Friday, 18 April 2014

Guest Post by LEIGH RUSSELL: Author of COLD SACRIFICE




COLD SACRIFICE
BY LEIGH RUSSELL

On Sale 29 April 2014
Harper Collins Publishers




The first book in a series of atmospheric, psychological thrillers featuring Detective Ian Peterson, as he solves deadly crimes in the UK.



When three dead bodies are discovered in Detective Ian Peterson’s hometown of Kent, it becomes clear that a vicious killer is on the loose. And without his trusted colleague, Detective Geraldine Steel, by his side Ian’s left to take the lead on a complex murder case with few clues.
The first victim is a middle-aged woman named Martha brutally stabbed to death in the local park. Her husband, who does not report her missing, is the prime suspect until a young prostitute, Della, reveals his whereabouts the night Martha was murdered. But then she is strangled to death in her apartment. While the police are frantically gathering evidence and looking for a connection, a second prostitute is suffocated.

With nothing but the timing of the murders to tie the three women to each other, Ian and his new partner, Polly Mortimer, struggle to make sense of the case and find the elusive killer before he strikes again. But, by the time Ian realizes the truth, it may be too late to save Polly.


LEIGH RUSSELL is the award-winning author of the Geraldine Steel and Ian Peterson mysteries. She is an English teacher who lives in the UK with her family.

 ---------------------------------------------


I am delighted that Leigh Russell has written a guest post on my blog today
  I read Cold Sacrifice last year and you can read my thoughts here.
 




What I have learned since I started writing.

Over the six years since my debut, Cut Short, was first published, I have learned about many things. As a result of my research I now know a little about rigor mortis, DNA, police procedure, poisons, and fatal knife wounds, to name just a few areas.

The internet is a fantastic resource, but I prefer to conduct my research with real people whenever possible. So you will find acknowledgements in my books to many people who have helped me, including a Professor of Forensic Medicine, a Human Remains expert at the British Museum, and a Consultant Forensic Psychotherapist at Broadmoor, to name a few. Everyone has been really helpful, and I have learned a lot. The research is fascinating!

Yet in the course of my writing career, I have learned more than information. I have also learned about how to survive the challenges faced by an author.

To survive as a bestselling author requires nerves of steel, and a hide like a rhinoceros. There have been many thrills  along the way - major awards, great reviews, many bestseller lists (including Number 1 overall on kindle in the UK) and invitations to appear at literary festivals around the world. In addition to the many public accolades, fans frequently email me via my website. It is wonderful to read their messages.

But there are lows as well, days when no one seems to like my books, an event I was looking forward to is cancelled, I discover someone appears to be plagiarising my books, and I'm losing the tussle to make a plot work. So life as a bestselling author is a roller coaster ride. You need to be tough to survive!

Finally, I've learned something about how to write. It's impossible to convey in a few words what I've learned about the craft of writing, although I am keen to encourage other writers. I run occasional courses for The Society of Authors in London, and for The Writers Lab in Greece and on the Isle of Wight, and recently I've agreed to informally mentor a young aspiring writer who approached me through the Crime Writers Association.

Eugene Ionesco said: 'A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of writing or thinking about writing'. Once you are hooked on writing, you may well find it becomes, in William McIlvanney's words, 'an inexplicable compulsion'. So my Top Tip for new writers would be to make sure you enjoy what you are writing. Because once you get hooked on writing, you are likely to devote a lot of time to it.

You can read more about Cold Sacrifice and Leigh's other books at her website: leighrussell.co.uk/

Available to buy from



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Thursday, 17 April 2014

Book Review: IVY LANE: SPRING: PART ONE BY CATHY BRAMLEY

IVY LANE:  SPRING:  PART ONE
BY 
CATHY BRAMLEY

Published by Tranworld  3 April 2014
85 Pages

My Rating  9 / 10

About the Book:

Friendship blossoms at Ivy Lane...

Tilly Parker needs a fresh start, fresh air and a fresh attitude if she is ever to leave the past behind and move on with her life. As she settles in to a new town seeking peace and solitude, taking on her own plot at Ivy Lane allotments seems like the perfect solution. But the vibrant, friendly Ivy Lane community has other ideas and endeavour to entice Tilly into seedling swaps and Easter egg hunts. Can Tilly let new friends into her life, or will she stay a wallflower for good?

Ivy Lane is a serialized novel told in four parts - taking you from spring to summer, autumn to winter - which tell a charming, light-hearted and moving story you won't want to put down.

Each part of Ivy Lane contains ten chapters, and is a quarter of a full-length novel.


My Thoughts

Ivy Lane: Spring is the first in a four part series featuring Tilly Parker, who has moved 20 miles away to escape the pitying smiles and awkward silences.  She has a new job, new home and now plot 16B at Ivy Lane allotments where she wants to keep busy and keep herself to herself ..... well, that was her plan!  This describes the state of her allotment when she first sees it:

So this was to be my 'new interest'.  Hands on hips, I surveyed the brambles, nettles, thistles, dockleaves and some other trailing weed and tried to conjure up positive thoughts.

Tilly is 28, a teacher in a Junior School and has such a lovely personality that you can't help but warm to her and wonder what or who she wants to 'move on' from.  Early on the name of James is mentioned so we know that he is part (or possibly all) of the reason but we don't know what happened.  Cathy Bramley keeps us guessing.

This is such a charming, feel-good story and I think it's quite original how Cathy has made it into the four seasonal parts.  We are introduced to some of the warm and wacky people who use the allotment but I would have liked to have had more of their back stories, I didn't feel that I got to know any of them too well, but I presume we'll have plenty of time over the year to discover everyone's secrets! I can't wait......oh, and I just love that cover.

Ivy Lane:  Summer is out on 3 July 2014

You can get in touch with Cathy via her website:  www.cathybramleyauthor.com/
Or on Twitter:  @CathyBramley

Source:  I received an eBook via the publishes from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review






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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Blog Tour Book Review: DYED AND GONE BY BETH YARNALL + $50 Giveaway

DYED AND GONE (Azalea March Mystery Series)
BY
BETH YARNALL

A Cozy Mystery
400 Pages

My Rating:  9 / 10

About the Book:

Hairstylist Azalea March is looking forward to a wild weekend in Las Vegas with her friends. Oh, sure, they’re supposed to be there on business, attending the biggest hair show on the west coast, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a little fun.  
But fun quickly turns to drama. On the first morning of the show, Dhane, the biggest celeb of the hair-styling world, is found dead. As it turns out Azalea’s friend Vivian not only knew Dhane, but the tale she weaves of how they met is faker than a showgirl’s uh…assets. When Vivian confesses to the murder and is arrested, Azalea knows there’s no way she could have done it and suspects Vivian may be trying to protect someone. But who?
Azalea now has to convince Alex, the sexy detective from her past, to help her prove Vivian’s innocence and comb through clues more twisted than a spiral perm. But the truth is stranger than anything found on the Las Vegas Strip, and proving Vivian’s innocence turns out to be more difficult than transforming a brunette into a blonde.


My Thoughts

Dyed and Gone is such a fabulously witty and fun read.   Set in the crazy world of Las Vegas at the hair-styling equivalent of the Oscars, our protagonists, Azalea March, her Hair Salon business partner and best friend, Vivian, together with their stylist Juan Carlos are just there to have a good time.......but in cozy mystery land, of course, things never turn out as planned!

The basic premise is that Vivian confesses to killing her friend Dhane, Azalea know she's innocent and determines to prove otherwise whilst finding the real killer.  Simple!

And Vivian is covering up for someone.  Someone worth protecting enough that she's willing to become Big Bertha's prison bitch.

Azalea and Juan Carlos' hilarious one-liners had me giggling, the plot was clever but not too complicated to follow, several suspects, red herrings and a romance all made for a fun and entertaining read.

I'm looking forward to following Azalea in her next adventure!

Giveaway is open Internationally

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 



About This Author
Best selling author, Beth Yarnall, writes romantic suspense, mysteries and the occasional hilarious tweet. A storyteller since her playground days, Beth remembers her friends asking her to make up stories of how the person ‘died’ in the slumber party game Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board, so it’s little wonder she prefers writing stories in which people meet unfortunate ends. In middle school she discovered romance novels, which inspired her to write a spoof of soap operas for the school’s newspaper. She hasn’t stopped writing since.
For a number of years, Beth made her living as a hairstylist and makeup artist and co-owned a salon. Somehow hairstylists and salons always seem to find their way into her stories. Beth lives in Orange County, California with her husband, two sons, and their rescue dog where she is hard at work on her next novel.

Author Links
Twitter: @BethYarnell

Book Links
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17978243-dyed-and-gone
Amazon Buy Link: http://amzn.to/1ne07CE
Barnes & Noble Buy Link: http://bit.ly/1lzlIY3
EP Book Link: http://bit.ly/1ne0E7J


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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Book Review: PRECIOUS THING BY COLETTE MCBETH

PRECIOUS THING
BY
COLETTE MCBETH

Published by Headline Review 10 April 2014
Paperback 384 pages

My Rating:  9 / 10

About the Book:

Remember the person you sat next to on your first day at school? Still your best friend? Or disappeared from your life for good?

Some friendships fizzle out. Rachel and Clara promised theirs would last for ever.

They met when Rachel was the new girl in class and Clara was the friend everyone wanted. Now in their late twenties Rachel has everything while Clara's life is spiralling further out of control. Then Clara vanishes.

Imagine discovering something about your oldest friend that forces you to question everything you've shared together. The truth is always there. But only if you choose to see it.


My Thoughts


Precious Thing is spoken by Rachel, a News Reporter in London who is sent to cover a missing persons story in Brighton.  It is at the news briefing that she is shocked to discover that the missing woman is her best friend Clara.

Rachel narrates her story in a series of flashbacks from their first meeting, it goes back and forth from the present to the past.   Right from the beginning of the book we are told that the story is a letter to Clara, I thought the style of which gave an eerie feel to the book.

Rachel tries to find Clara whilst also trying to unravel the secrets of their friendship, a friendship that she felt sure was meant to be, 'we were two missing pieces of a puzzle', they knew what each other was thinking.  She interviews a lady whose husband had secrets of his own and these were her words:

'It's the little things that give people away, that's how they can hide for so long because those things are so little we often miss them.  But if you look carefully enough you'll find them.'
Colette McBeth delivers just the right amount of suspense, gradually layering the stories as Rachel confronts her past with the present situation.  Excellent storytelling, shocks and twists, overall a gripping and intriguing storyline.

This is the perfect Book Club read as there are so many issues to explore, so many situations that I wanted to discuss with someone else, to see if they understand what this or that meant and if they thought about certain people the same way that I did.

This novel has been compared to 'Gone Girl' which I haven't read but I do know that I would love to read more of Colette McBeth's novels in the future.

Source:  I received a copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

You can find out more about this book and Colette McBeth at her website: colettemcbeth.com
Follow her on Twitter @colettemcbeth

You can buy the book now from:








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Saturday, 12 April 2014

Young Adult Book Excerpt: KITTY HAWK AND THE CURSE OF THE YUKON GOLD BY IAIN READING


I am really thrilled to be bringing you an excerpt from this exciting Young Adult Book.



Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold is the thrilling first instalment in a new young adult series of adventure mystery stories by Iain Reading

This first book of the Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency Series introduces Kitty Hawk, an intrepid teenage pilot with her own De Havilland Beaver seaplane and a nose for mystery and intrigue. A cross between Amelia Earhart, Nancy Drew and Pippi Longstocking, Kitty is a quirky young heroine with boundless curiosity and a knack for getting herself into all kinds of precarious situations. 

After leaving her home in the western Canadian fishing village of Tofino to spend the summer in Alaska studying humpback whales, Kitty finds herself caught up in an unforgettable adventure involving stolen gold, devious criminals, ghostly shipwrecks, and bone-chilling curses. Kitty's adventure begins with the lingering mystery of a sunken ship called the Clara Nevada. As the plot continues to unfold, this spirited story will have readers anxiously following every twist and turn as they are swept along through the history of the Klondike Gold Rush to a suspenseful final climatic chase across the rugged terrain of Canada's Yukon.

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold is a perfect book to fire the imagination of readers of all ages. Filled with fascinating and highly Google-able locations and history this book will inspire anyone to learn and experience more for themselves. 

There are currently four books in the Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency Series available for sale on Amazon:





 EXCERPT


Prologue

Back Where The Entire Adventure Began

As soon as the engine began to sputter, I knew that I was in real trouble. Up until then, I had somehow managed to convince myself that there was just something wrong with the fuel gauges. After all, how could I possibly have burnt through my remaining fuel as quickly as the gauges seemed to indicate? It simply wasn't possible. But with the engine choking and gasping, clinging to life on the last fumes of aviation fuel, it was clear that when the fuel gauges read, "Empty," they weren't kidding around.
The lightning strike that took out my radio and direction-finding gear hadn't worried me all that much. (Okay, I admit it worried me a little bit.) It wasn't the first time that this had happened to me, and besides, I still had my compasses to direct me to where I was going. But I did get a little bit concerned when I found nothing but open ocean as far my eyes could see at precisely the location where I fully expected to find tiny Howland Island—and its supply of fuel for the next leg of my journey—waiting for me. The rapidly descending needles on my fuel gauges made me even more nervous as I continued to scout for the island, but only when the engine began to die did I realize that I really had a serious problem on my hands.
The mystery of the disappearing fuel.
The enigma of the missing island.
The conundrum of what do I do now?
"Exactly," the little voice inside my head said to me in one of those annoying 'I-told-you-so' kind of voices. "What do you do now?"
"First, I am going to stay calm," I replied. "And think this through."
"You'd better think fast," the little voice said, and I could almost hear it tapping on the face of a tiny wristwatch somewhere up there in my psyche. "If you want to make it to your twentieth birthday, that is.  Don't forget that you're almost out of fuel."
"Thanks a lot," I replied. "You're a big help."
Easing forward with the control wheel I pushed my trusty De Havilland Beaver into a nosedive. Residual fuel from the custom-made fuel tanks at the back of the passenger cabin dutifully followed the laws of gravity and spilled forward, accumulating at the front and allowing the fuel pumps to transfer the last remaining drops of fuel into the main forward belly tank. This maneuver breathed life back into the engine and bought me a few more precious minutes to ponder my situation.
"Mayday, mayday, mayday," I said, keying my radio transmitter as I leveled my flight path out again. "This is aircraft Charlie Foxtrot Kilo Tango Yankee, calling any ground station or vessel hearing this message, over."
I keyed the mic off and listened intently for a reply. Any reply. Please? But there was nothing. There was barely even static. My radio was definitely fried.
It was hard to believe that it would all come down to this. After the months of preparation and training. After all the adventures that I'd had, the friends I'd made, the beauty I'd experienced, the differences and similarities I'd discovered from one culture to the next and from one human being to the next. All of this in the course of my epic flight around the entire world.
Or I should say, "my epic flight almost around the entire world," in light of my current situation.
And the irony of it was absolutely incredible. Three-quarters of a century earlier the most famous female pilot of them all had disappeared over this exact same endless patch of Pacific Ocean on her own quest to circle the globe. And she had disappeared while searching for precisely the same island that was also eluding me as I scanned the horizon with increasing desperation.
"Okay," I thought to myself. "Just be cool and take this one step at a time to think the situation through." I closed my eyes and focused on my breathing, slowing it down and reining in the impulse to panic. Inside my head, I quickly and methodically replayed every flight that I'd ever flown. Every emergency I'd ever faced. Every grain of experience that I had accumulated along the long road that had led me to this very moment. Somewhere in there was a detail that was the solution to my current predicament. I was sure of it. And all I had to do was find it.
Maybe the answer to my current situation lay somewhere among the ancient temples of Angkor in Cambodia? Or in the steamy jungles of east Africa? Or inside the towering pyramids of Giza? Or among the soaring minarets of Sarajevo? Or on the emerald rolling hills and cliffs of western Ireland? Or on the harsh and rocky lava fields of Iceland?
Wherever the answer was, it was going to have to materialize quickly, or another female pilot (me) would run the risk of being as well-known throughout the world as Amelia Earhart. And for exactly the same reason.
"It's been a good run at least," the little voice inside my head observed, turning oddly philosophical as the fuel supplies ran critically low. "You've had more experiences on this journey around the world than some people do in their entire lifetime."
"That's it!" I thought.
Maybe the answer to all this lies even further back in time? All the way back to the summer that had inspired me to undertake this epic journey in the first place. All the way back to where North America meets the Pacific Ocean—the islands and glaciers and whales of Alaska.
All the way back to where this entire adventure began.





About Iain Reading
Iain Reading is passionate about Root Beer, music, and writing. He is Canadian, but currently resides in the Netherlands working for the United Nations. He has published 4 books in the Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency Series. For more information, go to http://www.kittyhawkworld.com/






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Sunday, 6 April 2014

Book Review: TEST OF RESOLVE BY PETER MURPHY

TEST OF RESOLVE
BY
PETER MURPHY


Paperback:  384 pages

My Rating:  8.5 / 10

About the Book:

A denounced President, her kidnapped daughter, a Hindu extremist group and the threat of nuclear war: America is once again thrown into turmoil in Peter Murphy's sequel to Removal
As Ellen Trevathan settles into her presidency, she feels confident to come out as a lesbian to the press, an announcement that unleashes a storm of criticism against her authority. Her personal life becomes increasingly unstable when her daughter, Dani, is kidnapped by a Hindu extremist group, Svatantra Kashmir (SK). Director of the FBI, Kelly Smith, is called in to investigate and is soon immersed in a situation with far wider implications.
Under pressure to comply with orders made by SK, Ellen has to tackle the threat of nuclear war between India and Pakistan and ensure the safety of her daughter. As the crisis escalates, public duty and personal concerns are thrown into conflict. The severity of the situation demands that one has to be sacrificed, and only Ellen can choose...

Test of Resolve is the second novel by Peter Murphy that I have read recently.  A Higher Duty, his novel about scheming lawyers which I enjoyed, was totally different to this political thriller, but which I relished just as much.

Full of intriguing characters (and there were plenty of them!) including Bev, a student who, upon discovering that his family have made him a sleeper for a Kashmir Freedom Group reacts thus:

Well, how many wars have there been over Kashmir just in your lifetimes, dad, mom?  It's one of those places where the fighting will never stop - like the Balkans, like Ireland.  They can have as many ceasefires as they like, declare peace as many times as they like, and nothing changes, they still kill each other.  Do you want to sacrifice me for that?  Do you want me to sacrifice my children?  We don't eve live there, for God's sake, and we never will.  When will it ever end?  Where does it stop?  How is this a part of me?

I was hooked, I was invested in the characters, I wanted to see how the situation would be resolved.

I was impressed in the number of positions of power that women held, including the United States President, the Director of the F.B.I., plus several Secret Service Agents.  All good strong women.

The only downside was the cast of characters, there were so many of them, it was difficult to keep track of them all.  Also, some of the dialogue was a little stilted sometimes.

Nonetheless, the pace was unrelenting, the writing sharp and it kept me wanting to keep reading.

Source:  From Real Readers in exchange for an honest review.

Reach Peter Murphy at his website


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Friday, 4 April 2014

First Chapter Excerpt: SEDITION BY KATHARINE GRANT


I'm really pleased today to bring you a First Chapter Excerpt from Sedition by Katharine Grant

Published in the UK by Virago Press on 16 January 2014 and in the US by Henry Holt and Co. on 1 April 2014

Hardback:  304 pages

Short Summary:

Sedition is a story of music, of passion, of feminism, of love. Set in London in 1794, this story follows five girls who are, according to their fathers, ready for marriage. To help them attract mates, these fathers hire a French piano teacher to prepare them to give a concert for young Englishmen looking to marry. However, these five girls "while doing exactly what they’re told, contrive to do exactly the opposite."

Longer Summary:

Motherless Alathea Sawneyford, her charms grown disturbing as she rebels against her father, has made the city's streets her own, while Annie Cantabile is constrained, by her own disfigurement and her father, to his pianoforte workshop under the shadow of Tyburn gibbet. 
One afternoon the dusty workshop receives a visitor. A man, representing an unscrupulous band of City speculators, Alathea's father among them, require a pianoforte and its charming teacher to find titled husbands for all their daughters: sisters Evelina and Marianne; stolid Harriet and pale, pining Georgiana. It seems an innocent enough plan but these are subversive times and perhaps even a drawing-room piano lesson isn't exactly what it seems. All of which will suit Alathea perfectly. 
Fierce and bawdy, uproarious and exquisite, Sedition takes its plot at a racing gallop: bold, beautiful and captivating, it is a narrative masterpiece.


SEDITION
By Katharine Grant
Chapter 1 


London, 1794
Late winter dawn. The wet nurse suckles a baby; the monk shivers through lauds; warm cow greets cold milker. Late winter dawn. Thief grins over sleeper; dead coals drop; the hangman, a novice, checks his rope. The day begins to stain.

Midday is different. By midday, the wet nurse is sore, the baby unsatisfied, and the monk willing to trade salvation for a hot dinner and a drop of restorative. The thief counts his takings and dozes. The hangman dampens the fire in the little brick house he has built under the walls of Newgate Prison. He checks tomorrow’s ropes. One is chewed. Bloody dog. The executed don’t pay for rope—a crime in itself. They seldom even tip, and a soggy rope won’t sell as a souvenir. He’s chosen the wrong profession. He’d give it up, except that would prove his father right. And now this: summoned to cut down some wretch who’s hanged himself near the Bank of England. He sticks a knife in his belt and pulls on thick gloves. What a cheek. Death is his job. He feels robbed of his fee.

Out into the mud, he grinds the barrow through sludge and bumps it over knobbles of frozen dung. The February cloud is low and dense. Horses are lost in clammy steam. Urchins use fresh droppings to warm their hands, poor sods. It’s the usual struggle through Cheapside—God alive, why do women have to gossip in gaggles? They part as soon as they recognize him. Bad luck to touch the hangman. Bad luck to touch his barrow. He pushes on through Poultry. Nothing at the Bank, but a hubbub at the top of Threadneedle Street. The hangman hoists his barrow onto the wooden pavement and heads for the crowd. As he reaches the Virginia and Baltick coffeehouse (formerly the Virginia and Maryland), a man barges into him, swears, then kicks at the coffeehouse’s stout oak door until it opens. The man vanishes into a fecal fug and a girl emerges.

It was a month after her mother died that Alathea Sawneyford’s father first took her to the V & B. At the sight of her, Mr. W., the proprietor, sucked in his cheeks. Children irritated customers. But Mrs. W. simply set a small chair below the counter to shield Alathea from the pictures Mr. W. favored for the walls. He called them “artful.” Mrs. W. never thought of turning the little girl away. With no children of her own, she had love to offer—rough love, maybe, but love all the same, and although Alathea has long since outgrown the small chair, Mrs. W.’s welcome has never been withdrawn. Mr. W. can suck in his cheeks all he likes; it pleases Mrs. W. to encourage Alathea to look on the Virginia and Baltick as a haven, and occasionally Alathea chooses to do so, particularly when giving the slip to the stalkers set on her trail by her father. Never certain whether the surveillance is for her protection or his, it’s nevertheless always a pleasure to identify the wretch so keen to be unidentified. As Alathea closes the V & B door, she spots today’s tail—a poor specimen, exuding furtiveness. He might as well carry a sign.

Alathea sees the crowd and makes her way over, reaching the front at the same time as the hangman. A young woman is swinging from a gantry. She is quite dead. Alathea pokes the corpse with one finger. “Wire,” she says, with a nod toward the girl’s neck. The hangman bangs his barrow down. Unasked, Alathea holds the dead legs firmly and nods again. The hangman climbs onto his barrow, levers the wire from the gantry, and lowers the body. The crowd shuffles forward to have a look. Alathea settles the girl’s skirts and contemplates her face.

“Desperate, your friend,” the hangman says.

Alathea doesn’t contradict, though she’s never seen the girl before and wonders about desperation. The girl’s hands are quite relaxed, her fingers spread as if to press a final chord on a keyboard. There is certainly evidence of pain in the bloated cheeks and bulging lips, but to Alathea physical pain is something to be squeezed out and wiped away. Despair, being more entrenched, is more worthy of note. She bends as though to look for signs of it but instead removes the corpse’s shoes and tries them on. They don’t fit so she returns them. “Pity,” she says. Then, “Kiss her.”

“What?” says the hangman.

“Kiss her,” Alathea says. “Like this.” She kisses the hangman full on the lips. It’s not the unexpectedness he remembers, it’s the feel of her tongue. He feels it from top to toe.
“If a hangman kisses a suicide, God forgives both,” Alathea says. “Do it.” Before the hangman can refuse, Alathea is gone, and though their acquaintance has been short, he feels her loss like a view suddenly revealed and as suddenly cut off. He rakes the crowd with his eyes. She is nowhere to be seen. A gloomy day seems gloomier. As he trundles the corpse to its paltry grave, the only thing that cheers him is a notice tied to a horse post just outside the Bank. It’s a call to arms, brothers. Tax the rich! Power to the people! He counts six signatures. That should be six hangings this year at least. If all done at once, the authorities may ask for a discount. He’ll be damned if he gives one.
ONE

Upstairs at the V & B, three men were in close conversation at a small round table. Their coats steamed and their faces were shadowed, Mr. W. favoring cheap tallow over expensive wax candles. Nor could the V & B steal light from neighboring shops, situated as it was between Gadhill the barber, who kept his lights low, and what had been the gunpowder office, now a storing, roasting, and grinding shed for the beans Mr. W. insisted, for quality’s sake, must be kept in the dark. Even when a few rays of sun managed to twist down the street, the crust on the V & B’s windows was as good as plate armor.

The men were waiting for the fourth of their party and looked to the door as he stamped in clutching Spence’s Penny Weekly. A coffeeboy fed up with the V & B’s poor gratuities and spoiling for a fight called out “Good news then, Mr. Brass?” since it clearly was not.
Gregory Brass turned on him. “Good news? Can’t you read, boy? Votes! Tax! We’ll all be ruined. Spence and his like should be hanged for traitors. Hanged and then quartered.”
The coffeehousers were momentarily distracted from bills of lading and tide calendars. “Spence’s already in prison,” said somebody mildly.

“Prison! Bah!” Brass banged his fist on the counter. “A public lynching’s the thing. That’d teach him. I mean, the poor can’t eat the vote or fornicate with it, so what use is it to them?”

Laughter. Brass whipped off his wig. “You think it’s a joke?” He squared up.

Archibald Frogmorton rose, grasped his friend’s arm, and would not be shaken off. “For God’s sake, Brass, stop brawling and come and sit down. I’m not bailing you from Newgate again.”
This last remark had some effect. Brass followed Frogmorton and threw himself into a chair. “It’s a disgrace, I tell you.” He waved the penny weekly in Frogmorton’s face.

“Enough.” Frogmorton seized the newspaper, folded it, and used it as a wedge to stop the table from rocking. “We haven’t got all day. Let’s turn to the matter in hand.” Brass, still muttering, subsided. Chairs were pulled in and coffee called for.

The four men’s chief interest was cloth, liquor, furs, leather, timber—anything that could be bought low and sold high—but it was domestic husbandry, not trade, that had drawn them here today to sit at a private table rather than the long trestle in front of the fire. Archibald Frogmorton, Gregory Brass, and Sawney Sawneyford each had one living daughter and Tobias Drigg, at forty-three the youngest of the men, had two. With Marianne Drigg eighteen at her last birthday and the other girls close behind, the time had come to find the girls husbands. Trade in its own way, though the four fathers were not after money: they wanted grandchildren of a certain kind and were willing to pay.

Worldly success offered acquaintance, not friendship, with the rank of people these men had earmarked for their daughters: landed people, titled people, “the quality,” as Mr. Drigg’s father-in-law called them. Yet no matter how large the profits engineered by these four—and the profits were substantial—and no matter how significant Archibald Frogmorton’s elevation to Alderman of the City of London, commercial gratitude was laced with social distaste. True, the Duke of Granchester did inquire after Georgiana Brass’s health and Everina Drigg’s talents, but these were simply polite precursors to inquiries about the ducal investments.

The water urn blew its lid. The coffeeboys cheered. “The girls must all be wed this time next year,” Frogmorton declared, frowning at the noise.

“Yes, yes, that’s right. By this time next year,” Drigg agreed. Drigg’s fatherly affection did not blind him to the fact that his daughters were too like their mother for complacency. Currently, Marianne and Everina were soft and plump. Soon they would be tough and fleshy—more likely to pick up a butcher than a baronet.

“Wed this time next year,” echoed Sawney Sawneyford softly. He was the only widower among the four, and his tone was both agreement and disagreement, a confusion he cultivated. Marriage talk unsettled him. The others saw silken grandchildren behind unassailable social ramparts. Sawneyford saw his daughter sweating under Tamworth-pink flesh. Was that worth a coronet? Was it worth a rampart? Was it worth a dead candle? Sharp against his buttocks were three diamonds he liked to keep secreted in the lining of his coat: tiny things, the first gems he had ever touched. His eyes swam. Diamonds suited Alathea. What was he doing here? He didn’t want Alathea to marry at all.

“This year’s all very well, but we mustn’t sell the girls short.” Brass, still prickling, purposefully irritated Frogmorton, who had suggested no such thing. Brass was conscious of being the handsomest, his nose less bulbous than Frogmorton’s and his ears neater, his eyes less fishlike than Drigg’s, his chin round against Sawneyford’s rapier. He had a powerful physique that always needed feeding, not necessarily with food. Losing his temper whetted his appetite for his new French belle amie. He drummed his fingers.

“Apply your minds, gentlemen,” Frogmorton said. “Our daughters need some very particular attraction, an accomplishment beyond the accomplishments of others. All are pretty.” He gave a superb smile. Having fathered a beauty, he did not have to worry about Everina’s unfortunate teeth, Georgiana’s hiplessness, or Alathea Sawneyford’s—what was it? He felt a clogging in his throat. That girl. He tried not to think of her. “As I say, they’re all lookers in their own ways, but that’s not enough. All young girls of a certain age are lookers.” He wiped his forehead. The fug made him sweat. “Most girls can draw and some can sing. It strikes me that we must find our daughters something else to make them enviable and envied—something spectacular.”

There was talk, none of it conclusive. Finally, Drigg coughed. “Do you think we could perhaps make something of the rivalry between the harpsichord and these newfangled pianofortes?” The others looked at him with surprise—even Sawneyford. Drigg liked the attention. “It’s the talk of St. James’s Street, and the pianoforte, I’m assured, will soon be a feature in every home. If our girls were to master it before other girls, they would be at a distinct advantage.”

Brass was openly derisive, which made Drigg more determined than was wise. He had no idea of music. There had been none in the Foundling Hospital in which he and Frogmorton, the latter superior because his mother had left him with a name grander than her own, had been raised. There had been none among the lighters on which Drigg spent five years coal heaving before he pulled a drowning Frogmorton out of the low-tide slime of the Thames, a rescue that set him on the road to riches. When he spoke, as he did now at some length, about the differences between harpsichord and pianoforte, his opinions were at least secondhand. He knew he was overpersuasive, goaded by Brass’s sneers. But he did not stop and Frogmorton, initially sceptical, was soon quite taken with the picture Drigg painted. Encouraged, Drigg began to elaborate until somehow the notion of a concert party at which the girls would perform in front of potential husbands took shape.

After a while, Frogmorton raised his hand. “You speak of a grand pianoforte, Drigg. It will be large, I assume. Our girls must be seen. Will they be visible behind it?”

“Everina certainly will,” said Brass with a snort.

Drigg snorted back. “Georgiana may vanish entirely. Mrs. Drigg wonders if she’s quite well.”
“Mrs. Drigg can save her wondering. Georgiana’s well enough to bang a few keys.” Brass was not worried about his daughter. Skinny and fey she might be, but she was musical. He was certain of that. She must be or what was the use of her?

“Do you think it a good idea, Sawney?” Frogmorton asked. The others stopped talking. Sawney utterances were rare enough to be overvalued.

“Your plan seems good enough.” Sawney picked at fraying cuffs.

Our plan, Sawney. It’s all of ours,” rapped Brass. He thought, why does Sawney wear rags? He could buy a whole tailoring business. Or get that disturbing daughter to do some mending.
“We have a plan,” repeated Sawney. “Why not?” Alathea already had a pianoforte but he kept that, as he kept many things, to himself.

“Well then,” said Frogmorton. “Are we agreed on the principle?”

Nobody demurred so he turned to Drigg. “We must purchase an instrument,” he said. “Drigg, you can see to it.”

“Oh, I don’t think so,” Drigg said, suddenly alarmed. “It’s a big purchase. We should all go.”
“Nonsense,” said Frogmorton. “If we go as a group of City men, we’ll be fleeced. You must go alone. Don’t you agree, Brass?”

Brass, keen to increase Drigg’s alarm, agreed. “Then we can blame you if it all goes wrong.”
“Sawneyford?”

Sawneyford didn’t care who bought the thing, or if nobody bought it.

“That’s settled, then,” said Frogmorton.

More details were hammered out. Since the Frogmortons’ Manchester Square house was the grandest, the pianoforte was to be delivered there, and through the pianoforte dealer, Drigg was to employ a tuner-teacher. Frogmorton would pay this music master every week and the full bill would be divided among them at the venture’s conclusion. The girls would be chaperoned by Mrs. Frogmorton as they took lessons and when the music master was satisfied the girls were ready, invitations would be sent out and the girls would perform.

As the clock struck three, the men’s minds turned to their offices. Clerks would be waiting. They pushed out their chairs, found their coats, and went to the counter, where Mrs. W. noted down each man’s dues. She accepted few notes of credit but she trusted these four to pay at the end of each quarter. So far, prompting had not been necessary and Alderman Frogmorton could be relied on for a good tip.

Copyright © 2014 by Katharine Grant
 

Praise for Sedition

"A wicked, delicious romp . . .[a] rollicking tale of sex, intrigue, marriage, revenge, and the sordid side of the pianoforte.." —Katherine Howe, New York Times bestselling author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

"Katharine Grant has written a provocative story of seduction and romance, lust and violence. Sedition is a tale of 19th-century female insurrection, set to a tune of Bach piano inventions, con brio." —Kate Manning, author of My Notorious Life 

The Desmond Elliott Prize, the “most prestigious award for first-time novelists” (Telegraph), has just announced a diverse longlist of 10 “astonishing” novels, which showcase the excellence of new British and Irish writing.........and Sedition is among the nominees.  You can read about the other novels here


Available to buy now from:

Amazon.co.uk 
Amazon.com
BookDepository.com 

You can find Katharine Grant at her website  
Follow her on Twitter @KatharineGrant_


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