Today, I’m delighted to be included on the blog tour for Graham Brack’s ‘Lying and Dying‘, the first book in the Josef Slonský series.
The body of a young woman is found strangled by the side of the road.
There are no obvious clues to what happened, apart from the discovery of a large amount of cash concealed on her person.
The brilliant, but lazy, Lieutenant Josef Slonský is put in charge of the case. With a wry sense of humour, a strong stubborn streak and a penchant for pastries, Slonský is not overly popular with the rest of the police force. But he is paired with the freshly-graduated, overly-eager Navrátil, whom he immediately takes under his wing.
When fingers start to point inwards to someone familiar with police operations, Slonský and Navrátil are put in a difficult position.
If what they suspect is true, how deep does the corruption run? Are they willing to risk their careers in their pursuit of the truth?
Anyone could be lying – and others may be in danger of dying…
I’m sure the extract that I’ve got here will whet your appetite for the book. Get your copy now.
The following morning was bright, warm and sunny. Outside the surviving birdlife of Prague was singing fortissimo, or so it seemed to Navrátil. A prolonged shower did little to help the sensation of devils prodding the backs of his eyeballs with their tridents, and nothing in his pantry did anything to make him believe that there was the remotest chance that it would stay down if he could once swallow it.
He was therefore more than a little surprised to arrive at work to find Slonský with his feet on his desk while he attacked a párek and a takeaway coffee.
‘How can you eat that? Or anything else, for that matter?’
‘I have a constitution moulded by the Communist years. If you’d been picky about your food then you’d have starved.’
‘Don’t you feel even a bit queasy?’
‘Should I?’ Slonský asked innocently, as if the idea that a heavy drinking bout might affect your appetite the next day had never occurred to him.
‘Never mind. I’d better find some water.’
Navrátil was halfway down the corridor when he heard Slonský call after him.
‘If you can’t find water, try some Hungarian beer. It’s the next best thing.’
When Navrátil returned, Slonský was looking thoughtful.
‘It was something you said last night that inspired me,’ he explained.
‘I said? What did I say?’
‘You said it was a shame she didn’t have her name sewn into her knickers.’
‘You said that, sir!’
‘Did I? Then I’m brighter than I thought. Anyway, how did the murderer know that she didn’t have her name sewn into her knickers?’
‘Maybe he didn’t care.’
‘He took the handbag.’
‘Well, since he made love to her, he probably got to see her underwear.’
‘Do you look, Navrátil?’
‘When you’re with a woman, do you check her pants out?’
‘Well, I … I haven’t … but if I did …’
‘Exactly. It’s an unnatural act. But whether he did or didn’t, he might have handled her clothes. That’s what I asked Novák.’
‘Nothing. Now, she may have taken off her own clothes and put them back on herself. And perhaps he wore gloves to dispose of the body. But I can’t picture anyone going to bed with a girl and wearing gloves while he did it.’
‘Which rules out a crime of passion?’
‘Well, he was farsighted enough to have gloves there. It was a cold night so he may have just had them with him, but this begins to look premeditated. Which is good, Navrátil. Where there’s a plan, we can discover it. It’s the sudden, irrational killing that is hardest to detect.’
‘So we have a man who takes a woman out, buys her dinner, takes her back to his flat or hers, makes love to her, kills her then dumps her body where it will be found quickly.’
‘Where did you get the bit about dinner?’
‘The stomach contents. Novák’s report doesn’t sound like the kind of meal someone would cook for themselves. Asparagus, for example.’
‘We could waste a lot of time tracking down shops that have asparagus in February, but let’s run with your idea for a minute. If that’s the case, they must have eaten in a restaurant somewhere that has asparagus on the menu.’
Navrátil’s face sank.
‘I can see you’re one step ahead of me, lad. But it’ll take a lifetime to visit all Prague’s restaurants. We’ll do it if we have to, but for the moment let’s try the wholesale greengrocers. See how easy it is to get asparagus and if anyone can tell us who has been buying it. Might narrow things down a bit.’
When Navrátil returned, Slonský had his feet on his desk, a coffee in his hand, and a broad smile on his face.
‘Almost all the big hotels, sir. Not too many restaurants have bought asparagus lately, but it still gives us a lot to do.’
‘Not necessarily, my boy,’ Slonský replied. ‘The great Czech public has come to our aid.’
He slid a brown paper envelope across the desk. Navrátil opened it cautiously to find a single photograph within.
‘No note. Recognise the girl?’
‘It’s her! It’s the victim.’
‘And who is she having dinner with?’
Navrátil scrutinised the picture closely before his jaw dropped.
‘Isn’t that —’
‘It is. Now isn’t that a turn-up for the book?’