Negative Exposure: Chapter One
I have a Valentine’s Day gift for you. Not a box of chocolates or bunch of flowers, not even anything remotely to do with love, not directly. What I have for you is the first chapter of the next Clearwater Mystery, ‘Negative Exposure.’
But, you can only read the whole chapter when you get the newsletter on Sunday 14th, so make sure to look out for it, or sign up for it here.
Today, though, I wanted to give you a little more information about Negative Exposure, the Clearwater Mysteries, Book Nine.
So, what’s the story? I hear you ask.
Well… I’m not going to give away any spoilers, but I can tell you that this time, we’re looking at blackmail. Silas is riding high on the success of the second Clearwater Gala. This is a star-studded, glittering night at London’s Lyceum Theatre performed in front of Prince Albert Victor, Queen Victoria’s grandson, also known as Prince Eddy.
Apart from being there, meeting the cast, the Clearwater’ crew’ and some of the boys from the Cheap Street Mission, the prince is considering becoming a patron of the Clearwater Foundation, a huge, honour and something that would probably put Archer on the path to an Earldom. And it’s all thanks to Silas.
However… Something from Silas’ past suddenly comes back to slap him in the face and threatens everything; Archer’s reputation, the Foundation’s success, the boys at the mission, Silas’ friends and even the reputation of Prince Albert Victor. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Doctor Markland reports an influenzas pandemic spreading from eastern Europe, and warns the household to travel to Larkspur Hall in Cornwall for their safety. On top of that, Archer (and Thomas) are called away to Paris, travelling into the heart of the outbreak, where Archer’s mother, Lady Clearwater, has been taken ill.
All this leaves Silas relying on James and Fecker to help him end the blackmail before anyone finds out, particularly Archer. As James investigates, the pressure mounts, he and Silas very nearly do something they shouldn’t, and Silas buckles under the stress of it all.
The mysteries pile up too. Who is the blackmailer? How to find him/her? How to stop him? And then, about halfway through, there’s another twist, and things get more tense until we end up with an ‘old-style’ Clearwater climax: action, a chase, a twist or two, remote location, acts of heroism…
While writing ‘Negative Exposure’, I also had in mind the tenth mystery. Therefore, number nine lays some of the groundwork for number ten, which has a working title of ‘The Clearwater Inheritance.’ This means I am planning at least one more Clearwater Mystery before, perhaps, changing the direction of the Clearwater world… I am still thinking about that, and I have another idea for a spin-off story called ‘Blackwood & Barnett’ in a similar vein to ‘Banyak & Fecks’, but that’s for later in the year, if at all.
Negative Exposure should be available on Amazon in paperback, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited by the end of this month. We are still finalising the cover, so I can’t share that with you yet, but before you settle down to read what it is all about (no spoilers), here is a drawing, an artist’s impression of one of the lead characters of the series, and one of the heroes of book nine, James Wright.
Just to tempt you a little further, here is the last part of chapter one. We are at the Lyceum Theatre, London, and the second Clearwater gala has just come to an end.
The Clearwater Mysteries Book Nine
Excerpt from Chapter One
Friday, December 6th 1889
The Lyceum Theatre, London
The curtain might have come down on the on-stage production, but the off-stage performance was to continue until the prince had left the theatre. While Irving and Archer took the royal party backstage to meet the performers, Silas’ job was to gather mission clients and Archer’s staff at the top of the grand staircase ready for presentation.
‘Right,’ he said, turning to face his friends along the row. ‘That’s that over with. Now comes the fun stuff. Fecks, you’re on your best behaviour. Billy, if His Highness asks you anything, you reply without swearing, understood?’
‘Too bloody right, Mr Hawkins,’ Billy beamed, and Jasper flicked him with his programme.’
The auditorium hummed with murmurs of appreciation as the audience filed out, climbing the stairs to the back of the circle where they dispersed to collect cloaks and hats before descending to the foyer hoping to meet His Highness. Silas wove through them with polite excuses, keen to reach the grand staircase and meet Markland. He was more nervous about this part of the evening than he had been about anything else. Preoccupied with ensuring everything went to plan and his boys didn’t embarrass Archer in front of royalty, he forgot about the man who had been staring, and set his mind to what the prince might ask.
Silas Hawkins, a boy from the Westerpool gutters, was now the public face of the Clearwater Foundation and about to meet royalty.
Nothing must go wrong.
If you have not yet read the Clearwater Mysteries, you can find them all on my Amazon author page.
If you want to start right from the beginning, you should read ‘Banyak & Fecks’, but you don’t have to, and you can pop back to that one at any time.
The mystery that starts the ongoing series is ‘Deviant Desire’, and from then on, the characters develop, the world enlarges, and the mysteries remain just as intriguing.