Sunday, November 08, 2009

Shadow Teaser


One of the things I've been doing this past week is preparing the "teaser" chapter for Where Shadows Dance that will go in the back of next summer's paperback reprint edition of What Remains of Heaven. So I thought I'd give y'all a "pre-sneak peek". Here's chapter one, which introduces the murder victim; chapter two follows next week.

Wednesday, 22 July 1812

A cool wind gusted up, rattling the branches of the trees overhead and bringing with it the unmistakable clatter of wooden wheels approaching over cobblestones. Standing just outside the open gate to the alley, Paul Gibson doused his lantern, his eyes straining as he peered into the fog-swirled darkness. Thick clouds bunched overhead, obscuring the moon and stars and promising more rain. He could see nothing but the high, rough stone walls of the yards around him and the refuse-choked mud of the lane that curved away into the mist.

A dog barked somewhere in the night. In spite of himself, Gibson shivered. It was a dirty business, this. But until the government revised its laws on human dissection, anatomists like Gibson could either resign themselves to ignorance or meet the resurrection men in the darkest hours before dawn.

Paul Gibson was not fond of ignorance.

He was a slim, dark-haired man of medium height, Irish born and in his thirty-second year. Trained as a surgeon, he’d honed his skills on the battlefields of Europe until a French cannonball shattered the lower part of one leg and left him with a weakness for the sweet relief to be found in poppies. Now he divided his time between sharing his knowledge of anatomy at hospitals like St. Thomas and St. Bartholomew’s, and working from his small surgery here, at the base of Tower Hill.

The dog barked again, followed this time by a man’s low curse. A two-wheeled cart loomed out of the mist, the raw-boned mule between the poles snorting and jibing at the bit when the driver drew up with a gutteral, “Whoa there, ye bloomin’ idiot. Where ye think yer goin’? We got one more delivery t’ make before ye can head home to yer barn.”

A tall, skeletally thin man in striped trousers and a natty coat jumped from the cart and tipped his top hat in a flourishing bow. As he straightened, a waft of gin underlain with the sweet scent of decay carried on the wind. “We got him fer ye, doctor,” said Jumpin’ Jack Cockran with a broad wink. “Mind ye, he’s not as fresh as I like me merchandize to be, but ye did say ye wanted this particular gentleman.”

Gibson peered over the cart’s side at the bulky, man-sized burlap sack that lay within. Another name for the resurrection men was the sack’em up boys. “You’re certain you’ve got the right one?”

“It’s him, all right.” Cockran motioned at the sturdy lad who accompanied him. “Grab the other end there, Ben.”

Grunting softly, the two men slung the burlap-wrapped merchandise off the back of the cart. It landed heavily in the rank grass beside the gate.

“Careful,” said Gibson.

Cockran grinned, displaying long, tobacco-stained teeth. “I can guarantee he didn’t feel a thing, doctor.”

Hefting the heavy sack between them, the two men carried the merchandise into the stone outbuilding at the base of Gibson’s overgrown garden and heaved it up onto the granite slab table that stood in the center of the room. Working quickly, they peeled away the mud-encrusted sack to reveal the limp body of a young man, his dark hair fashionably cut, his hands soft and well-manicured, as befitted a gentleman. His pale, naked flesh was liberally streaked with dirt, for the body snatchers had stripped off his shroud and grave clothes and stuffed them back into his coffin before refilling the tomb. There was no law against carting a dead body through the streets of London. But stealing a cadaver and its grave clothes could earn a man seven years in Botany Bay.

“Sorry about the mud,” said Cockran. “We’ve had a might o’ rain today.”

“I understand. Thank you, gentleman,” said Gibson. “Here’s your twenty guineas.”

It was the going price for an adult male; adult females generally went for fifteen, with children being sold by the foot. Cockran shook his head and hawked up a mouthful of phlegm he shot out the door. “Nah. Make it eighteen. I got me professional pride, and he’s not as fresh as I like ’em to be. But ye would have this one.”

Gibson stared at the pallid, handsome face of the body lying on his dissection table. “It’s not often a healthy young man succumbs to a weak heart. This gentleman’s body has much to teach us about diseases of the circulation system.”

“Weary interestin’, I’m sure,” said Cockran, scooping up his muddy sack. “Thank ye kindly fer the business, and a weary good night to ye, sir.”

After the men had left, Gibson relit his lantern and hung it from the chain suspended over the table. The lantern swayed gently back and forth, the golden light playing over the pale flesh of the body below. In life, his name had been Benjamin Knox. A well-formed gentleman of twenty-eight years, he’d had long, leanly muscled arms and legs, and a broad chest tapering to a slim waist and hips. He looked as if he should have been the epitome of health. Yet four days before his heart had stopped as he slept peacefully in his own bed.

The delicate dissection of the defective heart would need to wait until daylight. But Gibson set to work with a bowl of warm water and a cloth, sponging off the mud of the graveyard and casting a preliminary practiced eye over the corpse.
It was when he was washing the soil from the back of the man’s neck that he found it: a short purple slit at the base of the skull. Frowning, Gibson reached for a probe and watched in horror as it slid in four inches, easily following the path previously cut through living flesh by a stiletto.

Taking a step back, he set aside the probe with a soft clatter, his teeth sinking into his lower lip as he brought his gaze back to the young man’s alabaster face. “Bloody hell,” he whispered. “You didn’t die of a defective heart. You were murdered.”


Lainey said...

Thank you! Great mood-setting descriptions. Looking forward to chapter two.
I've already done my first re-read of What Remains of Heaven. So a taste of what's to come in Where Shadows Dance is very welcome.

Project Cat said...

ARG. I can't decide if giving us these chapters is kind of you or evil. Bad enough to have to wait a year (is that when this book will be out?), and worse to have such an evocative chapter to whet the appetite. Yet so wonderful to get a sneak peek, an almost illicit taste of what's to come!

Anonymous said...

I'm in the middle of Where Serpents Sleep right now (its wonderful by the way) and I can't believe there is going to be another book. Love the sneak! Thank you.

Charles Gramlich said...

oohhh, very nice. I love this way of starting a book. It just so puts me in the moment. I'm immediately in the scene in a way that I can't be when a story starts with dialogue.

cs harris said...

Lainey, I'm really excited about this book. It's fun having the murder victim be someone whose body was illicitly stolen, so that neither Gibson nor Sebastian can tell anyone what happened!

Project Cat, I thought it might help those anxiously waiting; if you notice the date, you'll see how closely this book follows on the ending of What Remains of Heaven.

mtcarmigrl, so glad to hear you're enjoying the series.

Charles, that's high praise indeed coming from the master of evocative beginnings. Stay safe through Ida.

Susan/DC said...

You had me frightened for a moment when you said the murder victim was introduced in this chapter and then opened with Paul Gibson. My sympathy to the real victim but I'm relieved it's not Paul.

Just finished "What Remains of Heaven" this past weekend and am still digesting. Must say I'd guessed at one of the revelations, but that does not lessen its power. It's such a pleasure to read a book that sticks with me, that makes me think about the characters and makes me eager to debate what I think can/should happen to them. Thank you.

Steve Malley said...

I do rather love your work, and it's good to see Gibson take his turn at center stage!

orannia said...

For a minute there I was worried about poor Gibson! You set the scene so well Candy - I felt like I was right there waiting for Gibson!

Am (im)patiently waiting for my library to receive its copies of What Remains of Heaven!

Holly said...

I can't wait for the next book. I finished "Heaven" yesterday. I have a gift card from B&N, and I went there for "Heaven." They didn't have it in stock. Of course, they offered to order it for me, but I was too impatient to wait. So I bought it at Borders, even though I had no gift card from there and had to pay cash. Am I a true fan or what? :)

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Misti said...

I finished What Remains of Heaven last night and I loved it! You've written another great book to go on my keeper shelf. Ha ha... actually, my copy is still in the mail but I saw it on the new book shelf at my library and snatched it up. When I finally get my copy (I must have ordered it by slow boat or something) I can re-read it. Can't wait for the next one. Hope you are having a great day!

cs harris said...

Susan/DC, Sorry! That didn't even occur to me.

Steve, I'm looking forward to giving Gibson more time in the spotlight.

Orannia, Oh, dear; I obviously need to go in and change the intro.

Holly, that is true dedication! Thank you. Although it's a bit worrisome that B&N don't have it in stock.

Misti, thanks so much. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it.

Barbara Caridad Ferrer said...

Okay, that was wicked good and I'm looking forward to Paul getting to spend some time in the [virtual] sun. Secondly, all I can say is thank God I've got my own deadline and a cross-country move with which to occupy my time for the next several months because otherwise, I might be twitching mightily to get Shadow. As it is, I've put off reading Heaven by mainlining 1-4. I'm getting ready to start it and I can't wait to see what happens.

One of the best things to come of judging the RITA was discovering this series and subsequently, rediscovering my love of mysteries AND historicals. Bonus! Two for one!

Anonymous said...
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Vicki said...

Thanks for the preview. I just finished The Knife Man by Wendy Moore, so the reference to the "resurrection men" was intriguing. I just bought What Remains of Heaven for my kindle and also put it on hold at the library so your numbers go up. Every little bit helps...

Keira Soleore said...

HEAVEN was brilliant!! I finished it a few hours ago and haven't the least desire to even think of starting another book. I'm just going over and over the events in the book.

There were three distinct times when I slammed the book shut and covered my face with my hands. My heart ached and ached for Sebastian.

I hope they change the cover when they do the PB of HEAVEN. The HC jacket is very beautiful, but "inappropriate." Sigh!

And now, you already have me dying for SHADOWS. Like other commenters here, I was very worried that you were going to do away with Gibson. I doubt I drew a breath between the start of the excerpt to the end. Then I had to re-read, once I was relieved he wasn't going to come to a sticky end, because I'd missed all the good parts that make your stories so memorable: the details.

Chen said...

I can't wait for Shadows to come out! Any idea on when?
I love the teaser but it just reminds me of how much longer I have to wait before the complete novel to come out. I finished Heavens in a day. I dragged it out as much as I could but I just couldn't wait to see how the story develops between Sebastian and Hero!

cs harris said...

Barbara, Glad to hear you enjoyed the preview, and I hope Heaven lives up to your expectations.

Vicki, thank you!

Keira, I'm so glad you enjoyed Heaven. And sorry for the misleading into to the first chapter of Shadows! As for the cover, I'm afraid they're using the same one for the paperback. I tried, but to no avail.

Chen, I have a nasty feeling Where Shadows Dance may be more than a year away. I think they're moving the series to after Christmas.

Avidreader said...

I finished reading What Remains of Heaven last night. Absolutely loved it. I've enjoyed the series very much. I agree with Poject Cat I think giving us these Chapters is a little bit like torture if we are going to have to wait until Dec 2010 for the next installment, but I am a bit of a Masochist so please keep them coming.

Anonymous said...

I am glad to hear that you are continuing the series. I also am looking forward to "Where Shadows Dance". I am greatly interested in the continued development of Sebastian's relationship with Hero. Good luck writing and look forward to your updates.

Scott from Boston

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