It's Sample Sunday, which means it's time to gives folks a sample of one of my books. This time it will be my latest mystery, A Rose Before Dying which was just released this month.
A Rose Before Dying
Only Sir Edward had the motive, the opportunity, and a garden full of the identical roses sent to each victim before their death.
The first victim was Sir Edward’s ex-mistress, a woman who threw him over for a younger man. After receiving a mysterious rose, she dies while alone with Sir Edward. Then a second rose is delivered and a deadly game commences, where roses are the only clues to save the next victim.
However, Charles Vance, Earl of Castlemoor, refuses to believe his uncle, Sir Edward, could commit the murders, even when the renowned head of the Second Sons Inquiry Agency warns him there may be some truth behind the rumors. The roses are Sir Edward’s attempt to cast suspicion elsewhere. Misdirection. Or so the whispers say.
Convinced he can prove his uncle’s innocence, Vance enlists the aide of notable rosarian, Ariadne Wellfleet, little realizing his actions will involve the Wellfleet household in the killer’s game.
Before the week is out, another rose is delivered.
And someone else is missing.
In this excerpt, Charles Vance, Earl of Castlemoor, is convinced by his desperate uncle, Sir Edward, to help him prove his innocence in the death of his mistress. Sir Edward had originally gone to his friend, Knighton Gaunt, the founder of the Second Sons Inquiry Agency, but he has now had second thoughts about involving an outsider. The only thing they have to go on is a spray of Lady Banks roses and a few taunting notes.
“Is this our only clue, then?” Charles arranged the two calling cards in front of him before gently rewrapping the spray of yellow flowers. “Did anyone see the flowers delivered?”
“No. The butler found the first bundle on the stoop when he opened the door for Lady Banks and Sir Edward to attend church services. They assumed I’d left it there as a surprise when I arrived.”
“Surely the accident didn’t occur on your way to church?” Charles asked, appalled.
“No—no. We went for a walk. Later. In the garden,” Sir Edward said. “There was a shot. She fell into my arms…”
After a moment of silence, Gaunt picked up the threads of the story to spare Sir Edward. “The second note and rose were left at the French doors leading to the garden.”
“Inside the house?”
“No. Outside,” his uncle said.
“And no one saw anyone?” How was that possible?
“No. No one but me. The servants said no one but me had visited or been in the garden. The constable did his best. He questioned several of the lads—known poachers—but they all had witnesses to verify their whereabouts at the time. Then he had to look elsewhere. By then, the whispers had started. I was alone in the garden with her. They said I did it. I was the only one there.”
Charles touched his uncle’s shoulder. “Nonsense. Obviously, someone else had been there. Had she argued with anyone?”
“No!” The single word exploded from his uncle’s white lips. “No. She argued with no one. This was—inexplicable. Inexcusable. She was an innocent victim. I—I believe it was aimed at me. The taunting flowers—what other reason could there be for those bloody roses?” He voice rasped with barely suppressed emotion. “He killed her—so they weren’t meant for her. The flowers were a message to me.”
“Why?” Charles glanced away from the pain in his uncle’s face, trying to drag the conversation into less terrible channels. “Who would hate you so much? Who do you suspect?”
Sir Edward took a deep, shuddering breath and then straightened. He shrugged. “No one. I can’t imagine who would hate me so. Or treat Lady Banks with such callous contempt. It’s beyond comprehension.”
The thought of shooting a woman for the purpose of bringing pain and suffering to another man was difficult for anyone to accept.
It took Charles a few moments convince himself it was possible for a man to be that cold, that malicious. “Have you any other information? Perhaps a list of those who bear you malice?”
His uncle shook his head, his gaze fixed on the floor.
Charles glanced at Mr. Gaunt. He wanted to question him to see what the man might have to offer in his professional capacity. Surely he had some relevant experience. Something that might bring light to the awful events.
“Please, Lord Castlemoor…Hoopes was right, after all. I should have gone to you, first.” His uncle interrupted the silence in a rush as if he could no longer bear the company of his own thoughts. “Whatever scandal is flushed out is best kept within the family. You must see that.”
Scandal? Charles’s gut clenched. What skeletons did his uncle know about, that might creep out of the family’s closet?
Certainly, none that he wanted Gaunt to chat with.
Hope you enjoyed that brief snippet of A Rose Before Dying.
Best wishes for a successful week ahead!