A Study in Revenge: A Novel

( 2 )

Overview

In 1893, a trail of ashen footprints leads Deputy Archie Lean to the body of a murdered thief. The man’s exposed flesh has been horribly burned and occult symbols mark the nearby walls. Most troubling of all is what Lean witnessed two days earlier: this same man being lowered into his grave without a burn mark on him.  Once again, the Portland, Maine, police deputy must turn to the brilliant criminalist Perceval Grey for help. 

Grey, a half-Abenaki Indian detective, ...

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A Study in Revenge: A Novel

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Overview

In 1893, a trail of ashen footprints leads Deputy Archie Lean to the body of a murdered thief. The man’s exposed flesh has been horribly burned and occult symbols mark the nearby walls. Most troubling of all is what Lean witnessed two days earlier: this same man being lowered into his grave without a burn mark on him.  Once again, the Portland, Maine, police deputy must turn to the brilliant criminalist Perceval Grey for help. 

Grey, a half-Abenaki Indian detective,  faces problems of  his own after agreeing to an elderly tycoon’s death-bed plea to find his long-lost granddaughter. The dying man’s family is less interested in the missing heiress than with the recent theft of an obscure heirloom carved with curious symbols. As the family’s shadowy history is revealed, the three mysteries intersect to draw Lean and Grey into a maze of murder, deceit, and revenge. Each deadly new clue points toward an even greater puzzle—one that will pit Grey against a devious murderer in a race to unlock an ancient and mysterious power.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Conan Doyle fans will appreciate the Holmes/Watson-like relationship of Perceval Grey, who’s half Abenaki Indian, and deputy Archie Lean of the Portland, Maine, police in Shields’s excellentsequel to 2012’s The Truth of All Things. Early one morning in the summer of 1893, burglar Frankie “the Foot”Cosgrove meets a man near the city reservoir to deliver an unusually marked stone he has stolen at the behest of an unknown client. Cosgrove expects to be paid , but instead the man shoots him dead. In a macabre twist, Cosgrove’s burned corpse turns up after its burial in an abandoned house adorned with drawings of Satan and the message “Hell Awaits.” Grey, who turns his impressive intellect to the bizarre case, makes a nifty deduction based on Lean’s comments about Cosgrove’s living quarters. Meanwhile, a wealthy dying man hires Grey to look for his long-lost granddaughter, though the dying man’s family is more interested in a recently stolen heirloom. The humanity of the well-developed leads enhances the smooth-flowing plot. Agent: Suzanne Gluck, William Morris Endeavor. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"A compelling story that will take readers from the dreary streets of Portland to the upscale parlors of Brahmin Boston. A fine historical mystery." - Booklist

“The plot is awash in mysterious circumstances and suggestions of the occult…a rich and multi-layered adventure told with skill and attention to detail.” BookPage

“[Shields] serves up a highly readable novel that is guaranteed to engage readers until the very last page.” Tucson Citizen

"Erudite, mysterious and exciting, with a brooding, brilliant Sherlock-ian detective. The denouement is just as surprising as in [The Truth of All Things].” - Kirkus (starred review) 

"A well-executed addition to this genre, and a detective duo worth following into the next book in the series." --Historical Novel Society

Library Journal
This second novel (after The Truth of All Things) featuring ex-Pinkerton detective Perceval Grey and Deputy Archie Lean is once again set in Portland, ME, in the early 1890s. A burnt corpse has been found in an abandoned house, and Lean asks Grey to assist him in making sense of occult drawings found at the crime scene. But Grey has his own concerns—he has been called to the home of a dying tycoon who asks him to find his missing granddaughter. During the course of the two investigations, Lean and Grey discover that both their cases are linked by the disappearance of an heirloom that was stolen from the tycoon’s family. Both are pursued by others seeking the heirloom, and the ending leaves no doubt that there will be a third book in the series.

Verdict Readers new to the series should first read the previous title because of the frequent references to earlier events. Shields again has done thorough historical research about Portland, shown not only in his descriptive settings but in details tracing back to the city’s Colonial roots. Recommended for readers who like historical mysteries, especially those by Anne Perry, Rhys Bowen, and Victoria Thompson.—Jean King, West Hempstead P.L., NY(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
1893. A deputy and a private detective in Portland, Maine, investigate a murder with some very unusual features indeed. When the burnt body of a thief whose burial Deputy Archie Lean witnessed turns up in an empty house surrounded by occult symbols, Lean immediately calls on Perceval Grey for assistance. Grey is a half Abenaki Indian raised by his wealthy white grandfather. Well-educated and well-off, he has a passion for criminology. Grey has been hired by the dying Horace Webster to find his missing granddaughter and recover an heirloom stolen from his lawyer's office, a stone covered with mysterious runes that was left to his other granddaughter. The symbols, which resemble those found with the body, have been ascribed to both early Viking explorers and alchemists seeking to turn lead into gold. Grey is not the only one looking for the stone. Also in the hunt are Webster's grandsons, a white man raised as an Indian who thinks the stone is sacred, and Dr. Jotham Marsh, with whom Grey tangled in a prior case (The Truth of All Things, 2012). Grey and Lean soon realize that the present cases are intertwined and that Marsh may not be the only connection to the earlier crime that nearly killed them both. His blood up, Grey travels from the wilds of Maine to the libraries of Boston looking for clues that will reveal the truth. Erudite, mysterious and exciting, with a brooding, brilliant Sherlock-ian detective. The denouement is just as surprising as in Grey's first case.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307985767
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/8/2013
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 512,349
  • Product dimensions: 6.52 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 1.28 (d)

Meet the Author

KIERAN SHIELDS grew up in Portland, Maine. He graduated from Dartmouth College and the University of Maine School of Law.  His first novel, The Truth of All Things, was published by Crown in March 2012. Shields continues to reside along the coast of Maine with his wife and two children.
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Read an Excerpt

[ Chapter 1 ]

There was something strange about the stone, but Frank Cosgrove liked the feel of it. He’d first held it less than an hour ago. Since then it had remained hidden safely inside a cloth sack stuffed into a deep pocket of his coat. In the time it took him to make his winding, moonlit journey across Portland, Maine’s maze of angled streets, he’d already formed the habit of running his fingertips over it. A handful of etched symbols marred a surface polished as smooth as glass. Even though the carvings proved otherwise, some corner of his brain was tempted to believe the impossible notion that the stone had never been worked by human hands. The stone had a calming effect; it took his mind off the dull ache that was working its way up his leg.

Still, Cosgrove would never think of paying good money for it, not even a tenth of the amount he was getting paid to steal it. That was the beauty of this type of thing, a one-off piece. Cash was cash, never more than a flat deal. But something like this stone, there was always someone with enough taste to pay a lot for it. They called it taste, but Frank knew that was just another word for a guy with one of two problems: Either he suspects he’s got too much money on his hands or he’s got a woman who wants him to prove it.

He turned right onto Walnut Street and stared at his pocketwatch in the moonlight. Five minutes to three; he was right on time. The uphill walk was starting to take its toll, and part of him regretted his selection of a meeting place, but the end was in sight. Another block ahead, just past the intersection with North Street, he saw the steep earthen embankment of the Munjoy Hill Reservoir. The massive four-acre structure marked a sort of outpost at the edge of the working-class neighborhood. The land to the north and east was about the last open, undeveloped space on the Neck, the peninsula that made up almost the entire city. Besides being a quiet area where he was unlikely to be noticed this late, the reservoir had the added virtue of being a perfect dumping ground. If any police showed, he could heave the stone over the bank. The reservoir was forty feet deep inside and held twenty million gallons of water. He’d be out of Maine long before anyone ever managed to bring the stone back up.

Cosgrove made his way around the well-cemented hardpan that constituted the lower portion of the embankment. Farther along Walnut Street, a couple of houses stood in darkness. In the other direction, the grassy slope fell away to reveal the darkly shimmering surface of Portland’s Back Cove. The wooden span of Tukey’s Bridge crossed at the point where the nearly enclosed tidal cove narrowed and emptied out into Casco Bay.

As he neared the northeast corner of the reservoir, Cosgrove slowed his pace when a figure stepped into view. Even in the dark, he could tell that this wasn’t his man.

“What’s this?” Cosgrove’s entire body tensed, preparing to bolt at any sign of trouble. “You’re not—”

“Just a minor alteration, Mr. Cosgrove. You needn’t worry; your money’s all here.” He shook a small leather traveling bag. The contents gave off a dull shuffling sound as they bumped against the bag’s rigid frame. “You have it?”

“I wouldn’t bother coming empty-handed, would I?” Cosgrove asked.

“No. That would be a mistake.”

Cosgrove drew the cloth sack out of his coat pocket. He held it up for the man to see. The gibbous moon was enough for the outline of the object to be visible: a smoothed, oblong shape of about eight inches in length.

“That’s good,” the man said. “Very good, Mr. Cosgrove.”

“The deal I had was for five hundred.” The sudden appearance of a stranger was an unannounced shift in the plan, and Cosgrove couldn’t hide his irritation. He’d been in jail plenty of times over the years. He viewed predictability in his business transactions as the one thing that would keep him outside a cell. Minor alterations to plans were not welcome, especially any attempt to change his payout.

“I’m well aware. Here.” The man took a step and tossed the bag forward. It landed between them with a thud. “As soon as you’re satisfied, we can conclude this bit of business.”

Cosgrove crouched down on the thin, browning grass. He needed to peer close to better see the latches on the leather money bag. He set the cloth sack down, near at hand. If need be, the sack could be spun overhead; the weight of the stone at the bottom would make a crippling weapon. The rigid leather bag opened at the top, but he couldn’t get the second of its two latches to turn.

As Cosgrove tried to force the bag open, he kept throwing glances at the man. “It’s stuck.”

“Turn both latches together but in opposite directions,” the stranger said.

With the solution in hand, and the promised money so soon to follow, Cosgrove felt himself smiling. He focused on twisting each of the latches, one clockwise, the other counter. The bag top popped open. He reached in and pulled out the top stack of money, secured with a thin strip of paper around the center. Cosgrove had asked for ones and fives, since that would never raise eyebrows when he spent it. Something felt wrong to his expert touch; the weight of the bills was off. He held the stack close to his face with one hand and let the tops of the bills flick past his other thumb so he could check the whole wad. Only the few on the top and bottom of the stack were dollar bills. The center was nothing more than blank paper. Surprise ignited to anger in the mere second before he could speak.

“What the—”

Cosgrove was still close to the ground and saw only the flash out of the corner of his eye. He heard the bang at the same time as the blow hit him in the chest. It was as if someone had hauled off and swung a hammer, driving the head straight into his ribs. The force of it rocked him, and he tumbled backward, hands flailing as he tried to steady himself.

His vision went blank for a second; then he was looking up at the sky. He wanted to push himself off the ground, but his hands had instinctively gone to his chest. He stared at his left palm. It was wet, covered in slick, black oil. No, it only looked black in the dark. It was red. With the fingertips of his other hand, he brushed at his palm, but the dark stain wouldn’t wipe off. What was wrong with his hands? He remembered that he’d been holding something just a moment before. He looked to his left and saw the bills. The stack was ripped apart, and the papers were loose, skittering along the ground. Was this real? It had to be. He caught a glimpse of movement. The man was crouching nearby.

“What are you doing?” Cosgrove’s voice was nothing more than a whisper. He stopped caring even as the words left his mouth. The man no longer mattered. Cosgrove rolled and flung his right side over. He landed facedown, tasted dirt and grass, and felt a searing pain spread through his chest. He could do nothing but watch as the fake bills started to flutter away in the night’s gentle sea breeze.

[ Chapter 2 ]

The corpse seemed to defy gravity. The body slumped severely to the right, ready to slip off the side of the rickety wooden chair and collapse in a pile on the bare floor. The only thing holding the man up was the unlikely fact that the suit coat he was wearing had come down over the thin back of the chair. The buttons were undone, and the pull of the dead man’s weight stretched the coat awkwardly, but the seams had not yet given out.

Deputy Marshal Archie Lean of the Portland police had been circling the body and staring at it for several minutes, making some sense of the horribly scarred and disfigured face. Cracked blisters dotted the blackened skin, the charred bits flaking away from the underlying musculature and bone. It wasn’t so much that he expected to see anything new, but there was nothing else to draw his attention away. Apart from the chair and its disturbing occupant, the dingy second-floor room was merely an attic that had been finished off to its short peak with old barn boards. The space held nothing more interesting than empty booze bottles, old newspapers, and a few other scraps of litter. He circled his forefinger and thumb across his sandy, well-trimmed mustache. It didn’t satisfy the restlessness in his hands. Lean wanted to light a cigarette but didn’t want to disturb the air, which already held a strong smell, like that of a struck match or spent gunpowder.

According to the neighbors, the old house hadn’t been occupied in six years. After the last owner’s death in 1887, the place had passed to an out-of-state relation who had paid it no heed. The house had suffered badly enough from neglect even when it had a resident. The past few years had sped it on toward its inevitable condemnation. The property had been left to occasional use by vagrants and transients, and more constant abuse by neighborhood kids.

Lean heard the clatter of the horse-drawn carriage’s wheels rattling over paving stones. He went to the room’s single small window facing the front. There was no curtain, but Lean had to yank his handkerchief from his pocket, spit on the glass, and give it a firm rub in order to see through the stubborn layer of grime. Even from a distance, he recognized the man at the reins as Rasmus Hansen. The quiet but reliable man had formerly worked as the driver for Dr. Virgil Steig, before the latter’s untimely death last summer. The old city surgeon had been a trusted ally and a good friend. His murder in the course of duty, a death that could have been prevented, remained a painful memory for Lean. Still, he allowed himself a hint of a smile at the thought of the carriage’s current occupant.

He strode across the room, careful to avoid stepping on the sooty footprints that marked the dull, scuffed floorboards. Leaving the door open, he made his way down the creaking stairs. He kept his feet to the outer edges of each board, again to avoid damaging the prints, but also out of concern that the worn and cracked treads might not support his sturdy frame. The front parlor was mean and empty except for bits of trash along the baseboards and a clinging odor of dampness tinged with urine. Every stick of furniture that had ever been in the house was long since sold, stolen, or smashed to kindling and burned in the room’s small fireplace.

Lean eased open the front door of the run-down little building and stepped outside, onto the crooked stoop. He stared once more at the blackened shape of a hand, fingers splayed, that was scorched into the door. A few people stood in a doorway along the narrow, unpaved stretch that led from the house down to Vine Street. More faces craned in from the sidewalk where this alleyway ended. A uniformed patrol officer, Harrington, made sure none of the overly interested neighborhood gawkers got any ideas about wandering close. Lean was glad for the timing of it, ten a.m. on Friday. The demands of the weekday had already thinned the early-morning crowd of schoolchildren and men walking to work.

After fumbling in his pocket for a match, Lean lit a long-overdue cigarette. He was glad that Harrington was the officer at hand. The man was a veteran whose combination of solid nerves and blunted imagination kept him from getting keyed up at crime scenes. At the moment, Harrington was staring in the direction of the newly arrived carriage.

A man in a lightweight frock coat had exited and now stood examining the house and its environs. Lean recognized the sharp features of Perceval Grey peering out from beneath the brim of a black brushed-felt hat. He recalled a similar arrival by Grey a year ago, in the dead of night, at the scene of a young woman’s gruesome murder. That night he’d met the man for the first time in an atmosphere of desperation, skepticism, and irritation at Grey’s condescending arrogance. Now he simply smiled, glad to see his onetime partner again.

“Y’know,” Harrington began, without taking his eyes off Grey, “the more I think on it, the more I’m sure I’ve seen that guy up there.” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder, toward the upper floor of the house. “Course, can’t say for sure with his face the way it is.”

“It’s Frankie the Foot,” Lean said with all the enthusiasm of a desperate card player forced to reveal his own middling hand.

“What?” The announcement was startling enough to yank Harrington’s attention away from the new arrival for a moment. “That’s impossible. Frankie’s—”

“Yes.” The look of utter disbelief that greeted Lean was exactly what he’d expected. “He certainly is.”

“Then how the hell could he be here? And looking like that?”

“The question of the day, right there.” Lean blew out a cloud of smoke and watched it disintegrate above him.

An uncomfortable silence settled over the deputy and the patrolman, as if Lean had just committed an embarrassing gaffe with a pronouncement that caught Harrington so far off guard. A guttural sound escaped from Harrington’s throat as Grey approached and that man’s slightly dark complexion, inherited from his Abenaki Indian father, became apparent.

“Not this one.” Harrington’s raspy voice was suddenly thick with disapproval. He sounded like a man readying himself for a confrontation. “Such a high-talking windbag.”

Lean knew that Grey’s work was earning him a reputation around the city, one not fully appreciated by the other members of the police department.

“It’s all right. He’s here at my request”—Lean fished about for the right way to justify calling on a private detective during a police investigation—“as a sort of expert on . . . unusual matters.”

The look in Harrington’s eyes still bordered on hostility, so Lean suggested the man take a stroll past the onlookers down the alley, to see if anyone had had a change of heart and now wanted to offer up something useful.

“Deputy Lean.” Grey touched the brim of his hat, then cast a dubious glance at the ramshackle building. “Forgive me for showing up empty-handed. Your note didn’t mention that this was to be your housewarming.”

Lean chuckled. “Good of you to come, Grey.”

“I was surprised to hear from you so soon.”

Lean tilted his head. “We haven’t spoken in nearly a year.”

“Yes, but during that last bit of business, you voiced your hope that we wouldn’t need to renew our professional acquaintance.”

“Yes, well, I missed that radiant bonhomie of yours.”

“Bonhomie?” Grey chuckled. “Good to see that the Vocabulary for Policemen correspondence course is paying dividends.”

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 1, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Author: Kieran Shields Published by: Crown Publishers Age Recom


    Author: Kieran Shields
    Published by: Crown Publishers
    Age Recommended: YA - Adult
    Reviewed By: Arlena Dean
    Book Blog For: GMTA
    Rating: 4


    Review:


    "A Study in Revenge" by Kieran Shields was a good mystery, historical,thriller series. I have not read the first book 'The Truth of all Things' and maybe that was why I didn't understand some parts of this novel but what I could understand ....I did like. I had a feeling I was still missing something that had gone on in the first novel...but again it was a very intriguing historical read...Sort of like the 'Sherlock Holmes' novels. This story setting was from Portland, Maine in the year of 1893. In this novel we have a 'Victorian' private investiagator and police consultant... Perceval Grey and we have Archie Lean who is a dedicated 'Deputy of Police'...dedicated to the State and its people. Grey and Lean come together trying to unravel a mystery and that is:

    "The body of a local thief is discovered under unusual circumstances, with evidence of the occult (or at least somebody trying to stage it to look that way). The problem is, the thief in question was killed days earlier and was already buried, meaning that whoever staged the scene also robbed his grave."

    Be ready for a lots of twist and turns...keep up or you could get lost...also be ready for "Viking runes, explosions, the occult, mysterious tunnels, robberies, shootings, burnings, and grave robbing, just to name some." It will be a long read but if you continue to will find out what the 'Revenge" was in the story! I will stop there to say you must pick up " Study in Revenge" to see what all the author had instore for the reader. The characters all well developed and the author did some job working all this in with some some religion and along with the murders that will tie in three different mysteries.

    If you are in for a historical thriller mystery "A Study in Revenge" would be a good read that I would recommend for you.

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  • Posted January 23, 2013

    Two men each a detective, one a Deputy Marshal Archie Lean and t

    Two men each a detective, one a Deputy Marshal Archie Lean and the other a private detective Perceval Grey working together to solve many different crimes entangled with one large mystery. The storyline is well developed,you do have some religion , some Greek alphabet, some murder, and research. Characters were wonderfully developed , they were each special in their own right.
    I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys a Victorian mystery.
    Thanks to Net Galley and Crown Publishing.

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