Today I’m delighted to take part in the blog tour for Gothic mystery The Golden Key set in the wilds of the Norfolk Fens from the BSFA-shortlisted author Marian Womack. More about the book later, first I’ve got an extract for you.
That afternoon Sam went to visit John Woodbury, paying a long-overdue visit to the old man’s newly refurbished establishment in Cecil Court. The Little Haunted Bookshop specialised in books on Spiritualism, psychic research and its related sciences, as well as bewildering phenomena in all their possible manifestations. It also boasted a little printing press in the back, from which some small pamphlets condemning Spiritualist fraud had been published.
Sam found Mr Woodbury writing notes in a thick dusty ledger.
‘My friend! What a welcome sight!’
Woodbury insisted in giving him a tour of the cramped premises. Once Theosophy, Magnetism, Clairvoyance, Psychology, Mesmerism, Phrenology, Psychical Research, Astrology, Spiritism, Spirit Communication, Phonography, Agnosticism and the inevitable Vegetarianism had been dealt with, Woodbury insisted on showing him the latest book arrivals, among them Towards a Science of Immortality: Heat- Death of the Sun, and a New Dawn for Mankind, the lengthily titled monograph by none other than Count Maximilian Justus von Daniken Bévcar. Sam found himself compelled to buy a copy.
Mr Woodbury intrigued him. He was a genuinely zealous prosecutor of tricksters and fakes, who seemed to have many other interests outside of his work for the SPR. Once the business was done of admiring and interesting himself—as much as he was capable—in everything he was shown, Sam asked Woodbury if he knew the mysterious Miss Walton. Woodbury smiled oddly, a gesture Sam refused to read much into as he drank the cup of tea that the older man had prepared for him. Nonetheless, he seemed happy to respond:
‘She has gained the reputation of being a “respectable vessel” for communicating with the shadows. She is a serious young woman, the granddaughter of Ovid Walton.’
‘The classical scholar?’
‘Exactly. Miss Walton is educated—the last thing one would expect in a medium, if you ask me.’ Or in a woman, Sam thought he meant.
‘She studied at Girton, by all accounts with the full support of her grandfather. Afterwards she trained briefly in one of the London hospitals, I think.’
‘She trained as a nurse? Nothing odd in that!’
Woodbury smiled his crooked smile again, full of square teeth.
‘Oh no, my friend. The woman trained to be a doctor, of all things!’
‘Is she a doctor, then?’ Sam refused to be scandalised by the notion; this was the twentieth century.
‘She was expelled from her studies. A little bit of a scandal, if you ask me, although I can’t remember the particulars right now…’
That was all the old man was prepared to share, it seemed.
London, 1901. After the death of Queen Victoria the city heaves with the uncanny and the eerie. Séances are held and the dead are called upon from darker realms.
Samuel Moncrieff, recovering from a recent tragedy of his own, meets Helena Walton-Cisneros, one of London’s most reputed mediums. But Helena is not what she seems and she’s enlisted by the elusive Lady Matthews to solve a twenty-year-old mystery: the disappearance of her three stepdaughters who vanished without a trace on the Norfolk Fens.
But the Fens are a liminal land, where folk tales and dark magic still linger. With locals that speak of devilmen and catatonic children found on the Broads, Helena finds the answer to the mystery leads back to where it started: Samuel Moncrieff.
The blog tour continues tomorrow!