Excerpt from The Innocent Spy by Laura Wilson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Innocent Spy

A Mystery

By Laura Wilson

The Innocent Spy
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  • Hardcover: Jul 2009,
    464 pages.

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Stratton breathed in the familiar station smell of soap, disinfectant and typewriter ribbons. Ballard, the young PC who’d dealt with Miss Morgan, was by the desk, admonishing Freddie the Flasher. ‘I’ve got a weak bladder, there’s nothing they can do for it, on my life . . .’ Stratton grinned to himself: there was one in every district. Female exhibitionists, as well - there’d been one at his first posting who’d never closed her curtains when she undressed for bed. Every night at 11.30. Good looking woman, too. He’d watched her several times, a few of them had. Not that he was proud of it, but . . .

He waited until Ballard was finished, then nodded at Freddie’s retreating back. ‘Poor old sod. He can’t be having much fun in the blackout.’

‘No, sir.’ Ballard suppressed a grin.

‘You found Miss Morgan, didn’t you?’

‘Yes, sir.’ Ballard grimaced. ‘I won’t forget her in a hurry, I can tell you.’

‘Who was with you?’

‘PC 29, sir. Arliss.’

‘I see.’ Fred Arliss, one of the old, horse-drawn brigade, was so incompetent that ‘Arlissing around’ had become station slang for ballsing something up. Stratton wondered if Ballard knew this yet, but decided not to enlighten him.

‘Did either of you notice anything unusual about her?’

Ballard frowned. ‘I don’t know if you’d say it was unusual, but there was one thing that did strike me when we moved her - she didn’t have her teeth in.’

‘Didn’t she?’

‘No sir. Made me wonder if it wasn’t some kind of accident. The window was wide open, not much of a ledge, and if she’d been leaning out . . . It’s only a thought, sir. It just seemed to me a shame if the coroner said it was a suicide when it wasn’t.’

‘Certainly rough on the family.’

‘She didn’t have any relatives, and her husband’s dead. Died in a fire. That’s how she got the scars on her face. The young chap she lived with told us.’

‘Young chap?’ Stratton raised his eyebrows.

‘Nothing like that, sir.’ Ballard reddened. ‘He wasn’t . . . well . . . he wasn’t normal.’

‘A kiss not a handshake, you mean?’

Ballard looked grateful. ‘Something like that, sir. It was like talking to a girl.’

‘Oh, well . . .’ Stratton shrugged. ‘It takes all sorts. How are you finding it at Beak Street?’ Ballard, like most of the young policemen, lived in the section house. Stratton had lived there himself years ago, when he had his first posting at Vine Street. Tiny cubicles, and never enough blankets in the winter. ‘Don’t suppose it’s changed much, has it?’

‘I shouldn’t think so, sir. Do you remember her, in the films?’

‘Can’t say I do.’

Stratton thanked Ballard and returned to his desk to shake his head at a heap of paperwork about the Italians they were supposed to be helping to round up for internment. Bloody ridiculous, he thought, staring at the list of names. It came from MI5, and they hadn’t screened anybody so, basically, every Gino, Maria and Mario who’d come to Britain after 1919 was for it, even if they had sons or brothers serving in the army. Not to mention attacks on Italian businesses . . . Admittedly, it was an easy way to get rid of some of the gangs, although, with the Sabini Brothers safely out of the way, the Yiddishers and the Malts would have the run of Soho, which would mean shifting alliances - accompanied by a fair bit of violence - until everyone settled down again. Not that the Jews were having an easy time of it, either. Stratton sighed. It wasn’t the criminals he felt sorry for, it was the poor bastards who were trying to make an honest living and getting bricks chucked through their windows. Not to mention all the stories in the papers about Jews profiteering and evading the call up.

Excerpted from The Innocent Spy by Laura Wilson Copyright © 2009 by Laura Wilson. Excerpted by permission of Minotaur Books, a division of Macmillan, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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