"Brilliant" - THE COLOUR OF EVIL by Toni Mount - Excerpt
"...superbly crafted ... an irresistible story..." —Matthew Lewis, Author of non-fiction histories and historical fiction
The Colour of Evil
Share Seb Foxley’s latest adventures in the filthy streets of medieval London, and meet his fellow citizens, both the respectable and the villainous.
Every Londoner has money worries and talented artist and some-time sleuth, Seb Foxley, is no exception.
When fellow craftsmen with debts to pay are found dead in the most horrid circumstances, fears escalate. Only Seb can solve the puzzles that baffle the authorities.
Seb’s wayward elder brother, Jude, returns unannounced from Italy with a bride upon his arm. Shock turns to dismay when life becomes more complicated and troubles multiply.
From counterfeit coins to deadly darkness in London's worst corners, mysterious thefts to attacks of murderous intent, Seb finds himself embroiled at every turn. With a royal commission to fulfil and heartache to resolve, can our hero win through against the odds?
In the author's words . . .
I love the history of England and in particular London, I seem to be able to bring the stinking street of medieval times to life and I love sharing these scenes and the characters that inhabit them to life. I've taken my hero, Seb, from a crippled young man to a respected business man, meeting with royalty and dealing with villains in equal measure. I love sharing my enthusiasm for history with others.
Enjoy an Excerpt from
The Colour of Evil
In the tunnels under the Tower of London
We four – Adam, Thaddeus, Gawain and I – found a court with a narrow alley leading off, towards the Tower. It fit Mistress Alder’s description well enough. At the end was a hovel: little more than a few timber palings nailed together. But it proved to be the concealed entrance, as I had been told.
‘I cannot go in there.’ I eyed the narrow cleft that led off into absolute darkness. ‘I have been lost in these tunnels ’neath the Tower a year since. It was terrifying; blacker than hell itself. I will not do so again.’
‘Come on, Seb. I never had you marked out for a coward,’ Adam said. ‘Besides, this time there are three of us and we each have a torch to light our way. And this can’t be the same tunnel since the Tower is over yonder.’
‘And how else will we unravel this mystery?’ Thaddeus added. ‘You want answers, do you not?
As we all do.’
‘Aye, but not down a tunnel... See Gawain? He has better sense. He wants no part of this, wise dog that he be.’ It was true for Gawain’s tail and ears were drooping and he had come but half a pace within the hovel. He whimpered at the prospect.
‘Gawain can wait here for our return. Have courage, cousin: we’ll come to no harm.’
‘How can you know? Who can tell what dangers may lurk within? We be in search of an evil-doer. If he lies in wait for us...’
‘How can anyone be lying in wait? Nobody knows we’re coming.’ Adam was peeved at my reticence.
‘I do not like the feel of this place.’
‘Stop it, Seb. I’m going in and Thaddeus is coming with me to sort this matter out, once and for all. Is that not so, Thaddeus?’ My cousin seemed to have taken charge, eager for adventure.
The bailiff nodded agreement as Adam took flint and tinder and lit our torches.
‘You can come with us, or wait here or go home; whatever you please,’ he said, waiting as the flames caught and settled. ‘Come along, Thaddeus. We’ve wasted too much time as it is.’
I watched as my cousin and my friend squeezed their way through the narrow entrance, pushing aside the nailed boards that had concealed it, disappearing from my sight. Only then did it occur to me: it was likely a black maze beyond; how would they find their way back out of the labyrinth?
‘Wait! I have chalk to mark the walls.’ I rummaged for the piece of soft white rock within my scrip. Afore I realised, I was hastening after them; chalk in one hand and a lighted torch in the other. A yard or two into the tunnel, I paused to mark a bold chalk cross upon the wall to the left hand, then followed on, hearing the footsteps and voices ahead of me. Every twenty paces or thereabouts, I marked another cross – Our Lord’s symbol to guide us back to the light when this devil’s enterprise was done.
It was as well that I had thought to use the chalk forewhy my torch illumined many a side passage, leading off on either hand, into oblivion. We might so easily take a wrong turning upon our return for the tunnels seemed a nest of entangled serpents, all entwined. We were together now, Adam and Thaddeus having waited for me to catch up. Assiduously, I continued to mark the wall. In places this proved difficult, where I had to scratch away the slime; in others the stones were dry but crumbling to dust. I feared a roof fall might happen at any moment but kept silent regarding my anxieties. As it was, my cousin had named me for a cowardly fellow. It concerned me greatly that we had not the least idea of our destination nor what we would find there. How might we know if we were but seeking spectres and phantasms? Was there anything to be found down here? Mayhap, we were cursed to wander in this foul place, forever lost in darkness.
I checked my wild thoughts, meandering like these tunnels. All will be well, I told myself. I wiped sweat from my brow.
‘Look to our torch flames,’ I said. No longer bright yellow, they burned a dull, amber hue. ‘If we hope to find some alchemical process being conducted, then that requires fire. Fire makes smoke and, since no one could see and breathe in thick smoke, there must be a vent or chimney through which it makes its escape. I sense we be too far underground by now for either case. If such work goes on here, it must be in one of the side passages closer to the entrance. Nobody would bring a still, furnace, charcoal and equipment so far as this.’
‘They could put it in a barrow. The passages are wide enough,’ Adam said, ‘I think we should go a way farther. After all, these tunnels must have been built to serve a purpose once.’
‘I don’t know... ’Tis airless in here,’ Thaddeus said, sagging against the wall, knocking loose a shower of dust which set us coughing. ‘I’m getting breathless just walking.’
He was correct and Adam agreed.
‘Call me coward, if you will,’ I said. ‘But I think we must go back. There be evil here; I sense it surrounding us. Besides, I do not feel so good.’ Only as I spoke the words did I realise it was the case. My head ached and was rapidly filling with cobwebs, making clear thought more difficult by the moment.
‘Let’s get out of here,’ Thaddeus insisted. ‘Seb’s right. I’m feeling strange too. Come on.’
The bailiff turned his back and began to retrace his steps. He held his torch, ever dimmer now, so it shone upon the wall, searching out the chalk crosses.
Much in need now of fresh air and – in my case – daylight, we went eagerly, although a strange lethargy began to drag at my heels. The others were slowing also and I found myself ahead of them both upon our retreat. Then came disaster.
Of a sudden, I could not see any chalk crosses. I searched the walls, frantic to rediscover our holy guidance. My first panicked conclusion dawned:
‘Someone has followed us,’ I cried, ‘Erasing the marks I made. I know not which way... and what of the one who pursues us? Where is the devil? God save us! What can be done now? We be lost!’ My head spun; a flood of despair and dizziness nigh knocked me to the ground as if a flesh and blood assailant attacked me. I wish it had been so. I might defend myself against a fist or a club but against these invisible foes what could I do?
‘On your feet, cousin,’ Adam demanded, dragging at my arm. ‘Come! We’re not done for yet.’ He and Thaddeus pulled me upright, though neither man looked much better than I felt. Sweat ran from Adam’s face and his skin looked an odd hue in the ever-diminishing torchlight.
‘We need to get out before the torches give up.’ Thaddeus took a wheezing breath and was next to stumble. It needed all our strength to get him to stand. We were unsteady, staggering against one another like vintners who had garbled their own wares to excess.
‘We must have taken a wrong turn,’ I gasped. ‘So no crosses... if we keep going... upon an upward slope... we must reach the streets... once more.’ I prayed my befuddled mind was making sense enough to get us out of this accursed place. Else we would die, cursed, down here.
End of Excerpt
Copyright © 2021 by Toni Mount. Shared with permission.
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Toni Mount earned her Master’s Degree by completing original research into a unique 15th-century medical manuscript. She is the author of several successful non-fiction books including the number one bestseller, Everyday Life in Medieval England, which reflects her detailed knowledge in the lives of ordinary people in the Middle Ages. Toni’s enthusiastic understanding of the period allows her to create accurate, atmospheric settings and realistic characters for her Sebastian Foxley medieval murder mysteries. Toni’s first career was as a scientist and this brings an extra dimension to her novels. It also led to her new biography of Sir Isaac Newton. She writes regularly for both The Richard III Society and The Tudor Society and is a major contributor of online courses to MedievalCourses.com. As well as writing, Toni teaches history to adults, coordinates a creative writing group and is a member of the Crime Writers’ Association.
Learn more at http://tonimount.com.
Title: The Colour of Evil
Series: Sebastian Foxley series of medieval mysteries, book #9
Author: Toni Mount
Publisher: Madeglobal Publishing
Release Date: March 25, 2021
Genre: Historical Mystery
Content Note: PG-13 (1)
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