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I am thrilled to welcome you to The Quiet Knitter today to share an extract from Gary Raymond’s thrilling novel The Golden Orphans.

Golden Orphans Cover Image.jpg

Description:

Within the dark heart of an abandoned city, on an island once torn by betrayal and war, lies a terrible secret…

Francis Benthem is a successful artist; he’s created a new life on an island in the sun. He works all night, painting the dreams of his mysterious Russian benefactor, Illy Prostakov. He writes letters to old friends and students back in cold, far away London. But now Francis Benthem is found dead. The funeral is planned and his old friend from art school arrives to finish what Benthem had started. The painting of dreams on a faraway island. But you can also paint nightmares and Illy has secrets of his own that are not ready for the light. Of promises made and broken, betrayal and murder…

The Golden Orphans offers a new twist on the literary thriller.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Waterstones

Book Depository

NOOK

Kobo

The Golden Orphans by Gary Raymond – EXTRACT

 

Chapter 1

Until the Russian turned up with his entourage, I was the only person at the funeral, and I had come two and half thousand miles to be there. The priest, in his cassock and black hat, had answered when I asked that yes, he would have carried out the service alone if it had come to that, delivered the eulogy about a stranger to nothing but the heavy warm air and an audience of buried bodies. I didn’t linger on my surprise at the turnout, saying only, “Is there really no-one else coming?” The priest carried with him the demeanour of a man more than halfway through a career that required little more than sympathetic nodding, and he said in good English, “Everything was arranged and paid for by Mr Prostakov, but that is all I know, I’m afraid.” I took this in, took in the unfamiliar name, and perused the flat wilderness of the graveyard. I was just three hours on the island and I had seen little more than grasslands mixing up in shades of tan and umber, the edges of villages emerging from diverging roadways, and isolated villas like discarded boxes flickering in the heat of the middle distance. My taxi driver had not spoken a word all the way from Larnaca, and I had lost my thoughts to the white noise of tyres on tarmac.

“Are you a relative of the deceased?” the priest said.

I hesitated. I said that I was not, that he was an old friend, and that we had lost touch over the last few years. The priest nodded in the way he would have done no matter what my answer had been. And we walked together out to the plot at the far end of the graveyard.

“Who was it you said paid for the funeral?” I said.

“Mr Prostakov.”

“And why would he do that?”

“I believe he was Mr Benthem’s employer.”

I had questions, of course. Questions about Francis Benthem’s death, about his life in the years since I had last seen him or heard from him – I had brought those questions with me on the flight. But I also had more immediate questions: what was the priest going to read? Had anybody else been informed? How had this afternoon all come about?

But I didn’t ask any of them, immediate or otherwise. Through the warm air came a merciful breeze, and we both took positions at the graveside. There was Francis’s coffin, the “music box” as he used to refer to them, “where the music stops”. He was in it, of course, and I hadn’t really given much thought to the fact I would be standing so close to the cold remains of a man who taught me everything I knew about the path I had chosen in life, and in many ways had perhaps helped me choose that path. I had met him when he was lecturer at St Martin’s just over twenty years before, back when I was all piss and vinegar, a painter who felt he would change the world, just like almost everybody else who came through those doors. It was an institute of firebrands, from the student body all the way up through the faculty. Francis had a reputation for confrontation in the lecture hall, of deconstructing young turks, and was a member of the clique of the fine art faculty who still regularly made headlines with their work. My tilt to my moxie (as he would have put it) back then was to set fire to the establishment, of which I perceived Francis to be a member. He pointed out early on that it was an interesting tactic I had in hand, enrolling at St Martin’s and deciding to set fire to the building I myself was now in. “Welcome to the establishment,” he had said. “Set fire to what you want. It can take it.”

There seemed something so small about that box. The priest began his words but I didn’t take them in. I hadn’t noticed, but a few yards away, two gravediggers the colour of lead were sitting on a headstone smoking cigarettes waiting for this odd little theatre to end so they could drop Francis into the ground. Francis had made a name for himself painting scenes like this just after the war, pulling shards of light onto mounds of morbid earth. He said to me once that the nineteen forties was the only time when death was bigger than a conversation, it was a canvas rather than a scene, it was just there with all of us, like pissing and shitting, it didn’t matter where you looked you had one eye on it. Before that and after it, he said, death was not there until it happened, either to you or to someone you knew. I couldn’t quite get over how much those two gravediggers looked like a Francis Benthem painting.

I don’t know about you, but that’s certainly got me intrigued!

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