Here’s an excerpt:
“After loping along an avenue lined with banyan trees and up a small hill, they arrived at the Bela Vista. Higgins was leaning against the door frame of the elegant nineteenth century mansion. ‘At last,’ he said, holding a cigarette between his thumb and forefinger and flicking ash.
James settled his fare. It was only five minutes past eight; he wasn’t late. He lengthened his stride and followed Higgins through the foyer, up a staircase to a mezzanine floor, then past a reception desk and bar.
In the restaurant, the smuggler got up from his seat and pulled out the chair next to him. ‘Let me introduce myself properly,’ he said in heavily accented English. ‘I am K C Leung.’
‘How do you do?’ James shook hands. He sat down and glanced at the woman sitting opposite Leung. Not the dishevelled girl he’d “rescued”, but one so striking he had to look away in order not to be thought rude for staring.
‘This is Miss Sofia Rodrigues,’ Higgins said from the other side of the table. ‘I believe you swam together, but haven’t met formally.’
James leaned forward and extended his hand, briefly glancing at her tight-fitting cheongsam dress, her small breasts outlined against the silk.
Sofia’s warm fingers pressed his. He sat back and contemplated his surroundings. Potted palms stood like sentinels in the corners of the room. A Latin crooner, accompanied by a pianist, was singing I’ve got you under my skin. Wooden ceiling fans stirred the air, although the heat and humidity of summer had passed.
The Bela Vista was everything he’d imagined: starched linen, silverware and candlesticks on the tables, waiters jumping to light his cigarette.
Shame he almost certainly wasn’t here for the pleasure of his company.
Leung confirmed his order of the most expensive choices on the menu: shark’s fin soup, abalone and fried shrimp.
‘I hope you’re fully recovered,’ Sofia said, smiling at James.
‘No after-effects. What about you?’
When researching the background to my novel, I found out that the elegant mansion was built in 1870 as a residence for a British Captain and his wife, who turned it into the “Boa Vista Hotel” in 1890. A few years later it was sold and went through several reincarnations before becoming a hotel again in 1936 with its famous name, ‘Bela Vista’. The hotel housed Portuguese refugees from China during WWII and reopened as a proper hotel again in 1948, finally closing on March 29, 1999, to become the Portuguese Consulate when Macau was handed back to China in December 1999.