The fifth book to be read for my TYPICALLY BRITISH BOOK CHALLENGE. (Click on relevant link to view 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th book read.)
London 1699, Anastasia Ashby de la Zouche, Baroness Penge, Countess of Clapham, formermistress to Charles II, has fallen on hard times. Cast into the notorious Fleet Prison by the bum-balliffs, she is forced to turn to journalism: gathering salacious tit-bits for a scandal sheet. But the Countess and Alpiew, her maidservant, encounter more intrigue than they bargained for when a mysterious woman hires them to follow her husband, Beau, whom she suspects of adultery.
Their pursuit of Beau leads them to playhouses, lecture halls, the half-constructed St. Paul's Cathedral and the dives of Alsatia, only to end abruptly in a Covent Garden churchyard - leaving the countess and Alpiew implicated in a murder. And worse is to follow, for to unravel their only clue to the identity of the real killer they must penetrate the mysteries of alchemy.
..... From the outer back cover.
FIRST SENTENCE: 'Take this down .... "At the stroke of 8 o'clock this morning, while the night-watch Charlies still slept in their boxes, the Honourable Marmaduke Smallwood tied a knot with tongue which he can never untie with his teeth .....
MEMORBLE MOMENT: The low hum rose and increased in volume in a black knot. The low hum rose and the axe slammed down into the sideboard and stuck. While Scum struggled to remove it, Pigalle sideled back into the pantry and started pulling jars from the shelves. One by one she tossed them to the Countess who hurled them at Scum.
A very refreshing and yet quite unusual read in that its main characters are women.
Set in 18th century London, Unnatural Fire is a humorous romp of a read - I loved everything about it from its colourful front cover to its wonderfully fascinating characters some of whom have such a wonderful 'turn of phrase' and its bawdy sense of fun which often stopped just short of the farcical.
A totally authentic read, original and fresh, it somehow or other put me in mind of the C.J. Sansom's SHARDLAKE SERIES of books, perhaps because of the unusual choice of lead character and the inclusion of the alchemy story line.
A tremendous who-done-it of sorts, it had me gripped from start to finish - I shall certainly be looking out for the other books in the series. (Click HERE for list.)