by Jess Faraday
London 1891. Former criminal Ira Adler has built a respectable, if dull, life for himself as a confidential secretary. He even sits on the board of a youth shelter. When the shelter’s landlord threatens to sell the building out from under them, Ira turns to his ex-lover, crime lord Cain Goddard, for a loan. But the loan comes with strings, and before he knows it, Ira is tangled up in them and tumbling back into the life of crime he worked so hard to escape. Two old flames come back into Ira’s life, along with a new young man who reminds Ira of his former self. Will Ira hold fast to his principles, or will he succumb to the temptations of easy riches and lost pleasures?
“So,” Goddard said, taking a long sip from his glass. “You never told me why you decided to contact me after all this time.”
“Well…” As I searched for the right words, he quietly set his drink on the polished wood floor. “It’s funny you should—”
The kiss came as such a surprise that I scrambled backward across the divan and almost tumbled over its rounded arm. Whiskey sloshed over the rim of my glass, splashing silently onto the Chinese rug. What remained I belted back in one go before setting the glass on the floor and wiping my shaking fingers on my trousers.
It wasn’t that I was averse to the idea of kissing him, but I really hadn’t expected it. In fact, if I’d seen him start toward me in the first place—he was remarkably quick for a man in his mid-forties—I’d have assumed he was going for my throat.
Goddard chuckled under his breath. “Sorry. Did I startle you?”
“You might say that.”
I was also taken aback by the presumption. I had always liked it when he took control, and the hard, whiskey-flavored slickness of his mouth had left me aroused. All the same, I was no longer his plaything. Part of me felt as if he should have at least asked permission.
I forgot my objections when he leaned in a second time, slowly, and cupped my face in his smooth, muscular hands. Now that I was expecting it, the kiss felt like coming home after a long, unpleasant journey. For just a moment, all of my troubles dissolved, and nothing existed except his fingers in my hair, the traces of his jasmine and bergamot cologne, and the smooth, familiar contours of his mouth.
And then as suddenly as he had moved in, Goddard pulled back, leaving me confused, disappointed, and blinking in the gaslight and shadow.
“Why did you come, Ira?”
“To ask you for money,” I said.
I know. I know. But every drop of blood in my head had surged to my cock, and I found myself incapable of the higher functioning required for either diplomacy or deceit.
Perhaps that had been the idea.
“Yesterday is history
Tomorrow is a mystery
Today is a gift, which is why they call it ‘the present’.”
This cute little rhyme has been attributed to everyone from Eleanor Roosevelt to Joan Rivers to Li’l Wayne. I like it because it has a good beat and you can dance to it. But if you think about it, history is really more of a mystery than most people might imagine.
When people speak of ‘history,’ the first thing that comes to mind is Great Events—names and dates taught in school (hopefully) and committed to official records. But to me, the most interesting questions aren’t about What, Where, and Why, but about Who and How.
History is filled with people just like us—unimportant in the greater scheme, but main players in their own lives and the lives of those around them. They all lived, became ill, worried about things, enjoyed activities, made mistakes, fell in love, wondered about their place in the world, found work to occupy their time, confronted moral dilemmas, made friendships (or at least alliances), ate, drank, and eliminated…. But in very different ways.
How does a person get from here to there in the absence of airplanes and automobiles? How does s/he send a message without telephone or internet? How does a city dispose of its human waste without plumbing? How was infection treated before antibiotics? How were bones set? What sort of skills did a person need to support himself or herself? How did an intelligent person with no means acquire an education, and what sort of education would it be? What did people eat and drink? These questions fascinate me—not the Great Deeds of Great People, but the whos and hows of everyday lives so different, but at the core, so very similar to mine.
A mystery story generally concerns the solution of a crime. But though the basic crimes against the social contract remain fairly consistent over time (theft, murder, assault, etc.), there are hundreds of things that have been considered criminal in different times and places that were considered acceptable in other times and places. When I consider a crime for a novel, I like to use historical differences in the definition, as a tool for examining the values of my time and place (early 21st century urban United States).
My new book, Turnbull House (book two of the Ira Adler mysteries), examines opiate production in Victorian England—not illegal—as well as same-sex relationships—highly illegal. In addition, we have a struggling charity, winsome orphans, and two people who are now artistic legends, but in the story have yet to achieve celebrity. There are friendships and betrayals, mistakes, injuries, and redemptions. And pastries. There are quite a few pastries.
But in the end, the greatest mystery is, as always, the human heart—where it will lead us, what it will cause us to do…and how to clean up the mess afterward.
Turnbull House is available through Bold Strokes Books and all the usual suspects.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Jess Faraday is the author of the Ira Adler mysteries and the standalone steampunk thriller The Left Hand of Justice. She also moonlights as the mystery editor for Elm Books.
Jess will be awarding a two-book set (paperback) of Turnbull House and its predecessor, The Affair of the Porcelain Dog to a randomly drawn commenter between this tour and the NBtM Review Tour.
Follow the tour and comment to increase your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here: