Of Carrion Feathers
By Katherine Pym -- Historical, 407 pages
Cover art by Trisha FitzGerald
It is London 1662, and plots abound against the king. Oliver Prior, haunted by the death of his sister when still a child, enters the world of espionage.
Beatrice Short’s goal is to go on stage, but she must work as a servant. While cleaning, she finds ciphers and invisible script. After the king’s undersecretary finds her snooping, he blackmails her into going undercover as a spy.
While Oliver and Beatrice bond to discover the backbone of insidious schemes to kill the king, they learn who runs the plots. He is a man steeped in hate, and he must be put down.
Beatrice trod up stairs. At the first level she found a lit candle. With it in one hand and the dish of starch in the other, she climbed one level after the other `til she reached the top. The candlelight wavered. She was on a very dark floor with two doors shut tight.
She heard rats in the walls, and a clock ticked somewhere near. No sconces or lanthorns lit the way. Cold drafts snatched at her skirt hems, and Beatrice frowned. She’d found herself in a very dreary place.
She set the starch pot on the floor, and opened the door on the left. Ladder-stairs led to the garret. She faced the other door, and opened it to see a large chamber. The clock ticked louder, and raising the candle, she saw it on a mantelshelf. Windows were shuttered. The room was near pitch, and Beatrice was glad to have the candle. With it, she scanned more of the chamber. A long table stood against one wall. Joint stools and hard backed chairs clustered about something large in the center of the room.
Beatrice tiptoed around the chairs and stools to the large thing—a box—garnished with thick, metal handles. The nearer she got, the more it looked like a coffin sitting on joint stools. She raised the candle, and stepped closer. She dipped the candle toward the box, and mewed in fear.
It was an empty coffin. Grains covered the bottom of it with black wool draped over one side. It stretched silent in the dark chamber.Waiting to be filled.