Unnatural Fire: A Countess Ashby de la Zouche Mystery (Countess Ashby de La Zouche Mysteries)

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9780060007836: Unnatural Fire: A Countess Ashby de la Zouche Mystery (Countess Ashby de La Zouche Mysteries)

Restoration London, 1699 -- Anastasia Ashby de la Zouche, Baroness Penge, Countess of Clapham, and former mistress to King Charles II, has astonishingly been jailed in debtors' prison. Joining forces with her loyal ex-maidservant, Alpiew, the formerly pampered and proper Countess sets out to make a living by working for the scandal sheets -- a line of work that inevitably leads her through some of the seamier byways of the city. She and Alpiew find a welcome additional source of income when they are approached by a stranger who asks them to gather evidence to prove her husband is committing adultery. But the uncomfortable job of trailing after the handsome merchant in the depths of winter ends abruptly in a Covent Garden churchyard with a brutal murder.

Implicated in the crime, the Countess and Alpiew find themselves drawn into a complex labyrinth of deceit, violence, and the mysterious world of alchemy. And the more they investigate, the more complex the picture becomes, involving everyone from the most decrepit back-alley criminals to some of the most influential people in all the land.

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Review:

A boisterous, bawdy romp through Restoration England, Unnatural Fire introduces a pair of unlikely heroines and sets them on a merry chase through London just before the dawn of the 18th century. The Countess Ashby de la Zouche has lost her place in society with the death of Charles II, her former paramour, and the subsequent disappearance of her husband, a swindler who's gone to America to seek his fortune. Languishing in debtor's prison, she's soon rediscovered by her erstwhile maid Alpiew, whose circumstances aren't much better than her former employer's. But the two women swiftly discover how to turn their shared fondness for gossip into a tidy livelihood as stringers for an infamous scandal sheet. Hired by a wealthy matron to get the goods on her philandering husband, they stumble on a murder that sets this fast-paced, funny story in motion. The mystery mixes royal intrigue, theatrical shenanigans, cross-dressing strangers, and secret formulas into a delicious potion brewed by an actor and playwright who specializes in Restoration comedy. Author Fidelis Morgan's thorough familiarity with the period informs every paragraph of this delightful historical romp. --Jane Adams

About the Author:

Fidelis Morgan is an actor and an expert in Restoration comedy. Acclaimed for her stage plays, Pamela and Hangover Square, she also collaborated with Lynda la Plante on England's Channel 4's tense pschological thriller Killer Net. She has written nonfiction studies of charismatic female figures from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and contributed to the bestselling Virago anthology Wicked. In her first novel, Unnatural Fire, she combined historical interest with her life-long passion for crime fiction.

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