An Unkindness of Ravens by S.E.Smith
it is a privilege to be involved again in the tour for another in the series of Young Adult novels by S.E.Smith run by Love Books Group. You can read a fascinating extract below.
When Symington, Earl Byrd is called in to investigate the murder of Robert Langley, he’s confused. Why shoot a man when you’ve already poisoned him?
Much to the prime minister’s disgust, a trip to Wales complicates matters further. But the prime minister is the least of Byrd’s worries. Rumour has it, Jack the Ripper’s back – tying up loose ends.
But when did Jack start using poison?
From the Casebook of Symington, Earl Byrd.
Mayfair, London, Monday 25th February.
Like most things, my involvement in the case of the Southwark body came as the result of a visit from my cousin, CC. A chief inspector in His Majesty’s constabulary, he came a knocking – usually at the behest of the prime minister – when something gruesome, or scandalous, threatened the empire. Not that scandal brewed. Since Christmas, all was quiet. Nothing to indicate I could possibly be needed in any other capacity than a friend to the new King. And as for that … I was the wrong gender for the kind of companionship His Majesty required. So, unusually, I sat at home, grateful for the company.
Naively, I expected a convivial evening. Two like-minded men, seeking refuge from their womenfolk.
Stupidity should be the middle name of the Byrds.
Yet, to give CC his due, he lulled me into a gorgeous sense of false security. Dinner excellent; our conversation ranging. He didn’t mention Violet. I didn’t mention Serena. Neither of us mentioned ‘her’. Sampson, always efficient, ensured wine flowed like water and port flowed like wine … until an innocuous little question. Slipping under my defences. Blindsiding me.
“Tell me what you can about Sir William Gull?”
I stopped mid-sip and gave the question careful consideration. “Late Queen’s physician,” I said flippantly. At sight of CC’s baleful glare, I altered tack. “Who wants to know?”
I downed my port, sighed, and carried on. “Solid. Reliable. Died in 1890. Buried somewhere in Essex. Why’d ya ask?”
CC chose his words carefully. “His name came up recently, and I wondered what you heard about him.”
“The king wants to know?”
He shook his head and the penny dropped. The prime minister asked.
Given the plethora of scorpions that rushed from the darkest recesses of my mind to sound their warning, I gave in with good grace. “Not much. For all his excellent medical work – especially with anorexia – undeserved scandal followed him around; especially in his later years.” I poured another port.
“Really? Where’d you get the idea Gull was scandal-prone?” CC retorted. “Are you sure you’re not thinking of Gully? Similar name; similar connections.”
I stared at him. CC stared at me. Until the dam of tension broke and …
S.E. Smith, known as Sarah to her friends, and ‘Miss’ to her students, was born into a naval family and now lives on a 65 foot broadbeam boat with her husband, Steve, and her two rescue dogs – Ben and Eva.
Crediting her Nana May for instilling in her a love of history, and an encyclopedic knowledge of the East End of London at the turn of the 20th Century, Sarah took on board the adage ‘write about what you know’ and created Symington Byrd: a gentleman detective whose foray into the East End leads him into all kinds of danger.
A great fan of the West Wing, Pokemon Go, and Doctor Who, Sarah’s biggest claim to fame is the day spent with the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, chasing Daleks down The Strand.