The cover for the third book in the Nadia Laksheva series was revealed yesterday, and a big thanks to Harper Collins for producing a brilliant cover design. 88 North is close to the top of the world, and it is where the conclusion of the three books occurs, in a frozen landscape, where Nadia must face down her nemesis.
At the moment I’m about two thirds of the way through writing the book, due out 14th December, and Nadia is in Northern Sudan, and has just done her deepest dive ever, and I mean seriously deep. 88 North is partly a mystery, and she is trying to unravel the plan of her nemesis, and so far it has taken her to Hong Kong, Sudan, and one more stop before heading North. I’m having a lot of fun writing it, as I get to travel via my laptop. But as with 66 Metres and 37 Hours, Nadia is not having an easy time.
Is the book different from the first two? Well, it’s a culmination, and also merges the two styles: 66 Metres was multi-protagonist, whereas 37 Hours was almost all from Nadia’s point of view. 88 North is a mixture: this is definitely Nadia’s story, but we get to go inside the heads of others, including her new enemy, Blue Fan. I already posted a snippet from the Prologue concerning this new character, who is a lot more nuanced than some of Nadia’s previous enemies, and here’s another extract, because I don’t want to give away too much about Nadia, at least not yet.
Is 88 North the last book, Nadia’s last outing? I get asked this a lot, especially by those who already finished 37 Hours, and know what happened to her at the end of that book. My answer remains the same. Wait and see…
So, here’s a little more of Blue Fan, still from the start of the book, in Hong Kong, where a cyclone is about to strike… Incidentally, the very first line below was originally the first line of 66 Metres, but for various reasons it got cut. Nice to use it again!
The rain fell thick and fast, like dull blades. Blue Fan stared down at the tangle of silver carp wriggling in a white plastic box, protected from the downpour by a tarpaulin. Their sharp eyes accused, mouths gaping, barely able to breathe. Soon to be bought, cooked, digested, excreted, chemically treated, and flushed back into the seas whence they had come. She selected the healthiest, most vigorous one, and the brown-faced, stooped and crinkly old woman with dyed red hair tied up in a bun snatched it out of the bucket with bony fingers, quick as a heron, then went back into slow-mo mode. Blue Fan regularly saw this woman teaching tai chi fan at six every morning in Victoria Park. Funny, in the West, people flaunted their talents. Here, they concealed them.
The open-air food-market in Wanchai bustled as always, her nostrils assaulted on all fronts by pungent spices and glutinous stews. She didn’t need to buy food. She was the acting head of the Green Dragon triad, its enforcer. She could walk into any one of a hundred homes and they would let their children go hungry in order to feed her. Yet every day she walked the streets on which she’d grown up, reminding herself who she was, how far she’d come, and how easy it would be to fall back there. She glanced again at the text message, then up through the torrent to the overpass clogged with taxis on their way to the snail’s-pace undersea tunnel to Kowloon. Turning back, she scanned the apartment windows, each with its dim aluminium box housing an aircon unit, searching for a thin sniper’s barrel. Nothing. The attempt would be close-quarters. Triad custom. A knife or a butcher’s cleaver, perhaps even a spear. Or a death-touch, though that skill was almost lost now.
The sea of faces around her were all normal; people hurried on account of the rain and the imminent threat of a cyclone, whereupon everything would be quickly battened down. A few confused tourists sheltered their phones more than their heads in order to translate requests. Triad assassins would never masquerade as foreigners. There was a code, after all, and they lived and died by it, her included. She searched for tattoos. Nothing. The warning had said noon.
It was 12:03.
She heard it before she saw it: the stuttered hum of a bladed weapon tomahawking through the air. She dropped down low into a snake posture, right leg straight, left leg bent double, as the axe squelched into the forehead of a balding man with an umbrella, his shirt spattered by rain, a sheen of sweat on his face from the intense humidity, who until a moment ago had been next in line to buy fish. The man keeled over, rigid, silent, already dead, eyes unseeing, the umbrella falling with him like a frozen parachute. Blue Fan triangulated the position of the attacker behind her, and was about to let one of her razor fan-knives slip from her fingers, when a ragged child ran across her path.
Time slowed. Her eyes met with those of the assassin – an athletic male with jet black hair lashed back in a ponytail, a tiger tattoo on his inner forearm, its front claws outstretched, its jaw set in an eternal, angry roar – just as others suddenly caught up with events. A woman screamed. The fishmonger vanished into the dark recesses of her shop, while another shopkeeper stumbled backwards and tripped over his wares, upsetting water-filled cartons, spilling gawping koi and angry crabs onto the cobbled pavement. People ran. The attacker removed two more short axes from his belt, one in each hand, and crossed them in front of him as he faced her. A male tourist tried to video them, until Blue Fan skewered his iPhone with one of her blades. He stared at it a moment, then dashed off.
Thunder cracked, loud and close. Warm rain lashed down, drenching everything. Wind whipped water into her eyes. The cyclone was early. On cue, the siren wailed. The street had emptied.
Good. Now it’s just the two of us.
Coming out on 14th December… You can pre-order it here