For an Exclusive Excerpt from His Debut Novel, The Red Die…
Hi Alex, thanks for joining me today and huge congratulations on the launch of your book – what a fantastic cover! Thanks also for letting us take a sneaky peek inside:
First off, here’s the synopsis:
The body of a man with a red die in his pocket is washed ashore near a quiet village on the coast of the Indian Ocean in southern Africa. But what looked initially like a corpse that came in with the tide soon turns out to be a murder case that will lead Comandante Felisberto and his team to the edge of danger and despair as they uncover a trail leading up to the highest echelons of power in their country.
Can Felisberto and his ‘motley crew of rural investigators’ solve the case – and survive?
Intriguing… now let’s whet our appetites with Alex’s inimitable writing style. Take it away, Alex:
This excerpt is taken from Chapter 2 in THE RED DIE. A body has washed in to the normally quiet, rural bay of Mossuril in northern Mozambique, Southern Africa, and the main investigating officer, Comandante Felisberto is following up on a clue, with his deputy Samora, at an address in a nearby town.
They parked and Samora took photos of all number plates in the carpark on his smartphone. Felisberto lit a cigarette and watched his deputy photograph cars: how thorough yet how pointless, the Comandante thought. The sea breeze carried a scent of algae and seawater and Felisberto eased his impatience with the calming smells. Out of the corner of his eye on the opposite side of the road he saw someone hastily close the curtains on the second floor of a building. The Comandante signalled to his assistant to stay alert. Both men lifted the safety valves on their weapons, before stepping closer to the building, with an eye towards the road and the surrounding zinc-plated shops and factories.
Felisberto reached the door and rang the bell marked ‘Xin_ _ _’, guessing that Hua had perhaps left the venture. He took a look over his shoulder and rang again. No answer.
Samora looked at Felisberto whose face seemed to be resigned to the inevitable. Seconds later the door was open and
Samora was guiltily packing away a wire and tweezers. They checked the ground and first floor without detecting any signs of life and climbed another flight of stairs. A door on the second floor was flapping wide open and two bowls of instant noodles were still steaming on the table. A small hatch led to the roof. It was open. The phone was off the hook and the safe was unlocked. Outside the sound of screeching wheels dragged both police officers to the nearest window. Two East Asian men in a green Toyota Landcruiser sped off down the seafront. Samora made as if to chase the suspects but Felisberto grabbed his arm. “Don’t.”
“What are we looking for, chefe?” asked Samora, frustrated. The two officers began to wade through piles of papers stacked beside a cupboard in a corner. “Evidence,” said Felisberto. “Clues, ties, sense. A motive. We’re looking to understand why a man with a nice suit washes up dead in our district.”
They spent at least two hours, undisturbed, wading through piles and piles of paper; what looked to the Comandante like contracts, notes and receipts. Many of the documents were in Chinese. Since there was no one he knew who could translate them, he saw no point in taking any of them away. If he sent them to HQ, he’d probably see them again in a few years. Besides, HQ had no idea he was there and it would be better if it stayed like that, he reasoned.
One particular pile of Mozambican receipts caught Felisberto’s eye and as he browsed through them, he recognised the port duty stamps from Nacala, the jurisdiction next door to his own. He took a note to visit the Comandante there and stuffed a handful of receipts in his jacket pocket. From the number of receipts the Comandante could only assume that Xin (and possibly Hua) had been bringing in and taking away a lot of things. But then wasn’t that what all the Chinese were doing at the moment? Why else would the country’s markets be flooded with cheap Chinese batteries and LED lights? The Comandante decided he would get in touch with somebody at the deepsea port in Nacala, in the jurisdiction next to his own, and see if they knew anything about Xin (and possibly Hua).
The low, fake asbestos ceiling made it unbearably hot.
They had been reluctant to plug in the fan for fear of attracting attention. Felisberto stood up and walked to the door, gesturing to his colleague to follow him. Then the Comandante’s attention was drawn to a photo on the wall. “Look, chefe! It’s him,” said Samora. “It’s the dead man.”
The photo showed the dead man shaking hands with a Chinese and a Caucasian businessman. All were wearing crisp suits and shiny shoes. The photo looked like it had been taken shortly after sealing a business deal or a partnership. All three men seemed keen to communicate their commitment to each other with warm smiles. The dead man stood to the side while the Chinese and Caucasian businessmen shook hands. Felisberto was about to grab the photo when Samora snapped a picture of it on his smartphone and walked out.
“Who are you calling now?” Felisberto demanded, annoyed at Samora’s use of technologies he, the boss, didn’t understand.
“Collecting evidence, Comandante,” replied Samora, already halfway down the stairs. Before Felisberto could leave, another photo caught his attention. It was Alberto Frangopelo, the country’s new minister for oil and gas. And right next to him was the dead man again. This time Felisberto took the photo and walked out.
Alex MacBeth is a writer of crime fiction, a journalist, a publisher of African literature and a festival founder in Mozambique. He works for several international titles as a journalist and has also worked as a media trainer in Central and East Africa.
THE RED DIE is his first novel.