Duck Egg Blues
by Martin Ungless
Duck Egg Blues is funny, sad, mysterious and thrilling. “A robot butler detective, what’s not to love?”
Martin Ungless is a WCN Escalator Prize winning author who has twice been shortlisted by the Crime Writers’ Association for their Debut Dagger Award.
What the CWA Judges said about his work:
‘A clever and ambitious story’
‘I was laughing and crying and hugging the sheets to my chest’
This perfect slice of ‘cozy crime’ is narrated in the voice of a pre-war English butler and concerns a rich and powerful businesswoman whose daughter goes missing from their country house estate. That the story- teller is a robot belonging to an impoverished detective brings a fresh and original take on ‘cozy’, and as for ‘crime’… well, it does begin to escalate, what with MI6, criminal gangs, corrupt police, and that’s not to mention international cybercrime!
As the plot strands weave together, we discover that behind one mystery lurks a greater threat. No one is safe, not even PArdew…
This is without doubt the robot-butler-detective thriller you have been waiting for!
Get your copy here
For the duration of this blog tour, Duck Egg Blues will be on a Kindle Countdown Deal,
so if you are tempted, purchase before the price rises.
If you still need some convincing, then let me whet your appetite with an extract:
Don, an irascible private detective, owns PArdew, a robot butler, though it becomes clear to the reader that Don wishes he did not. When left to clean his master’s flat, PArdew tidies some files away. In doing so, he absorbed the information in them and sees patterns which allow him to predict a crime. Much to PArdew’s surprise he is taken on the resulting stake-out, not it transpires as a reward for his brilliant deductions, but because Don will receive a bonus from the semi-privatised Police force if he is seen to be ‘investing in new technology’.
PArdew’s memory was wiped when his ownership transferred to Don, which means that much of PArdew’s behaviour is as if he is seeing the world for the first time.
PArdew and Don are hiding in a doorway. PArdew narrates.
EXTRACT (don’t forget to ‘do’ the voice!)
…So this is a stake-out. I must say, I find it to be most stimulating. Here are all these humans waiting on the accuracy of my neural-net predictions. I do hope that nothing happens to interfere with the regular behaviour of the criminals, I should hate to disappoint my Master after he has been so generous in bringing me along. It will be such useful feedback too, though one concern I have is that the data which I processed was entered by human hand. Of course I had allowed for that in my calculations but one never knows, to err is human, one simply never knows.
Many of the buildings around us broadcast ident-signals and whilst we wait I handshake with each of these in turn. I also detect call-signs from a variety of appliances, mostly commercial ones given their range, and these include a butcher’s walk-in freezer from 2 doors down, and opposite us, a print-shop’s checkout till. At this stage I can see no benefit in complex communication with these machines but I log their details just in case.
After 14 minutes my Master swears beneath his breath and rises. He crosses Lesser Wednesday Lane and travels right, along the pavement, for approximately 38.4 metres until located beneath the lamppost he produces a vapour-cigarette. The tip reddens 3 times. My Master looks about himself, coughs, and then returns along the middle of the causeway. His body-language is casual, relaxed, but his eyes absorb everything and this surely is the hallmark of a great detective. Arriving at our aedicule, he crouches next to me and the extinguished vape is placed inside a jacket pocket.
‘Nasty things!’ He spits the taste away.
4 minutes pass. He fishes out his phone and checks the screen.
‘Shouldn’t’ve listened to a clockwork toy.’
I think he may mean me.
19 seconds pass.
‘Sir, if I am not mistaken, these are they.’
2 young men have exited a narrow alley between blocks of flats on the far side a few doors from where we are. The gentlemen are not speaking but nonetheless they act in unison, scouring the length of the street as we press into our reveal. One continues with his general observations as they walk towards us, the other’s attention is drawn towards the vehicles stationed along that edge. My Master tightens his crouch. The 2 gentlemen, still without obvious intercommunication, come to a halt beside a very ordinary looking automobile, neither old nor new, nor large nor small. A long flexible strap is drawn up from a trouser leg and its owner leans against the door to work the slender tool inside the window frame. At the same time the second individual manipulates a small black box. I sense radio signals, short bursts, streams of digits representing prime numbers as I interpret them. Many of the nearby vehicles respond in kind.
My Master looks up at me and whispers, ‘Can you see a Key-Exchanger?’
‘I believe, Sir, I am able to detect the object to which you refer.’
I have spoken too loudly, and the suspects raise their heads to look in our direction.
My Master whispers, ‘Stupid rust-bucket,’ and without taking the phone from his pocket, sends a text. I register the signal, he must have had the message pre-prepared.
I reduce my volume, uncertain that I shall remain audible. ‘I’m so sorry, Sir.’
‘Right,’ he says, and stands.
The suspects take flight. They are heading for the gap from whence they came. My Master, a superior detective, quickly halves the distance between himself and them, then charges up the alley closing fast. One of the miscreants reappears, I presume having ducked between parked cars, and now he cleverly doubles back along the pavement, and this when the Police are all secreted in the opposite direction. Who will stop him now? Not I, obviously, the street and 2 substantial vehicles lie between us, and what is more he is human, I mere machine.
I leap, an activity not sanctioned by my higher processors. Immediately I soar above the near-side car. Which circuit instigated this? I am still gaining height as I pass the centre of the road, adjusting my balance, preparing to land. Which microchip decided on this course of action? I demand to know! The fleeing malefactor checks behind himself and nods with satisfaction. He has begun to slow. Meanwhile I traverse the roof of the small van parked just in front of him, but too high, travelling too fast, and that print shop wall looks hard!
The umbrella opens, for I pressed the button. He looks up, startled by the noise. As I descend he overbalances and now, with little I can do to amend my flight path, I land astride his torso. Most unfortunate.
‘Oh, I do beg your pardon, Sir.’
As I bend to offer assistance he scrambles backwards on his hands and heels.
‘Sir, do take care.’ I remain in place concerned over his self-injury, and am gratified to report, my tactic works. He stops and clambers into a crouching position, fingertips resting on the pavement, balanced on his toes. He starts to steal glances at the gap behind the van.
‘I would prefer it, please Sir, if you did not attempt to flee.’ As he considers my request, I feel it is only polite to add, ‘So that you might be arrested, Sir.’
He jumps for the opening as the space is filled by an arriving police car, and he slams into its side. Whilst dazed the officers easily restrain him but he soon recovers his composure and begins to struggle, so much so that he might now get away, except that when he sees my Master running up, he clearly understands, with such a great man present his capture is complete.
‘Well done,’ my Master calls.
I am delighted to have been of some small service.
He slaps the policemen on their backs, ‘Great work, you two!’ and I come to understand that he had not really been addressing me.
‘Did you see that jump?’ asks one of the officers.
‘Unbelievable!’ replies the other.
Neither of them I would venture to suggest, could be more surprised than I.
Their prisoner points in my direction, saying, ‘That’s not fair.’
How devilishly delicious was that? Remember, this is on offer throughout the duration of the blog tour. You can find it on Amazon here.
About the author:
He has won a WCN Escalator Award, and been successful in a number short-story competitions.
Martin started life as an architect though now lives in the Norfolk countryside and writes full time.
Martin is currently studying for the prestigious MA in Fiction (Crime) at UEA.
You can follow him on Twitter
Be sure to check out reviews for this book, guest posts and Q&As on the blogs below: