Wednesday, 7 January 2009

New Release Today - Lot 62!

Today marks the release of my brand new Esther May Morrow mystery, Lot 62, at Eternal Press. It's a personal favourite of mine, set in the glamorous world of high-class auctions and undercover spies.


Julie Blalock is approaching thirty and has an unfulfilling job with an accountancy firm. But she also has a secret—she was once an MI6 Agent. A personal tragedy forced her to quit eight years ago, but a chance offer to return for a one-time op is too tempting to ignore. Her mission: to pose as a rich socialite at Sotheby's, to gain critical intelligence during the most anticipated high-class auction of the year—Esther May Morrow's sale of antique treasures, featuring Lot 62, a prize that has even the Ministry of Defence worried. What secrets will Julie discover on her impromptu return to espionage?

Excerpt #1

Unzipping and dropping her skirt, Julie rolled her eyes at the thought of any colleagues from the accountancy office seeing her now. She undid the buttons of her blouse with supple yet steady fingers. Where had the nerves gone? Had her little feminist barb deflated that momentary anxiety? She threw off the neuroses with her blouse; as it landed on the bed, she checked to see if Northam and Entwistle were watching. They weren’t. Each was leant over the sideboard; pen in one hand, mobile phone in the other. Julie felt a slight pang of regret. She was in superb physical shape, and she wanted them to know it.

“What have you got for me…sorry, what was your name?” she asked.

The petite girl cleared her throat, concentrated on the clothes rack. “Maggie. Hmm, let me see…we did say this at first.” She held up a garish, tight-fitting number with zebra stripes and multiple slits down each side. “But HQ found a photo of her wearing it a few weeks ago. Problem one, she never wears the same dress twice in public. Hmm.” She unhooked another design from its coat hanger and, after straightening her neck and tilting her head to imagine a figure inside the dress, held it up to Julie. “I’m with Northam. I think this one.”

It was a brand new, black silk cocktail dress by Chloe, with gorgeous jet beading on the shoulder straps, a low-cut neckline with a ruched bust, and an unfinished black silk trim. It closed on the side with a concealed zipper. A romantic and elegant number. Julie warmed to it immediately. “Try this one?”

Maggie clicked her fingers for the men’s attention. She handed Julie one side of the dress to hold. Without hesitation, both men gave the OK signal before resuming their studious note taking.
“That was easy!” joked Maggie. “We argued about this for ten minutes before you arrived. Right…” She fetched a laminated portfolio from the bed and opened it to a snapshot of Dorothy Buchan labelled ‘Marseilles, February ‘08’. “This should be no trouble.”

Julie remained silent. She knew she’d fraternised enough for one dressing session, and it was almost dark outside.

Excerpt #2

Northam drove the limo slowly through gaudy canals of high street stores. Late-night shoppers watched wide-eyed. He didn’t say a word. As they turned onto New Bond Street, Julie saw a line of cars and limos blocking the road, then an awning over the red carpet at the entrance to Sotheby’s, and finally, ranks of paparazzi held at bay by suited security personnel. She swallowed hard, wondering what she’d be doing right now if she had turned down the assignment—enjoying a drink with friends? Snuggling up on the settee to watch a DVD? She’d be perfectly entitled. But no, she was at the mouth of the lion’s den, shipped first class to the auction to end all auctions.

Sotheby & Co.
Sale of
An Eclectic Array of Antique Treasures
‘The Archangel’ by the Mayan king, Vichama

Courtesy of Esther May Morrow
Admit one to the Main Sale Room
Mrs. Dorothy A. Buchan
Thursday, 3 September, at 8.30 pm precisely

For a few moments, her mind spun like a Catherine wheel as she stepped out into the chilly night air. Northam tipped his chauffeur’s cap and got back into the car. He’d be waiting for her outside after the auction, he’d assured her. My hero, she thought sarcastically.

Strutting along the red carpet, she felt the warm stings of flash photography on her legs and gaping cleavage. It lifted her confidence. When the uniformed commissionaire asked to see her invitation, she scoffed and snatched the catalogue he offered her. A mixture of strong tobacco and perfume filled the broad staircase. Not that anyone was permitted to smoke inside, but no doubt the limos all had ashtrays. The exquisite gallery led into the main auction hall itself—a room sleepy as Victorian England, kept awake by two brilliant chandeliers and about a hundred guests being shown to their seats, while a blind covered the glass roof for the night. About the size of a tennis court, the hall was adorned with traditional paintings and, on one side, a striking mural depiction of the Battle of Trafalgar.

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