Sam Jones, sculptress and reluctant sleuth, can't resist the opportunity to do Manhattan when she's invited to New York for a group show at a gallery featuring young British artists. New York, loud and brash as Sam herself, welcomes her with open arms and plenty of her favorite margaritas. She's even reunited with Kim, a best friend from childhood who's transformed herself into a quintessential New Yorker, complete with weekly spinning classes and an East Village studio apartment. Despite Sam's promise to stay out of trouble, however, trouble keeps finding he one of the gallery's employees is found strangled in Central Park's Strawberry Fields not long after Sam arrives, and the gallery itself has been trashed with graffiti.
While Sam's new Manhattan friends pop Prozac and fret about the police investigation, the rest of the young Brits turn up in New York, including the one Sam drunkenly groped in a club not so long ago. Will the exhibition be a success? Will Sam's current boyfriend the dashing actor Hugo find out about her moment of abandon? And will the details of the strawberry tattoo give away the murderer's identity before Sam herself becomes a target?
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There was a boy in it. As so often. He was very handsome and he was staring at me with flattering concentration.
I was enjoying this immoderately.
He was dark, which in general I prefer, with big dark eyes and full, pouty lips. But mainly I noticed his eyelashes. They were very long, and he was standing so close to me that I could almost feel the gentle whisper against my skin as he lowered them. He was looking at something below my line of vision, pointing at it urgently; I bent over to see what it was, rather reluctantly, because I wanted to go on looking at him instead. But all I could see was white, a shiny white surface stretching away into the distance, and I had no idea what I was supposed to be searching for. He was speaking, but despite the fact that he was pressed up against me, I could hardly hear him. I pulled back a little and was struck again by how dark his eyes were, how wide. . . .
We were in a tiny narrow room, the walls painted a dull dirty yellow, flaking and peeling so badly I thought of something funny to say about them and then didn't. That kind of restraint is highly unusual for me, and I started to wonder if I were feeling all right. But I was promptly distracted by a more pressing problem. Literally: the room was closing in on us, exactly like that scene from Star Wars where Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia are trapped in the rubbish compactor on the Death Star. Suddenly we were braced against the walls, desperately straining every muscle to keep them from compressing us down into pulp. I looked around for the hairy one what was his name? Chewbacca to help, but he wasn't around.
"Quick, you call him!" I said to the boy. "He might come for you. He's very hairy, you know."
But he didn't know what I was talking about, and he started to bat his eyelashes, and suddenly such a gale blew up that the walls fell away and we were floating, caught helplessly by different multicoloured whirlpools and sucked down into their hearts, our limbs flung out by the wind. It was like being dragged into the opening titles of Charlie's Angels. For a moment I saw us both, thrown apart, our silhouettes, black against the bright primary swirls of colour, dwindling into their centres. . . .
"Goodness," I said. "This has gone very Seventies all of a sudden."
And then I woke up.
My eyes opened and I knew with absolute conviction that I had recently done something very, very bad indeed. It was one of those nebulous sensations where your brain, already clouded by heavy mists of alcohol and various chemical substances, struggles simultaneously to retrieve the information and shove it into the deepest darkest pigeonhole at the back of the skull. Unfortunately there was so much stuff in there already that this latest atrocity wouldn't quite fit.
Damn. I could still feel it hovering in skull hyperspace. I sat up slightly, propping some pillows behind me, rather surprised that I wasn't feeling suicidal with pain at the change of position. Oh, that's right. Class A drugs. Always great for cancelling out the worst symptoms of the morning after. Which was another reason I wasn't suffering too much physically: it was past two in the afternoon. People who complain about hangovers are always the ones who have to get up for work. I recommend simply cutting out the last part and sleeping through it instead. But then I can. I haven't had a proper job for so long I can't remember when.
By now the mental torment had cranked itself up several gears and was giving of its best. I was still unable to remember the precise character of the abomination against nature I had committed, and the frustration was growing unbearable. As usual, I would rather know the worst than be tortured by endless speculation. That was me all over. Open the box even if the cat's dead. At least that way you know what the score is.
Oh God, what if I didn't manage to remember what I did last night without help? I shuddered, perfectly aware that blackouts were one of the main signs of alcoholism. Like most people who drink with gusto, I had lists of these memorised from various magazines, with the ones that didn't apply to me picked out reassuringly in mental highlighter. No, I didn't have blackouts (well, not if I could remember what happened last night under my own steam, I didn't); friends of mine had never said they were worried about my intake (not being hypocrites); and, um, it didn't impair my ability to do my job. Such as it was. Somehow the lists never included vomiting in your sleep, which I found perplexing. A friend of mine from art school did this once it was spectacular, in a perverse, Tarantinoesque kind of way and it had always remained for me pretty much the benchmark for when you were entering I Have A Problem territory.
In any case I would rather die than ring anyone who had been present last night and pump them for information. Hah! I thought triumphantly, effortlessly accessing that file. At least I knew who I'd been out with, which was a start. An embarrassing start, because it had been a group of young British artists, or yBas, a shorthand now adopted by some of the more fashionable art critics, and one I loathed. The sooner it was cancelled off the face of the earth the better. Not to mention some of the more pretentious antics indulged in by the leading yBas themselves.
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