“Move over Sherlock Holmes…” **
When a House of Commons cufflink, stuffed in the mouth of Millie Jones, turns suicide to murder, Symington, Earl Byrd, the prime minister’s personal detective, soon finds his killer. A ruthless East End pawnbroker not known for carelessness.
Forced to re-evaluate his position following a trip to the Houses of Parliament, Symington is left with more questions than answers.
Like, who wants to destroy the pawnbroker and why? Is the cufflink a clue or a red herring? And more importantly, why did Millie Jones have to die?
I slipped down the servant’s staircase as the nearby church chimed the half-hour. Watkins was
waiting and with his usual efficiency took me to the mortuary. Normally I would’ve been nosy,
but today, I was too preoccupied with the case to waste time contemplating the view from the
window. Besides, it was raining; that driving rain that makes you want to be inside with a good
book, or a willing woman. To take my mind off my current willing woman, Serena, and her
increasingly shrewish behaviour, I reached into my Gladstone and took out the foolscap
document my cousin CC sent me. Turning to the page containing the doctor’s findings, I read his
spidery scrawl over and over again, until the cab pulled up outside an unprepossessing brick
building some ten minutes later.
“We’re here, guv.” Watkins was the only one of my staff to have “gone civilian” as Bertie put it
– after one extraordinarily boozy dinner. To everyone’s surprise including his, Watkins
embraced civilian life so well that it was hard to believe that he and Sampson joined up together.
A devotee of politics, Watkins read widely and followed the teachings of the Marxists slavishly.
Thus, I was ‘guv’ on a good day, and ‘imperialist bastard’ on a bad. CC said I should deal with
his insubordination. His Royal Highness said it added to my eccentricities. Bertie – as heir to the
throne – won that round, and Watkins, who tended to tell it like it was, became the memento
mori of my entourage.
“Thank you, Watkins. Don’t wait. Just make sure you’re back in time for me to make dinner with
His Royal Highness.”
“OK, guv. Will do.” Watkins not only watched me pack the documents back into the bag but
gave me time to consult my little black notebook before he braved the driving rain to open the
cab door. Then with a cheery wave, he got back in the vehicle and left.
Although it was only a short distance between the cab and the door, I pulled up the collar of my
overcoat and tugged at the brim of my hat in a vague attempt to give me some protection from
the elements. I was moderately successful, reaching the black metal door without succumbing to
the biting Brighton wind. I put the bag down, sounded the bell for precisely three seconds, and
waited – at ease – watching as droplets of rain dripped from the front of my hat.
Fortunately, CC warned me I’d be kept waiting. McGregor was old-school. He disliked
interruptions to his routine and had been known to keep visitors to his mortuary waiting up to
half an hour for admittance. Had I not been forewarned I would have been irritated. As it was, I
was stoic and glad of the lingering warmth of the whisky.
When the door finally opened, the stench of bleach and formaldehyde, which exploded onto the
street, was overwhelming. Unable to help myself, I wrinkled my nose against the smell and took
a step back. Such actions earned me a mild rebuke from the dour-looking man in his sixties who
(in addition to having one shoulder slightly higher than the other) was wearing a white coat over
the top of a serviceable black and white ensemble.
“The name’s Byrd. I’m expected.”
He subjected me to an eagle-like stare. “This is highly irregular my lord.” His voice was not
welcoming in the slightest.
“My credentials.” Equally brusque, I handed over my wallet. The Scotsman took it without a
smile; brought the paper close to his eyes, in a way that suggested I was unworthy of spectacles,
before spending an inordinate amount of time deciding whether to let me in.
“Step this way,” he said eventually
Thank you, S.E. Smith and Love Books Group
About the author
S.E. Smith, known as Sarah to her friends, and ‘Miss’ to her students, was born into a naval family and now lives on a 65-foot broad-beam boat with her husband, Steve, and her two rescue dogs – Ben and Eva.
Crediting her Nana May for instilling in her a love of history, and an encyclopedic knowledge of the East End of London at the turn of the 20th Century, Sarah took on board the adage ‘write about what you know’ and created Symington Byrd: a gentleman detective whose foray into the East End leads him into all kinds of danger.
A great fan of the West Wing, Pokemon Go, and Doctor Who, Sarah’s biggest claim to fame is the day spent with the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, chasing Daleks down The Strand.
Amazon – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cowardice-Crows-S-Smith-ebook/dp/B08P7VXC9Q/ref=sr_1_1?crid=H7L28VD2DBXF&dchild=1&keywords=a+cowardice+of+crows&qid=1610038279&sprefix=A+cowardice+%2Cdigital-text%2C181&sr=8-1