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The geopolitics of the afterlife get messy in the new sci-fi spy novel Summerland

Chapter 1: A Duel at the Langham Hotel, 29th October 1938

Rachel White flung the cab door open, tossed the driver a banknote and dived into the rain.

She ran across the gloom of Portland Place towards the gilded mountain of light that was the Langham Hotel. The downpour tore at her hat. Her heels slipped and twisted on the wet pavement. The raindrops tasted like fear.

Fifteen minutes earlier, her ectophone had rattled out a message: KULAGIN IN A DUEL COME AT ONCE.

She had imagined a .22 hole in Yakov Mikhailovich Kulagin’s forehead, all the dark secrets in his brain leaking out and washing away, dragging her twenty- year career in the Secret Intelligence Service with them.

She took the stairs to the arched entranceway of the hotel two steps at a time.

Stairs, marble floors, thick carpets, Renaissance pillars, ladies in ermine and pearls, spirit-armoured mediums channelling New Dead visiting from Sum- merland. She collided with a waiter and toppled a tray of champagne glasses. Curses and laughter fol- lowed her. Then she was through a set of French doors at the top of a broad staircase and outside once again. She stopped and breathed in the heady smell of roses in the rain.