Tumbling Girl (Variety Palace Mysteries #1)

Tumbling Girl (Variety Palace Mysteries #1)

by Bridget Walsh
Tumbling Girl (Variety Palace Mysteries #1)

Tumbling Girl (Variety Palace Mysteries #1)

by Bridget Walsh


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'Splendid' Wall Street Journal

'A wry, warm and proper rib-tickling slice of dirty Victorian gothic’ Julia Crouch 

1876, Victorian London. Minnie Ward, a feisty scriptwriter for the Variety Palace Music Hall, is devastated when her best friend is found brutally murdered. She enlists the help of private detective Albert Easterbrook to help her find justice. 

Together they navigate London, from its high-class clubs to its murky underbelly. But as the bodies pile up, they must rely on one another if they’re going to track down the killer – and make it out alive . . .

The first in a sharp, witty series of Victorian mystery novels, The Tumbling Girl is sure to delight fans of Sarah Waters, Elizabeth Macneal, and Miss Scarlet and the Duke.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781913547516
Publisher: Gallic Books
Publication date: 05/23/2023
Series: Variety Palace Mysteries , #1
Pages: 296
Sales rank: 666,215
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Bridget Walsh was born in London to Irish immigrant parents. She studied English literature and was an English teacher for 23 years, before leaving the profession to pursue her writing. Bridget lives in Norwich with her husband, Micky, and her two dogs.

Read an Excerpt

Minnie Ward wrapped the towel more securely round her hand and took a firm hold of the knife. With one deft movement, she inserted the blade into the hinge of the oyster, twisted it and, with a satisfying pop, prised open the shell. Oysters and beer. Perfect. A tall young woman in a gentleman’s evening suit, complete with bow tie and top hat, leaned over Minnie’s shoulder, scrutinizing her face in the dressing-room mirror. ‘Do you have to do that in here, Min?’ she asked, tucking a few strands of dark hair under her hat. ‘When I’m getting ready, and all? The smell don’t half hang around.’ ‘Last one, Cora, I promise,’ Minnie said, sliding the blade around the edge of the oyster to disconnect the muscle. Then she tipped the meat and liquor into her mouth and drained her beer glass, before smiling broadly at Cora. ‘It’s like picking a lock, ain’t it? That lovely little jiggle and you know you’ve got it.’ ‘How do you know about picking locks? Or shouldn’t I ask?’ Cora said. ‘Three months as a magician’s assistant,’ Minnie said. ‘Long time ago. I weren’t bad, neither. But me and the doves didn’t exactly hit it off. It got messy.’ Further down the corridor of the Variety Palace Music Hall, bursts of laughter and conversation flared out as other dressing-room doors opened and then slammed shut. An operatic soprano struggled her way up and down a scale, occasionally finding one of the notes. Minnie winced. ‘Pick a key, Selina,’ she murmured, ‘any key.’ ‘Wouldn’t make no difference,’ Cora said. ‘She’d still sound like a cat pissing in a tin.’ Pushing the door closed with her foot, she nudged Minnie onto another seat and positioned herself in front of the mirrors. She finished applying her make-up, her tongue peeping between her lips with concentration. When she was done, she pushed a copy of The Illustrated London News over to Minnie, past the pots of greasepaint, other stage make-up and dirty rags littering the table. ‘Here,’ Cora said, ‘what d’you reckon?’ Minnie glanced at the newspaper headline speculating on the identity of the Hairpin Killer, a murderer who had been plucking victims from the streets around Covent Garden and Soho for the past ten years. ‘No, not that,’ Cora said impatiently, tapping her finger at an article further down the page. ‘This fella. Wouldn’t mind him investigating me.’ Minnie glanced at the pencil sketch. A man of about thirty, she reckoned, wearing an evening suit and monocle. The headline blazoned “Albert Easterbrook: Champion of the Labouring Classes”. She scanned the article. A gentleman detective whose mission was to “help those who cannot help themselves” had tracked down a pickpocket targeting the elderly and infirm in Bermondsey. The pickpocket was also sketched for the reader, a grisly-looking individual closer to a bear than a man. Minnie snorted. In her experience, the “labouring classes” were well able to take care of themselves without the help of any toff. ‘Not your type?’ Cora asked, wincing at herself in the mirrors and adding a touch more rouge to her cheeks. ‘They never are, are they, Min? Pickiness won’t win any prizes, my girl.’ ‘I ain’t after any prizes, thank you very much. Although I do wonder what he does with the monocle when — you know,’ Minnie said. Cora lifted one quizzical eyebrow. ‘You, Miss Ward, are a very saucy girl, and not the kind of young lady a Champion of the Working Classes would want to be courting. Me, on the other hand —.’ Minnie pushed the paper to one side and eyed the ha’penny bun on the table in front of her. Cora followed her gaze and smiled. Every Saturday Minnie bought herself a cake, a treat for when she got home. Most Saturdays the cake had been demolished long before she left the Palace. ‘Here, Miss Monroe,’ Minnie said, adopting an aristocratic tone and mournfully handing over the cake, ‘remove this delicious confection from my sight.’ Cora placed the cake in a drawer and locked it, throwing the key in amongst the pots and bottles littering the table in front of her. ‘Hardly seems worth it, Min,’ she said. ‘You’ll be out of here in a few minutes, won’t you?’ ‘Should be.’ Then, as if her anticipation of leaving the music hall had put the kibosh on the whole idea, she heard her name being called. The voice drew closer, loud enough now that it set the jars on the table rattling. Without even the briefest of knocks, the dressing-room door burst open. A diminutive man — no-one dared call him short, not to his face at least — sporting a brown velvet suit and an elaborate set of whiskers stood in the doorway. Mr Edward Tansford, owner of the Variety Palace. Known as Tansie by everyone. ‘Where is she?’ Tansie bellowed. ‘I’m running a music hall not a bloody free and easy. She’s late and I’ve got no-one to fill her slot.’ ‘If you’re looking for a mind reader you’ve come to the wrong door,’ Minnie said. ‘Who are we talking about?’ ‘Rose. She’s on the missing list.’ Tansie turned to Cora and shouted, ‘You seen her?’ Cora shook her head and made a show of completing her already finished make-up. Minnie frowned. ‘That’s not like Rose.’ Rose Watkins was a regular performer at the Variety Palace. A tightrope walker and acrobat, billed as The Angel of the Air. Well, it’s like her tonight,’ Tansie said. ‘Have you asked Billy?’ ‘Can’t find him neither. He’s meant to be on the doors in thirty minutes, and he’s nowhere.’ ‘Checked the bar?’ Minnie asked. ‘No, I haven’t checked the bar. I’m the bleedin’ proprietor of this establishment, Minnie, not some backstage runner.’ ‘I could have a look?’ Minnie offered. ‘Yes, you could, couldn’t you? Quick smart.’ Minnie bridled. ‘I think the phrase you’re looking for is, “Thank you so much for offering to help me, Minnie, when I know you were due out of here ten minutes ago”.’ ‘Just find her, Min,’ Tansie growled.

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