ExtractRead chapter 1 of the novel

        There was a coroner's report inside the folder, a report from the Superintendent of Police at Srinagar and some newspaper clippings. The details of my son's death were scant. He had been accompanying emergency medical supplies to a hospital in Srinagar, in Kashmir. There had been an explosion at the city's central market, close to the supply truck. My son had died instantly.
        There was little of this in the file, nothing about what he had been doing in Kashmir or why he had gone there. There was only "insurgency" and "continued unrest", there was only "massive explosion" and "killed". A cut-out article had been pasted on to one of the pages, detailing the trial of the two men who had been charged with planting the incendiary device which had killed my son. The men were known sympathizers of the separatist cause. They had been cleared of all charges. I had attended the early days of the trial; but it had been made clear to me that the men weren't guilty. Their arrest was merely a sop to the British government, a way of making it appear that firm and decisive action had been taken. There was little hope now that my son's killers would be tracked down, let alone captured and prosecuted. There had never really been any hope of that.
        The file contained only scant details of my son's work in the country, listing his occupation as "nurse" - he had never qualified as a nurse - and describing his employment as "voluntary" - his work was aid work but he was paid a wage, a small one just above subsistence. It mentioned Wyndham Charles without describing the aid project he was running in the country, simply stating that there was such a project, and that my son had been engaged on it. Wyndham's name was spelt wrong: Windham. I felt I ought to have been cross at these errors; but in fact, they only depressed me. The misrepresentations put my son in a better light, and in changing him made him seem changeable, malleable, making me think of him not as himself but as the person he might have been, or that I might have wanted him to be, not an aid worker in India, not over-idealistic, not unmaterialistic, not dead.
        There was nothing in the file to damn Wyndham. Was that what I had wanted? I really didn't know what I had wanted.
        "Did you handle my son's case?" I shut the folder and pushed it back across the desk to Carol - it contained only cold facts, details which I already knew, couldn't bare to look at or remember. "Thank you," I said.
        Carol set the folder back in the drawer. She said, "Thomas Graveney dealt with your son's ease. You probably met him at the time. Tall? With funny, squinty eyes?"
        "Yes, I think I remember him. I think I thought he had a glass eye."
        "This isn't my usual line of work. Normally I just take care of small things, lost passports and such, routine really. But we're short-staffed at the moment. There's a lot of flu going round, and a few cases of monsoonal dysentery. This isn't even my regular office - I've got a little cupboard down the hall."
        She gave me her card when I left. It wasn't a professional card, just one of the embassy cards on the bottom of which she had written her name and direct line. She said if there was anything else she could help me with, anything at all, I shouldn't hesitate to call. That's what they were there for, after all. There was probably more than mere courtesy in this - I had over ten years on her, I was overweight and unfit, not unattractive though (my wife had called me dashing, in our early days) - but if so, I didn't notice it then. Carol had asked me, later, if I had been struck by her on that first meeting. These were the exact words she had used, they had baffled me for a moment - my mind was prejudiced towards notions of violence and I had thought of a literal striking. I said of course I had been. How could I not notice her beauty, I had said. But this wasn't how I had felt. She had been no more than a functionary. The image of her I had taken away in my mind was an unreal one, a confusing amalgam, of a twenty thirty-something heavily slender Indian with dark bleach-blonde hair and a tufty mole on her upper lip.
        One of Inspector Prabash's men came for me while we were still in the restaurant. Inspector Prabash had more questions. He wanted to speak with me - alone, he stressed.
        The officer waggled his head. "There is no hurry," he said. "But please to be quick."
        He wandered across to the entrance, waited there, glancing over from time to time and smiling as if he knew a secret which it would shock me to hear. It was still raining outside. The policeman had brought a big tattered umbrella, which flopped wetly in the gust of air blowing in.
        "Before you go," Carol said, as I was about to get up, "tell me one thing."
        "Do you know who killed Wyndham Charles?"

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