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Patrice McDonough | Exclusive Excerpt MURDER BY LAMPLIGHT


Murder by Lamplight
Patrice McDonough

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February 2024
On Sale: February 20, 2024
336 pages
ISBN: 1496746368
EAN: 9781496746368
Kindle: B0C6FW2HCM
Hardcover / e-Book
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Murder by Lamplight, February 2024
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Excerpt from MURDER BY LAMPLIGHT by Patrice McDonough

 

Prologue

A clanging jolted little Jacko from his broken sleep.

Under a threadbare blanket, he curled himself against the stinging cold. Shivering, he saw the fog of his breath and felt the gnawing hunger in his stomach.

During his weeks inside the walls, the boy had learned that a workhouse child was an empty belly with hollow eyes and darting hands ready to grab any unguarded crust. The pinch of hunger made thieves of them all. Tired and weak, he had to get up if he wanted to eat. And he’d better be quick, or he’d feel the crack of Matron’s hand and would face a day with nothing until dinner.

But when he heard the keys jangle and saw the sliver of light at the bottom of the door, he froze on his cot. Barely breathing, he listened until the lamp moved on and a key scraped at another door.

Relief flooded. Then he buried his face and sobbed.

“Jillie.”

 

 

Chapter One

November 1866

Julia Lewis edged her way through the gawping crowd. Then a young policeman blocked her way when she finally broke through.

“Sorry, miss.” The bobbie pointed his truncheon. “That way will take you to the markets along the Commercial Road.”

“Thank you, Constable, but someone else is shopping today. I’m here to examine a corpse.”

He stared, opened his mouth, and closed it.

Julia sighed. “Perhaps you’d be kind enough to call your superior officer?” She pulled out a note and checked the signature. “Inspector Richard Tennant?”

“Paddy,” he called over his shoulder to a tall, burly copper. “Lady wants to see the guvnor.” When he added, “It’s about the body,” the big man looked at her sharply.

His eyes dropped to her medical bag. “All right, Bert. Find himself and tell him he’s wanted.” The younger constable walked off, glancing back at her over his shoulder.

The big policeman touched his helmet. “The officer’s after fetching the inspector,” he said, the lilt and cadence of Ireland in his voice.

“Thank you, Constable . . .”

“O’Malley.”

Julia nodded. “Constable O’Malley.”

She dropped her medical bag and looked around. The note had directed her to a construction site, the last unfinished section of London’s massive sewer project. They had pulled down a row of houses to make room for a tunnel, and the void yawned, like a gap-toothed smile, between dilapidated buildings, their pitched roofs and chimneys a jagged line against the sky.

It had rained the night before. Julia glanced up at a pewter sky that threatened another downpour. The murder scene would turn into a bog if the inspector didn’t hurry.

Minutes ticked by, and Julia tapped her umbrella against her side. Finally, a well-tailored man with a military bearing approached and touched the brim of his hat.

“Detective Inspector Tennant,” he said in a clipped baritone. He gestured to a short, wiry officer at his elbow. “Detective Sergeant Graves. How may I help you?”

Julia shifted her umbrella and extended her right hand. “Julia Lewis.” She nodded to the sergeant. “You sent for my grandfather, Andrew Lewis, but I’m afraid he’s unavailable. I assist him in his practice.”

“Are you a nurse, Miss Lewis? Because we need a—”

“It’s Doctor Lewis.”

“Surely you’re not proposing to—”

“Indeed, I am, Inspector.”

Sergeant Graves had been rocking heel to toe, his thumbs hooked into his pockets, fingers drumming his jacket. He stopped. “Blimey.” He looked her up and down. “Never.”

Julia smiled. “It’s true, Sergeant. I’ve thought about carrying my medical diploma with me. But even rolled up, it won’t fit into my bag.”

The sergeant returned her smile, but Tennant did not. She sighed. No sense of humor.

“Is the victim over there, Inspector?” She nodded to the line of policemen’s helmets and shoulders visible over the edge of a ditch.

Tennant nodded. “But I’m afraid it’s not a sight for . . . Doctor Lewis, I don’t think—”

“Inspector Tennant, I am a fully qualified doctor listed on the medical register. Now, shall I proceed with the examination? Full-blown rigor may set in if we dither much longer.”

Tennant stepped aside. “Of course, Doctor.”

Julia picked up her bag and brushed past him. “I’ve seen my share of dead bodies.”

Sergeant Graves called after her. “Not like this one, you haven’t, miss—Doctor.”

“A lady doctor,” Tennant muttered. “Heaven spare us.”

Julia edged down the twenty-foot incline, dislodging a shower of loose pebbles. It ended in a half-completed drainage tunnel. At the bottom of the pit, viscous ochre mud sucked at her boots. She skirted around piles of bricks and ducked under a web of oak scaffolding.

Sergeant Graves scrambled into the pit after her, Tennant trailing a few paces behind. He struggled to navigate the slope—surprising, Julia thought, for a man who looked to be in his mid-thirties.

The lower half of a man’s body, propped on its left side, extended from the end of the brick tunnel. His upper torso, shoulders, and head were thrown into shadow. His trousers and underdrawers had been yanked to his ankles, forming a tangled mass around his boots. His right hand covered his genitals. Was it placed there after death? Julia thought it probable. Traces of blood stained the soil under his fingers.

Julia took a breath. Steady on, she thought. You’ve done this before. Still, she’d never examined a murder victim, and she’d be damned if she let the policemen see her hands shake.

She pulled a vulcanized rubber glove from her medical bag and crouched in front of the corpse. One of the constables groaned when she exposed the gory mess hidden there. He reached reflexively to cover his crotch.

Julia looked over her shoulder at Tennant. “Have your officers searched the area carefully, Inspector?”

“Of course.”

“I should have them look again. The killer may have discarded the man’s—” The stricken expression on a young constable’s face stopped her. “You may find the victim’s member somewhere nearby.”

They’ll probably never find it, Julia thought. Carried off by feral cats, most likely. And rats had been busy with the fingertips and earlobes.

She stood up. “Not as much blood as one might expect. The mutilation must have happened postmortem.” She walked around the body. “Sodomized as well, it seems.”

For a big man, Constable O’Malley moved quickly and deftly. He looked around, pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, and straightened up with a broken stick in his hand. “With this, Doctor? Looks to be blood on it.”

“Possibly.” She stashed the evidence in a cloth bag. “Well spotted, Constable. Thank you.”

Tennant had said nothing since he’d entered the trench. Julia noticed his slight pallor. Despite the morning’s chill, a layer of sweat covered his forehead.

“Shall we shift the body forward, Inspector?”

Tennant turned away abruptly. With his back to the mouth of the gaping tunnel, he nodded. “Perhaps you’ll be good enough to have your report on my desk tomorrow morning?”

“Of course.”

Tennant scrambled awkwardly up the graveled incline, leaving Sergeant Graves to oversee the removal of the body. The help will do the cleanup work she thought.

“Carefully, now,” Julia said to the constables as they moved into place.

When the victim’s head and shoulders cleared the end of the tunnel, a bobbie muttered, “Bloody hell. It’s the Saint of Spitalfields.”

 

He watched the coppers perform on his stage.

The first scene the night before had been so easy. Would the clergyman come? There was a boy who needed help. Of course, he would. He’d aided so many boys over the years, hadn’t he? The “Saint” had followed the messenger into the fog-shrouded night, probably thinking Providence and his collar protected him. But when the messenger breathed a name and place in the old cleric’s ear, the man froze as if an icy shard had pierced his heart.

With a blade at his throat, the clergyman had listened to what would happen next.

He’d gathered his cast, observing them like a director surveying the stage. Right on cue. The inspector and his crew couldn’t drag their eyes away.

Look at me. Look what I have wrought, he wanted to crow.

No, he’d stay quiet, behind the fourth wall, invisible. It was still early in the first act, and he’d planned an open-ended run.

He watched them wince and cringe, relishing the final shock as the scene ended. And that woman—an unexpected addition to his ensemble—he’d add her to the script. Why not?

Doctors. They’re just as guilty.

Excerpted from MURDER BY LAMPLIGHT by Patrice McDonough, Copyright © 2024 by Patrice McDonough

MURDER BY LAMPLIGHT by Patrice McDonough

Murder by Lamplight

For fans of Andrea Penrose and Deanna Raybourn, and anyone who relishes riveting, well-researched historical fiction, this inventive and enthralling debut mystery set in Victorian London pairs the unconventional, trailblazing Dr. Julia Lewis with a traditional and skeptical police inspector, as they try to stop a wily serial killer whose vengeance has turned personal.

November 1866: The grisly murder site in London’s East End is thronged with onlookers. None of them expect the calmly efficient young woman among them to be a medical doctor, arrived to examine the corpse. Inspector Richard Tennant, overseeing the investigation, at first makes no effort to disguise his skepticism. But Dr. Julia Lewis is accustomed to such condescension . . .

To study medicine, Julia had to leave Britain, where universities still bar their doors to women, and travel to America. She returned home to work in her grandfather’s practice—and to find London in the grip of a devastating cholera epidemic. In four years, however, she has seen nothing quite like this—a local clergyman’s body sexually mutilated and displayed in a manner that she—and Tennant—both suspect is personal.

Days later, another body is found with links to the first, and Tennant calls in Dr. Lewis again. The murderer begins sending the police taunting letters and tantalizing clues—though the trail leads in multiple directions, from London’s music halls to its grim workhouses and dank sewers. Lewis and Tennant struggle to understand the killer’s dark obsessions and motivations. But there is new urgency, for the doctor’s role appears to have shifted from expert to target. And this killer is no impulsive monster, but a fiendishly calculating opponent, determined to see his plan through to its terrifying conclusion . . .

 

Mystery Historical | Mystery Amateur Sleuth [Kensington, On Sale: February 20, 2024, Hardcover / e-Book, ISBN: 9781496746368 / eISBN: 9781496746382]

Buy MURDER BY LAMPLIGHTAmazon.com | Kindle | BN.com | Apple Books | Kobo | Google Play | Powell's Books | Books-A-Million | Indie BookShops | Ripped Bodice | Walmart.com | Target.com | Amazon CA | Amazon UK | Amazon DE | Amazon FR

About Patrice McDonough

Patrice McDonough

Patrice McDonough is a former educator who taught history for more than three decades. A member of the Historical Writers of America, the Mystery Writers of America, and the Historical Novel Society, she splits her time between New Jersey and the Florida Gulf Coast.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM

 

 

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