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August 20, 2017

Excerpt from Lawless and the House of Electricity by William Sutton

Get a sneak peek at William Sutton's Victorian crime novel Lawless and the House of Electricity. The third book in the Lawless series hits shelves on August 22.

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Lawless and the House of Electricity
August 2017; Titan Books; 978-1785650130
ebook, print (464 pages); historical mystery
Dear Miss Villiers,

Sometimes a girl wants to forget. And we all know the best way to forget. I am the kind of person who seeks love in all the wrong places. Blame my upbringing if you will, or lack of it, among the Euston Square urchins; though I rather think I benefited from such a particular education.

“Miss Molly, is it?” hollered the lad, a bronzed Adonis.

I’ve never been met by a private carriage at a railway station before. The statuesque farm hand stood tall at the end of the platform. He gestured to our sturdy carriage. “You’ll be the new drawing mistress, if I han’t bin much mistook.”

Quite a trip. Speedily packed off, after my East End contretemps. Final confab with your good self, Miss Villiers. Changed into suitable attire. The luxurious train. The branch line. Out I stepped to find the air chilled, despite the sunshine. It may have been the second-best phaeton, and driven by the stable boy, but I took no snub from that; besides, Jem was not hard on the eye. Belgravia drawing mistresses may expect better; but this wilderness is not Belgravia, and I am no drawing mistress, if truth be told.

I should be more disciplined: I shall not write such incriminating things. I stood on the platform, gawping at the thickets and copses as far as the eye could see. As if Hampstead Heath had grown monstrously overnight, obscuring all civilisation, but for stone walls and flocks across the hillsides, the horizon altogether unfamiliar, what with no St Paul’s dome, no fog, no stink, nothing to make one feel at home.

“Kindly step up, ma’am.”

I recalled your stern injunctions that a lady drawing mistress must not heft her own luggage. Up I stepped into his chariot of the sun.

Jem Stables loaded on my bags and my new drawing case, with its stencil declaring it fragile. He stroked the mare’s mane, leapt up, checked I was ready, with a guttural utterance, and set out into the wilds. Of his bare arms directing the reins, I took little note: the loose shirt, the waistcoat a nod to propriety, flaxen locks strewn beneath his cap, smile on his lips. I am no stranger to stares, yet something in the glance of this rustic unnerved me. It was these fine clothes you coaxed me into: his glance bore through my crinoline to these lacy unmentionables. I blushed. Could he see through me?

Could he see me for the street Arab I am? I was angry with myself, though you always say blushes flatter my Boadicean skin. Yet it was the first time I’ve felt a man was looking at me not lest I swindle him, but because I was beautiful.

Damnable nonsense.

Roxbury’s towers loomed over the valley. Cobbled streets gave way to dirt tracks. An avenue of trees.

Fervid stream, placid lake. Surmounting the bend we saw it. Jem chuckled to hear me gasp. Nothing like the forbidding manors engraved in those gothic phantasies you lend me. This was a mansion of the gods, where I was unworthy to set foot. As safe as the Tower of London, as buttressed as Westminster Abbey. Bumpy, lumpy and broad-shouldered, stretching its elbows up the hillside, and gazing down at the glasshouses shimmering by the Burnfoot Stream, where a melancholic orange monkey sat nibbling the nettles in company with its friend, a strange-looking hare.

Roxbury House.

Buy Lawless and the House of Electricity at Amazon

About the Book:

Plots. Secrets. Power.

The new drawing mistress feels inquisitive eyes upon her as she arrives to take up her post at a country house. Ex-street urchin Molly’s quickwitted candour earns her favour with the Earl’s family and guests, but the butler sees through her pose of gentility.

In London’s East End dockyards, a body is found in a lifeboat. But Sergeant Campbell Lawless is summoned to the government offices to weigh up a greater threat.

A gunpowder blast, a train derailed, an explosive ship. The shadow of European machinations looms over the capital, threatening royals and politicians. Lawless must investigate these explosions from the East End to Guernsey and Clerkenwell House of Detention to the English shires.

As Molly teaches the children, she suspects that darker secrets lurk in the gardens. The House of Roxbury, powered by the latest hydraulic contraptions, used to welcome a cavalcade of poets and magicians, explorers and cyclists, scientists and surgeons. Why does it now receive so few visitors? What made this industrial giant a recluse?

Experiments are conducted in the glasshouse laboratories. Molly uses her artistic licence to investigate the unseen forces running Roxbury House. The butler suspects her motives, as he guards the secret of the East Wing; until the diary of the late Lady Roxbury enlightens Molly of the house’s woes. What is the Earl’s sad secret – and the troubling plan for which these sacrifices have been made?

Who is orchestrating these blasts? As the mysterious corpse yields its secrets, Lawless must unravel the threads before dangerous powers fall into unruly hands.

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  1. I like the sound of this. I'm going to have to check out the series on Amazon. Thanks for sharing!