The final day of the Yorkshire book signing tour was incident-packed, but before we came close to having collars felt, to the shoplifting incident or to the electronic capture of the missing books, we found we were still in a mystery race with the book distributors.
The race is who gets to the store first: us or the books? The mystery is why they seem so keen for us to win.
It's been touch and go with half a dozen of the venues, but we've now started to hit the individual shops' best-seller lists, which makes the bumpy ride worthwhile both for us and for the store managers who have pulled out all the stops to make the events successful. Especially Adam in Hull, Prospect Centre. We'd sold out of Like False Money and had a customer wanting a set of all three books. Adam's gizmo told him there were another two copies in the shop and, despite it being the busiest day of the year - not helped by a serious shoplifting incident - he hunted them down. They were in the crime section, not in the shoplifters' pockets.
The other final Saturday pre-Christmas venue was WHS, Kingswood, tucked cosily into the Kingswood retail park. It's the smallest of the shops I've been to. Would it attract in the buyers of crime fiction? For the first 30 seconds, I wasn't sure, then Seaside Radio arrived in the person of broadcaster, Paula Coomber, and a steady stream of shoppers followed, most of them happy to stop and chat and many to buy books. Before our allotted time was up, there were just four books left - and no Like False Moneys. This time, there were none lurking in hidden corners, but Agent raced off and scrounged a few from another branch.
Frustrating though it is to have no books left when there are still readers wanting to buy them, it's an amazing feeling to see an empty table where there had been a stack of books.
In all, that's eight venues since publication mid November and we ended where we started, back in WHS Prospect Centre, Hull. It wasn't in the original plan to return to any of the venues, but we were delighted the books were selling well enough that they wanted us back. But maybe those shoplifters took advantage, knowing the law would be diverted because the cop always collars the crime writer.