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Nat and Abigail have decided that Canada is their best bet for a clean start with their new baby. It the place where American and Scottish accents go relatively unnoticed, and newcomers can get lost in a crowd. The problem is that Canada doesn’t have a transcontinental train, so they have to sneak back into the USA to get to the West coast.
The train is packed full of English butlers heading west. They hope to make a fortune providing the New World nouveau riche with the Old World class, which they are desperate to buy for their children. When the train is stuck in a rock fall, they find that a woman has been attacked in the night, and her moonstone stolen. Our heroes decide it’s best to solve the mystery rather than face too many questions.
They unravel a mystery which has evil tentacles reaching across oceans. Will they be caught up in them too?
The snow around the body was stained with blood, which had seeped into the ground, discoloring and contaminating it with a cloud of darkening gore.
Jake waved an arm at the birds jumping in to pick at what was left of her cheek. “Git!”
A raven fluttered away to the safety of nearby rocks to stare at him with indignant black eyes. Food was precious in this weather, and a prize like this wasn’t to be abandoned easily. He would wait until this human moved on and resume his feast in peace. Persistence paid off in a harsh climate.
Nat paused and eyed his uncle with practiced caution. “How are you feeling? I know how things like this take you. How’s the irritable heart?”
“Well, I’ve learned more since I saw that doc in Edinburgh,” said Jake. “I ain’t lookin’. That’s a help.”
“No palpitations? No sweats?” asked Nat. “When it’s a woman it brings back the bad memories.”
“It’d help if you’d stop goin’ on about it,” Jake snapped.
Nat nodded and crouched over the body, noting the spiraling stress in the older man. “Her throat’s been cut.” The phrase seemed almost redundant, given the gaping, open wound staring back at them. Nat pointed at the long, thin, spray-like stain coloring the snow for yards leading up to the body. He frowned and stood deep in thought, before striding the length of the splotch, obviously counting as he went. He stood at the clean virgin snow before the long blood-splatter began, and glanced between the tracks and the cadaver, his gloved hand on his chin.
“So?” Jake demanded. “What’re you lookin’ at?”
“You see this long, thin blood stain?”
Nat sighed deeply. “Her throat was cut.”
“I can see that.”
“The train was traveling about twenty miles an hour, according to the conductor.” Nat pointed to the start of the blood spray in the snow. “Now, if her throat was slit when she was standing on the observation deck when the train was here, it would be carried outwards by the momentum of the train to hit the snow here.” He strode the length of the blotch, counting once more. “This is about fifteen yards long. There are two hundred and twenty yards in a furlong and eight furlongs in a mile. That’s seventeen hundred and sixty yards in a mile.”
Jake dismounted, well used to his nephew’s analytical mind. He was prepared to indulge it as long as he didn’t have to stare at the body. “Go on.”
“So, it would take an hour to travel seventeen hundred and sixty yards. That means it would take about thirty seconds to travel fourteen or fifteen yards. We can’t be sure of the exact speed of the train, but the blood sprayed from her body for a distance of just over fourteen yards before she hit the ground.”
Jake pushed back his hat and gazed aimlessly at the heavy sky. “So she had her throat slit and blood spurted out for almost half a minute before she either fell or was thrown from the train?”
“That’s about the size of it, Jake. We can check for traces of blood when we get back to see where it happened. I’m guessing it was the observation deck at the back.”
“She must have seen the thief. Why didn’t she cry out? I didn’t hear a thing and I’m a real light sleeper.”
“It’s hard to shout with a cut throat.” Nat sighed heavily and stared down at the last mortal remains of Maud Davies. “Maybe she was in on it, and her accomplice decided they wanted all the cash for themselves?”
“She wouldn’t be the first to go that way.” Jake strode over to the packhorse and hauled at the load. “Whatever happened, I’m glad we brought those tarpaulins. Let’s get her wrapped up, and get back to the train. It’ll be gettin’ dark in a couple of hours.”
About the Author
About the Author
Chris Asbrey has lived and worked all over the world in the Police Service, Civil Service, and private industry, working for the safety and security of the public. A life-changing injury meant a change of course into contract law and consumer protection for a department attached to the Home Office.
In that role, she produced magazine and newspaper articles based on consumer law and wrote guides for the Consumer Direct Website. She was Media Trained, by The Rank Organization, and acted as a consultant to the BBC's One Show and Watchdog. She has also been interviewed on BBC radio answering questions on consumer law to the public.
She lives with her husband, and two daft cats, in York, England.
The Innocents Mystery Series Group
E.E. What turns you off like nothing else?
Christine: For me the biggest turn on has to be a sense of humor. Nothing makes a man more attractive than a sparkling mind and the ability to make me laugh. We all go through tough times in life, and being with someone who can pick you up and make you chuckle in the face of adversity is priceless. I also value intelligence. I have met a man who was absolutely gorgeous, but had the communication skills of the average doorknob. Looks alone don’t do it for me. There has to be something behind the eyes, and a personality to engage with. There’s also something quite intoxicating about a blend of strength with compassion or kindness.
I suppose I’m very like most writers in that I write what I find attractive. My heroes are smart and funny, but they all share a real humanity. Nothing strips a man of magnetism than a lack of empathy. Be they wisecracking or laconic, the men I write are both strong and caring.
E.E.: Where do you read and how often?
Christine: I’ll read anywhere and anytime. I have a lovely porch in my garden where I love to sit on my rocking chair and read. I don’t like music when I’m outside. I want the sounds of nature when I’m outside. I have a fountain shaped like a copper willow three, and the water runs over the branches. It attracts birds and insects to drink and wash, and the dragonflies and birdsong make for the loveliest backdrop to an afternoon’s reading. In the winter, you can’t beat being in front of a roaring fire while the horrible weather does its worst outside. I’m just in the process of moving to York, so I’ll have to build up another garden in my new house. All the best elements of my current garden will be recreated there. As you’ve probably guessed, I do love my garden.
When I was younger I read in bed every single night. I now find that I can’t concentrate at bedtime quite so well, mainly because I tend to write late and go to bed when I’m dog-tired, so that has changed. I’m definitely more owl than lark, but I now use up that late-night burst of energy writing, rather than reading.
E.E.: What is your biggest vice?
Christine: Definitely tea. It’s always on the go here, and I can’t imagine a day without it. I’m a bit of a purist in that I have to pour the water in while it’s still at a rolling boil, and allow it to infuse in a teapot. I always drink from china cups. It just doesn’t taste the same out of earthenware. When I travel I always have a travel kettle and teabags in my suitcase, as my morning cup sets me up for the day. I blame my father, who also loved his tea and who got me hooked. I’ve never been a big fan of coffee, but I think my relationship with tea is very similar to that of most coffee addicts.
My evening vice is wine. It’s definitely evening only as kit makes me feel sleepy and I don’t want that during the day. If I’m drink red wine, it has to be a deep, rich, plumy red like a Primitivo. If I’m drinking white, it has to be very dry.
E.E.: Is writing or story-telling easier for you?
Christine: I think of myself first and foremost as a storyteller. All favorite books have sweeping storylines; Jamaica Inn, Rebecca, The Great Gatsby, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Lord of the Rings, 84 Charring Cross Road – to name just a few. They feature characters facing adversity and insurmountable odds, or paint a vivid picture of a time or place. I’m not a fan of books where nothing much happens for long periods of time, or where there’s a lot of description or minutiae.
My favorite stories feature ordinary people thrown into extraordinary situations, which then bring out qualities they didn’t even know they had until they had to deal with the obstacles and tensions. I’ve always said that romance happened in my life while I was living it, and it wasn’t always somewhere romantic. That’s how I try to write it. My first husband and I bonded over a corpse (purely professional), while I met my second through a love of live music. While the second might sound more romantic, it was through a fog of widowhood and loss, and a realization that life had changed forever. The first was in the flush of youth and was lit by the optimism and certainty of youth. My life has given me many experiences, which I hope have given me a richer understanding of life.
E.E.: Which of your characters would you most/least to invite to dinner, and why?
The character I’d least like to meet is David Bartholemew, the totally selfish and amoral murderer from my third book, Innocent Bystander. He’s arrogant, greedy, sexist, and cruel. It’s only his superficial charm, which he can turn on at will, which gets him through society. My heroine’s sister runs off to marry him against the family’s wishes, but as she’s a Pinkerton detective she starts to suspect there’s more to this man than meets the eye. A bit of digging shows that he has multiple identities, and that each of his previous wives has died mysteriously in their sleep. No cause of death can found, but Abigail is sure Bartholemew is murdering them. It’s just that nobody can find a cause of death.
As he’s a scientist it takes all the smarts both she and Nat have to find out how he kills – and they have to, if they want to stop her sister from being next.
I’d love to meet either of my heroes. Of course both are handsome! Nat Quinn is clever, charming, witty, humane, and has a mind like quick silver. Even though he’s a criminal, he has a code of honor and avoids violent crimes. He likes to use the new sciences of the 19th century to commit his crimes in the same way as the heroine uses them to solve crime.
Jake Conroy is Nat’s uncle, the youngest child of his Nat’s mother’s family . Nat was only four when their families were killed, and Jake brought Nat up from the age of 12. He became good with a gun to keep his loved ones safe, but still suffers from episodes of Irritable Heart (the 19th century name for PTSD) from witnessing the violent loss of his family as a child. He is a man of few words, but with enormous emotional depth and intelligence. He can also be very funny, and keeps his nephew in check by reigning in his worst excesses.
Both men drifted into crime to survive, but found their skills made them very good at it. They never rob innocent people, preferring to hit at the large business interests who tried to sell them off as cheap labor when they were orphaned.
What one thing about your hero drives his heroine crazy? And what one thing about your heroine drives her hero nuts?
They say opposites attract, but they do need to have a reasonable amount in common. I made my hero and heroine have loads in common; they love the new sciences of the 19th century, they read, they constantly keep themselves up to date with further research, they are skilled determined, share a core common value of humanity, and they have quick, inventive and clever minds. The only problem is that they are on opposite side of the law and she is the Pinkerton Detective sent to bring him in. Nat is far too chivalrous to actually hurt her, and they are drawn to one another despite each being a danger to the other.
There is one area which drives Nat nuts about Abigail. Abigail tells him very little about herself or her past, so he does not know she’s a young widow, and suffered a dreadful catalogue of loss. The rawness of that loss still hurts, and causes her to make rash decisions which put her in dangerous situations. As he observes in book one, “It’s like she doesn’t care about her own life.” And there’s a reason for that. Part of her doesn’t.
What drives her crazy about Nat? She sees a clever, talented man. One who can feel at home in almost any company. He’s an educated person, with whom she shares many values, but who is throwing away his whole life in a life of crime. He justifies this by pointing out to her that he drifted into crime to survive as a child, and did so in Wyoming where there is no statute of limitations. This means that he could give up crime, but he will still be a wanted man for as long as he lives. This dilemma keeps him committing crime, partly because he’ll be wanted anyway, and also because he’d never met anyone who made him want to exchange his exciting life for a more mundane life—until he meets Abigail.
What’s your favorite kid joke?
What’s brown and sticky? A stick.
What was the first story you remember writing?
I always wanted to write, but life got in the way, as I’m sure it does for many people. When I had a serious accident a few years ago, I found that the enforced leisure rekindled that idea. This is when I started writing the stories about the female Pinkerton Detective which had been percolating for years. I did, however have another couple of ideas years ago. The first was one I started writing many years ago, which was based in the story of an unknown infant washed up on a Scottish beach. Her identity was never established, and all the labels had been cut out of her clothes. Nobody ever claimed her body, and the town clubbed together to bury the child and provide a gravestone. The mystery was so poignant it stimulated my imagination, but the plot was never fully-formed and it came to nothing.
The next is the book I plan to write after I finish The Innocents Mysteries Series. It is a mystery set in Edinburgh in two time periods; the present and 19th century. I don’t want to give too much away but it is a gothic historical murder mystery, romance, and again features some of the 19th century forensics which made Edinburgh medical school famous.
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