ExtractRead chapter 1 of the novel

        She smiled weakly as she came in, a washy show of emotion. She wandered round the room, looking critically about, at the ceiling, the walls, scrunching her features up in obvious disgust.
        "How dingy," she said "Is this the best they could provide?'' She prodded gingerly at a wet bubble of wallpaper on the front-facing wall. The paper broke beneath her finger and exuded a pussy slime of paste and water. "This is no good. There must be a better hotel in town than this. I'll get you moved,"
        "That doesn't sound too promising," I commented. "Just how long do you think I'll be here?"
        She took the silk scarf from her shoulders and shook the wetness of rain from it. She said, "Five minutes here would be too long"
        The nape of her neck was sheeny with water and the folds of her sari were clingy on her arms. My senses were still jarred by lack of sleep and I was aroused by her and the scents of her, as if love was appropriate here, now, in these circumstances. But she was young. She made me feel young, reckless. I thought of the last time I had been with her, how good it had been, how natural. I wanted it again. I needed the illusion of being needed, I craved the delusions of love - that there was no one and nothing else in the world but us, and nothing mattered but us. Her perfumes seemed to magnify as she peered through the window at the bustle and mud of the street below, a sweet mystery of scents carried across to me on the damp draught of air, jasmine and something I couldn't identify, almost a summation of Carol herself, exotically familiar and so unknown.
        "Have you eaten?" she asked. She opened her briefcase - a big bulky leather case, it didn't suit her - then pushed her scarf fussily inside. "The restaurant downstairs doesn't look too unsavoury, I think we can risk the food there. It was a rough ride from Delhi. I'm famished. Do you mind?"
        I said I didn't mind. I hadn't eaten in almost twenty four hours. I wasn't hungry
        Carol ordered pakoras.
        The restaurant was small. Trade was brisk. The room was full of noise and voices, impersonal, alarming. I wanted to ask Carol about herself, her journey here, trivia and cosy chat as if we were lovers of long standing and nothing was amiss. But her look was serious, stern - in a word, professional.
        I asked her if she had spoken to Inspector Prabash. How was the investigation going?
        "The man is a brute," she told me, with such sudden force that the word lost its shape, became an animal grunt - broo. "He's a chauvinist of the worst kind," she said, "obstinate, condescending. I don't know if it's a cover for gross ineptitude or if he really is that priggish."
        She jabbed at a pakora with her fork. She had insisted on being given a fork - others were eating with fingers or a spoon. Her look became even more severe. I couldn't help smiling. Her combative nature was one of the things I most liked about her, although there were times - and really, this was one such time - when a softer approach was much more to be desired. It had been a rough few hours for me since the discovery of Wyndham's body, a blur of bumpy rides and questions, broken moments of sleep, fuddling my mind and setting my emotions askew. I needed a centre, some focus - an emotional focus. Carol's stark professionalism, however, made that impossible, creating distance between us and annulling the feelings I had for her, blunting them at least. I knew why she was doing it: it would be tough for her to do her job, and be taken seriously by Inspector Prabash and his men, if our relationship was seen to be anything less than professional. A simple, stray show of feeling in the wrong place would be enough to turn her in their eyes into a mere woman, an adjunct, a thing to be ignored.
        I asked Carol what impression Inspector Prabash had given. I didn't think I had conducted myself too well with him. There were questions I ought to have asked, hadn't thought to. I didn't know quite where I stood or what was expected of me. Could I leave town? Was I under suspicion?
        Poking at another pakora, she told me this was something of a grey area. Inspector Prabash hadn't been very forthcoming, to say the least.
        "But I wouldn't unduly concern yourself," she said. "Small town police aren't usually as inept - by which I mean corrupt - as their big town counterparts. I'm sure progress is being made."
        A silence edged up between us, a clumsy, noisy silence, filled with words from those about us and a clattering of pans in the kitchen. Carol broke it with cold formality, telling me about some of the arrangements which had been made: the transportation of Wyndham's body back to the capital, where a post-mortem would be held to establish the cause of death. It was possible that CID investigators would be sent from England to assist in the proceedings, although in fact, she told me ("the likes of Prabash notwithstanding," she added, spearing the last of her pakoras with her fork and crinkling her lips nastily), the Indian police and criminal system was remarkably efficient and thorough in cases involving foreign nationals. Usually, anyway. Because inevitably, corruption reared its head. She told me of a recent case (it wasn't one she had handled personally) involving a tourist in Goa, who had served several months of a seven year sentence in jail for the possession of cannabis. The cannabis had almost certainly been planted by the raiding police officers, who had naturally expected a bribe to overlook the "offence".

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