I am delighted to be today’s stop on the blog tour for; Murder on the Cards by Gina Cheyne. I love the sound of this book and can’t wait to share it with you all, plus I have an exclusive book extract to tempt you with.
Murder in the Cards
Death is the rule, survival the exception in 1960s Soho bridge circles
When the SeeMs Agency detectives play bridge online in 2020, they don’t expect their opponent to die during the game and yet a post-mortem the next day proves Brian Deliverer was dead halfway through the night. Can a dead man play bridge?
Employed by Brian’s daughter Karen to investigate his death, the team are led back to a notorious 1920s murder and to a missing teenager from a Sussex village in the 1960s.
Should they tell his daughter the terrible truth behind her father’s death even if it costs her everything?
It is 1963, Fran, a teenage bridge ace, has run away from her father, a homophobic religious zealot, to London, where she met Bev, a mixed-race prostitute. They team up to make money and get themselves free of male domination by playing bridge for high stakes in clubs. The girls use Polari (the pre 1967 gay language) as a method of communication so they can give signals about what is in their hands: both girls are happy to cheat to win.
In this excerpt they are in Jack’s Club in Soho.
Jack shrugged the rain off his leather jacket like a wet dog shaking its fur and headed for the bar. He skirted around a table where four people were engrossed in a game. One of the players was humming ‘Surfin’ USA’,and the irony of the Beach Boys’ light melodies wafting from the jukebox across the dark smoky air of the club was not lost on Jack.
‘Bloody hell, Clinton,’ he said as the tall thin barman turned towards him polishing a glass, the way he did when listening to customers’ complaints, ‘it’s Armageddon. First, we freeze our balls off all winter and now we’re like as anything to drown on Greek Street. Might as well be back in Ireland.’
Clinton silently pushed an open packet of fags across the bar and Jack lit one, inhaling deeply before looking around the club through the haze of smoke.
‘What’s doing tonight? I see Bev. She minding herself?’
Clinton nodded. ‘Yes. She brought in a choice new girl. They’ve been playing all evening. Big stakes. Don’t look like she’ll be giving French lessons tonight.’ He licked his lips, but carefully; Jack required his staff to always show gentlemanly behaviour.
Jack looked over at the card players. Both Bev and her partner had piles of cash on the table. Their opponents were drinking whisky and one had a cluster of paper bunched around his glass. Some of the liquor had spilt and wet the paper, giving off a sour smell that percolated through the warm air of the club. Both men had the glassy stare of the losing gambler.
‘Not if they win, certainly. Who’s the other bird?’
Clinton shrugged. ‘Bev called her Fran, but you never know with Bev’s girls – change their names with their dresses. Nice legs.’
Jack played his eyes across the girls. ‘Aye, but legs is as far as she goes. She’ll get nowhere with that catch of jubes.’ He mimed what he considered a girl’s best feature. ‘Best hope she wins at cards.’
He laughed and was about to walk away when Clinton said quietly, ‘Le Duce was done over today. The lily law charpering the place. Words out there’s a sharpy polone planted in one of the clubs.’
Jack’s mouth hardened. ‘Is there, bejesus?’
A police informer. And a female one at that. Jack had never heard of the lingo of Polari until he arrived in London, but now he found it a useful asset; he could converse with Clinton, and anyone else in the know, without snoopers.
He walked over to Bev’s table. She had some new gold bangles decorating her arms and rings on her fingers. Jack shook his head mentally; OK, she was a thief, but it was unusual for her to display her loot so openly.
Bev was concentrating on the cards, but she looked up briefly. ‘Jack.’
The girl Fran was dummy, so she looked up at Jack and smiled shyly. ‘Hello.’ She blinked through long eyelashes. ‘Thank you for letting us play in your club. It’s fabulosa.’
Posh girl, thought Jack. Where did Bev snaffle this one, this innocent? The way she mouthed ‘fabulosa’. She might catch on, despite the lack of willets. Nice eyes. Long arms. Looked young. He might fancy a sample himself.
He walked on through the haze of smoke to the next room, where they were setting up to play skiffle. As they began jamming, Jack watched them lazily, thinking about young Fran at the bridge table. Too much greasepaint flagged up every time. Thought it made them look sophisticated. Probably fourteen. Maybe younger. Where did they come from, these girls and boys? Young ones usually frequented 2is or Speakeasy, not grown-up clubs. It was a dangerous game having them here. The sudden arrival of unhappy parents accompanied by lily law could cause havoc in a decent club. But Bev knew that. She wasn’t usually a fool.
He glanced at his Rolex. Still early. They hadn’t got much of a crowd yet; that usually came after 11 p.m.
Almost through a dream, he heard the whistles. From the other room came the crashing noise of rozzers doing the work of perfidious magistrates. Le Duce last night. His tonight. Those dilly boy charpers were hotting up and it was making it hard to run a club. He was fed up with this. He paid his money. He should be protected.
He crushed the remains of his cigarette into his hand. Whipped back into the gaming room to stop the charge, but he was too late – tables overturned, broken glasses, policemen holding clients up against the wall. He looked around furiously. Then he noticed something.
No sign of the card table. Bev and Fran had cut out with their money and their notes. Only the men were being hauled out of the club.
How the fuck?
He hoped Bev wasn’t pulling a fast one here. She’d better not be the undercover sharpy polone. He’d have words with that zhooshytart later. He looked around for the betty bracelet in charge.
Gina has worked as a physiotherapist, a pilot, freelance writer and a dog breeder.
As a child, Gina’s parents hated travelling and never went further than Jersey. As a result she became travel-addicted and spent the year after university bumming around SE Asia, China and Australia, where she worked in a racing stables in Pinjarra, South of Perth. After getting stuck in black sand in the Ute one time too many (and getting a tractor and trailer caught in a tree) she was relegated to horse-riding work only. After her horse bolted down the sand, straining a fetlock and falling in the sea, she was further relegated to swimming the horses only in the pool. It was with some relief the racehorse stables posted her off on the train into eastern Australia to work in a vineyard… after all what could go wrong there?
In the north of Thailand, she took a boat into the Golden Triangle and got shot at by bandits. Her group escaped into the undergrowth and hid in a hill tribe whisky still where they shared the ‘bathroom’ with a group of pigs. Getting a lift on a motorbike they hurried back to Chiang Rai, where life seemed calmer.
After nearly being downed in a fiesta in Ko Pha Ngan, and cursed by a witch in Malaysia, she decided to go to Singapore and then to China where she only had to battle with the language and regulations.
Since marrying the first time, she has lived and worked in many countries including Spain and the USA.
For a few years Gina was a Wingwalking pilot, flying, amongst others, her 64-year-old mother standing on the wing to raise money for a cancer charity. She was also a helicopter instructor and examiner and took part in the World Helicopter Championships in Russia and the USA.
She became a writer because her first love was always telling a good yarn!
Under the name Georgina Hunter-Jones she has written illustrated children’s books such as The Twerple who had Too Many Brains, and Nola the Rhinoceros loves Mathematics.
She now lives in Sussex with her husband and dogs, one of who inspired the Biscuit and Pugwash Detective Series about naughty dogs who solve crimes.
Murder in the Cards is the second in the SeeMS Detective Agency series
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