A Murderous Relation by Deanna Raybourn


cover176382-mediumVeronica Speedwell navigates a dark world of scandal and murder in this new adventure from New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

From the Publisher: Veronica Speedwell and her natural historian colleague Stoker are asked by Lady Wellingtonia Beauclerk to help with a potential scandal so explosive it threatens to rock the monarchy. Prince Albert Victor is a regular visitor to the most exclusive private club in London, known as the Club de l’Etoile, and the proprietess, Madame Aurore, has received an expensive gift that can be traced back to the prince. Lady Wellie would like Veronica and Stoker to retrieve the jewel from the club before scandal can break.

Worse yet, London is gripped by hysteria in the autumn of 1888, terrorized by what would become the most notorious and elusive serial killer in history, Jack the Ripper–and Lady Wellie suspects the prince may be responsible.

Veronica and Stoker reluctantly agree to go undercover at Madame Aurore’s high class brothel, where another body soon turns up. Many secrets are swirling around Veronica and the royal family–and it’s up to Veronica and Stoker to find the truth, before it’s too late for all of them.

Deanna Raybourn is on fire in this newest entry in the Veronica Speedwell/Revelstoke Templeton-Vane series. Here, the sexy duo find themselves smack in the middle of their most deadly adventure yet, and only weeks after their last romp in Cornwall. Characters from the past make new appearances as Veronica and Stoker shed friends and foes as they attempt to save the heir to the throne during the terrifying days when Jack the Ripper stalked the East End of London.

Perhaps the most endearing character introduced here is Eddy, also known as His Royal Highness Prince Albert Victor, heir to the throne of England. Eldest (legitimate) son of the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra, he is drawn here as a gentle, loving, but somewhat simple young man who seems delighted to meet Veronica and learn that she is his sister.

Raybourn develops these characters more with each book, and in this one, we learn more about Lady Wellie, the various members of Scotland Yard who make appearances, the daring female reporter J.J. Butterworth, and Stoker’s brothers Tiberious and Rupert (and Rupert’s delightful wife). Raybourn also completes the arc of Veronica and Stoker’s own relationship and does so in a tender but sexy way.

Fans will eat this up.

Publication Date: March 10, 2020
Published By: Berkley Publishing Group
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Last Odyssey by James Rollins


9780062892898_e4facFor eons, the city of Troy—whose legendary fall was detailed in Homer’s Iliad—was believed to be myth, until archaeologists in the nineteenth century uncovered its ancient walls buried beneath the sands. If Troy was real, how much of Homer’s twin tales of gods and monsters, curses and miracles—The Iliad and The Odyssey—could also be true and awaiting discovery?

In the frozen tundra of Greenland, a group of modern-day climatologists and archaeologists stumble on a shocking find: a medieval ship buried a half mile below the ice. The ship’s hold contains a collection of even older artifacts—tools of war—dating back to the Bronze Age. Inside the captain’s cabin is a magnificent treasure that is as priceless as it is miraculous: a clockwork gold atlas encircled by an intricate silver astrolabe. The mechanism is signed with the name of its creator, Ismail al-Jazari, a famous Muslim inventor considered to be the Da Vinci of the Arab world—a brilliant scientist who inspired Leonardo’s own work.

Once activated, the moving globe traces the path of Odysseus’ famous ship as it sailed away from Troy. But the route detours as the map opens to reveal an underground river leading to a hidden realm underneath the Mediterranean Sea. The map indicates that this subterranean world is called Tartarus, the Greek name for Hell. In mythology, Tartarus was where the wicked were punished and the monstrous Titans of old, imprisoned.

When word of Tartarus spreads—and of the cache of miraculous weapons said to be hidden there—tensions explode in this volatile region where Turks battle Kurds, terrorists wage war, and civilians suffer untold horrors. The phantasmagoric horrors found in Homer’s tales are all too real—and could be unleashed upon the world. Whoever possesses them can use their awesome power to control the future of humanity.

Now, Sigma Force must go where humans fear to tread. To prevent a tyrant from igniting a global war, they must cross the very gates of Hell.

You can always count on James Rollins for a rollicking good “save the world” adventure, but he has outdone himself with The Last Odyssey. Imagine that all those horrible monsters from Greek mythology were real AND they’ve been biding their time in an underground world, awaiting release. Then add deceitful senators & priests, smart scientists & brawny heroes and you‘ve got a winner.

Rollins has gradually filled out the stories of several characters in the Sigma series, and continues to do so here. Watching Gray and Seichan comes to terms with parenthood was very touching, but the growing relationship between Kowalski and Maria was emotional *and* heartbreaking.

The story here is unbelievably imaginative and meticulously researched. I especially appreciated the notes at the end. Highly recommended.

Publication Date: March 24, 2020
Published By: William Morrow
Thanks to Edelweiss for the review copy

The Hollows by Jess Montgomery


9781250184542_d2753Jess Montgomery showcases her skills as a storyteller in this powerful, big-hearted and exquisitely written follow-up to her acclaimed debut The Widows.

Ohio, 1926: For many years, the underground railroad track in Moonvale Tunnel has been used as a short cut through the Appalachian hills. When an elderly woman is killed walking along the tracks, the brakeman tells tales of seeing a ghostly female figure dressed all in white.

Newly elected Sheriff Lily Ross is called on to the case to dispel the myths, but Lily does not believe that an old woman would wander out of the hills onto the tracks. In a county where everyone knows everyone, how can someone have disappeared, when nobody knew they were missing? As ghost stories and rumors settle into the consciousness of Moonvale Hollow, Lily tries to search for any real clues to the woman’s identity.

With the help of her friend Marvena Whitcomb, Lily follows the woman’s trail to The Hollows—an asylum is northern Antioch County—and they begin to expose secrets long-hidden by time and the mountains.

Jess Montgomery has delivered a tautly plotted and inventive sequel to The Widows, where we find Sheriff Lily Ross doing her best to fill the shoes of her murdered husband, Sheriff Daniel Ross. She’s trying to put her life back together, keep her family intact, and keep the county safe.

Lily finds herself facing a gruesome case when an elderly woman plummets from the top of a railroad tunnel into a moving train. The death sets in motion a whole series of events that uncover old secrets, murders, and deception that touches very close to home for Lily.

Montgomery’s writing is smooth and engaging, keeping you reading page after page. It is refreshing to read a good mystery set in the 1920’s and featuring a strong female protagonist that doesn’t involve high society and flappers. The addition of the historical elements of union organizing and the rise of the Women’s Ku Klux Klan lends a darker aspect to the story which sets this apart. Recommended for historical mystery fans.

Publication Date: January 14, 2020
Published by: Minotaur Books
Thanks to Edelweiss for the review copy

Dangerous Shallows by Eric Takakjian


cover176712-mediumDangerous Shallows tells the story of a quest to solve maritime cold-cases. The odyssey takes the reader along for a moment-by-moment look at the events surrounding the loss of more than twenty different ships, and includes the stories of discovering their wrecks and learning about the final hours of each of these ships.

Author Eric Takakjian reminisces about devouring the National Geographic issue that featured the recovery of The Atocha, which sets the stage for this very chatty book on wreck diving. I, too, read that NatGeo issue over and over again, poring over the pictures and reading about the divers and their work, so I was right at home with Dangerous Shallows.

Writing in the first person, Takakjian draws you with his stories until you feel as though you’re ready to brave unpredictable currents, errant fishing nets, and sharks just to experience the thrill of standing on a wreck that hasn’t seen the light of day in a century. Takakjian’s storytelling style hooks you right away, and his enthusiasm keeps you enthralled through wreck after wreck.

Takakjian blends history, research and imagination to create plausible if somewhat dramatic recountings of how dozens of ships were sunk, then concludes those often sad stories with exciting tales of his dives on those wrecks.

This will appeal to armchair divers who are fascinated with wrecks and treasure. I expect Takakjian would be a marvelous speaker and hope he gets the chance to go on tour with this book.

Publication Date: February 1, 2020
Published By: Rowman & Littlefield
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Agent Jack by Robert Hutton


cover167989-mediumJune 1940: Europe has fallen to Adolf Hitler’s army, and Britain is his next target. Winston Churchill exhorts the country to resist the Nazis, and the nation seems to rally behind him. But in secret, some British citizens are plotting to hasten an invasion.

Agent Jack tells the incredible true story of Eric Roberts, a seemingly inconsequential bank clerk who, in the guise of “Jack King,” helped uncover and neutralize the invisible threat of fascism on British shores. Gifted with an extraordinary ability to make people trust him, Eric Roberts penetrated the Communist Party and the British Union of Fascists before playing his greatest role for MI5: Hitler’s man in London. Pretending to be an agent of the Gestapo, Roberts single-handedly built a network of hundreds of British Nazi sympathizers—factory workers, office clerks, shopkeepers —who shared their secrets with him. It was work so secret and so sensitive that it was kept out of the reports MI5 sent to Winston Churchill.

In a gripping real-world thriller, Robert Hutton tells the fascinating story of an operation whose existence has only recently come to light with the opening of MI5’s World War II files. Drawing on these newly declassified documents and private family archives, Agent Jack shatters the comforting notion that Britain could never have succumbed to fascism and, consequently, that the world could never have fallen to Hitler. Agent Jack is the story of one man who loved his country so much that he risked everything to stand against a rising tide of hate.

Several years ago, I helped a man research information on the British Union of Fascists and Oswald Mosley. That was the first time I had ever heard of Nazi sympathizers and agitators in England during World War II. At the time, I found it mildly interesting but not enough to do further research of my own, so I was happy to dive into this dry but fascinating book about Agent Jack.

The cloak-and-dagger element of the undercover agent whose work was so secret that no one knew about it for decades is a definite hook to get people to pick up the book. I found the first couple of chapters to be a little dry, with lots of names and strands of stories introduced. However, it all starts to come together and results in a solid historical offering. Recommended.

Publication Date: November 12, 2019
Published By: St. Martin’s Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Cartier’s Hope by M.J. Rose


cover170812-mediumFrom M.J. Rose, New York Times bestselling author of Tiffany Blues, “a lush, romantic historical mystery” (Kristin Hannah, The Nightingale), comes a gorgeously wrought novel of ambition and betrayal set in the Gilded Age.

New York, 1910: A city of extravagant balls in Fifth Avenue mansions and poor immigrants crammed into crumbling Lower East Side tenements. A city where the suffrage movement is growing stronger every day, but most women reporters are still delegated to the fashion and lifestyle pages. But Vera Garland is set on making her mark in a man’s world of serious journalism.

Shortly after the world-famous Hope Diamond is acquired for a record sum, Vera begins investigating rumors about schemes by its new owner, jeweler Pierre Cartier, to manipulate its value. Vera is determined to find the truth behind the notorious diamond and its legendary curses—even better when the expose puts her in the same orbit as a magazine publisher whose blackmailing schemes led to the death of her beloved father.

Appealing to a young Russian jeweler for help, Vera is unprepared when she begins falling in love with him…and even more unprepared when she gets caught up in his deceptions and finds herself at risk of losing all she has worked so hard to achieve.

Set against the backdrop of New York’s glitter and grit, of ruthless men and the atrocities they commit in the pursuit of power, this enthralling historical novel explores our very human needs for love, retribution—and to pursue one’s destiny, regardless of the cost.

M.J. Rose returns with another captivating historical mystery/romance, this time set in 1920s New York City and featuring one of her most likable heroines yet. Vera Garland, a child of wealth and privilege, longs for something more than playing the role of society matron, which her sister and mother both embrace. Vera instead spends her time pursuing social justice as an undercover reporter, living two very different lives as the pampered, privileged Vera and the tough-as nails-reporter Vee Swann.

Despite Vera’s privilege, she experiences several traumatic incidents, with the death of her beloved father triggering a life change that will rock her to the core. During her search for justice for her father and the man who betrayed his secret, Vera finds and loses love, and uncovers a shocking secret kept by her mother. Adding to all of this personal intrigue is the Hope Diamond and Pierre Cartier, the jeweler brave enough to sell it.

1920s NYC glam plus a cracking good plot make this one winner.

Publication Date: January 28, 2020
Published By: Atria Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Felicity Carrol & the Murderous Menace by Patricia Marcantonio


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Heiress and amateur detective Felicity Carrol makes a perilous journey to apprehend a notorious murderer who has terrorized England—and now continues his vicious killing spree across the pond.

Felicity Carrol would rather be doing just about anything other than attending balls or seeking a husband. What she really wants to do is continue her work using the latest forensic methods and her photographic memory to help London police bring murderers to justice, so when her friend, Scotland Yard Inspector Jackson Davies, weak from injury, discovers a murder in a wild mining town in Montana that echoes the terrible crimes in England, Felicity decides to go herself.

In Placer, Montana, her first obstacle is handsome lawman Thomas Pike, who uses his intuition as much as his Colt in keeping law and order in this unruly town. When the murderer strikes again, Felicity begins to suspect Davies is correct: Jack the Ripper has come to America. Felicity sets out to find the killer in a town chock full of secrets, shadows, and suspects, but as the body count rises, this intrepid sleuth faces her most dangerous adversary yet—and discovers that not all killers are as they seem.

This was my first introduction to Felicity Carrol and it was indeed a romp! Felicity joins the club of sassy, independent and totally unrealistic Victorian era females who investigate crime while thumbing their noses at social conventions, and she is a corker!

Here, Felicity travels from London to the American West, trailing the infamous Whitechapel killer, Jack the Ripper as he slashes his way into America. The author does a nice transition from Victorian London to the Wild West, providing Felicity with a handsome lawman and a tricky killer who is not at all what everyone expects. This is entertaining reading at its best. Recommended for Victorian mystery fans.

Advance Praise
Praise for Felicity Carrol and the Perilous Pursuit: “Readers who hunger for more portraits of independent women determined to make their ways in a stultifying society will take the heroine to heart.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“This new series is off to a good start with a strong, intelligent main character who struggles to overcome the cultural structures of her time. For fans of cozy Victorian mysteries and admirers of Robin Paige, Elizabeth Peters, and Deanna Raybourn.”
—Library Journal

Publication Date: February 11, 2020
Published By: Crooked Lane Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Woman in the Veil by Laura Joh Rowland


cover166960-mediumFrom the Publisher: Sarah Bain and her friends Lord Hugh Staunton and Mick O’Reilly are crime scene photographers for the Daily World newspaper. After solving a sensational murder, they’re under pressure to deliver another big story. On a foggy summer night, they’re called to the bank of the river Thames. The murder victim is an unidentified woman whose face has been slashed. But as Sarah takes photographs, she discovers that the woman is still alive.

The case of “Sleeping Beauty” becomes a public sensation, and three parties quickly come forward to identify her: a rich, sinister artist who claims she’s his wife; a mother and her two daughters who co-own a nursing home and claim she’s their stepdaughter/sister; and a precocious little girl who claims Sleeping Beauty is her mother. Which party is Sleeping Beauty’s rightful kin? Is someone among them her would-be killer?

Then Sleeping Beauty awakens—with a severe case of amnesia. She’s forgotten her name and everything else about herself. But she recognizes one of the people who’ve claimed her. Sarah is delighted to reunite a family and send Sleeping Beauty home—until one of the claimants is murdered. Suddenly, Sarah, her motley crew of friends, and her fiancé Detective Sergeant Barrett are on the wrong side of the law. Now they must identify the killer before they find themselves headed for the gallows.

Fourth in a series, The Woman in the Veil continues the current trend of mysteries set in the Victorian era and featuring remarkably liberated female detectives and the men who assist them.

The story is well-plotted and begins with the horrifying event described above. When Sarah discovers the woman is alive, she sets in motion a complicated, sometimes terrifying set of events that will leave you with a pounding heart at the end. The characters are well-developed if familiar, ranging from the precocious, beautiful child to the nonredeemable cad everyone loves to hate.

Rowland is a capable writer who has delivered a highly readable, engaging, and tightly plotted mystery that will appeal to fans of Deanna Raybourn and Tasha Alexander. Recommended.

Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Published By: Crooked Lane Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Treachery by S.J. Parris


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From the Publisher: August, 1585. A relentless enemy. A treacherous conspiracy. Elizabethan England is on the brink of war.

Sir Francis Drake is preparing to launch a daring expedition against the Spanish when a murder aboard his ship changes everything. Giordano Bruno agrees to hunt the killer down, only to find that more than one deadly plot is brewing in Plymouth’s murky underworld. And as he tracks a murderer through its dangerous streets, he uncovers a conspiracy that threatens the future of England itself.

Fans of historical mysteries will enjoy this story featuring Sir Francis Drake – explorer, pirate, sea captain, and favorite of Queen Elizabeth I. Here, Drake engages Giordano Bruno and Sir Philip Sidney to investigate the possible murder of a shipmate, but also to decipher a mysterious text that may be the only account of the Gospel of Judas.

Bruno delivers an adept performance as detective, ferreting out clues and following suspicious men, including his old nemesis, the Man With No Ears. Nothing earth-shattering here – just a good mystery to pass the time on a cold, rainy afternoon.

About the Author:  S. J. Parris is the pseudonym of Stephanie Merritt. Since graduating from Cambridge, she has worked as a critic for a variety of newspapers and magazines as well as for radio and television. She currently writes for The Guardian in London and is the author of five novels in the Giordano Bruno mystery series. Visit S.J. Parris at www.sjparris.com.

Publication Date: December 3, 2019
Published By: Pegasus Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Pocketful of Lodestones by Elizabeth Crowens

1

A Pocketful Of Lodestones by Elizabeth Crowens

 

The Time Traveler Professor, Book Two:

A Pocketful of Lodestones

by Elizabeth Crowens

on Tour October 1-31, 2019

Synopsis:

The Time Traveler Professor, Book Two: A Pocketful of Lodestones by Elizabeth Crowens

In 1914, the war to end all wars turns the worlds of John Patrick Scott, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, Rebecca West and Harry Houdini upside down. Doyle goes back to ancient China in his hunt for that “red book” to help him write his Sherlock Holmes stories. Scott is hell-bent on finding out why his platoon sergeant has it out for him, and they both discover that during the time of Shakespeare every day is a witch-hunt in London. Is the ability to travel through time the ultimate escape from the horrific present, or do ghosts from the past come back to haunt those who dare to spin the Wheel of Karma?

The Time Traveler Professor, Book Two: A POCKETFUL OF LODESTONES, sequel to SILENT MERIDIAN, combines the surrealism of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five with the supernatural allure of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell set during WWI on the Western Front.

Sometimes a story is so complex that the reader truly has to commit to it, blocking out all distractions and really thinking about the words being read. A Pocketful of Lodestones is that kind of book. 

For this reader, the psychological torment experienced by John Patrick Scott was harder to read but more engaging than the mysterious “red book.” The author successfully captured the sheer horror of the Front during World War I, both during the war and afterwards in the asylum. 

The Time Traveler series is hard to plug into a category because it crosses genres and does so very successfully. There’s mystery, horror, science fiction, and even a little romance. Fans of stories focusing on time travel and, for Pocketful of Lodestones, on war will enjoy this.

The Time Traveler Professor, Book Two: A POCKETFUL OF LODESTONES was the First Prize winner of the Chanticleer Review’s Paranormal Fiction Awards.

Book Details:

Genre: Alternate History, Mystery, Fantasy Noir
Published by: Atomic Alchemist Productions LLC
Publication Date: August 1st 2019
Number of Pages: 334
ISBN: 9781950384051
Series: The Time Traveler Professor #2
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One: Kitchener’s Call to Arms

August 1914

“Have you ever killed a man before?”

I had, but close to three hundred years ago. So, I lied and just shook my head.

“Your name, son?” the recruitment officer asked.

“John Patrick Scott,” I said, with pride.

The officer handed me a card to fill out. “Write your date of birth, where you live and don’t skip any questions. When finished, bring this over to Line B.”

Born during the reign of Queen Victoria, somehow or other I managed to travel to the 23rd century, feudal Japan, and ancient China long before the Great War started. The army wanted to know all the places I had traveled, but it was doubtful that much information was required.

Since the war to end all wars commenced, recruiting centers sprang up like wildflowers. This one took over an Edinburgh public library. If unaware as to why the enthusiastic furor, one would’ve guessed the government gave away free land tracts with titles.

“Let’s see how clever you blokes are. Tell me the four duties of a soldier,” another enlistment administrator called out.

An overeager Glaswegian shouted, “Obedience, cleanliness, honesty and sobriety, sir!”

The chap next to him elbowed his side. “Takes no brains to read a bloody sign.”

Propaganda posters wallpapered the room with solicitous attempts at boosting morale. Kitchener wanted us and looked straight into our eyes. Proof of our manhood or perhaps stupidity. Queues of enthusiasm wound around the block. Impatient ones jumped the lines. We swore our allegiance to the King over a bible. As long as the war lasted, our lives were no longer our own.

Voices from men I’d never see again called out from the crowd.

“It’ll be over in six weeks.”

“Are you so sure?”

“Check out those men. All from the same cricket team. Play and die together. Medals of Valor in a blink. Local heroes with celebrations.”

“I’ll drink to that.”

A crusty old career soldier yelled out to the volunteers, “Does anyone speak Flemish?”

Suddenly the place got quiet. Then he looked at me. “Soldier, do you know anything besides the King’s English? French?”

“Fluent German,” I said. “That should be helpful.”

“Since when were you with the Bosches?”

“Fourteen years, sir. Before the war.”

“And what were you doing in enemy territory?”

“Worked as a teacher. A music professor and a concert pianist when I could get the engagements and sometimes as an amateur photographer. They weren’t our enemies then, sir.”

“Have you ever shot a rifle, son?”

“Actually, I have…”

“Find a pair of boots that fits you, lad. Hustle now. Time’s a wasting.”

The Allied and German armies were in a Race to the Sea. If the Germans got there first, then England was in danger of invasion. Basic training opened its arms to the common man, and it felt strange to be bedding alongside Leith dockworkers and farmers, many underage, versus the university colleagues from my recent past. Because of the overwhelming need for new recruits, training facilities ran out of room. The army took over church halls, local schools and warehouses in haste. Select recruits were billeted in private homes, but we weren’t so fortunate.

Except for acquired muscles, I slimmed down and resembled the young man that I was in my university days except with a tad more gray hair, cut very short and shaved even closer on the sides. No more rich German pastries from former students as part of my diet. At least keeping a clean-shaven face wasn’t a challenge since I never could grow a beard. Wearing my new uniform took getting used to. Other recruits laughed, as I’d reach to straighten my tie or waistcoat out of habit despite the obvious fact that I was no longer wearing them.

While still in Scotland during basic training, I started to have a series of the most peculiar dreams. My boots had not yet been muddied with the soil of real battlefields. New recruits such as I, had difficult adjustments transitioning from civilian life. Because of my past history of lucid dreaming, trips in time travel and years of psychical experimentation I conducted both on my own and with my enthusiastic and well-studied mentor, Arthur Conan Doyle, my nightmares appeared more real than others. My concerns were that these dreams were either actual excursions into the Secret Library where the circumstances had already occurred or premonitions of developments to come.

The most notable of these episodes occurred toward the end of August in 1914. In this dream, I had joined another British platoon other than my own in Belgium on the Western Front. We were outnumbered at least three to one, and the aggressive Huns surrounded us on three sides.

Whistles blew. “Retreat!” yelled our commanding officer, a privileged Cambridge boy, barely a man and younger than I, who looked like he had never seen the likes of hardship.

We retreated to our trenches to assess what to plan next, but instead of moving toward our destination everyone froze in their tracks. Time was like a strip of film that slowed down, spooled off track, and jammed inside a projector. Then the oddest thing happened to our enemy. For no apparent reason, their bodies jerked and convulsed as if fired upon by invisible bullets over the course of an hour.

When the morning fog lifted, the other Tommies and I broke free from our preternatural standstill and charged over the top of the trenches with new combat instructions. Half of our platoon dropped their rifles in shock. Dead Huns, by the thousands, littered No man’s land long before we had even fired our first retaliatory shot!

I woke up agitated, disoriented and in a cold sweat. Even more disturbing was finding several brass shell casings under my pillow — souvenirs or proof that I had traveled off somewhere and not imagined it. I roused the sleeping guy in the next bed and couldn’t wait to share this incredible story.

“Shush!” he warned me. “You’ll wake the others.”

Meanwhile, he rummaged inside his belongings and pulled out a rumpled and grease-stained newspaper clipping that looked and smelled like it had originally been used to wrap up fish and chips.

He handed it to me with excitement. “My folks sent this me from back home.”

The headlines: “Angels sited at the Battle of Mons”

Almost as notable was the article’s byline written by my best friend from the University of Edinburgh, Wendell Mackenzie, whom I had lost track of since the war started.

He begged me to read on.

“Hundreds of witnesses claimed similarities in their experiences. There were rumors aplenty about ghostly bowmen from the Battle of Agincourt where the Brits fought against the French back in 1415. Inexplicable apparitions appeared out of nowhere and vanquished German enemy troops at the recent Battle of Mons.”

“This looks like a scene from out of a storybook.” I pointed to an artist’s rendition and continued.

“Word spread that arrow wounds were discovered on corpses of the enemy nearby, and it wasn’t a hoax. Others reported seeing a Madonna in the trenches or visions of St. Michael, another saint symbolizing victory.”

“Now, I don’t feel so singled out,” I said and handed the newspaper articles back to my comrade.

For weeks, I feared talking to anyone else about it and insisted my mate keep silent. Even in wartime, I swore that I’d stay in touch with my closest acquaintances, Wendell Mackenzie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was easier to keep abreast of Arthur’s exploits, because of his public celebrity. On the other hand, Wendell, being a journalist, could be anywhere in the world on assignment.

* * *

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Mackenzie,

I regret having missed Wendell when he never made it over to visit Scotland, and you wonder if someone up above watches over us when we make decisions where to go and when. In my case it was when I decided to take a summer vacation and travel to Edinburgh before the war. Those without passports or proper documentation endured countless detours and delays getting back to their respective homelands. One of Mrs. Campbell’s lodgers had been detained in France.

With nothing to return to back in Germany, I joined the Royal Scots. Military training commenced in Edinburgh, and at least they had us wearing uniforms of pants tucked into gaiters as opposed to the Highland troops who wore kilts. Although I was born and bred in Scotland, as a Lowlander that’s one outfit you’d have to force me into with much duress.

Our tasks would be in the Scots Territorial units deployed on our coastline in case of an enemy invasion. Potential threats could come from spies or submarines, but most say that the worst enemy has been the frigid wind blowing off the North Sea.

As there is always talk about combining forces and transfers, my aunt can always forward letters. It would mean more than the world to hear from Wendell saying that not only is he all right, but also in good spirits.

Yours most devoted,

Private John Patrick Scott

* * *

Dear Arthur,

In our last correspondence, I conveyed that I was unable to return to my teaching post in Stuttgart. With your tour in the Boer War as my inspiration, I joined the military. We learned the basics: how to follow commands, first aid, march discipline and training in all matters of physical fitness. My feet have been in a constant state of rebellion, since my previous profession as a pianist was a sedentary occupation.

Deployment was supposed to be along the coast of Scotland, but the army reassigned me despite first promises because of too many staggering losses on the Western Front. I requested to be part of the air corps and a pioneer in new battle technology, but my recruiting officers had other plans. Our regiment left for Ypres in Belgium. None of the Tommies could pronounce the name of this place, so everyone called it Wipers. You’re no stranger to war, but everyone has been surprised that it lasted longer than anticipated.

Yours Most Devoted,

Private John Patrick Scott

* * *

Troops from all over under the wing of the British Expeditionary Forces piled on to ships to sail out to the continent. The locals from Edinburgh didn’t expect to leave bonnie ole Scotland. They told us we’d defend our shores from foreign invasions. I’d crossed the North Sea before, but then it was a sea of hope and a new life full of opportunity when I got my scholarship to continue my musical studies in Germany, now the enemy.

I turned to the nearest stranger, hoping that a random conversation would break the monotonous and never-ending wait until we set anchor in Belgium. “How was your basic training?”

“Three months at an abandoned amusement park,” the soldier replied. “We trained for the longest time in our street clothes and were told they ran out of uniforms. Probably sent recycled ones after the first troops died. Used wooden dummy rifles until the real ones arrived. What about you?”
“We used an abandoned dance hall. Never could get used to waking at 5:30 a.m.”

“Word got around that in Aldershot soldiers had luxury facilities with a billiards room, a library, private baths and a buffet. I suspect that was for the regulars, the old-timers, not new recruits like us.”

“I should’ve enlisted elsewhere,” I grumbled, not that it would’ve made much of a difference if we’d all die in the end.

He pointed to my face and examined my flawless hands. “You don’t look like much of an outdoorsman. Pale, hairless complexion. No scars.”

“I’m a concert pianist.”

“Not much use on the Front.”

“Probably not. Excuse me, I need some air.” I bundled up in my great coat, wrapping my muffler a wee bit tighter.

Wasn’t sure which were worse — the soldiers with their asphyxiating cigarettes or numbing sleet turning into ice pellets. Hadn’t gotten my sea legs, yet. Stormy swells churned my stomach. Sweet Scotland. Lush green grass and the sky the color of blue moonstone. Never thought I’d be so sentimental. Continued staring until brilliant hues of the shoreline merged into dismal grays of a foggy horizon. In the transition from civilian to soldier, I stepped through a door of no return unless I desired to come back home in a coffin.

Chapter Two: The Other Lost World

Ypres, Belgium Late fall, 1914

A sea of strange men, but all comrades-in-arms, all recent transplants marched to their assignments and followed orders without question to who-knows-where on the way to the battlefield sites. We sallied forth, anonymous troops with a distorted sense of time and distance through the streets of has-been cities, once thriving communities. Poetry in ruination.

As we marched through the Grote Markt (Grand Market) heading out toward the Menenpoort (or Menen Gate) I didn’t expect to get an education. The soldier to my left kept talking out loud and compared notes of local tourist attractions. He was probably unaware that anyone else had overheard his comments.

“That long, distinctive building with the church hiding behind it must be the Hallen… or their Cloth Hall. There were impressive paintings on the interior walls of the Pauwels Room depicting the history of this town and its prosperous textile trade.”

“How do you know this?” I asked, trying not to attract too much attention.

“I’m a historian. Used to teach at a priory school in Morpeth.”

Perhaps I was naïve, but I asked, “Why would the armed forces recruit someone with a background in history?”

“That didn’t influence my enlistment although I’m sure it’ll come in handy somewhere. Before the war, I traveled all over Europe when time permitted. I brought original postcards with me as to what this town used to look like. It’s frightening to see the difference.”

“Your name?” I asked.

“Private Watson. What about you?”

“Not John Watson, by any chance?”

“No, Roger Watson, why?”

I shook my head thinking about Arthur and bit my lip to hide a slight smile. “Oh nothing… My name is Private Scott, John Patrick Scott.”

“What brings you to this dismal corner of the earth?”

“Ich war ein Musiklehrer. Pardon me, sometimes I break into German. I’m from Edinburgh but was living in Germany as a music teacher. Can’t be doing that sort of thing now.”

“I suppose not.”

“Roger, sorry to have eavesdropped, but it sounded so interesting. Then you are familiar with the area we just marched through?”

“That was the central merchant and trading hub of Ypres and has been since the mid-fifteenth century. On the north side over there is St. Martin’s Cathedral. You can already see the damage from German attacks.”

There was no escaping the needless destruction by aggressive enemy bombing. We continued marching forward in formation. A little way beyond the city gate, we passed by the remains of a park and children’s playground. The soldiers took a rest break and snacked on portable rations.

Many of them took off their boots and massaged their feet. Not too far away, I found a shattered brick in the rubble of what had been a schoolhouse and brought it back to where everyone was having his makeshift picnic.

Watson noticed that I kept twirling the small fragment in my hand while intermittently closing my eyes. “Scott, what are you doing?”

“Pictures form in my mind similar to movies. It’s the art of psychometry,” I replied.

“Psycho — what?” Another soldier overheard us talking.

“Sounds like something from Sigmund Freud,” one called out.

“Not at all, it’s like a psychical gift or talent. It has nothing to do with psychoanalysis.”

“What’s the point?” the first one asked.

I felt under pressure to put my thoughts into words. “I can understand what building this brick was part of when it was intact and what was here before it was destroyed.”

“That’s incredible!” Watson exclaimed. “If you are able to uncover bygone times by psychical means, I am all ears.”

When everyone else discounted my talent, Watson gave it full praise. Others became impatient and weren’t interested in our sidebar history lesson.

“Can you use those skills beyond inanimate objects?” one soldier asked.

“Find me an object, someone’s former possession,” I said.

Another soldier found a broken pocket watch not far from a trampled garden. He tossed it over, and I caught it with both hands. When I closed my eyes, the images materialized in my mind’s eye.

“A loving grandfather was reading to his grandchildren from an illustrated story book. He was balding. Wore spectacles. Had a trimmed white beard.

“‘Time for bed,’ he said, looking at his watch. Tick tock, tick tock. It was a gift from his father.

“He kissed each grandchild on the forehead as they scampered off. Two girls, one boy, all in their nightgowns. The tallest girl was a redhead with… pink ribbons in her long, curly hair. Then the bombs dropped. Fire. The roof collapsed. All was lost. Then… then… Oh my God!”

“Scotty, what’s wrong?” Watson asked.

I looked at the blank faces around me. “You don’t see him?”

Watson was baffled. “See who?”

“That grandfather,” I said, horrified and clutching onto that timepiece. His ghost was standing right in front of me!

Then I realized that no one else was capable of seeing him. Inside, I panicked until my frozen fingers let go of the watch, and it tumbled into the dirt. That’s when his phantasmal form vanished, but there were still indelible memories impressed upon the ether that refused to fade with the passage of time.

Warning bells tolled from a nearby church. “Quick, run for cover!” our commanding officer shouted.

Double-time over to shelter. Incoming bombs whistled and boomed in the distance. Civilians followed, carrying their most precious possessions, also fleeing for their lives.

The sanctuary already suffered from shell damage that left large gaping holes in its roof. Birds nested above the pulpit. Cherished religious statuary had been knocked over and broken. Several nuns rushed up and motioned the way for us to take refuge in the basement. We joined the crowd of scared families, members of the local community.

“Isn’t Britain giving them haven?” I asked Watson. “I thought most of the civilians evacuated by now.”

“There are still the ones who want to hold out,” he explained. “Wouldn’t you if your entire life and livelihood were here for multiple generations? That’s why they’re counting on us, but the Germans are relentless. Ypres is right on the path of strategic routes to take over France.”

When several farmers brought over their pigs and chickens, our retreat began to resemble a biblical nativity scene. From inside the cellar, we could hear the rumble of the outside walls collapsing.

“We’ll be trapped!” People yelled out in panic.

A group of sisters prayed in the corner. Our trench diggers readied themselves to shovel us out if it came to that. One terror-stricken woman handed me a screaming baby.

“I found him abandoned.” At least that’s what I thought she said in Flemish, but none of us could understand her. Confused and without thinking, I almost spoke in Japanese, but that would’ve been for the wrong place and an entirely different century during a different lifetime.

“What will I do with him?” I said to her in German, but she didn’t comprehend me either. I couldn’t just place him down in a corner. We’d be marching out in a matter of minutes.

I approached a man with his wife and three other children. First I tried English, then German, random words of French, and then I tried Greek and Latin from my school days. Finally I resorted to awkward gestures to see if he’d take the child. But he shook his head, gathered his brood and backed off.

Troops cleared a path out of the cellar. We needed to report to our stations before nightfall.

“Sister, please?” I begged one nun, interrupting her rosary. To my relief, she took the infant.

“Oh Mon Dieu!” I cried out in the little French that I knew. “Danke, thank you, merci boucoup.” Then I ran off to join the others.

Watson slapped me on the back. “Looked like you were going to be a father, mate.”

“Not yet. Got a war to fight,” I replied.

***

Excerpt from The Time Traveler Professor, Book Two: A Pocketful of Lodestones by Elizabeth Crowens. Copyright © 2019 by Elizabeth Crowens. Reproduced with permission from Elizabeth Crowens. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Elizabeth Crowens

Crowens has worked in the film and television for over twenty years and as a journalist and a photographer. She’s a regular contributor of author interviews to an award-winning online speculative fiction magazine, Black Gate. Short stories of hers have been published in the Bram Stoker Awards nominated anthology, A New York State of Fright and Hell’s Heart. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America, The Horror Writers Association, the Authors Guild, Broad Universe, Sisters in Crime and a member of several Sherlockian societies. She is also writing a Hollywood suspense series.

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