A stolen painting. A gangster intent on revenge. And nothing is what it seems.
Art consultant Kate Carpenter has an off-the-books sideline in art recovery, dealing with thieves, gangsters and the occasional war criminal to reunite priceless artworks with their owners. But when she refuses a request from the owner of one missing painting, Yuri Sokolov isn’t prepared to take no for an answer.
Her knowledge has cost him millions, he wants revenge, and he isn’t planning to show any mercy. The only way that Kate can get Yuri Sokolov to keep his distance is to find out exactly what happened to his painting, but when she starts scraping away at the surface, she finds that nothing is exactly as it appears.
Don’t Blink is the first book in the Kate Carpenter series.
Frost crunched beneath the soles of my leather boots as I walked through the St. Petersburg park. It was quiet, the sun was pale and cold, and watching from behind my sunglasses, I felt my adrenaline sharpened by a needle of fear.
A few couples ambled along the paths, snapping photos and pointing at views. I slowed my pace, watching until I was sure they were only interested in each other and oblivious to the less recreational activities going on around them. A man with a camera passed me, his nod almost imperceptible, as was the shadow of the gun beneath his jacket.
Two elderly babushkas in fur coats and hats were taking a constitutional before what I guessed would be a morning of tea and gossip in one of the local cafes. I didn’t think they were gangsters in disguise because they had the walk right. No-one ever gets the walk right; shoulders insufficiently rounded by age, their stride a little too fast or too sure. No, I was sure these two were just little old ladies.
Tensing at a sound like a rifle-crack nearby, my left hand tightened on the grip of the Beretta in my pocket. My shooting skills were scant, gained in one session at an American range and limited mostly to instructions on how not to injure myself. Given that, I hoped I’d never need that Beretta.
“It’s okay, Kate, only a twig. Keep walking. Just Tommo not looking where he’s putting his size elevens.” The low voice in my left ear was calm, amused even.
Strolling towards the canal, the laptop bag heavy on my shoulder, I saw a man in a fur hat and overcoat sitting on an iron bench facing the railings. He was watching the ducks as they skidded on the ice.
I took a seat next to him, on his left so I could keep my hand on the gun and he wouldn’t see my earpiece. Placing my bag on the ground between us, I pretended to watch the ducks too.
“It’s a bitter morning, isn’t it?” I spoke lightly, the typical Brit who would prefer to make a banal comment about the weather rather than sit in silence.
“Yes. Unexpectedly so.” He had only the barest hint of an accent.
“Such a beautiful view. Like a Monet snow scene.”
A drake slipped, tumbling beak over tail, and I smiled, despite the adrenaline making my heart race. On the other side of the canal, a tall fair-haired man loitering near a bridge with a camera in his hand glanced in our direction. The casual observer wouldn’t have noticed the way his eyes scanned the trees or the outline of the gun under his black jacket. But my companion on the bench noticed. I sensed him turn towards me. He knew who I was now.
“You have it?” A suspicious note in his voice.
“Of course. And do you?” I was still smiling, watching as the clumsy duck regained his feet and shook his feathers back into place.
“Naturally.” The man sounded defensive.
“Super. Then I should get going. It’s too cold to sit here any longer.” Without letting my polite, business-like expression slip, I got to my feet, picked up the leather briefcase positioned next to my laptop bag, and turned to look at the delivery man for the first time. He was clean-shaven and powerfully built, running a little to seed now as he settled into middle age. But despite his carefully generic appearance, I’d know him again.
Thank you, Vanessa Robertson and Love Books Group
About the author
Midlander by birth, Scot by choice, Vanessa Robertson won Pitch Perfect at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. Death Will Find Me, a crime novel set in 1920s Edinburgh featuring former spy, Tessa Kilpatrick is her first novel. Later in 2019, Vanessa will be launching a series of thrillers set in the world of high stakes art crime, and the second Tessa Kilpatrick book will be published in early 2020.
Vanessa lives in a cottage in the middle of a Scottish wood with her family and unfeasibly large dog. She enjoys wild beaches, Venetian cafes and wandering around art galleries. She dislikes celery, cheap notebooks and writing about herself in the third person.