It is high summer in London and trouble is brewing.
Chef Dan should be blissfully happy. He has the woman of his dreams and a job in a trendy Hampstead bistro. But his over-anxious partner, engrossed in their baby, has no time for him.
Stressed doctor Geoff finds solace in the arms of a mercurial actress. Journalist Harriet’s long-term relationship with Sanjay hits the buffers, leaving each of them with serious questions to answer. Meanwhile single mother of four Karen lacks the appetite for a suitable relationship.
Passion and panic rise in the heatwave, but who will spot the danger signs?
Extract from HAMPSTEAD FEVER
"Likely to be late, is he?" asked Dan as he shuffled dishes in front of the oven.
“I doubt it,” said Laure.
The dinner party was all Dan’s fault. "You know what your trouble is?" he'd told Laure one morning when she was feeding Jack. "You don't see enough people."
"I see lots of people."
That was arrant nonsense. Good word, arrant. "I'm not counting the health visitor and the mums at toddler group. Which you hardly ever go to."
"That's because I don't want Jack to catch all those viruses." By which she meant every single virus in existence, and then some.
"Let's have people to dinner. Soon. I'll cook." He wouldn't just cook. He'd take care of the menu, the shopping, the lot. Didn’t often cook at home. This would be great. There were dishes that could be served on a big wooden board. Maybe something topped with thinly sliced roast beef. Or carpaccio of salmon. People would help themselves. With fingers if necessary. Helped break the ice.
“What about the cost?” Laure had asked.
“Don’t worry. I know where to shop.”
"Who would we invite?" she asked.
"All your ex-boyfriends of course. Have we got enough chairs?" It was a joke. Not a very good one, granted. "Sorry. We could invite the neighbours."
"Oh, God, not the Freemans. They're odious."
"Not the Freemans. I was thinking of Eliot, and that flatmate of his, what's her name." Eliot was gay, so no threat there. And the lodger was well fit.
Laure said she wanted to ask Sanjay as well, along with his partner Harriet.
Laure explained over a nappy change. Turned out she and Sanjay had been an item years and years ago. Long before she and Dan had even met, but still. Wasn't a good thing.
"Why?" Dan asked.
"Why would you want to invite him?"
She picked up Jack and plopped the nappy sack and contents into the bin before answering. "Sanjay's a nice guy. And he's funny. You'd like him."
That sounded pretty unlikely to Dan. The whole idea began to stink like a nappy.
"He was at speed-dating the night we met, two years ago. And he's only got one testicle," Laure added. As if that was supposed to make him harmless.
Dan couldn’t remember him from the Jacaranda bar, and didn't even want to know why he'd only got one ball. Not his circus, not his monkeys. But Laure told him anyway. Long story about a misdiagnosis. He’d been treated for cancer with surgery and everything. Then the doctors figured he’d had TB all along, not cancer.
Sounded a bit unlikely. Perhaps she just wanted to make him feel sorry for the guy.
Well, not going to happen. Arrantly.
While Dan got dressed for work, she jawed on about Sanjay and his fundraising job with some wonderful charity for kids, and his girlfriend Harriet who was a freelance journalist, and how they had meet speed-dating too, and had been an item about the same length of time he and Laure had been together, and they were totally loved-up and everything.
It irritated the crap out of him. It also reminded him that Laure had been a hot-shot international lawyer, while he, Dan, was an uneducated fella who'd been in jail and now had a job in a kitchen. A kitchen in Lolo’s Restaurant in Hampstead Village, no less. But a kitchen all the same.
They ended up inviting Sanjay to their first dinner since the baby was born. Dan could see that would lead to trouble. He just didn't know what kind.
About the author
Carol Cooper is a doctor, journalist, and novelist. She graduated from Cambridge University where she studied medicine. To support her studies, she worked at supermarket checkouts, walked dogs, typed manuscripts in Russian, and made men’s trousers to measure.
After a string of parenting books and an award-winning medical textbook, she turned to fiction with her debut One Night at the Jacaranda. Her novels are all about Londoners looking for love, and they’re laced with inside medical knowledge.