A Portrait of Death
The Versipellis Mysteries Book 1
by Rhen Garland
Genre: Historical Supernatural Mystery
Victorian house party, a supernatural mystery, and two very special
Immortal detectives Elliott Caine and Abernathy Thorne have spent centuries searching through time for the reincarnations of their murdered wives. As their quest continues, they use their many lifetimes of knowledge to solve Gothic mysteries that can be unsettling, and sometimes terrifying.
Never before have they been faced with a case like this.
The great and the good are gathered for the social event of the season, but the evening comes to a horrifying halt when the mutilated remains of two men are discovered artistically displayed in the portrait gallery. As Caine and Thorne begin their investigations, they uncover more than the usual murderous web of intrigue, espionage, and treason.
An ancient evil is stalking ever closer, intent on finding that which they seek.
Where does the mysterious agent Versipellis fit into the case? And who is the shadowy figure watching Caine and Thorne with such interest?
Find out who, when, why, what, and how in this very Victorian murder mystery; the first instalment in a new Gaslamp fantasy series that drips with elements of Gothic mystery, historical urban fantasy, and rather a lot of blood as we follow the exploits of immortal Victorian detectives Elliott Caine and Abernathy Thorne in the latter stages of the Victorian world.
"As soon as you start reading, it gets you hooked, and you just can't put it down."
"Wonderful twists and turns in the story line kept me wanting to read what happened next."
"A great debut novel from an author with an amazing imagination." - Katylou 1966
Tuesday 10th September, 1889
The horse drawn hansom cab slowly made its way along the city crescent, the cab’s curtained windows the passenger’s only protection from the worst of the New York weather.
The fog’s oily thickness dulling all sound of the vehicle’s traces as its icy fingers plucked at the exposed neck of the shivering cabby.
There was a sharp thump from inside the cab as the fare indicated their desire to stop. The cab slowed to a halt and a dark figure wrapped in an Ulster, and carrying a Gladstone bag alighted and paid the driver. As the cabby touched his hat and left, their fare paused to look up at the small, well-lit
airship passing overhead, the fog muffling the amplified message about the efficacious properties of Wolverstone’s Miracle Liver Pills. The figure pulled their black felt hat down over their eyes and turned their attention to one house in particular before quietly making their way down the narrow alley that ran to the back of the building; there were many things they had to arrange for the evening ahead, it simply wouldn’t do to have the lady of the house know they were there just yet!
Death In the Sound
The Versipellis Mysteries Book 2
and diamonds in the green heart of New Zealand.
Responding to a desperate plea from an old friend, Caine, Giselle, and Thorne, accompanied by Veronique the Labrador, travel to New Zealand to investigate a simple case of blackmail that explodes into a far more shocking crime.
A Psychic, a dancer, and illusionists are amongst the honoured guests invited to a weekend party aboard a luxurious paddle steamer moored in the isolated grandeur of Milford Sound, where reclusive millionaire philanthropist Octavius Damant is determined to throw his daughter a twenty-first birthday party to remember.
The celebrations are cancelled, however, when a hideous murder is committed and the engines are sabotaged, trapping everyone on board with a killer willing to stop at nothing to achieve their evil schemes.
As the body count rises, Caine, Giselle, and Thorne must piece together a devilish puzzle involving extortion, desire, the reappearance of the fabulous Larkspur Diamond, and the return of a face from Thorne’s past.
Just when they feel they are beginning to unravel the case, the truth about events centuries earlier threatens to destroy everything they thought they knew about their own past lives.
Find out who, when, why, what, and how in this very Victorian murder mystery; the second instalment in a new Gaslamp fantasy series that drips with elements of Gothic mystery, historical urban fantasy, and rather a lot of blood as we follow the exploits of immortal Victorian detectives Elliott Caine and Abernathy Thorne in the latter stages of the Victorian world.
"Stephen King meets Agatha Christie" - Hammerhead
"An excellent plot with lots of unexpected twists and many multi-layered characters." - Katylou 1966
"Magical, mysterious and memorable." - The Northernreader
"Vibrant characters and dark deeds combine to produce a creepy, cleverly plotted murder mystery with exciting originality." - Jane Hunt
Somewhere in Sydney
Carolyn Nolloth studied the manicure her maid had furnished her with, picked up the glass vase of pink roses, and flung it at the young woman who stood shaking by the door.
“I said I wanted points, not ovals! Get out, you idiot!” Carolyn swept her arm across the surface of the table, spilling the manicure paraphernalia onto the carpet.
The man standing by the window laughed as the terrified young maid fled. “You do realise that’s another one who will leave? You’re getting through maids like most people get through tea!”
Carolyn smirked. “They need to know their place. If they weren’t so useless, I would keep them longer.” She held her slim, pale hand up to the light. “She didn’t do that bad a job, though.” Turning to look at her lover, she arranged her peignoir to best show her legs and fluffed her chestnut curls. “Well, what do you think?”
Morten Van der Linde smiled. “You know very well what I think!”
Carolyn laughed. “Not about that! About the letter from Octavius: the invitation to my darling niece’s twenty-first birthday!”
Morten moved to the dressing table and caressed Carolyn’s neck. “I think it has…possibilities.”
Carolyn caught his hand and gave him a hard look. “What do you mean, possibilities?”
Morten perched on the edge of the dressing table. “I have a proposition. Think about it before making a decision.”
She narrowed her eyes. “This sounds ominously like one of your plans, Morten. But go on.”
He took a deep breath. Time to strike! “Mereanthy will be twenty-one, yes?”
Carolyn smirked as she turned back to her mirror and smoothed one exquisitely drawn eyebrow. “I just said that, darling. Well done!”
He ignored her remark. “Twenty-one is when she will come into her inheritance from her mother, yes?”
Carolyn’s smirk was replaced with a look of bitterness that twisted her full-lipped beauty into an ugly mask. “My sainted sister! I will never forgive that bitch for cutting me out of her will. After everything I did for her! I even gave my brat of a son Damant’s surname to ensure the sacred family name would continue!”
Morten hid his delight. This was too easy! He took her hand and kissed it. “An idea, my darling ― you might not be keen, but don’t dismiss it out of hand. Mereanthy will be of an age to marry. As far as I can see, there are no suitors
paying court to her in the barren wastes of Milford Sound…and that is where I come in. What say you?”
Carolyn stared at him in silence. “Are you suggesting that we ― that is, you ― court and marry my niece?”
Morten nodded. “We can take control of her inheritance. Then I shall divorce her, marry you, and we will have the money that should rightfully be yours! My dear, what do you say?”
Carolyn looked at him blankly for a few moments, then very slowly, a malicious smile appeared on her face. “Why divorce, when there are so many far more interesting options available?”
Morten stared at her; this was moving in a direction he had not foreseen. “How do you mean?”
Carolyn picked up her hairbrush and lightly fluffed her hair. “She has always been like her mother, going for moonlight wanders on her own, that sort of thing. Perhaps an accident ― in the Sound? An ‘Oh my God she’s gone overboard’ kind of accident.” She leant back in her chair, a triumphant look in her blue eyes. “Well, my dear, what say you?”
Looking at her, Morten had a sudden feeling that despite his extensive criminal experience, in this particular instance, Carolyn had the drop on him.
Hiding his unease behind a well-practised and charming smile, he wandered over to the bell pull and tugged it. After a brief wait the butler arrived, and Morten looked at Carolyn. “Champagne to celebrate, my dear?”
Carolyn nodded at her butler. “See to it, Marshall!”
The butler bowed his head and left the room as the two began their plans for the seduction, marriage, and murder of Mereanthy Ozanne Damant.
The Shadow of Death
The Versipellis Mysteries Book 3
horrific discovery leads to Caine and Thorne’s darkest
Fifteen years after a series of ritualistic murders drove the families of Cove to send their children away to safety, the survivors are returning to celebrate their first Christmas back on their island home…but the killer has also returned, and they have unpleasant plans for those who fled their reign of terror so many years ago…
When a murder is committed during the Yule archery shoot, Caine, Giselle, Thorne, Aquilleia, and Veronique the Labrador find themselves thrown into a terrifying Gothic mystery that involves sinister cultists, family secrets, hidden passages, and the horrifying reappearance of the abomination Filicidae: a malevolent being who kills for pleasure.
Hope is offered by one of their kind from Astraea, whose gift could be used to defeat the creature once and for all.
But unbeknownst to Caine and his friends, deep in the catacombs of Cove Castle, there dwells a nightmare…
Find out who, when, why, what, and how in this very Victorian murder mystery; the third instalment in a new Gaslamp fantasy series that drips with elements of Gothic mystery, historical urban fantasy, and rather a lot of blood as we follow the exploits of immortal Victorian detectives Elliott Caine and Abernathy Thorne in the latter stages of the Victorian world.
"The third book of the Versipellis mysteries is the darkest of the series so far and the best in my opinion." - Hammerhead
"Garland is a great storyteller in her genre of the Victorian whodunnit with a supernatural twist" - Katylou 1966
"The emerging details of the "other realm" shows the wonderful imagination of this author. I certainly can't wait for the next book in the series."
"Holmes meets Highlander via Hammer House of Horror!
An Evening in September
Piotr Rose tipped a shilling to the young girl who had reunited him with his topper and coat before turning towards the door of his club and the chill autumn air of the bustling street beyond. He paused on the threshold and
inhaled ― the scent of burning coal was a favourite of his; it was the smell of movement and industry.
His son Simeon joined him, hastily wrapping his scarf around his throat. “I’m sorry, Father, Mr Reynolds was rather insistent about knowing the rates for purchases made before the close of business today.”
Piotr settled his hat on his head and screwed his monocle in with a little more force than was necessary. “I trust you weren’t too generous with your figures?”
Simeon laughed as the two men walked back to the main road to hail a hansom cab, weaving between the assorted pedestrians, vendors, and bawling paperboys whose collective clamour, odour, and constant movement embodied
Piotr’s ideal of the true essence of a city. “Not at all ― I remembered his attempt to buy the goldsmiths we were in talks with, and without a word to us!” Simeon shook his head at the memory. “I gave him the full price. He tried to barter, but I insisted. Carat for carat, he is unknowingly willing to pay us five percent over the usual…but only for blue and yellow diamonds of greater than two carats per stone.”
Piotr nodded thoughtfully as he dodged a wily young street urchin who had spotted them from the other side of the street, and had fixed his bright eye upon the elderly man’s fob watch. Piotr slapped the boy’s groping, inexpert hand away and tossed a penny to him. “Practice, young man! Everything works better with practice. Better luck next time.”
As they continued down the street, Piotr checked the time on the ornate little watch that had caught the urchin’s eye. They had left their club at the usual time and would be home before eight o’clock; his daughter, her husband, and
their young son would be joining them for dinner that evening, and both he and Simeon were under strict orders from his wife not to be late. He tucked the watch back in its pocket and turned his attention to the business at hand.
“How many carats in total?”
Simeon paused as they fought their way through a jostling crowd outside a theatre. “He wants a minimum of four hundred carats in blue and one hundred carats in yellow.”
Piotr’s monocle popped out of his eye. “What on earth does he want that many diamonds for? A tiara?”
His son shrugged. “In truth, Father, I don’t care. He can glue them to his mistress and present her to the Prince of Wales as a birthday gift if he wishes, so long as he informs His Royal Highness that the gems came from the Rose
Piotr chuckled. “As you say, my boy, as you say!”
Both men laughed as they stepped into the main thoroughfare, and made their way towards the rank of waiting hansom cabs.
They were halfway across the wide, busy road when a covered carriage, seemingly without a cabby at the helm, suddenly appeared at the end of the street, scattering pedestrians as its four black horses thundered directly towards the two men.
As the warning shouts grew louder, Piotr and Simeon turned, but the carriage was upon them. Screams erupted from the horrified witnesses as both men were struck by the careering carriage. Their bodies were thrown through the air like rag dolls before landing with sickening thuds by the kerb.
As people gathered around them, Simeon painfully turned his head to look at Piotr, whose sightless eyes gazed past his son’s face. “Father…”
Several hundred yards down the road the carriage slowed, and made its way down several side streets until it came to a halt at Euston train station. As the sweating horses steamed in the chill September air, the traces that led from their bridles into the curtained cab slackened, as the person within dropped the reins they had threaded through the carriage wall to give sufficient privacy to carry out their murderous work.
After a pause, the rear door opened and the figure responsible for the outrage stepped down from the cab. Without a backward glance, they made their way towards the waiting train that would take them home.
I live in Somerset, England, with my book illustrating, folk-singing husband, approximately 5000 books, an equal number of ancient movies, and a large collection of passive-aggressive Tomtes. My achievements are more from the school of life, rather than that of College or University. My early years choice of reading material was rather suspect for my age. The first Agatha Christie I ever read was "By the Pricking of my Thumbs" when I was nine years old; a child of that age reading and enjoying a murder mystery about a child killer explains a great deal about the type of novel I write today.
When I was diagnosed with CFS at the age of thirty, I realised that I could either go mad staring at four walls all day, or I could try to apply what little parts of my brain still worked and have a bash at writing a murder mystery set in the 1920's...things didn't quite turn out the way I'd planned!
I thought when I finally started writing that my books would be genteel "cosy" type murder mysteries set in the Golden Era (I love the 1920's and 30's for the style, music, and automobiles), with someone being politely bumped off at the Vicar's tea party and the corpse then apologising for disrupting proceedings. Instead, the late Victorian era came thundering over the horizon armed with some fantastical and macabre plotlines and a complete refusal to accept the word "no"; it planted itself in my stories, my characters, and my life, and would not budge.
I watch far too many old school murder mystery films, TV series, and 1980s action movies for it to be considered healthy. No one will play movie quizzes with me anymore...further evidence of a misspent youth!
I love the countryside, Prosecco, tea, the cocktail hour (the pinnacle of the civilised world!), and the works of Dame Ngaio Marsh, Dame Gladys Mitchell, John Dickson Carr/Carter Dickson, Dame Agatha Christie, Sir Terry Pratchett, Simon R Green, and David and Leigh Eddings.
My books are Victorian in era, messy in their murders, creepy in their otherness, and will make you double check the windows are all locked before you go to bed. What's not to like about mysteries with a touch of Grand Guignol?
Find Rhen at the ChillerCon UK - Horror comes to Scarborough! (chillercon-uk.com) this week!