When the mutilated body of Albert Shawcross is found in the East End, the police head straight to Fournier street to the last person who saw him alive – Symington, Earl Byrd
Horrified at the presumption of guilt, Symington vows to track down the real killer. With the help of the pawnbroker’s niece, Emily, he’s drawn into an increasing dangerous world, where not everyone wants him to succeed.
With enemies using violent tactics to persuade him to drop the case, the earl must make a difficult decision. Does the shady solicitor deserve justice, or did he deserve to die?
From the Casebook of Symington, Earl Byrd.
Monday dawned bright and sunny. Or I assume it did. Living on the edge of Spitalfields Market day was a twenty-four-hour thing; full of sounds and fury that, unlike Shakespeare’s poor player, indicated commerce and industry rather than lamentations and nothing.
I cannot say I grew accustomed to the noise and bustle at the heart of my sojourn in the east of our empire’s capitol. At heart I am a country boy. Even when I served with my cousin CC in India, I hated the bright lights of the metropolis; preferring the relative cool of the countryside. And it proved the same here. I tolerated the bustle knowing it served purpose. The sounds did not sooth my savage breast nor did it stop the scorpions.
I longed for the relative quiet of Mayfair. A stroll through Regent’s Park with a willing companion on my arm, during a pleasant afternoon’s visiting with friends. Here, though there were broad green expanses known as parks, the lady I squired used me to get to the bottom of a conundrum.
Not that I complained. Her mind was one the Greek masters would envy; her beauty obvious. While her cornflower blue eyes tempted even the most misogynistic of men to eschew their hatred of the fairer sex. But willing she was not. Ours was a slow courtship; not the whirlwind romance we played to the crowd, who hung on every twist and turn like we enacted some music hall tragedy.
In addition to my frustrated love life, I realised that however much I tried to blend in, I was not of this hugger-mugger world. At best the inhabitants saw me as an intruder, at worst a freak only tolerated for my association with the pawnbroker – in whose dwelling I resided – and his niece; the bearer of the eyes, mind and beauty, I admired more than I should.
Devoid of my normal habits and habitat, and growing used to kosher fare for breakfast, I spent my mornings perusing the papers. Here, I followed the antics of the haut monde, for – until I returned to Mayfair, with my commission for Emily complete – I lived as temporary pariah. Exiled from my comrades marbled halls until I came to my senses.
Fortunately, this exile came at a quiet time. His Majesty (continuing his slow recovery from the appendix operation – and resulting peritonitis – which led to the postponement of his coronation) led a quiet and semi-blameless life away from the glare of the general public. As much as I might wish, he did not need me to carouse the night away. He employed an army of doctors and the willing Mrs Keppel to mop his brow, dole out his medicines and sooth his savage soul.
In other news, I noted The Times posted another letter from Grandfather. This time his ire turned into a blistering diatribe against the strike at the Penryn slate quarry, which hit his profits and threatened to beggar my cousin’s all too needed inheritance. But as I read his rant with interest, I realised one thing. He did not side through choice with the owners, whose rights he should espouse. Instead, his letter indicated he went through the motions, rather than actually believed in the noblesse oblige of the titled classes. He was – in short – a liberal. And this shocked me.
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.