Best known for her procedural series featuring English village police detective Gil Mayo (A Sunset Touch, etc.), Eccles delivers a satisfyingly complex stand-alone, spanning the years from 1894 to 1909. This acute psychological study slowly untangles the web binding the fortunes of an Armenian patriot, an amnesiac accident victim and various members of the aristocratic Chetwynd family and the wool-selling Armitages of Yorkshire. Dexterously shifting from London to Shropshire to the British South African outpost of Mafeking, Eccles explores women's fight for suffrage and traditionally male careers, the breakdown of distinctions between the old nobility and the rich merchant class, and political upheavals in South Africa. Eccles's narrative skills and the myriad contextual details make it easy to forget the mysterious murder victim found on a Shropshire estate until pulled back by the episodic efforts of the police to solve the crime. (Aug.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Shadows and Liesby Marjorie Eccles
Following the huge success of The Shape of Sand, shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger award, comes this dramatic story of love, war, and intrigue.
It is the year 1910 and the bloodstained body of an unknown woman is found on the grounds of Sir Henry Chetwynd's Shropshire estate. A reluctant heir to the estate, Sebastian Chetwynd is already battling/i>
Following the huge success of The Shape of Sand, shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger award, comes this dramatic story of love, war, and intrigue.
It is the year 1910 and the bloodstained body of an unknown woman is found on the grounds of Sir Henry Chetwynd's Shropshire estate. A reluctant heir to the estate, Sebastian Chetwynd is already battling with divided loyalties: his ambition for a career of his own and his father's expectation that he follow in his footsteps, and his duty to marry for money when he is in love with Louisa, a student doctor and supporter of women's rights.
Unknown to the Chetwynds, there is Hannah, living in London, who has lost her memory of everything that happened in the dozen years previous to a serious accident. In an attempt to unravel her past, Hannah writes down the story of her life as far as she can remember it. As she reaches out to grasp and piece together the fragments of those missing years, it seems that the ongoing murder investigation in Shropshire could hold the key.
Switching between troubled South Africa in the last years of the nineteenth century and the murder in England ten years later, Marjorie Eccles's delicate narrative reveals the lies and deceptions that have lain beneath the veneer of polite Edwardian society.
Shifting in time and place between 1890s South Africa and 1909 England, Eccles's second historical standalone (after The Shape of Sand) juggles the story of Hannah, an amnesiac living in London, and the murder of another woman on the grounds of Belmonde, the ancestral estate of the Chetwynd family. Heir to the estate, Sebastian Chetwynd is as much a prisoner of the British social system as his friend Louisa, a medical student and suffragette. While he wishes to have his own career and marry Louisa, Sebastian must also deal with family expectations. At the same time, Hannah seeks to piece together her missing years, which may be connected to the murder in Shropshire. Carefully placed clues and an unexpected ending add to the richness of the Edwardian setting. For readers who enjoy Beverly Cleverly and Agatha Christie.
Jo Ann Vicarel
- St. Martin's Press
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- First Edition
- Product dimensions:
- 5.66(w) x 8.71(h) x 1.12(d)
Read an Excerpt
Shadows & Lies
The exercise book stares accusingly back at me, its pages as blank as when I first opened the book. After half an hour, I don't yet have the faintest idea how to start.
There they stay, the lost years, tantalisingly beyond my reach, and for perhaps the hundredth time, I ask myself why I am able to remember nearly everything about my life up to a certain point, but not the time between then and my present situation? What fate has decreed my life should be split in two - and that I should simply have no recollection about what happened in that gap? Nine years have been effectively erased from my consciousness, so successfully that I might never have lived through them. The dark suspicion that I might well never know what happened to me during that time doesn't bear thinking about.
Dr Harvill has suggested that if I start at the beginning and focus all my concentration on writing down that part of my life I do remember, the missing years may follow quite naturally. Well, he is a professional mind doctor, he should know. Myself, I am sceptical. But since I have nothing to lose - and nothing much else to do, either, and perhaps everything to gain - I suppose it cannot do any harm to do as he suggests.
So here I am, in my house in St John's Wood, sitting at my desk, a small walnut davenport with drawers at the side and a sloping top; an elegant piece of furniture, like the chairs and the coromandel wood table, the upright piano with the tasselled runner across its top, and the cushioned sofa. Did I choose any of these pieces myself? Did I decide on the narrow, elegant vases on the mantelpiece? The pictures? Occasionally, I have lightning stabs of near-memory about little things: I can almost believe I see myself stitching that silk cushion over there, buying the sheet music for The Merry Widow that I found in the piano stool, but perhaps not. I am more inclined to believe that it is wishful thinking, since I cannot even remember how many years I've lived in this house, when I first came, or if indeed I've always been alone here, except for someone like Rosa though this seems unlikely. There are, after all, those presences, sometimes glimpsed, sometimes just sensed, which must mean something.
So what, precisely, do I know? Almost everything about my earlylife, at any rate. I know that I was born in 1876, which makes me thirty-three years old. I know that my name was Hannah Jackson, and yet the money in the bank is in the name of Smith, which is a great mystery in itself, since I never had any money. I wear a wedding ring, so I am presumably Mrs Smith, and however that came about I still haven't fathomed. The name seems as improbable as the title of Mrs, since I have no recollection of any husband. Although ...
Yes, if I am honest, that is one thing I do not need to question; I have known what it is to be married. How else would I have these unsatisfied longings, that memory of passion, and love?
I apparently own this house and have a small but adequate income from investments. I have learned that I was injured in an accident when I was riding on the top of a London omnibus, one blowy morning last autumn. And now it's March, and I still remember nothing of it, except for that one last, blinding moment, that piercingly clear picture which flashed across my eyes before I lost consciousness: the runaway brewer's dray colliding with the motor omnibus in the milling traffic on Ludgate Hill; the shouts and cries of the passengers; the barrels rolling all over the road; the screams of the horses ... 'Trauma' (which is what Dr Harvill calls the state occasioned by that blow to the head which I received in the accident) has effectively erased what went before it.
This sitting-room of mine is a comfortable, even luxurious room; not ostentatious, but certainly not the room of someone who has ever had to watch the pennies. The bright fire has been lit by my maid, Rosa. She is the one who cooks and keeps everything spotless, with the help of a woman to do the rough. The household consists only of Rosa and myself, so the work is undemanding.
She has become something more than a servant, Rosa Tartaryan, though not yet someone I can regard as a friend. A dark, intense woman, she has her own friends, whom I've yet to meet; she is part of a small circle of Balkan émigrés, who seem to exist in a shadowy half-world, meeting in gloomy cafés and plotting ways in which they can return to their own country. Revenge is what they want, for the bloodshed and misery inflicted on their people by the Turks who have occupied their land. She came to England in a roundabout way, exactly how I've never been able to discover, for no one can be more tight-lipped than Rosa when she wishes to keep her owncounsel. She says she came to work for me in answer to an advertisement I had inserted in The Gentlewoman, just before the accident. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I must believe her.
Though she dislikes talking about her own past - I have the feeling that terrible things may have happened to her before she reached England - she is forever trying to get me to talk about the old days, in an effort to help me remember my lost years. She never presses me too much, which is not like fierce Rosa - so that I occasionally have the feeling she knows more than she pretends, despite her assurances that she wasn't with me in what I always think of as The Time Before: those lost years. She is much the same age as me; she looks after me well, cooking nourishing, tasty meals to which I fail to do justice. The clothes in my wardrobe, from my previous existence, don't fit. Rosa tut-tuts over me and says I'm nothing but skin and bone, and will become ill again, but I don't care. There is nothing, as far as I am aware, for me to live for. Inside, I feel dead.
I am apathetic about this trying to remember: in fact, I am sure Dr Harvill believes me downright perverse, though this, I think, is rather than admit his methods are not working. But why should I even try? Knowledge of those lost years, I feel sure, will bring me nothing but pain. But in the dream last night, I again saw the boy, and though I haven't today glimpsed his shadow-self, his mischievous, faun-like face, as I've always done previously after dreaming of him, I feel the pain even more than usual; and something small and hard and stubborn inside me is insisting that for his sake I should do as Dr Harvill suggests and make some effort.
Very well, then, I will. But not until it is finished will I show it to the doctor. It's not exactly that I don't trust him, though he is a little too smooth for my liking; his answers come too quickly, his solutions sound too pat. Yet who am I to question his methods? Perhaps they will work, after all.
I stare out over the small, pleasant garden. I can see other gardens along the quiet street, several of them with forsythia bushes making a great show, and suddenly, I see the forsythias Mrs Crowther ordered to be planted at Bridge End House.
They'll do well enough for a beginning.
He hadn't let them know he was coming, but that was Sebastian all over.
He and Louisa had driven all the way down into Shropshire through intermittent, heavy rain, arriving in the village in the middle of a thunderstorm. He drew up to her father's house and she made a quick dash to the door, throwing a cheerful goodbye over her shoulder and disappearing inside with a shake of her umbrella and a wave of her hand. Having driven circumspectly enough until then, Sebastian put his foot down, at last able to give his new Austin Ascot the full reign of its fifteen horse power, taking the next two miles at a reckless thirty miles an hour along the narrow lanes towards the lodge gates of Belmonde.
Thunder continued to roll over the distant hills, the skies wept and draughts insinuated themselves round his ankles. As the vehicle sluiced up the long, rising drive, winding through the mixed conifers and huge banks of dripping rhododendrons, so magnificent in spring, so ineffably dreary in the wet, his cheerfulness began to evaporate. The motorcar hood had given little protection from the rain which drove in at the sides and without Louisa, small as she was, beside him, he felt cold, damp, and acutely conscious of her absence. The depressing thought came to him that it always rained when he came home these days, perhaps echoing his mood. The pathetic fallacy, as Louisa might say: nature possessing human feelings.
It was nothing of the kind, of course - the truth was, he was simply annoyed with himself for having declined to go across the Channel to Longchamps for the racing with Inky Winthrop, a decision that had left him twiddling his thumbs in a London tiresomely bereft of friends and acquaintances. The weather hadn't helped, of course. The exhausted end of summer had turned wet and cold, with London permanently wrapped in rain, umbrella spokes catching you in the eye whenever you went out, and everyone splashing duck-footed about the pavements. Thetheatres had nothing new to offer and with the House in recession, there were none of the usual hullabaloos issuing from Westminster to cause a bit of excitement: even the Irish were quiet. Most of his other friends were up in Scotland, shooting grouse, and moreover, every amusing young woman he knew seemed to have taken herself off abroad to capture the last few weeks of sun in Biarritz or Monte Carlo or some such place. Pretty little Violet Clerihugh was in San Remo with her mother, and Sebastian, having just emerged, blinking like a mole, from the concerns which had occupied him exclusively for weeks, and feeling he needed a respite to refresh himself, was left disconsolate for many reasons, and short of cash. In a nutshell, he was thoroughly put out.
Though nothing like as much as Louisa, tossing her bright brown hair, incandescent with fury about the arrest and imprisonment of one of those dangerous women's rights persons she so admired, declaring that the treatment being meted out to this woman in prison - confinement and the appalling threat of being fed by force if she persisted in her hunger strike - was nothing short of inhuman. If anything was needed to sway Louisa from an admiring but reluctant hesitation on the brink of the women's suffrage cause, that was it. After having begun to think her enthusiasm had at last begun to wane, Sebastian was now very much afraid she might be poised to plunge right in. He hoped that her father, over the next few days, would make her see sense. He was the only one who might.
Louisa was very good at advising other people, not so good at listening to what was best for herself. She'd neatly turned the tables when Sebastian had tried to steer her away from such dangerous involvement: "Oh, stuff! Involvement's what being alive is all about, isn't it?" When he hadn't replied, she'd added abruptly, giving him a very direct look, "You'll have face up to the facts some time, you know, stop fooling around and start taking things seriously. It's been nearly a year, after all."
"Dearest Louisa, you should know by now I'm not cut out for taking life seriously."
"Oh, Seb!" Then, sighing softly, "All right, sorry. Sorry." She said no more, and he'd been grateful that she hadn't pressed thisparticular, emotionally fraught point.
After all, she wasn't to know (though he thought she might suspect) that it wasn't the fact of his brother's death he couldn't face - it was the consequences resulting from it that weighed him down. When Harry, after resigning his commission in the regiment had, more for the devilment of it than anything, got himself taken on as a war correspondent for the Daily Bugle during the struggle against the Boers more than a decade ago now, it had forced them all to accept that the golden boy, Harry, everyone's darling, might not, after all, be invulnerable. Wholly admiring, and envious of his brother, but prepared for grave news at any time, Sebastian, then still a schoolboy, had first become aware of what would inevitably follow if the inconceivable were to happen, and Harry should be killed: that the mantle of heir to Belmonde, which his elder brother wore with such debonair ease, would then fall upon his own shoulders. Harry, however, had continued to lead his usual charmed life, showing incredible bravery in getting his despatches through and emerging from the war with barely a scratch - only to die last year in that shockingly inglorious way. Leaving Sebastian back where he started, seeing no possibility of doing anything more exciting with his life than fulfilling the role of a country gentleman, when what he wanted was ...well, he hadn't known what - until now. But, afraid of tempting fate, aware of battles ahead, so far he'd mentioned nothing of that to anyone, not even Louisa.
In the dark afternoon, a sudden sharp curve appeared in the long winding drive. Although he knew every inch of the road and that particular bend was very familiar to him, the speed at which he was travelling had made him take it faster than he ought (though he was unlikely to encounter anything other than a pheasant from the game preserves either side) so that when he saw the - the apparition, was how he afterwards thought of it - he wasn't able to stop immediately. As soon as he could, he slowed and reversed back round the curve to the same spot, but now he could see nothing. It must have been some trick of the light, he told himself, that had made him think he'd seen the figure of a woman, wrapped in a heavy coat and with a hat pulled low over her eyes, standing a few yards back from the drive in theshadow of a dripping larch. Almost as if she'd heard the approach of the motor car and hoped not to be seen.
Yet still unwilling to believe she'd been a figment of his imagination, for Sebastian was not given to fancies, and was gallant enough not to wish to leave any woman alone in such conditions (despite the hat and coat, she must have been soaked to the skin, for she hadn't appeared to have even an umbrella to protect her) he stayed for a while until his eyes should become accustomed to the gloom under the trees, trying to convince himself that they hadn't been playing him tricks. Another lightning flash, however, lit up the scene and showed it to be quite devoid of any human presence - unless the woman was unaccountably hiding behind some tree or, more likely, had turned and hurried back the way she had come. The lightning was followed very soon by a great clap of thunder and another torrential cloudburst. More unnerved than he should have been by the occurrence, he drove forward again, this time more circumspectly, dismissing it from his mind.
The drive opened out presently and there appeared in front of him Belmonde Abbey; an abbey no longer, not for nigh on four centuries, but a sprawling pink brick-and-sandstone house which had grown in a haphazard manner on the original site. Nothing to speak of architecturally ...parts had been added, and others demolished at the whim of subsequent owners, with scant regard for aesthetics, and its manifold crenellations and turrets were an affront to Sebastian's sense of style - but he'd grown up with it and regarded it with an exasperated affection. Unprepossessing under the lashing rain, creeper covered, it was anchored to the earth by surrounding trees on three sides and on its front by a parterre of four circular and four ogee flower beds. These were placed with geometric precision within a smooth grass square, which itself was weighted at strategic points by the solidity of yew topiary clipped into perfect spheres and cones. A design much approved of by his father.
Ignoring this horrid sight, Sebastian drew up to the front door in a scatter of wet gravel and stopped the engine. Leaving the motor where it was, he dashed up the front steps through the pelting rain and burst into the hall before the footman could getto the door to open it.
"Mr Sebastian! How very good to see you."
This was Blythe, arriving hard on the heels of the footman, only a little breathless, quickly regaining his composure at being thus outflanked, mortified to think the famed hospitality at Belmonde was lacking in welcome, even by the unexpected arrival of the young master.
"It's OK, Mr Blythe," said Sebastian, disregarding the old butler's pained expression at the use of the Americanism, and allowing himself to be divested of his waterproof coat, and his cap. "Anyone at home?"
An unaccustomed air of quietness hung about the house, making him wonder belatedly if he hadn't been too hasty in his decision to come down without first ensuring that his mother would actually be here, or whether she was away on a Saturday-to-Monday at some friend's country house. There were no mandatory events in the social calendar she might be attending, at this dead end of the season, but it did occur to him that he hadn't come across her for some time at any of these sort of occasions, which was where he most often met his mother. For the last few years, Sebastian had had his own bachelor rooms in Albemarle Street.
Blythe, however, informed him that all the family were at home. "A quiet weekend has been planned. Her Ladyship has been slightly indisposed, and she and Sir Henry - and your grandmother - are all here. The only guests are Mrs and Miss Cashmore. Fortunately, no others were expected."
Thank God for that, thought Sebastian, suppressing a groan at the thought of the Cashmores. An empty house, without his mother's support in his approach to his father, would have meant a wasted journey. It would have been even worse to have arrived to find the place full of the same set forever encountered in one country house or another - but he frowned. "My mother, ill? And no one let me know, Mr Blythe - why was that, I wonder?"
"It was nothing serious, I understand. She is much improved."
"I'm relieved to hear it."
"Yes, quite well again, though I believe she is resting at the moment. Sir Henry is in the business room."
"In that case," said Sebastian hastily, "I won't disturb him. Have my bags seen to, there's a good fellow. I'll just have a wash and then I'll go and see my grandmother."
"You will not be regarding this - attachment - with any seriousness, of course, Sebastian," stated his grandmother, Lady Emily Chetwynd, approaching her subject at once, but smiling. "Dalliance with a village maiden is all very well, dear boy, almost a rite of passage, one might say, but you have enough good sense to be aware that one - especially you - must always have regard to the future."
Sebastian automatically returned her smile - a reflection of his own, a sideways smile and one that showed great charm. He wasn' t particularly handsome, or not quite so obviously so as Harry had been, but he had an open, pleasingly mobile face showing a quick intelligence, and a readiness to smile that quickly endeared him to people. Folding his long legs and perching on the stool near to where his grandmother sat, very upright on the edge of her chair, declining the use of the backrest for support, he reached out and took her hand, bending his head over it to avoid her quick old eyes. Gently he adjusted her rings, which had recently been enlarged to fit over the swollen knuckles and which consequently slipped about loosely above them. The softness of her hands was eloquent testimony to the fact that she'd never had need to do a day's work in her life, but even Lady Emily was mortal, and arthritis was no respecter of persons. Apart from a stick to help her rise from her seat more gracefully, however, she allowed no concessions to painful joints.
Sebastian, though exceedingly fond of his grandmother, was in fact surprised by how angry her words had made him - in so far as he ever was angry, for he was too easy-going to let such emotions trouble him overmuch. But Louisa, to whom Lady Emily was referring jocularly (though not by any means as jocularly as a stranger might suppose) was not in any circumstances to be regarded as a subject for jest.
"Dash it, I only gave her a lift from Town. You've got it all wrong, Grandmama. There's no question at all of any - attachment, as you put it. Louisa's a jolly girl, but there's nothing remotely like that between us. Too clever for me, for one thing."
"Yes, I'm quite aware of Louisa's intelligence - and my admiration for her knows no bounds," she returned drily, "but being a clever young woman with strong opinions does not preclude the possibility of falling in love with the wrong person. On the contrary, I've often observed that people of high intelligence do not always possess much common sense."
"Well then, since I don't know anybody with much more common sense than Louisa, you needn't be afraid she's in the least in love with me," returned Sebastian, with a laugh that was not quite as light as he might have hoped. "And besides "
"Besides what, my dear boy?"
He knew this was an infuriating reply. His grandmother, much as he loved her and admired her indomitable courage, invariably had the effect of reducing him to the language and attitudes of the schoolroom, though he hoped she didn't mean to. But devil take it - Louisa! She was coming down a bit hard on someone he'd known all his life, someone he'd always thought she liked. Not good enough in her eyes for a Chetwynd, of course (Lady Emily was herself the daughter of an earl), especially not the heir. As children, the Chetwynd and Fox families had played together without any of the stuffy social distinctions so many people thought fit to perpetuate. To his mother indeed, with her transatlantic tolerance, such nuances - or so she declared - were absurd, they could have played with the under-gardeners' children for all she cared. Besides, the Fox's were so charming, all of them, with their easy manners and good looks. Even Sir Henry hadn't objected to friendship with them, and was civil enough with their father when he invited him to dine at Belmonde, as he ritually did, once or twice a year, in the interests of good neighbourly relations. Eccentric as Augustus Fox was, his was a decent family, after all. Not the same class as the Chetwynds, but respectable. Louisa's maternal grandfather had been an archdeacon, and Augustus himself had been a much esteemed Oxford scholar in his day.
The only problem, as far as Sebastian was concerned, was: who would be good enough for Louisa? A question which had recently begun to occur to him with surprising and troublingregularity.
Lady Emily picked up her tapestry, destined for a fire screen, in which game birds and other fauna gambolled wantonly together amongst autumn foliage, and dexterously threaded her needle with scarlet wool. Despite her painful fingers, she did a little work on her project each day, as a discipline. "Well, it's good to see you," she said, changing the subject. "How long is it since you've been down, you disgraceful boy?"
"Too long, perhaps, Grandmama," Sebastian admitted. "But I'm forever bumping into Mama in London, you know - and Father, too, sometimes, though he's always so dashed busy, seeing to his affairs. When he's there, that is."
Lady Emily did not immediately reply. Sebastian, too, thought he had better not elaborate this point. It was becoming all too increasingly obvious that his father was inclined to spend less and less time away from Belmonde, that Adele was often left to attend social functions alone in Town and elsewhere; though this left her free, of course, to entertain and be entertained, to attend concerts, theatre and the opera, all of which were anathema to her husband; to shop or to slip across to Paris to visit her dressmaker. To do as she wished, in fact.
The silence lengthened between them as Lady Emily stitched on, and thought about Sebastian. It was all very well to say let the boy sow his wild oats, as his mother did - he was a young man, and young men needed their diversions; a gay life was only to be expected - but that sort of thing could not go on forever. He had been through the requisite wild, reckless period but she was optimistic that it was now over, though she did not care for some of the young bloods he called his friends, such as George (Inky) Winthrop, his old schoolfellow, who spent too much time at the races, or so she heard through the grapevine. And he still showed more inclination to gallivant around Greece and Italy with a sketchbook than to find himself a useful occupation which might be the making of him: the Army, perhaps, or even politics, like her second son Monty, though not, she thought, the Church. He was in no hurry either, it seemed, to look for a suitable wife who would provide him with a son and heir, and she was afraid of that independent streak in him that might at anytime make him marry someone unsuitable: Louisa Fox, for example.
He said abruptly, in the way he often had of picking up her thoughts, "It's all a nonsense, isn't it? I've never wanted - all this, you know, Grandmama." He had no need to elaborate his meaning, but he added, "Harry would have done it so much better than I."
"Do you really think so?"
For a moment darkness lay between them: things which could not be said. Not for the first time, Sebastian wondered how much his grandmother knew - or guessed - about Harry's private concerns. Then she rallied. "It cannot be helped, the way life turns around. Don't sulk over it, Sebastian dear. It's not in your nature. And the sooner you accept the inevitable, that you are now the heir and there is nothing you can do about it - and a great deal more you should be doing - the happier we shall all be."
It was briskly said, though Lady Emily had not meant the advice unkindly. It was what her grandson needed to hear, little as he wished to. At the moment, his mind was as stubbornly set as his father's.
"There's no hurry. You know Father wouldn't thank me for pushing my nose in. He must do everything himself, doesn't trust anyone else."
Lady Emily sighed. Indeed. She must speak to Henry. It was high time her eldest son came to his senses and realised that he and Sebastian had both taken up a stance from which it was difficult to back down, though one of them had better do so. It might seem to her grandson that there was no hurry, but Lady Emily was no stranger to the sudden vicissitudes of fortune and knew it was dangerous to discount them - look at what had happened to Harry. And Henry did have an alarmingly high colour at times, just like his father, who'd died of an apoplexy when he was fifty, leaving Henry with a mass of debts, enormous death duties, a run-down estate and not much idea how to go about setting things right. Given his nature, however, Henry had immediately buckled down and learned how to do so. Since then, he'd become more and more wrapped up in Belmonde, givinglittle thought to anything other than the conviction that his heir should never be left to pick up the pieces as he had been - in itself an undoubtedly laudable ambition. The irony of it was that Henry and his son were at loggerheads not, Lady Emily was sure, because Sebastian was unwilling to learn how to shoulder his future responsibilities but rather that he was convinced - with some justification - that his father couldn't accept that everything would not run away out of control should he let go of the reins for one single moment. While Henry chose to believe his son was congenitally bone idle. She often felt she would like to knock their heads together.
It was Sebastian's turn to change the subject. "What's all this about my mother being ill?"
"Not ill, my dear, just a trifle under the weather. I don't think it's anything much, though I do believe she's worried about Sylvia - which, of course, is the last thing she would admit. Your sister has apparently taken up with this frightful woman from India who has persuaded her to join some peculiar sect."
"Annie Besant," returned Sebastian gloomily. "I have heard rumours."
"That's the name, Annie Besant." Lady Emily's lips pressed together. The woman was dangerous, a radical. A person who took up with one cause after another. To be sure, her championship of those poor little girls who worked with phosphorous in the match factories had caused some improvement in their terrible working conditions. But she was also outspoken on taboo subjects such as birth control, and had indeed - quite rightly - been prosecuted for publishing material on the same subject as likely to deprave or corrupt those whose minds were open to immoral influences. Well, at least Lady Emily couldn't see Sylvia being caught up in anything like that ...though one had hardly thought her inclined to religion, either. Perhaps it was her childless state, after seven years of marriage, which was, contrary to appearances, worrying her and causing her to turn to whatever might bring her hope.
"I am right in assuming, am I not," she enquired with a dangerous inflection, "that this Besant woman now calls herself a Theologist?" She drove her needle through the red eye of aparticularly haughty-looking pheasant.
"Theosophist, then. Let us not split hairs."
Sebastian, knowing her views on the subject, thought that he had better not add that Annie Besant was also a sympathiser with the women's suffrage movement. One dangerous thing at a time.
"No wonder your poor mother is worried. It's worse than I thought. I believe those people believe in Buddha and reincarnation and no red meat - and free love to boot, I have no doubt," Lady Emily stated with ill-informed exaggeration.
Sebastian shrugged. "Algy should put his foot down."
"Algy? Oh, my dear!"
Well, no, perhaps not.
Sylvia had married well, but Algy Eustace-Bragge was - in Sebastian's words - an awful muff, despite being able to give Sylvia every material thing a woman could want. Her grandmother, however, suspected Sylvia did not have it all her own way, something which she understood and rather approved of: a man should be master in his own house, while at the same time, a woman should be capable of getting what she wanted, without resorting to outright dominance. She herself had never had any difficulty in bringing Chetwynd around to doing exactly as she wished. It was something upon which she and her daughter-in-law were at one. Henry was putty in Adèle's hands, though she was clever enough not to let him know this. Which was just as well, because Henry, ever since he was a child, could only be pushed so far. Since his marriage, his mother had learned that applied to his wife, too.
Despite herself, she had become quite fond of Adele, able to overlook the fact that her father had made his fortune in meatpacking in Chicago, and not only because she had most certainly saved the fortunes of the Chetwynd family - if only temporarily. From the fastness of her own unmodernised wing at Belmonde, where nothing, not a stick of furniture or a piece of wallpaper, had been changed for half a century, Lady Emily observed with a keen eye the changes Adele had brought to Belmonde, and while she certainly did not approve of everything, she had found it expedient, on the whole, not to interfere. Adèle was not, as shehad expected a daughter-in-law to be, biddable. She knew how to charm, but she had an iron will and was unscrupulous in getting what she wanted, despite being deceptively softly-spoken, and entirely agreeable. Indeed, she quite often got the better of her mother-in-law, which few people did.
There was no denying Adele was hopelessly extravagant, renowned for her hospitality and the lavish parties she loved to give, never mind that Henry thought them - and most of that circle of those so-called clever people she liked to call her friends, come to that, largely a waste of time and money; he was terrified of being cajoled into joining them in their after-dinner pencil and paper games; he could not have composed an epigram if his life had depended upon it.
"Speaking of your mother," said Lady Emily, glancing at the gold fob watch pinned to the armour-plated elegance of her splendid bosom, and putting an end to disagreeable thoughts for the time being, "I told her I would join her for tea. Shall we go along?"
SHADOWS & LIES. Copyright © 2005 by Marjorie Eccles. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
Meet the Author
Marjorie Eccles was born in Yorkshire and spent much of her childhood there and on the Northumbrian coast. She is the recipient of the Agatha Christie Short Story Styles Award. A keen gardener, she lives with her husband in Hertfordshire.
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In 1910 in Shropshire, a bloodied female corpse is found on the estate of Sir Henry Chetwynd. As far as the owner is concerned he feels for the unknown victim, but in a detached way as he has no idea who she is. Instead he struggles with the demands of his aristocratic father who insists he marry for money so that their family estates can flourish he wants to wed his beloved student doctor Louisa, a champion of women¿s rights. --- While Henry assists the police investigating the homicide, in London Hannah struggles with her lost memory since the accident. She writes down what she thinks she knows in an attempt to find clues to her past. Everything she knows seems to tie back to Shropshire (and a dead woman with no identity). Meanwhile the police continue to investigate the homicide not understanding the link between the two tragic females that starts thirty years ago and runs through aristocratic Shropshire, wool trading Yorkshire and a British South African port. --- Police detective Gil Mayo takes a respite as Marjorie Eccles provides a terrific stand alone historical thriller that looks deeply at a pivotal time of reform when the upper middle class begins to take over leadership and the women¿s rights movement flourishes. The story line is fast-paced as the various subplots rotate but move forward until they are cleverly tied together in an intelligent finish. Readers will appreciate this strong early twentieth century thriller while seeking Ms. Eccles previous solo historical, THE SHAPE OF SAND. --- Harriet Klausner