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I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the blog tour for the first stand alone thriller by Michael Stanley, the name behind the fantastic Detective Kubu series!  It’s such a thrill to share this extract with you from Dead of Night, and I really hope you enjoy it as much as I do, I know that I cannot wait to devour this book!

Description:

DEAD OF NIGHT Cover VIS_preview

When freelance journalist, Crystal Nguyen, heads to South Africa, she thinks she’ll be researching an article on rhino-horn smuggling for National Geographic, while searching for her missing colleague. But within a week, she’s been hunting poachers, hunted by their bosses, and then arrested in connection with a murder. And everyone is after a briefcase full of money that may hold the key to everything…

Fleeing South Africa, she goes undercover in Vietnam, trying to discover the truth before she’s exposed by the local mafia. Discovering the plot behind the money is only half the battle. Now she must convince the South African authorities to take action before it’s too late. She has a shocking story to tell, if she survives long enough to tell it…

You can buy a copy of Dead of Night via:

Amazon UK
Waterstones
Book Depository

Extract:

After unpacking, Crys went outside and settled on her porch. It was hotter than Pretoria, but there was a freshness to the air, carrying with it a beautiful scent, which seemed to come from a nearby tree covered in lemon-coloured flowers. She made a mental note to ask Johannes what it was.

She opened her laptop and navigated to the folder that contained the photos Michael had asked Sara Goldsmith to store. Starting with the most recent, she flipped through them, paying closer attention than she had when she looked at them on the flight over.

Michael was a prolific picture-taker, but he had outdone himself during the short time he’d been at the rhino farm. There were photos of everything, from the entrance to the farm to the chalets; from a variety of views of the exterior of the house to shots of the interior rooms. There were even several of Anton being served by a black man at the dining-room table. There were photos of the game vehicles, the electric fence, various trees and, of course, rhinos.

Why were there so many of Tshukudu? Crys decided that Michael must have been doing something similar to her – also writing for his main employer, the New York Times. The good news was that if she missed something, she would be able to find it in Michael’s collection.

When she finished looking at the photos, she worked on her notes and photos for a while, and since Tshukudu had Wi-Fi, she was able to catch up on stuff from home. Pretty soon the afternoon was gone. She took a shower and changed, and headed across to the main lodge for dinner.

Johannes and his father were already in the living room. The older man stood up and introduced himself as Anton Malan. Crys guessed he was mid-sixties and he looked fit.

He shook her hand and kept hold of it. ‘Please say your name again. I didn’t quite catch it.’ His accent was even rougher than Johannes’s.

‘Crystal Nguyen. But call me Crys. Everyone does.’ ‘Pleased to meet you, Ms Nguyen.’ He pronounced it carefully, then let go of her hand. ‘Let’s sit down. Boku will get you a drink.’

Crys walked over to a handsome black man dressed in formal waiter attire and stuck out her hand. ‘Pleased to meet you, Boku. I’m Crys Nguyen. Please call me Crys.’

Boku looked very uncomfortable, but eventually he shook Crys’s hand with the weakest handshake possible.

‘I’ll have an orange juice, please,’ she said hastily, then turned back to the others, frowning.

‘He’s not used to being treated like that,’ Anton said. ‘He’s been one of our servants for fifteen years. We treat them well, but not as equals.’ Crys opened her mouth, but then closed it again. She realised she had a lot to learn about this country, which only twenty years earlier had forcibly kept the races apart.

Crys was astonished when they moved through to dinner. It reminded her of old British movies set in the colonies. She’d never encountered anything like it – its formality made her uncomfortable.

They sat at a beautiful table made from a yellow wood, with the white-jacketed Boku waiting on them. When he wasn’t serving, he stood quietly in the corner of the room. Johannes and Anton ignored him, except for an occasional thank-you.

‘You are obviously from the USA, Ms Nguyen,’ Anton said. ‘Whereabouts?’

‘Well, actually I was born in Saigon – Ho Chi Minh City now. My family left after the war and settled in Minneapolis in Minnesota. There are a lot of Vietnamese people there.’ Crys purposefully kept the statement bland, trying to stop any further personal questions. Fortu- nately, Anton was just making small talk and didn’t really want to hear her life story.

‘Bit of a change of scene for you here,’ he went on. ‘You have such a beautiful place,’ Crys said. ‘And I was so lucky to see them taking the snare off Mary.’

‘Bloody poachers,’ Anton growled in reply. ‘They shoot them in the national park, you know, but we have to use kid gloves or there’s no end of trouble.’

‘They weren’t after the rhino, Dad,’ Johannes interjected. ‘It was a snare for a kudu.’

‘They’d take the rhino if they could. Even for the stump of horn that’s left.’ Anton turned to Crys. ‘Did he tell you what they’d get for a horn?’

She nodded, and then asked: ‘According to a World Wildlife Fund survey I read, fewer Chinese now believe that rhino horn is a medicine. Will that help, do you think?’

‘Nearly fifty percent of Chinese still believe in it, though,’ Johannes replied. ‘And that’s a lot of people. A lot of people.’

Anton went on eating for a while, then put his fork down with a clunk. ‘Surveys are rubbish. People changing their beliefs?’ He shook his head. ‘Look at the locals here. They are trustworthy, good workers, Christians. But they still believe in witchcraft.’

Boku cleared away the plates, apparently oblivious to Anton’s com- ments. Crys felt embarrassed for him and wanted to change the subject. In any case, she was really keen to ask Anton about Michael. This was her best chance of discovering something useful, since no one had picked up his trail after Tshukudu. She was almost scared to ask, though. What if he had nothing to add to what he’d told Sara Goldsmith?

‘I wanted to ask you about a colleague of mine,’ she said to Anton after a pause. ‘A man called Michael Davidson. He works for the New York Times.’

Anton looked up. ‘Davidson? Yes, he was here about a month ago. Wasn’t he also supposed to be investigating the rhino-horn trade or something? Also for National Geographic, I think.’

‘That’s right. Do you know where he went after he left Tshukudu?’ Anton signalled with his glass for Boku to bring him more wine. ‘Well, he was here for a few days then said he was going up to Mozam- bique. I told him to watch his step. They don’t like newspaper reporters over there. I told all this to the police when they contacted me. You know anything more about this, Johannes?’

Johannes shook his head. ‘Crys already asked me. I was taking a group of tourists on a camping trip when he visited, I guess. Why did the police get involved?’

‘He never came back to the States from South Africa,’ Crys responded. ‘No one knows where he is. National Geographic asked the police to try and trace him.’

‘Are you a friend of his?’ Anton asked, taking a sip of his wine. Crys nodded. There was a good chance they’d end up more than friends, she thought.

‘Did the police come up with anything?’ Johannes asked.

‘Basically, that he did go into Mozambique and returned to South Africa about ten days later. After that nothing.’ She paused. ‘How can someone just vanish and no one knows what’s happened to them?’ She didn’t mention Lieutenant Mkazi’s theory of a random hijacking.

Anton shrugged. ‘We’re a long way from anywhere here, you know. If you head into the bush you could lose cell phone signal, break down, I don’t know. It could be a long time before you’re found.’

It all seemed very casual to Crys. People had GPS these days. In the twenty-first century, you didn’t just get lost and disappear.

‘Didn’t he tell National Geographic what his plans were?’ Johannes asked.

Crys shook her head. ‘When National Geographic asked me to take over this project, they sent me all his notes for the article, but they were all about the interviews he’d done and so on. Nothing about what he was planning next. There is one thing. Michael sent me an email saying he was onto something big – smuggling horns out of South Africa – but I’ve no idea about the details.’

‘Something big?’ echoed Anton. He sat back, pushing himself away from the table. ‘Something big can be dangerous…’ He stared at Crys as though he didn’t like the taste of this conversation very much.

‘You think he might have been talking about rhino-horn smugglers?’ Anton signalled to Boku to bring dessert. ‘Can’t say. But those are not good people to mess with.’

‘How do you think—’ ‘Look,’ Anton interrupted. ‘I told that lady who phoned from your magazine everything I knew about Davidson. Was it worth you coming all the way out here and going through everything all over again?’

‘Well, I needed to talk to you about your rhino farming anyway,’ Crys said, taken aback by Anton’s reaction. ‘Didn’t he have all that in his notes?’ Crys met Anton’s eyes without blinking. ‘Yes, but they were sketchy. And it is better for a writer to form their own impressions – you can’t write an article like this from someone else’s notes. Not if you’re a professional.’

‘Anyway,’ Johannes soothed. ‘You’re very welcome here, of course.’ ‘Of course,’ Anton agreed, but he didn’t sound as though he meant it. Crys felt a wave of disappointment. Again, she’d learned nothing more. Michael had been here. He’d asked questions. He’d left for Mozambique and when he came back, he’d disappeared.

And somehow, she seemed to have upset Anton in the process of asking about it.

Boku served the dessert – a sort of filled tart that he said was called melktert. ‘That means milk tart,’ Johannes chimed in. ‘It’s a traditional Afrikaner farm dish.’

Crys took a forkful and liked it immediately. It was smooth and deliciously creamy. After she’d enjoyed a couple more forkfuls, she thought that asking Anton about the business might lighten things up. ‘I’m interested in your business model,’ she said to him. ‘Is it mainly tourists coming to see the rhinos?’

But Anton looked annoyed and gave a sour laugh. ‘Business model? Let me explain something, Ms Nguyen. If I want a business model, I have real businesses in Joburg, where I make good money. Here, I don’t make money – it costs a fortune to run this place.’ He paused. ‘So, you’ll want to know why I do it, then. Well, I’ll tell you. They’re predicting that the white rhino will be extinct in fifty years. But they’re wrong. It isn’t going to happen, because I’m not going to let it happen. That’s my business model.’

Crys didn’t respond and focused on finishing her dessert.

About the Author:

Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. Stanley was an educational psychologist, specialising in the application of computers to teaching and learning, and is a pilot. Michael specialises in image processing and remote sensing, and teaches at the University of the Witwatersrand.

On a flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award.

Dead of Night blog poster 2018 (3)

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