Rose: A Novel by Martin Cruz SmithRose: A Novel by Martin Cruz Smith

Rose: A Novel

byMartin Cruz Smith

Mass Market Paperback | February 1, 2000

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The year is 1872. The place is Wigan, England, a coal town where rich mine owners live lavishly alongside miners no better than slaves. Into this dark, complicated world comes Jonathan Blair, who has accepted a commission to find a missing man.

When he begins his search every road leads back to one woman, a haughty, vixenish pit girl named Rose. With her fiery hair and skirts pinned up over trousers, she cares nothing for a society that calls her unnatural, scandalous, erotic.

As Rose and Blair circle one another, first warily, then with the heat of mutual desire, Blair loses his balance. And the lull induced by Rose's sensual touch leaves him unprepared for the bizarre, soul-scorching truth. . . .
Martin Cruz Smith lives with his wife in northern California; they have three children. For Rose he won the Hammett Prize from the International Association of Crime Writers. He is also the author of Nightwing, Stallion Gate, and the bestselling Arkady Renko thrillers, Gorky Park, Polar Star, Red Square, and Havana Bay, his latest book...
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Title:Rose: A NovelFormat:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:416 pages, 6.7 × 4.22 × 1.06 inPublished:February 1, 2000Publisher:Random House Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:034542252X

ISBN - 13:9780345422521

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The most beautiful women in the world were African.   Somali women wrapped in robes suffused with purple, vermilion, pink. Around their necks beads of amber that, rubbed together, emitted electricity and the scent of lemons and honey.   Women of the Horn who peered through veils of gold, strands in the shape of tinkling teardrops. They stood veiled in black from head to toe, their longing compressed into kohl-edged eyes. In the Mountains of the Moon, Dinka women, dark and smooth as the darkest smoothest wood, tall and statuesque within beaded corsets that would be cut open only on their wedding nights.   And the women of the Gold Coast in golden chains, bells, bracelets, dancing in skirts of golden thread in rooms scented by cinnamon, cardamom, musk.   Jonathan Blair awoke tangled in damp sheets and shivering to the rain, gas fumes and soot that pressed against his lodging’s single window. He wished he could slip back into his dream, but it was gone like smoke. The Africa in his bloodstream, though, that was forever.   He suspected he had typhoid. His bedclothes were dank from sweat. The week before, he had been yellow from his eyeballs to his toes. He pissed brown water, a sign he had malaria. Which last night had demanded quinine and gin—at least he had demanded it.   Outside, morning bells rang in another foul day, resounding like blood vessels exploding in his brain. He was freezing, and on the room’s miniature grate a pitiful mouthful of coals was fading under ash. He swung his feet onto the floor, took one step and collapsed.   He came to an hour later. He could tell by another outburst of bells, so there was some point to God after all, as a celestial regulator with a gong.   From the floor Blair had a low but excellent view of his sitting room: threadbare carpet of tea stains, bed with wrestled sheets, single chair and table with oil lamp, wallpaper patched with newspaper, window of weepy gray light that showed dead ashes on the grate. He was tempted to try to crawl to the chair and die in a sitting position, but he remembered that he had an appointment to keep. Shaking like an old dog, he struck out on all fours toward the fireplace. Chills squeezed his ribs and twisted his bones. The floor pitched like the deck of a ship, and he passed out again.   And came to with a match in one hand and a newspaper and kindling in the other. He seemed to do as well unconscious as conscious; he was pleased with that. The paper was folded to the Court Circular for March 23, 1872. HRH the Princess Royal will attend a patrons meeting at the Royal Geographical Society with Sir Rodney Murchison, president of the RGS, and the Right Reverend Bishop Hannay. In attendance will be … That was yesterday, which meant he had missed the festivities, had he been, well, invited, and possessed the cab fare. He struck the match and used all his strength to hold the sulfurous flame under the paper and sticks, and to push them under the grate. He rolled on his side to the scuttle. Please, God, he thought, let there be coal. There was. He laid a handful on the fire. A kettle hung over the grate. Please, God, he thought, let there be water. He tapped the kettle and heard its contents slosh from side to side. He fed the fire more paper and more coal, and when the coal had caught he lay as close as he could to the fire’s warming breath.   He didn’t like English tea. He would have preferred sweet Moroccan minted tea served in a glass. Or thick Turkish coffee. Or a tin cup of American boiled coffee. In London, however, he thought this was probably about as pleasant as life could get.   Once he’d had his tea, Blair chanced getting dressed. Fashioning his scarf into a sort of tie gave him problems, since he couldn’t raise his arms without triggering the shakes. Because he hadn’t dared put a razor near his throat for days he had the beginnings of a beard. He did still have decent clothes and a pocket watch to tell him that if he was going to walk from Holborn Road to Savile Row—he certainly didn’t have money to ride—he had to leave at once. Ordinarily the route was half an hour’s stroll. Today it lay before him like a passage through mountains, deserts, swamps. He leaned against the window and stared down at the hunched backs of cabs and vying streams of umbrellas on the sidewalks. The glass reflected a face that was raw and high-colored by a life spent out-of-doors. Not a friendly or comfortable face, even to its owner.   Going down the stairs he swayed like a sailor. As long as he didn’t break a leg he’d be fine, he told himself. Anyway, this was an appointment he couldn’t afford to miss, not if he wanted to get out of England. He’d crawl on his elbows to do that.   London assaulted him with the steaming smell of horse droppings, the shouts of a rag wagon contending with a line of hackney cabs, the argument punctuated with explosive discharges of phlegm. The boulevards of Paris were washed once a day. In San Francisco dirt at least rolled down to the bay. In London filth accreted undisturbed but for the daily piss from the heavens, creating a stench that made the nose weep.   Well, that was what England itself was like, a snuffling nose set by the blue eye of the North Sea, Blair thought. This other Eden, this sceptered isle, this chamber pot beneath the sky. And every subject proud of his umbrella.   At this end of Holborn Road the local tribes were Jews, Irish and Romanians, all dressed in bowlers and drab rags. Every block had its pawnshop, mission hall, tripe house, oyster stall, brace of alehouses. If the surrounding stench was a miasma, the inhabitants on the street took no more notice than fish took of salt water. Horse-drawn buses with open upper decks lurched through layers of drizzle and fog. Men in sandwich boards carried the offers of chiropractors, dentists, psychics. Women in sodden boas offered glimpses of rouge and venereal disease. Corner vendors sold French rolls, penny rolls, hot potatoes and newspaper headlines announcing HEARTSICK STRANGLER KILLS BABE, MUM! How the editors sorted out which of the daily multitude of urban atrocities to sell, Blair couldn’t imagine.   Halfway, by Charing Cross, billboards advertised the staples of middle-class life: liver pills and elderberry, Nestlé’s milk and Cockburn’s sherry. Here the population was transformed to a masculine society in black suits and top hats: clerks with one hand clutching their collars, tradesmen with cotton gloves and ribboned boxes, barristers in vests festooned with silver fobs, all jostling with umbrellas. Blair had no umbrella himself, only a broad-brimmed hat that diverted rain onto the shoulders of his mackintosh. On his feet he had a pair of leaky Wellingtons, the soles lined with pages torn from a mission hymnal: “A Closer Walk with Thee” in the left boot. He stopped every other block to rest against a lamppost.   By the time he reached St. James’s, the chills had returned as spasms that made his teeth chatter. Although he was late, he turned into a public house with a chalkboard that declared CHEAPEST GIN. He laid his last coin on the bar and found himself given ample room by the regulars, a lunchtime gallery of shop assistants and apprentices with the drawn faces of mourners in training.   The bartender delivered a glass of gin and said, “There’s pickled eggs or oysters comes with that, if you want.”   “No, thanks. I’m off solids.”   Every eye seemed to watch him down the glass. It wasn’t simply that their faces were white. Compared with other complexions, British skin had the sallow shine that reflected a sun long lost in a pall of smoke. A boy with brighter eyes edged along the counter. He wore a green band on his hat, a purple tie squashed as flat as a cabbage leaf and yellow gloves with rings on the outside.   “Illustrated London News,” he said and extended a hand.   A reporter. Blair didn’t wait for his change. He pushed himself away from the bar and plunged through the door.   The boy had a grin of someone who had found a pearl in his oyster. “That was Blair,” he announced. “Blair of the Gold Coast. Nigger Blair.”   His destination was in the sort of Savile Row town house that merchant banks and clubs were fond of: an entrance between banded columns, three floors of windows overhung with marble crenellation that expressed confidence, propriety, discretion. A brass plaque on a column read THE ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY.   “Mr. Blair.” Jessup, the steward, was always solicitous for reasons Blair never understood. He helped Blair off with his hat and coat, led him to the rear of the cloakroom and fetched him tea and milk. “How are you feeling, sir?” he asked.   “A little chilled, just the smallest bit.” Blair was trembling so hard from the short dash from the pub that he could barely keep the tea in the cup.   “Gunpowder tea will set you straight, sir. It’s good to see you again, sir.”   “A pleasure to see you, Jessup. The Bishop is still here?”   “His Grace is still here. One of the men just took him some cheese and port. You catch your breath. I read the reports of your work with great interest, sir. I hope there will be more accounts to come.”   “I hope so, too.”   “Do you think you can stand, sir?”   “I believe I can.” The shakes were subsiding. He got semi-briskly to his feet and Jessup brushed his jacket.   “Gin will rot your insides, sir.”   “Thank you, Jessup.” He started to move while he was still faintly refreshed.   “You’ll find the Bishop in the map room, sir. Please be careful. He’s in a mood.”   The map room was testimony of the Society’s contribution to exploration and knowledge. It had started as the African Association. A great map delineated expeditions the Society had sponsored: Mungo Park up the Niger, Burton and Speke to Lake Victoria, Speke and Grant to the White Nile, Baker to Uganda in search of Speke, Livingstone to the Congo. The walls were two levels of book and map shelves, the upper walkway supported by cast-iron columns and a spiral stairway. Watery light showed through the glass roof. In the middle of the room a mounted globe showed the British possessions as an earth-girdling corporation in imperial pink.  

From Our Editors

Life isn`t easy in a 19th-century English mining town, where hard work is the only way of life the residents know. This community is about to be turned upside down with the sudden appearance of Rose. While this sly thriller pulls at readers` heartstrings, it will also leave them guessing until the final page is read. From the author of Gorky Park and Havana Bay, Martin Cruz Smith, comes the national bestseller Rose - a must-read for all fans of the thriller genre.  

Editorial Reviews

"A superb thriller that will keep the reader breathless right up to the final page."
--San Francisco Chronicle

"THE MOST INTERESTING AND RICHLY TEXTURED CRIME STORY OF THE SEASON."
--Time

"[SMITH] AT THE TOP OF HIS FORM . . . It is fun, the well-plotted, dense fun of an intelligent, shadowy, literary enigma. . . . Brisk and edifying entertainment."
--The New York Times

"A JOY TO READ."
--The Washington Post Book World