Monday, August 18, 2014

Irregular Update

I wrote a novel, or perhaps a "novel". It is a comedy crime (or crime-comedy) story set mostly in upper-class Edwardian era England. Regular readers of this blog may recognise some scenes and characters.

Currently I am sending it out to test readers to find out what they think and where it needs improving. If you're reading this the odds are good that I've invited you to become such a test reader and directed you here to look at the synopsis below.

The Inexplicable Affair of the Mesmerising Russian Nobleman
A Novel in Three Parts Set in 1902

Part One – Another Country House Weekend
Our protagonist, HEINRICH VON SCHNEEMANN, sometime adventurer, gentleman and confidence trickster, is sent by his patron LADY JANE GLENSHIRE to LORD ALFRED ALLENMORE’s country house to acquire an old book by fair means or foul. Soon after his arrival, Lord Allenmore is murdered. Unfortunately Schneemann was at that very moment stealing the book; his alibi for murder is burglary. Accused, he must solve the crime before his actual misdeeds come to light. The suspects are:
LADY GENEVIEVE ALLENMORE – wife of the notorious philanderer Lord Allenmore
THE HONOURABLE EDWARD ALLENMORE – the charming but disappointing son and heir of Lord Allenmore
THE HONOURABLE JESSICA ALLENMORE – Lord Allenmore’s daughter, in love with, but barred from seeing, the wealthy, handsome, and totally unsuitable American JACK SPOONER
MRS LYDIA D’ARGENT – Lord Allenmore’s widowed sister, living off the Allenmores’ charity and whose dry caustic wit is often aimed at...
MADAM EKATERIN VOLKOVA – Medium and spiritual advisor to Lady Allenmore
PETER VAN HOOT - Lord Allenmore’s business partner, who is sure that their military contracts are drying up and they should convert the shipyard over to civilian use
COLONEL PERICLES BRADDOCK – Weekend guest, an old Indian soldier currently advising the Ministry of War on suppliers, along with...
MRS ANGELA BRADDOCK – Colonel Braddock’s much younger wife, a lover of diamonds, and also rumoured to be a lover of Lord Allenmore
JENKINS – The butler
Also numerous other servants, including the footmen (all named Terrence) and the observant maid ANNIE (ANNETTE DUNWELL) who may just have the key to the whole affair.
Part Two – The Seven Sins
No sooner has Schneemann extricated himself and returned to London then Lady Glenshire has a new task for him. Six of a set of seven statues, known as The Deadly Sins, have been stolen from a friend of hers. Both the statues and the book that Schneemann acquired in Part One were being pursued by the mysterious and rich Russian, COUNT VLADIMIR ANDROPOFF. Lady Glenshire gives him the task of finding and retrieving the statues, and also has him take on an apprentice, her ward, THE HONOURABLE KATHERINE BEDFORD, a young lady with a knack for getting herself into trouble.
After some disagreement, the two of them form a partnership, and discover the statues have been stolen by a notorious gentleman thief known as FITZSHEPARD who has stashed them in an underground vault below the house of LADY CHARLOTTE PRATT, Chairwoman and majority owner of the National and Imperial Investment Bank. Both are connected with Count Andropoff. The vault itself is as secure as its counterpart in the bank, with one possible exception; the bank does not have hundreds of strangers wandering about when Lady Charlotte holds a ball.
Lady Glenshire puts together a team to pull off the heist consisting of:
Lady Glenshire herself, as the mastermind;
Katie Bedford, daring horsewoman for the getaway coach chase and a charmer who can distract guards with just a smile;
Annette Dunwell, former maid, now Lady Glenshire’s companion. Quiet and unnoticed, she can put all the arrangements in place without any suspicion;
MRS MICHELLE SMITH, a cockney of African descent, she is the most thorough of private researchers in England with an encyclopaedic set of London building plans;
MISS RUTH GOLDMAN, possibly the greatest locksmith, safe cracker and artificer of illegal tools in the country, and also the proprietor of a lady’s fencing gym; and finally
Schneemann himself, respectable if not respectful, whose search for the statues has brought him to the attention of their opponents, and so is the perfect distraction for when the robbery goes down...
Part Three – The Wish Fulfilling Jewel
Several weeks have gone by since they recovered the statues without any obvious retaliation. Katie Bedford attends a séance hosted by Lady Allenmore and Madam Volkova. There are two surprise guests, Count Andropoff and his amanuensis secretary MISS MELINDA KHAN. After the usual nonsense the spirits say at such things, the Count holds them all in place and demands answers which are not forthcoming. Madam Volkova is exhausted and takes to her bed for a week.
Later Schneemann and Miss Bedford are breaking up a race-fixing ring when they get an urgent telegram from Jessica Allenmore; her beloved American Jack Spooner has been kidnapped, and the ransom is the mysterious book from Part One. Schneemann, Lady Glenshire and Miss Bedford go to confront the Count, only to discover he has Victorian thriller style powers of hypnosis (made more plausible by using disorienting lights and environments as well as a drugged atmosphere). He offers them their heart’s desires, but what exactly does lurk in the heart of a man like Schneemann, who hides his true self from the world?