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The Last Kashmiri Rose : Introducing Detective Joe Sandilands
In a land of saffron sunsets and blazing summer heat, an Englishwoman has been found dead, her wrists slit, her body floating in a bathtub of blood and water. But is it suicide or murder? The case falls to Scotland Yard inspector Joe Sandilands, who survived the horror of the Western Front and has endured six sultry months in English-ruled Calcutta. Sandilands is ordered to investigate, and soon discovers that there have been other mysterious deaths, hearkening sinister ties to the present case.
Now, as the sovereignty of Britain is in decline and an insurgent India is on the rise, Sandilands must navigate the treacherous corridors of political decorum to bring a cunning killer to justice, knowing the next victim is already marked to die.
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August 08, 2011
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Excerpt from The Last Kashmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly
The night before her sixth birthday Midge Prentice woke
under her mosquito net and breathed the familiar smells of a
hot Indian night. There was the smell of wet khaskhas
mats hanging across the doors and windows to keep out the heat of
early summer, sweet and musty; there was the smell of the
jasmine which grew over the bungalow; there was the bass
accompaniment inseparable from India of drains and of
dung. But tonight there was something else.
Sharp and acrid, it was the smell of smoke. Midge sat up and
looked about her. Running across the ceiling of her room there
was a flickering reflection of flames. She struggled out of her
mosquito net and, barefoot, stood down on the floor. She called
for her father and then remembered he was away in Calcutta.
She called for her mother but it was Ayah who answered her call.
'Come with Ayah, now, Missy Baba,' she said urgently. 'Come swiftly.
Ayah gathered her up. 'Put your arms round me and hold
tight. Very tight. Put your feet on mine and we'll walk together
as we used to when you were a baby and then the bad, bad
men won't see my Missy Baba. If I hide you under my sari
they'll just think that Ayah has another baby on the way.'
She swept silky folds over Midge's head and they set off to
waddle together towards safety. They had often done this
before; it had been a game of her infancy. It was called 'elephant
walk backwards' and now this clumsy game was to save
her life. Midge caught brief glimpses of Ayah's sandalled feet
and was aware of others milling protectively about them and
then they were in the open air. They were free of the bungalow.
Men's voices - Indian voices - shouted harshly, shots rang
out, a woman's scream was abruptly cut short and then the
roar of the fire as it took hold of the thatch grew deafening.
But then, gravel was crunching under Ayah's feet and she
stopped. 'Sit here,' she said. 'Sit here and keep quiet. Don't
move. Be hidden.' And she tucked Midge away amongst the
rank of tall earthenware pots overflowing with bougainvillea
In the mess, half a mile away, Jonno crossed and uncrossed his
legs under the table and with a slightly unsteady hand poured
himself a glass of port and passed the decanter. He was thinking
- he was often thinking - of Dolly Prentice, or, more formally,
Mrs Major Prentice. He was sure he hadn't imagined
that, as he had helped her into her wrap after the gymkhana
dance, she had leant back against him, not obviously but perceptibly.
Yes, surely perceptibly. And his hands had rested on
her shoulders, slightly moist because it had been a hot night,
and there had been a warm female scent. What was it she had
said when, greatly daring, he had admired? 'Chypre.' Yes, that
was it - 'Chypre.'