Saturday 9 December 2017

Diamond Tales: Murder in Silks by Lucienne Boyce

Eighteenth century London. Controlling crime is in the hands of the Bow Street Runners:

Murder in Silks
Lucienne Boyce

In spring 1798, Bow Street Runner Dan Foster has been called to his second murder case in a week – one he’s been told to prioritise because of the victim’s high-society connections. As if that isn’t irritating enough, the lead officer in the case is Principal Officer John Townsend – and he and Dan are not exactly on friendly terms.  
This extract is taken from the third Dan Foster Mystery, which Lucienne is currently working on.

Odd, how dressing up murder in silks and satins instead of cheap cotton prints made it less acceptable. Inwardly raging as he strode away from Bow Street, Dan swore defiance of Sir William Addington’s order. He would not drop his case. He would find out who murdered the nameless woman at the Feathers. And if she had been a whore, well there was not much to choose between her and a demi-rep dead in a mansion in Mayfair.
And behind all that lay the nagging question: why had John Townsend asked for Dan, when he could have picked any one of the principal officers?   
The house stood on the corner of Hill Street and overlooked Berkeley Square where the young plane trees were beginning to show signs of regrowth after the winter. The usual morning peace that enveloped its wealthy inhabitants was disturbed by the babble of the crowd that had gathered on the pavement. A couple of constables stood outside the front door to keep them at bay.  
“Bow Street Officer!” Dan shouted, pushing his way through. He ran up the stone steps between the spiked railings. One of the sentinels knocked on the door, which was opened by a constable inside after much turning of locks and drawing back of bolts. Dan slipped through while the crowd craned forward for a glimpse into the house.
“Mr Townsend is in the library, sir.” The constable pointed to a half-open door.
Dan crossed a hallway as big as his parlour and filled with a bewildering array of flowers, vases and mirrors. He saw Townsend moving about inside the room, stopping to fiddle with an ornament here, peer at a clock there, prod a cushion or curtain with his cane. Every now and again he nodded in the direction of the unseen occupant of a chair near the marble fireplace.
“Mmm, mmm.”
After each slight encouragement, a woman’s tearful voice continued its disjointed murmur.
Dan stepped into the room, cast his gaze upon its two occupants. Three if you counted Louise Parmeter, formerly mistress to the Prince of Wales. Dan’s resentment against the victim evaporated as soon as he saw her. Even in death she was one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. Long eyelashes swept her delicate cheek; shapely eyebrows framed large, lidded eyes; and her hair was a glory of gold. Her lips were slightly parted, as if on the verge of a smile that must have been dazzling when life animated it.
She was seated behind a daintily fashioned desk, which was littered with papers, books and pens. The upper half of her body sprawled across the desk, hands and arms outstretched. Her head was turned to the side, her left cheek resting on her work. Her hair was matted with blood from a jagged wound at the back of her skull. A heavy silver candlestick had been thrown onto the table, gouging its brilliant surface, the end sticky with gore in which were embedded several hairs. The inkstand had been overturned and dripped down the rosewood to obliterate the pattern of the opulent rug beneath.
Townsend thrust one hand into the pocket of the yellow waistcoat straining over his round belly. “There you are at last, Foster.”
“Mr Townsend.”
Dan looked down to meet the witness’s pale, red-eyed gaze, her nose rubbed raw from crying. She wore an unostentatious though well-made dress with a checked apron, a simple muslin handkerchief, and a plain cap. She was younger than Louise Parmeter by some ten years: Dan guessed her to be about twenty five. She did not have the attitude of a servant, would not have been sitting in her mistress’s armchair if she had been, yet she had clearly not been Louise Parmeter’s equal. A companion perhaps.
“This is Miss Taylor, Mrs Parmeter’s prottygay,” Townsend said.
“Her protegĂ©e in what, Miss Taylor?” Dan asked. 
“Mrs Parmeter and I are both votaries to the poetic muse,” Miss Taylor answered. She choked back a sob. “That is, she was.”  
Dan looked at her in surprise. The words were flowery, but the accents were those of a working woman.
“Miss Taylor found the body,” Townsend said.
“I came looking for her when she did not come in for luncheon,” Miss Taylor said. “Found her – like that.”

John Townsend
“I’m asking the questions, Foster,” Townsend said. “You just whip out your notebook and mark down the main points.” He tapped his cane on the floor as he counted them off.  “Miss Louise Parmeter, a literary lady, works in her library from nine o’clock every morning. At midday she takes a light luncheon. Today she did not go to the dining room. Miss Taylor came to fetch her. Knocked. No reply. Entered. Found the lady brutally slain. Murder weapon: the candlestick on her desk. Have you got that? Obvious how the killer got in and out.”
Dan looked around the room. There was a day bed in the corner, armchairs by the marble fireplace, paintings on the walls, busts of Greek or Roman philosophers on top of the glass-fronted bookshelves. A silver tray on a polished sideboard held gleaming decanters and glasses. The desk stood in front of a glass door that gave onto the garden, a formal affair of urns, fountains and statues, looking grey and drab on an overcast April day. The long curtains were looped back and the door was ajar.
“How did he get into the garden?” Dan asked. “It’s a high wall. He couldn’t have climbed it in broad daylight without drawing attention to himself.”
Townsend tut-tutted. “I have already established the facts. There is a gate at the end of the garden which leads into the mews. It was closed but unlocked when I checked it. It is usually kept locked.”
“Have you – ”
“Looked for footprints? Thank heavens you are here to think of it...Of course I have. There are none.”
Dan moved towards the desk for a closer view of the body. One earlobe was torn and bloodied. He addressed Miss Taylor. “Her jewellery has been taken?”
“Yes,” Miss Taylor answered. “Diamond earrings and a matching necklace. They were a gift from the Prince of Wales.” She dabbed at her eyes.
“She wore diamonds to work at her desk?”
“She often wears – wore – them. She didn’t believe in hoarding.”
“The question is,” Townsend said, “who did the thief have on the inside? The servants are gathered in the hall downstairs under the guard of two constables, and all are accounted for. So whoever let him in is still on the premises. Go down and start taking their statements, Foster. Find out where they say they were this morning, and make a note of anyone who doesn’t have an alibi.
Dan thought of telling Townsend what to do with his orders, then remembered Sir William Addington’s threat to demote him. There was no point giving Townsend cause to make a bad report of him within an hour of starting the case. Besides, there were several things puzzling him.  
“That clock on the mantelpiece is worth a bit,” he said. “Not to mention the silver snuff box on that table over there. The candle snuffers. Any one of the ornaments.”
“Obviously he came expressly for the diamonds,” Townsend said. “They alone are enough to make his fortune – his and his accomplice’s.”
“But why come for them while she’s wearing them? And why in the day time?”
“They were kept overnight in a Bramah safe in the butler’s pantry. The lock is impossible to pick. It’s apparent, Foster, that you are not used to high-class crimes of this nature. There’s a bit more going on here than the pilfering of a few bits of lace from a haberdasher’s or the lifting of a purse. It takes a bit of nerve to pull off something like this, and it wants someone with connections to sell the gems. They’ll need taking out of their settings, possibly getting over to Amsterdam. This is a professional job.” 
“Then why did he miss one?” Dan used his pencil to push a lock of the dead woman’s hair aside, revealing the glittering diamonds on the drop still hanging from her left ear.
“Because he was interrupted before he got everything he wanted,” Townsend said. “Probably when Miss Taylor knocked on the door.”
Miss Taylor’s hands flew up to her throat. “Oh! Do you mean he was still in the room when I was standing in the hall?”
“Very likely,” Townsend answered.
Dan scratched his head with his pencil. “But even with someone knocking on the door, it would have been the work of seconds to snatch the earring. He’d made no ceremony of taking the first. And it’s strange, isn’t it, that she sat calmly at her desk while someone let themselves in at the door just behind her. She must have known he was there. If she didn’t hear his footsteps, he would have blocked out the light.”  
Townsend rolled his eyes. “Do you have a point, Foster?”
“I think the killer must have been someone she knew.”
Miss Taylor let out a scream and collapsed back in the chair in a dead faint.

© Lucienne Boyce 2017

About the author

Lucienne Boyce is an award-winning historical novelist and local historian. Her historical novels are To The Fair Land (2012) and the Dan Foster Mysteries comprising Bloodie Bones (2015), The Fatal Coin (2017), and The Butcher’s Block (2017). Bloodie Bones was a winner of the Historical Novel Society Indie Award 2016 and was also a semi finalist in the M M Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction 2016. Lucienne published The Bristol Suffragettes in 2013 and The Road to Representation: Essays on the Women’s Suffrage Campaign in 2017. She is a steering committee member of the West of England and South Wales Women’s History Network, and is currently working on the next Dan Foster Mystery, and a biography of suffragette Millicent Browne.  

Social Media Links
Twitter: @LucienneWrite

Buying Links

Read our Review
Bloodie Bones

Read our Review
The Butcher’s Block
Read our Review
The Fatal Coin (e-book novella)

Follow the Tales…and Discover some Diamonds

3rd December     Richard Tearle Diamonds

4th December     Helen Hollick  When ex-lovers have their uses

5th December    Antoine Vanner  Britannia’s Diamonds

6th December    Nicky Galliers  Diamond Windows

7th December    Denise Barnes  The Lost Diamond

8th December    Elizabeth Jane Corbett A Soul Above Diamonds

9th December    Lucienne Boyce Murder In Silks

10th December    Julia Brannan The Curious Case of the Disappearing Diamond

11th December    Pauline Barclay Sometimes It Happens

12th December    Annie Whitehead Hearts, Home and a Precious Stone

13th December    Inge H. Borg  Edward, Con Extraordinaire

14th December    J.G. Harlond The Empress Emerald

15th December    Charlene Newcomb Diamonds in the Desert

16th December     Susan Grossey A Suitable Gift

17th December     Alison  Morton Three Thousand Years to Saturnalia

18th December      Nancy Jardine   Illicit Familial Diamonds

19th December      Elizabeth St John The Stolen Diamonds

20th December      Barbara Gaskell Denvil Discovering the Diamond

21st December       Anna Belfrage   Diamonds in the Mud

22nd December       Cryssa Bazos    The Diamonds of Sint-Nicholaas

23rd December        Diamonds … In Sound & Song 


  1. Don't leave it there - I want to know whodunnit!! Great story, and I just love how you put sentences together. I was right there in the room, loved the mispronunciation, the efficiency of word use, the little drops of historical detail - fabulous!

    1. Hallo and thank you for your nice comment. Don't worry - all will be revealed! I am working on the next book.

  2. What a great idea to tease us all with an extract from a book not yet published! I love it. I enjoyed “The Fatal Coin” so I must get up to speed with the full-length Foster stories, then I’ll be ready for Murder in Silks when it comes out.

    1. Thank you Wendy! Glad you enjoyed this extract.

  3. What a cliffhanger! Is it the swoon of guilt? Or did the butler do it after all? As stated above, the atmosphere is just perfect....

    1. Thank you Richard...obviously I'm not saying whodunnit yet!

  4. ... we'll just have to wait for the book! Tweeted

    1. Thanks Antoine! I'm working on it right now...

  5. Having read The Butcher's Block, which I loved, I was looking forward to this story too and a what a great extract for reading the next book.

    1. Thank you Pauline, so glad you liked The Butcher's Block.

  6. I do hope Townsend gets his nose rubbed in it :) I am very, very fond of Dan and enjoyed this enticing glimpse of his next adventure!

    1. Thanks Anna! Poor old Townsend, hope I'm not too hard on him!

  7. Intriguing morsel - I want to know more, and I am counting on the arrogant Townsend getting his come-uppance.

    1. Thank you Inge! Townsend certainly spells trouble for Dan...

  8. Fabulous! I want to know how it happened!

  9. Blimey! Typical of your stories, Lucienne. What a good crime writer you are. look forward to reading the whole thing.

    1. Thank you Alison. I'm working on the story now. As we speak. Well, ok I'm drinking tea and typing silly messages...


We do not accept comments. If you need to contact Discovering Diamonds go to the CONTACT facility

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.