we can’t arrest all one million, two hundred thousand inhabitants and hold them for questioning, it’s not clear to me why we need to skip breakfast. Carry on like that, lad, and you’ll fade away to nothing long before you make captain.’
This was not something likely to happen to Slonský, who was rather generously proportioned. There were three reasons for this. First, he had a genetic disposition to the fuller figure (he claimed), a propensity evidenced by his aunt whose backside he alleged had been the model for the plinth of the Stalin statue overlooking the river. Second, Slonský had a prodigious appetite and rarely missed a meal. He claimed that this did not affect him because the furious workings of his brain consumed any number of calories and kept him slim and trim. Third, he was without any doubt the laziest policeman in Prague, and probably in Central Europe. Slonský rarely saw the need to rush, and was frequently to be found conserving his energy with his feet on his desk. When Captain Lukas queried this, Slonský told him that complete physical immobility was a prerequisite if the mental processes were not to be interfered with by extraneous nervous signals from moving muscles. Since he solved the case he was working on within a couple of hours — a denouement made more likely by the fact (that he omitted to tell Lukas) that he already had a signed confession — Slonský had been left to do his own thing thereafter. However, this was the first time that he had been trusted with an academy graduate of his own to corrupt.
Slonský finished his párek and grabbed his hat and gloves.
‘Come on, Navrátil. We haven’t got time to waste sitting here in the warm.’
Navrátil opened his eyes wide. He hoped he had not dropped off in the warm interior of the café, where the fire reminded him of his grandmother’s house with its sweet smell of gas.
‘Sorry, sir. Where are we going now?’
‘Back to headquarters. We don’t have any forensics to go on, we don’t have a suspect and we don’t have a motive, so I reckon our best bet is trying to find out who the victim is. She didn’t have a handbag with her so we’d best see what missing persons reports have come in.’
They arrived at the car and Slonský opened the passenger side door.
‘You can drive.’
‘Forgive my asking, sir, but do you drive?’
‘I’ve got a licence. Army gave it to me when I did my national service. They wanted me to drive a tank, Navrátil, so I took it for a spin round Hungary when we were on manoeuvres. Good place to learn to drive, Hungary is; big, flat, open plain and very few buildings.’ He paused for effect. ‘One less now. Those things turn on a fly’s armpit, Navrátil. You should have seen the fraternal greetings I got from the Hungarian sitting on the outside privy.’
‘You ran over a privy?’
‘Of course not. No, I demolished his house while he was in the privy. If I’d run over the privy he’d have been salami and he wouldn’t have been so upset. Still, he got some compensation and a new house somewhere, I shouldn’t wonder. Navrátil, that light was red. I know we’re the police but it looks bad if you jump lights, son.’
‘Sorry, sir. I must have been distracted.’
‘Anyway, in answer to your question, I can drive, but I don’t. What’s the point of a car in Prague? The roads are choked, there’s no parking anywhere and the metro is cheap and quick. Of course, I get a car, but then I can do my charitable bit by letting you drive, Navrátil, because you wouldn’t qualify for a car, so I let you drive mine. Say “Thank you, Lieutenant”.’
‘Thank you, Lieutenant.’
‘Think nothing of it, Navrátil. I certainly do. Hang on, I just want to get a couple of rolls at the bakery. Pull up on the crossing, I won’t be long.’
I hope you all enjoyed that and that its convinced you to go and get your own copy of this fabulous book; if not, still remember to keep your eyes peeled for the blog stops this week..