When my husband got tired of trying to kill himself in racing cars, light aircraft, helicopters and all the other stuff men turn to in their hour of mid-life crisis, he suggested that we try boating. We were at home in Andorra, up to our ears in snow and the heating was on the blink, so pretty pictures of sleek motor cruisers cutting through the calm, crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean seemed rather appealing. And safe. We fell for the hype and before we knew it, we were the owners of an ancient boat in need of a considerable amount of tlc.
For Andre, that was the start of an on-going love affair with the sea and all things nautical. For me it was more a hate-love-hate situation. When the sea is actually as calm as they make it out to be in those glossy ads then boating is a dream. But those days are few and far between. Most of the time you’re tossed about like a loose coin in a washing machine, feeling sick and wondering what the hell you think you’re doing.
Still, never waste an experience, that’s my motto, and one good thing to come out of hours of staring at endless expanses of sea was The Hunter Files, my series of marine crime mysteries. The first, Unfinished Business, was published by Carina Press last year, written under my other persona, W. Soliman.
Charlie Hunter is, like me, a Brit. He shares my husband’s passion for boating and, at forty, having taken early retirement from the police, plans to live aboard his trawler yacht in Brighton marina and spend his days restoring it to its former glory. Sound familiar?
Charlie’s dream life doesn’t get off to a good start when a woman involved in one of his first cases as a detective accosts him, trying to persuade him to look for her missing sister. Charlie, a soft touch when a pretty woman turns on the tears, reluctantly agrees. Mind you, if he’d known his investigation would lead to a gang of ruthless Russians, leaving him and Kara fighting for their lives, he probably would have stuck to boating!
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Writing this book was a departure for me, since it’s in the first person, obviously from a male perspective. Andre came in useful here, both with technical boating issues and likely male reactions in given situations. Can’t say more than that!
Anyway, get a feel for Charlie by seeing how he reacts to his first sight of Kara.
“Excuse me, I’m looking for Charlie Hunter.”
The spanner flew out of my hand and clattered into the bilge. “Shit!”
“Hello there, is Mr. Hunter on board? I was told to ask on this pontoon.”
I swore again. The female voice responsible for breaking my concentration clearly wasn’t going anywhere. Bare-chested and bloody-minded, I hoisted myself out of the engine room of my motor cruiser and slowly wiped the oil from my hands on the rag protruding from the pocket of my jeans. I took a moment to shake the hair out of my eyes and rotate my shoulders to smooth out the kinks before turning to the woman, ready to let rip. One look in her direction and the words stalled on my tongue.
The policeman in me took stock of the evidence. Midtwenties was my guess. Tall, slim, curly red hair tumbling down her back, big green eyes, a dusting of freckles across her nose, curves in all the right places, no wedding ring. The man in me couldn’t help approving. She was just my type, or would be if I hadn’t sworn off all women as being more trouble than they were worth. Still, there was nothing to say I couldn’t indulge in a spot of window-shopping.
“I’m Hunter,” I said tersely. “Something I can do for you?”
If the woman was discouraged by my churlishness, she gave no sign. “My name’s Kara Webb, Mr. Hunter.” She introduced herself as though it ought to mean something to me.
“You don’t remember me?”
“Can’t say that I do.” The name rang a vague bell but I was willing to swear I’d never had the pleasure. Kara Webb wasn’t the sort of woman a man was likely to forget.
“Is there somewhere we could go to talk? I could buy you a coffee, or something.” She nodded towards the café on the landside of the approach to the marina.
“Can’t see that we have anything to talk about.”
She broke off as Gil bounded out of the boat’s salon, a growl rumbling in his throat, long tail wagging like crazy. Talk about mixed messages. I made a mental note to have a chat with my dog a bit later on about his duties. It would be useful if he could get into the habit of warning me of imminent intruders before they caused me to drop spanners in bilges.
“Gil!” Too late. He’d already leapt onto the pontoon and was jumping all over my lovely visitor. He’s a huge beast in an interesting variety of colours, and although I wasn’t about to admit that he’s a big softie, a lot of people were intimidated by his size. “Careful, he’s a bit edgy ’round strangers.”
“So I see.”
And then she smiled. I found myself silently repeating the words I’d said aloud when I’d dropped that spanner. Miss Webb, when she smiled, could put the sun itself to shame. It changed the whole tenor of her face and dispelled the air of despondency I’d sensed when first checking her out. Uh-uh, Charlie boy, I told myself severely. This looks like trouble. Don’t let that bloody smile influence you into buying whatever it is she’s come to sell.
Kara reached out a hand to tickle the dog’s ears. Gil, sensing a soft touch, had already rolled onto his back, ready to lap up any attention on offer.
“Gil,” she said, “that’s a strange name for such a handsome beast. Something to do with fishing?” She nodded towards the fishing rods attached to the roof of the cockpit.
“It’s short for Guilty.”
Stop by my website if you get a moment. It’s at http://www.wsoliman.com. You can read the entire first chapter of Unfinished Business and its follow up Risky Business, also published by Carina Press