Paperback: 464pp

Published: Lightning Books (October 2022)

ISBN: 9781785633201

The Ambrosia Project

Abi Silver

£9.99

A tragic accident? Or is there a poisoner on the loose?

When food magnate Brett Ingram collapses and dies at a public event, his seafood allergy is blamed and the caterer, Nick Demetriou, charged with manslaughter.  

Nick hires legal duo Judith Burton and Constance Lamb to defend him. They scrutinise the colourful panellists at the event – a food blogger, a beef farmer, a food scientist, a TV chef and a radio host – who all seem to be holding something back.

There’s something fishy about the allergy story. Did one of the speakers have a hand in the businessman’s death? And what of the nasty incidents that keep befalling them? Should the net be cast wider to include opponents of Brett’s mysterious Ambrosia initiative?

In another of Abi Silver’s nail-biting games of courtroom cat-and-mouse, Judith and Constance must find the truth amid a smorgasbord of lies and deception.

OUT OCTOBER 2022. AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER NOW

Extracts

Nick Demetriou stood in the kitchen at Tanners’ Hall preparing lunch and contemplating the considerable challenges posed by a life in the catering trade. As he would happily explain to anyone who would listen, he was not just a cook. Rather he was both producer and director of a touring, repertory culinary show, often tasked with a gruelling schedule. Sourcing fresh, high-quality ingredients was just the beginning. After that, every step had to be carefully choreographed to ensure they each reached maximum potential; the chopping, squeezing, chilling, mixing, warming, roasting and positioning. Using stalwarts he could rely upon and introducing newcomers for colour and excitement. It was only when they all peaked simultaneously that the accolades flooded in. Yes, providing a first-rate service was no mean feat for any chef on any regular day.

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Extracts

Nick Demetriou stood in the kitchen at Tanners’ Hall preparing lunch and contemplating the considerable challenges posed by a life in the catering trade. As he would happily explain to anyone who would listen, he was not just a cook. Rather he was both producer and director of a touring, repertory culinary show, often tasked with a gruelling schedule. Sourcing fresh, high-quality ingredients was just the beginning. After that, every step had to be carefully choreographed to ensure they each reached maximum potential; the chopping, squeezing, chilling, mixing, warming, roasting and positioning. Using stalwarts he could rely upon and introducing newcomers for colour and excitement. It was only when they all peaked simultaneously that the accolades flooded in. Yes, providing a first-rate service was no mean feat for any chef on any regular day.

Today, sadly, was more than a little irregular. Andrew, one of his usual servers, had excused himself with ‘flu’ at 9am this morning, far too late to find a replacement. So Nick had been forced to step in and roll up his sleeves – the most overqualified of understudies – which had made him resentful. After all, he did own the business. He didn’t want to be mistaken for staff.

           Across the kitchen, a young woman was splitting cherry tomatoes with the tip of her knife, in the manner he’d shown her, and distributing the pieces evenly between individual salad bowls. ‘Eleni,’ Nick said. ‘Finish the salad and get it out into the hall.’ The girl looked up and frowned. Her gaze bypassed Nick and settled on the face of the wall clock, before she pinched her lips together, turned back to him and nodded.

           Clearly, she was cross at being hurried. He’d asked her to ensure the salad was laid out on the tables at the back of the hall by 12, and her silent protest told him she was still ahead of her deadline. Nick almost said something, something to remind her that he paid her wages, that there were still endless tasks to complete, that any boss could change his mind. He wondered, fleetingly, if the girl would have challenged his authority in the same way, if he’d still been the proprietor of Giorgios, the best Greek restaurant in the whole West End. But then a crackling from underneath the grill forced him to check on the status of the halloumi and the moment to chastise Eleni was lost. Instead, he dabbed at his head with a freshly laundered handkerchief. He’d forgotten how stifling it could be in this kitchen.

           He shifted the cheese to a chopping board, but before he began to slice it diagonally into narrow strips, he marched over to the back door, threw it open and took a deep breath. His young assistant didn’t seem to be suffering from the heat. In fact, Eleni, who had started to hum as she worked, shivered, as the cooler air swept in from outside.

           Nick left Eleni and went to survey the hall. The lines of chairs facing the front and the arrangement on the stage were of little concern to him. No, he occupied himself exclusively with the three trestle tables, placed end to end, on which the display of food – his food – was taking shape.

As Nick had envisaged, the beef carpaccio took centre stage: paper-thin, marbled strips of pure tenderloin. It looked bare on the plate without any garnish of any kind, but those were his instructions, and the bossy woman – Diana Percival, personal assistant to Brett Ingram – had made it very clear she wanted them to be obeyed. Even so, he’d slipped some watercress dip into a separate dish nestling beside it.

           On either side were the sandwiches, still sealed with cling film, thickly cut with succulent fillings and interspersed with soft and floury wraps. Then, he’d left a space for the mini burgers, which were next on his list to heat up. He and his wife, Lisa, had cooked them last night at home, using a meatball recipe handed down from his grandparents, which he had modified and updated. Not that he expected Diana, or any of the guests, to appreciate the history, but Nick felt proud to continue the tradition.

At this end of the table, he would place the halloumi, which he planned to serve with acres of rocket and a red onion relish, and next to the cheese he would arrange the individual salad bowls: cucumber, avocado, edamame topped with pea tips and the cherry tomatoes Eleni had been faithfully dicing. The only other missing savoury dish was the sweet potato pakoras. Damn! There was probably not enough time to heat them in the oven after the burgers. He might have to resort to the microwave if they were really pushed. Damn Andrew and damn his flu!

           But Nick’s anger was extinguished when he viewed the creation Eleni had set down at the furthest extremity of the table. This was his exotic fruit platter (for sharing); a melange of the most desirable soft fruit on the market. Nick had purchased an orange-fleshed cantaloupe from Guatemala, a Cape pineapple, golden kiwi from New Zealand, mangos from the Caribbean and Chinese lychees. He had wanted Californian cherries too, to add drama, but they had been eye-wateringly expensive and now he looked, Eleni had worked wonders without them and the arrangement appeared enticing, sophisticated and most certainly exotic.

           Nick returned to the kitchen and paused in the doorway to watch Eleni put the finishing touches to the salads. Sometimes, she reminded him of his sister, Maria. Not the Maria of today, but the vivacious youngster of happier times. Maria would have dry-fried the halloumi, two minutes each side until crisp and brown and then pressed the pieces into flat bread, with handfuls of fresh parsley and kalamata olives, drizzling her creation with freshly-squeezed lemon, laughing when the juice ran down her chin as she ate.

           They didn’t look so much alike, Eleni and Maria. It was more the way Eleni’s eyes flashed with spirit when she spoke. That was classic Maria. And the gap between her front teeth, just like Maria’s, a gap that would fit a penny. Their mother had advised it was a sign of good luck, that Maria would always be blessed with good fortune. Nick had joked that it meant she was destined to talk too much and she’d dug him in the ribs.

And of course there was the pixie cut which Eleni sported. Maria had experimented with shorter hair once. It had been a moment of rebellion, an outpouring of teenage frustration, and Nick knew she had regretted it bitterly, although she would never have let on. He’d heard her crying in the night, lamenting the loss of her beautiful hair, and he’d whispered to her in the darkness. ‘No harm done. It’ll grow back.’

quotes

‘Abi Silver writes her years of legal experience into each of her courtroom thrillers’

The Big Issue

‘It is Abi Silver’s imaginative touches as well as her thorough legal knowledge that make her courtroom thrillers stand out’

Jake Kerridge

‘Rumpole of the Bailey, Kavanagh QC, Perry Mason – now joining their ranks is Judith Burton’

Jewish Chronicle

reviews

extras

ABOUT

Abi Silver

Abi Silver grew up in Leeds in a traditional Jewish family.

Watching Granada TV’s Crown Court in between lessons inspired her to study Law at Girton College, Cambridge. She worked for international law firms in London before spending five years in Israel, where her husband Daniel was posted. During her time there, as well as raising three sons, she completed an MBA by distance learning, learned Hebrew and pottery on the wheel and began to write fiction, usually late at night.

Her first courtroom drama featuring the legal duo Judith Burton and Constance Lamb, The Pinocchio Brief, was published by Lightning Books in 2017 and was shortlisted for the Waverton Good Read Award. Since then she has published five more in the acclaimed series – The Aladdin Trial, The Cinderella Plan, The Rapunzel Act, The Midas Game and The Ambrosia Project. Several have been Sunday Times Crime Club picks.

Based in Hertfordshire, she continues to work part-time as a legal consultant.

Read more about Abi and her work at www.abisilver.co.uk.

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