Tuesday 15 November 2022

F. C. Malby, "Dead Drop"

F. C.Malby graduated with a first-class joint honours degree in Geography and Education. She has travelled widely and taught in the Czech Republic, the Philippines and London. She writes novels, short stories and poetry. Her debut novel, Take Me to the Castle, won The People’s Book Awards. Her debut short story collection, My Brother Was a Kangaroo, includes award-winning stories published in literary journals and magazines worldwide. She is a contributor to anthologies including In Defence of Pseudoscience: Reflex Fiction Volume Five (Reflex Press), Unthology 8 (Unthank Books), and Hearing Voices: The Litro Anthology of New Fiction (Kingston University Press) alongside Pulitzer prize winner, Anthony Doerr. Her website is here.

About Dead Drop

Liesl is an art thief and an exceptionally good one. She steals priceless paintings from Vienna’s art galleries and delivers them to wealthy private collectors. This life of anonymous notes and meticulous planning, of adrenaline-fuelled dead drops and dramatic escapes, suits her restless spirit and desire for solitude and anonymity. But when Leisl finds a body on Stephansplatz underground steps instead of the expected note, she understands that she’s involved in a deadly game and that her own life is in danger. This fast-paced, intelligent thriller exposes the undercover world of art heists and takes us on a journey through Vienna’s galleries and museums until Leisl comes up against a truth that makes her question everything she knows.

You can read more about Dead Drop on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read an excerpt from the novel. 

From Dead Drop, by F. C. Malby

I hear the roll and clunk of the train’s wheels on the steel tracks below, feel its vibrations in my toes and through my thighs as it leaves the platform. The wind rushes into the tunnel from Stephansplatz, its caress warm as it whips down the steps to the underground platform and fills the void. 

The Vienna spring brings with it cherry blossom and azure skies, the blues becoming celestial in the late afternoon light. Most count the short, hot summer months. I count the winter months until spring, and then when the leaves turn to a deep, burnt amber, I begin again. 

As I reach the top step, a body lies on the pavement, feet contorted, laces undone, socks pushing through holes in the soles. A red, woollen hat rests on the concrete slab by his head, hands clutch an empty bottle of Kaiser beer. Not a soul stops to look. A body littering the pavement is a familiar sight on this part of the underground. It’s not always clear whether the person is alive or dead. 

I am here for the note. Stepping closer to avoid the people coming up the steps behind me, I spot a corner of paper in his top jacket pocket and pull it free. Without reading the words, I slide it into my jacket. Checking the pocket on the other side of his jacket, I feel something hard and rough and pull out a brooch shaped like a star. I count the spokes, ten of them, and run my fingers across its surface. It lacks the pearls, but at a guess it would have been handcrafted by Hapsburg jeweller, Rozet and Fischmeister. I slip it into my pocket. An unexpected treasure. Reaching down and taking his wrist, I feel for a pulse. I should have checked it first but this is new territory for me. All signs of life have drained away and death was recent. A touch of heat still lingers on the skin, rough and calloused. I pull the hat down over his face. The beer bottle, I suspect, will have been planted to make this look like a natural event. He should have been alive when I reached him. 

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