Mystery surrounds the source of Zora Murillo’s unfathomable wealth. But that’s not all the locals want to know about. Intrigue surrounds her arrival in a quaint old English market town, when the hotel she buys, the Pleiades, is transformed into a living cabaret act and the scene of political reprisal. What also of the shadowy M, or Em, or Emoticon, as he styles himself, who claims only to be the writer of a gossip column? His rapport with Zora suggests he knows what it is that has brought her to the town of Hoe. Moreover, M has played his part in aiding her father, an acknowledged leader in AI and robotics, in resisting the changes brought to his country, with its so-called F regime. The coup led by General Forsiss, who in no sense of irony refers to his brave new state as Utopia, might be an ocean away, but the scars it has left are deep and permanent. But exactly what grief is it that the Forsiss regime has inflicted on the Murillo family, drawing its net ever tighter? Dr Murillo has lain awake at night fearing the midnight knock, and the black van waiting outside, knowing little of Zora’s ingenious attempts to rid them both of the clutches of Forsiss and his cronies.
Peter Cowlam is a poet and novelist. His last novel New King Palmers is at the intersection of old, crumbling empires and new, digital agglomerates. It won the 2018 Quagga Prize for Literary Fiction. He is also the 2015 winner of the Quagga Prize for Literary Fiction for his novel Who's Afraid of the Booker Prize. A recent collection of poems, Laurel, is of love, loss and rivalry. Poems and short stories have appeared in Marble Poetry, The Battersea Review, Literary Matters, Easy Street, Valparaiso Fiction Review, The Four Quarters Magazine, The Galway Review, The Liberal, and others. He has three novels and one novella published.