31 May 2012

Excerpt Thursday: SKELETON WOMEN by Mingmei Yip

This week on Excerpt Thursday, we're welcoming historical fiction author, Mingmei Yip. Her title, SKELETON WOMENset in Shanghai during the 1930's, is available now from Kensington. Join us Sunday, when Mingmei will be here to talk about the novel and offer a copy in the winner's preferred format. Here's the blurb:

Camilla is a young orphan when she is adopted by a master crime lord and turned into the singing sensation of Shanghai. She lives in luxury but knows none of the wealth is really hers. She is one of the skeleton women, who lure men to their ruin and death. In her case, it’s literal, since she is also trained in knife-throwing and contortion.
Her assignment: attract the attention of another crime lord and help see he is assassinated. But can she stay in his good graces with competition from Shadow, a famed magician, and Rainbow Chang, the ambiguously sexed gossip columnist? And will she be able to resist falling for either the gang lord’s son or his hunky bodyguard? 

**An Excerpt from SKELETON WOMEN**

Chapter One  The Naked Girl Jumping Toward Eternity

Against the sapphire blue night sky, a young woman was pacing along a ledge atop the Shanghai Custom House tower like a circus girl treading a tight rope.
Except she was stark naked.
The Shanghainese say nothing will surprise them, that they’ve seen it all. But now they were surprised. No one watching had ever seen anything like this.
Not even my new lover, Master Lung, head of the most powerful black society in Shanghai, the Flying Dragons, nor his slew of bodyguards scattered among the crowd, alert for danger, and shoving anyone who seemed about to get too close to their boss.
Lung’s and my eyes had stopped staring licentiously into each other’s, and were directed skyward -- to the clock tower of the Customs House with its fake European styling, far above the Bund and the Huangpu River. 
The crowd held its collective breath. Their probing, lascivious eyes glued to the muscular, round-bosomed naked body above, expecting at any moment she would jump to her death. I imagined the onlookers agitated thoughts:
Is she really going to jump?
Why doesn’t she want to live?
Jump! I want splashing blood, crashing flesh, crackling bones!
What a pity, a beautiful girl soon to turn into a puddle of vomit.

Tonight the air was balmy, but the naked girl playing the tug-of-war with death hundreds of feet above chilled us all, both those appalled by an innocent girl about to plunge to her death and those perverts who secretly thirst for the morbid sights of splattered blood and scattered human pieces. I bit my lip, my hand tightly clutching Master Lung’s arm while my heart pounded like a tribal drum trying to scare away demons.
Not that a smashed face and broken limbs would have bothered me much. For I had been trained since my teens to wipe away all human emotions. I had been molded for one purpose and one purpose only: to be a spy. Though, ironically, I earned my living singing sentimental songs in a nightclub.
As I continued to watch, the two hands of the clock merged into a single one pointing north, setting off the imitation Westminster Chimes to suddenly flood us with an eerily cheerful melody. But then, in the midst of the clear sky, thunder cracked and lightning flashed…. 
And the naked figure jumped!
The onlookers gasped collectively, their expressions ranging from horror, to sorrow, to unabashed thrill….
 All heads dropped down to gape – some of the women through cracks between their many-ringed, red-nailed fingers. A pause, then another shock. There was no body. Only a pair of red high heels in the middle of a pool of blood!