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Whoever said you can't fool an honest man wasn't one
The banks are facing a crisis, and this time it's too serious even for the old boys' club to sort it out - this time, they've sunk to government intervention. But opening the vaults to public scrutiny brings a whole host of problems for those at the top: people want to know where the money's gone, they want loans, reasonable interest rates and much much worse - accountability. The fortress of high finance is crumbling, and it may be time for a change of management - before it's too late.
Waiting in darkness – A bargain sealed – The hanging man – Golem with a blue dress – Crime and punishment – A chance to make real money – The chain of gold-ish – No unkindness to bears – Mr Bent keeps time.
They lay in the dark, guarding. There was no way of measuring the passage of time, nor any inclination to measure it. There was a time when they had not been here, and there would be a time, presumably, when they would, once more, not be here. They would be somewhere else. This time in between was immaterial. But some had shattered and some, the younger ones, had gone silent. The weight was increasing. Something must be done. One of them raised his mind in song.
It was a hard bargain, but hard on whom? That was the question. And Mr Blister the lawyer wasn’t getting an answer. He would have liked an answer. When parties are interested in unprepossessing land, it might pay for smaller parties to buy up any neighbouring plots, just in case the party of the first part had heard something, possibly at a party.
But it was hard to see what there was to know. He gave the woman on the other side of his desk a suitably concerned smile.
‘You understand, Miss Dearheart, that this area is subject to dwarf mining law? That means all metals and metal ore are owned by the Low King of the dwarfs. You will have to pay him a considerable royalty on any that you remove. Not that there will be any, I’m bound to say. It is said to be sand and silt all the way down, and apparently it is a very long way down. ’ He waited for any kind of reaction from the woman opposite, but she just stared at him. Blue smoke from her cigarette spiralled towards the office ceiling. ‘Then there is the matter of antiquities, ’ said the lawyer, watching as much of her expression as could be seen through the haze. ‘The Low King has decreed that all jewellery, armour, ancient items classified as Devices, weaponry, pots, scrolls or bones extracted by you from the land in question will also be subject to a tax or confiscation. ’
Miss Dearheart paused as if to compare the litany against an internal list, stubbed out her cigarette and said: ‘Is there any reason to believe that there are any of these things there? ’ ‘None whatsoever, ’ said the lawyer, with a wry smile. ‘Everyone knows that we are dealing with a barren waste, but the King is insuring against “what everyone knows” being wrong. It so often is. ’ ‘He is asking a lot of money for a very short lease! ’ ‘Which you are willing to pay. This makes dwarfs nervous, you see. It’s very unusual for a dwarf to part with land, even for a few years. I gather he needs the money because of all this Koom Valley business. ’ ‘I’m paying the sum demanded! ’ ‘Quite so, quite so. But I—’ ‘Will he honour the contract? ’ ‘To the letter. That at least is certain. Dwarfs are sticklers in such matters. All you need to do is sign and, regrettably, pay. ’ Miss Dearheart reached into her bag and placed a thick sheet of paper on the table. ‘This is a banker’s note for five thousand dollars, drawn on the Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork. ’ The lawyer smiled. ‘A name to trust, ’ he said, and added: ‘traditionally, at least. Do sign where I’ve put the crosses, will you? ’
He watched carefully as she signed, and she got the impression he was holding his breath. ‘There, ’ she said, pushing the contract across the desk. ‘Perhaps you could assuage my curiosity, madam? ’ he said. ‘Since the ink is drying on the lease? ’ Miss Dearheart glanced around the room, as if the heavy old bookcases concealed a multitude of ears. ‘Can you keep a secret, Mr Blister? ’ ‘Oh, indeed, madam. Indeed! ’ She looked around conspiratorially. ‘Even so, this should be said quietly, ’ she hissed. He nodded hopefully, leaned forward, and for the first time for many years felt a woman’s breath in his ear: ‘So can I, ’ she said. That was nearly three weeks ago …
Remarkably topical timing, concerning as it does major wobbles in the financial system brought about by unscrupulous and idiotic banking practices...Most writing on the economy is either opaque or depressing; this is funny.
- Irish Examiner
Although Terry Pratchett's comic novels are set in the imaginary Discworld, do not assume that they are divorced from contemporary concerns. His latest is almost spookily relevant...As bright and shiny as a newly minted coin; clever, engaging and laugh-out-loud funny.
- The Times
If you've never read Discworld, then perhaps you're unaware that what started out as a very funny fantasy spoof quickly became the finest satirical series running. It has dealt with - among many other topics - racism, sexism, journalism, death, war, the army, the Inquisition, the ambiguous nature of good and evil, and the uncomfortable power of narrative, all in novels that are smart, hilarious and humane. Come to think of it, if you've never read a Discworld novel, what's the matter with you?
- The Guardian
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