By Michael Gallagher
1852. With the business of the Moonstone diamond finally laid to rest, Mr. Franklin Blake and his wife Rachel are now happily married, living in London, and blessed with a healthy baby daughter named Julia. Mr. Blake has taken his late father’s seat in Parliament, and his party’s fortunes are on the rise—in fact they are about to overthrow the coalition government of the day.
But then the inexplicable occurs. Miss Rachel and her elderly aunt are attacked in the street by a gang of feral children, whose only purpose, it seems, is to plant a photographic portrait of a young, rich Indian lad in the old lady’s handbag.
Enter the Blakes’ lawyer’s office boy, Octavius Guy—better known as Gooseberry—who once helped the family bring the mystery of the Moonstone to a close. Join Gooseberry, the fourteen-year-old Victorian boy detective, as he and his ragtag bunch of friends descend into London’s demi-monde and underworld to ferret out the truth, while spending as much of his employer’s money as they can along the way!
Based on characters from Wilkie Collins’s “The Moonstone”. First published in 2014 as a weekly serialization on Goodreads.
The time had come to own up to my past. I’d been thinking about how best to present it, and it seemed to me that what was called for here was a judicious mixture of remorse, honesty, and diffidence.
‘Though it shames me to say it,’ remorse, ‘there was no swifter, slipperier pickpocket in all of London,’ honesty, ‘than…well, me, miss—your humble servant—Octavius Guy.’ Diffidence dispensed in a generous measure.
Mrs. Blake burst out laughing.
‘Please, Mrs. Blake, it’s true.’
‘Gooseberry, you really mustn’t joke.’
‘I’m not joking, miss.’
‘I don’t believe it for a moment!’
Mr. Bruff gave a cautious lawyer’s cough that managed to get everyone’s attention. ‘He’s telling the truth,’ he said quietly, and shot Mrs. Blake a meaningful look.
‘But this is Gooseberry we’re talking about! Our Gooseberry! He’s no thief!’
‘If he’s telling us the truth, then I think he should be made to prove it,’ said Mr. Blake, a mischievous grin breaking out on his face that even his thick, black beard couldn’t hide. ‘I propose a challenge. Gooseberry, come and try to pick my pocket!’
‘Please, sir—I don’t want to pick your pocket.’
‘But I insist,’ he said, stepping closer and closer till there was barely a foot between us. With everyone watching (save for the good Mr. Bruff, whose features plainly registered his disapproval), Mr. Blake leaned forward so that our noses were practically touching. On reflex, I found myself stumbling backwards, a move that Mr. Blake took as a sign of defeat.
‘So much for the swiftest, slipperiest pickpocket in all of London,’ he laughed and, like a performer taking his curtain call, turned and bowed deeply to his wife.
‘Franklin, look,’ she advised him, pointing her finger at me.
Mr. Blake looked. His mouth dropped open. He stared, blinking in amazement, at the silver cigarette case in my hand.
Cover photograph “The Cheap Fish of St. Giles’s” by John Thomson.
Cover design by Negative Negative.
Published by Seventh Rainbow Publishing, London.