Open for Business: how chapter one of Iain Banks's new novel begins
My name is Kathryn Telman. I am a senior executive officer, third level (counting from the top) in a commercial organisation which has had many different names through the ages but which, these days, we usually just refer to as the Business. There's a lot to tell about this particular concern, but I'm going to have to ask you to be tolerant here because I'm intending to take things slowly and furnish further details of this ancient, honourable and - to you, no doubt - surprisingly ubiquitous concern in due course as they become relevant. For the record, I am one point seven metres tall, I weigh fifty-five kilos, I am thirty-eight years old, I have dual British/US nationality, I am blonde by birth not bottle, unwed, and have been an employee of the Business since I left school.

Early November in the city of Glasgow, Scotland. Mrs Todd the housekeeper cleared away my breakfast things and padded silently away across the pine floor. CNN babbled quietly from the television. I dabbed at my lips with a crisply starched napkin and gazed out through the tall windows and the light rain to the buildings on the far side of the grey river. The company apartments in Glasgow had been shifted a few years earlier from Blythswood Square to the newly fashionable Merchant City area on the north bank of the Clyde.

This building had been in company ownership since we built it, in the late seventeen hundreds. It was a warehouse for nearly two centuries, was leased out as a cheap clothing store for a decade, then it lay unused for a number of years. It was renovated in the eighties to create office and retail units on the ground and first floor and loft-style apartments on the three remaining floors. This, the top floor, was all Business.

Mrs Todd glided back to complete the tidying of the table.

"Will there be anything else, Ms Telman?"

"No thank you, Mrs Todd."

"The car is here."

"I'll be ten minutes."

"I'll let them know."

My watch and mobile agreed that it was 0920. I rang Mike Daniels.