Today I am so pleased to welcome Summer Devon to Joyfully Jay. Summer has come to talk to us about her release, His American Detective. She has also brought along some books to give away. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
When I said I was writing books about Victorian-era private detectives, a friend told me those didn’t exist outside fiction. That gave me a chance to talk about Pinkerton and Field, but I also dug up my absolute favorite, Vidocq, an ex-criminal, who was considered the very first professional detectives. This is lifted from Wikipedia:
In 1833, Eugène François Vidocq, a French soldier, criminal, and privateer, founded the first known private detective agency, “Le Bureau des Renseignements Universels pour le commerce et l’Industrie” (“The Office of Universal Information For Commerce and Industry”) and hired ex-convicts. Official law enforcement tried many times to shut it down. In 1842, police arrested him in suspicion of unlawful imprisonment and taking money on false pretences after he had solved an embezzlement case.
Vidocq later suspected that it had been a set-up. He was sentenced to five years and fined 3,000-francs, but the Court of Appeals released him. Vidocq is credited with having introduced record-keeping, criminology, and ballistics to criminal investigation. He made the first plaster casts of shoe impressions. He created indelible ink and unalterable bond paper with his printing company. His form of anthropometrics is still partially used by French police. He is also credited for philanthropic pursuits – he claimed he never informed on anyone who had stolen for real need.
The detective hero of His American Detective, Patrick Kelly, is a very different sort of person, but I love the scoundrel Vidocq so much, I wanted to share him with you. (He’s inspired the third book in the series.)
Here’s an excerpt from Patrick’s book!
Patrick wandered over to an ornate display case and examined the pottery behind the glass. It looked ugly to him, all giant blue and red and green Chinese things. On the mantel, a gold-and-china clock ticked, and a bulging-eyed silver cow stood next to that. Sloan might be wealthy, but his taste ran to froufrou junk.
He grabbed one of the heavier sculptures of a mother and child.
“This one is a tad nicer,” he remarked to the footman. “Even though they look feeble-minded, the way they’re goggling at each other.”
Liam actually took a step forward. “Sir. That’s a very valuable piece.”
“Really.” Patrick turned it over to examine its base. “Looks like something that I could win on the boardwalk at Coney Island.”
“I have a Dalou, if you prefer something more modern.” The cultured voice came from a man standing in the doorway. He and Patrick might be about the same age, but this man had scads more sophistication, which made him seem ancient in a way—timeless. Wealth at a glance at forty paces. The impression came from all the details added up: a fine gray suit, elegant hands, glossy dark hair, and a patronizing smirk.
“Please put that down,” Mr. Supercilious said.
Patrick took another second to look at the sculpture—just to show he wasn’t about to take orders. He needed this guy, though, and when he put the thing back on the mantel, he did so with care. He went to Sloan and stuck out his hand.
“Patrick Kelly from New York.”
Sloan stared at his outstretched hand before at last giving it a short, firm shake. The strength in his fingers surprised Patrick. Then Sloan took a step away and put his hands at his back. Did he avoid touch, or had he been trained to use parade rest?
“Why are you here in London, Mr. Kelly?” Mr. Sloan’s directness suited Patrick just fine.
“To see you, Mr. Sloan,” he said. He dropped his voice. “Or, I should say, Mr. Lawton.”
Patrick appreciated the way the man fought surprise and nearly won—a fast pucker of eyebrows, a mouth squeezed tight. Sloan had nothing on the butler when it came to hiding emotion.
Sloan must have sent some signal behind his back, because the footman crossed the room and left, closing the door silently behind him.
Patrick tensed when the expression on Sloan’s face shifted to something more vivid—the dark eyes filled with anger. The illustrations Patrick had seen of Poor Ned Lawton from years ago had caught the shape of those eyes, rimmed by lashes almost as extravagant as the boy had had. That must have been a nuisance for him with other boys.
“How much do you want?” Sloan asked.
“To keep your mouth closed. How many pounds? No doubt some dreadful publication has set you on my trail, but I’ll pay more to kill the story. What’s your price? And I’ll add a bonus if you give me your publisher’s name.”
“Didn’t your butler tell you? I’m an investigator from New York. We sent someone from London around to talk to you, but you refused to see him. And apparently he’s too frightened of you and your foster father to be pushy. I’m not afraid.”
Sloan raised his chin and narrowed his eyes. He still looked handsome rather than threatening. “I am not an idiot, sir. How much will it take? Is that why you were examining the Terrinoni sculpture? Will that suffice to keep you quiet? Take it and go away.”
“I am Sloan.” He snarled the words.
“And I am not lying. I really am an investigator. I’m looking into some murders in New York.”
“You’re already facing difficulties,” Sloan snapped.
“What do you mean?”
“You apparently don’t realize New York is in the United States, not Great Britain.”
Patrick laughed at the unexpected flash of humor from this man, even if the joke was stupid.
Lawton said, “I’m serious. I’ve never been to New York and have nothing to offer. The person who was responsible for the Lawton affair died years ago in prison. He admitted to committing the crimes. Why would any investigator wish to unearth the matter now?”
Good. Lawton/Sloan seemed more curious than outraged now. Patrick reached for the papers he’d put in his inside jacket pocket. “We have a theory now that Weller, the man who died in prison, did not work alone. I need to see if any details of the murder scenes I’m investigating match the scene of your family’s death.”
Sloan took a step back, almost stumbling over a large chair near the fire. “No. The killer is dead and buried. You don’t need me. If you’re so fascinated by the details, read the newspaper accounts from that time.”
“Not every detail showed up in the papers. I just need a quick comparison. I’ve read the public records and the official reports, and here’s the thing. The similarities between that murder and the more recent ones are compelling.”
“Weller must have been alone.” He pinched the bridge of his nose hard. “If you want to pursue this nonsense, feel free to waste your time. Look at the police reports. You need nothing from me.”
It finally dawned on Patrick that fear rather than anger propelled this Lawton. Poor Edmund Lawton had been about five the night his family died.
Just like that, Patrick abandoned his hostility for the man, despite Lawton’s wealth and sneering. Patrick suddenly wanted to pull the pale creature into a comforting hug.
Patrick knew his world could be simplistic, the way it often divided into two easy-to-spot camps: oppressors and victims. He was firmly on the side of the victims, of course, and handsome, wealthy Mr. Lawton/Sloan had stepped over the line to huddle with the masses.
The sole survivor of his family’s gruesome murder years earlier, “Poor Little Ned Lawton” has struggled to put the dark events behind him. So when a brash New York detective darkens his doorway demanding an interview, the wealthy young gentleman immediately shuts him out. But a rash of murders in America are mirroring of the London killings, and Patrick Kelly knows Ned might be the key to stopping the bloodshed.
Lawton, now called Edmund Sloan, is a wealthy young gentleman and philanthropist. He’s spent most of his life pushing all memories of his old family and that horrific day from his thoughts. Now the provocative American detective insists he dredge up the past.
Together, Patrick and the unwilling Edmund must uncover the truth of the murders before the killer strikes again, whether it is in New York or London. As they hunt down secrets from his past, Edmund can’t hide his other secret from the sharp-eyed detective: the attraction he feels for men and the enticing Patrick in particular.
Summer Devon is the alter ego of Kate Rothwell who also writes under her own name. Summer writes m/m books of all sorts, including historical. Many of her titles are co-written with Bonnie Dee.
Summer has brought two prizes to give away. Two lucky winners can choose any Summer Devon title, including those co-written with Bonnie Dee. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Saturday, November 18th at 11:59 pm ET.
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