A time to celebrate workers, and the fact that everywhere, The Leaden Heart is now available on ebook. Fair makes you giddy, doesn’t it?
Certainly, the reviews from the last couple of days have made me smile. Kirkus called it possibly my “finest” yet, and then there was this.
Is that enough to convince you?
Then maybe an extract from the book would persuade you to part with your hard-earned money. I hope so, because one’s included here. Whatever ebook platform you use, go and get it – and thank you!
The voice was a bellow, the sound of someone used to giving orders and being obeyed. He stood at the entrance to the office, Tollman looking helpless behind him.
The man was as big as the noise he made. A hefty paunch held in by an expensively-cut suit and waistcoat, jowls sagging on his cheeks, and a double chin that shook as he spoke. Small, dark eyes that seemed to absorb the light.
‘Councillor May.’ Harper stood, slowly extending a hand to a visitor’s chair in his office. ‘You should have let us know you were coming. What can I do for you?’
‘I’m on the Watch Committee.’ He glared, fire in his eyes. ‘I don’t need an invitation to see how one of the divisions is spending the public’s money.’
‘Of course not. Tea?’
May waved the idea away. He remained standing, a heavy, looming presence in the room, eyes moving slowly around until his gaze settled on the map.
‘Related to a case.’ He wasn’t about to offer a word more than necessary.
The councillor snorted. ‘These murders?’
‘Something else you’re wasting time and good brass over. What’s happening about the burglaries? I’ve got people telling me they’re terrified to go out.’
Harper didn’t believe a word. May could conjure outrage from the empty air. He loved nothing better than stirring a crowd by appealing to its prejudices. Nobody named, just a wink, a nod, a hint; he knew how to work them. He despised the police, insisting he was on the Watch Committee to keep them in check.
This was the first time since Harper made superintendent that May had stirred himself into Millgarth. And it wasn’t a friendly visit.
‘We’re working on that. We have some suspects.’
‘Some suspects?’ He shouted out the question. ‘What good is that to honest people who are scared they’ll come home to find all their valuables stolen?’
Harper gritted his teeth and forced himself to smile.
‘As I said, Councillor, we’re making progress.’
‘Not enough.’ He moved around the room as if he owned it, picking up a piece of paper, glancing at it then putting it down again. He seemed to fill all the space, to take all the air. ‘In case you don’t already know, a number of us feel you shouldn’t be in this job.’ A lower voice now, more intimate and threatening. ‘We’ve taken our concerns to the chief constable.’
‘So I’ve heard.’ He wasn’t going to show any trace of fear. He wouldn’t give May that satisfaction.
‘We’re going to keep on with it until he replaces you, Harper.’ The words came out in a hiss.
Harper stared at him. ‘That’s your privilege.’
‘I’ve been on the council for a long time. Plenty of people owe me favours.’ May gave a thin, hard smile. His eyes glittered with hatred. He took a step closer. Harper could smell his breath, whisky and red meat. ‘That’s how politics works. And when you’re ready, you collect them. It’s easy to ruin a career. Just like that.’ The snap of his fingers sounded like a gunshot.
‘I can’t stop you trying.’ The man was goading him. Harper bunched his fists, but he didn’t move. He wasn’t that stupid. Hitting a councillor? Instant dismissal, no appeal.
‘I know you can’t.’ The dark smile returned for a second and vanished again. May loved the sound of his own voice. ‘And I’ll win. Do you know why? Because I have power and you don’t.’
He extended his hand. Without thinking, Harper took it, and May dragged him close. A whisper that fed like poison into his ear. ‘I know men in this city who could make you disappear for five pounds and give me change for the pleasure of the work. Think on that, Harper. Imagine how your Godawful, jumped-up wife and little girl would feel when you never came home.’
A hard squeeze of the hand, a final, bitter look, and May was gone, only the stink of him trailing in the air.