Unnatural Fire (A Countess Ashby de la Zouche mystery)

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9780006514527: Unnatural Fire (A Countess Ashby de la Zouche mystery)

The first in a hugely entertaining, vivid, colourful and fascinating crime series featuring a down-at-heel countess and her maid on the loose in late Restoration London: ‘A frolicking good read’ Daily Mail

London 1699. Anastasia Ashby de la Zouche, Baroness Penge, Countess of Clapham, former mistress to Charles II, is an aristocrat on her uppers. Cast into the notorious Fleet Prison by the bum-bailiffs, she is forced to turn to journalism: ferreting out scurrilous tit-bits for a scandal sheet. But the Countess and her maidservant Alpiew encounter more intrigue than they bargained for when a mysterious woman hires them to follow her husband, Beau, whom she suspects of adultery.

Their pursuit of Beau leads them to playhouses, scientific lectures, coffee houses, the half-constructed St Paul’s Cathedral and dives of Alsatia, only to end abruptly in a Covent Garden churchyard – leaving the Countess and Alpiew implicated in a murder. And worse is to follow, for to unravel their only clue they must penetrate the mysteries of alchemy...

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Review:

‘Morgan’s hilarious 17th century romp combines an authentic slice of history with a tantalising storyline... Colourful turns of phrase and witty descriptions – like a bawdy P.G. Wodehouse – leave you with a keen sense of the period. This is a frolicking good read’ Daily Mail

‘Fidelis Morgan’s tale of love and greed and alchemy in 1699 is a heady compound of wit, wisdom and wildness. It’s an unsentimental warts-and-all portrait that reeks of authenticity, written with a brio that reflects the age’ Val McDermid

‘A lusty, audacious historical romp ...all the bawdiness of London at the turn of the 18th century is brought to life’ Maxim Jakubowski, Guardian

‘Thigh-slapping, exclamatory stuff ... loudly, lustily, enthusiastically done’ Literary Review

‘The perfect autumn read’ Marie Claire

From the Back Cover:

London 1699. The Countess Ashby de la Zouche, former mistress to Charles II, has fallen on hard times – in fact she has fallen into the notorious debtors' prison, the Fleet. In order to scrape a living, she embarks on a career gathering salacious information for one of London's scandal sheets, assisted by her ex-maidservant Alphiew. A welcome additional source of income opens when they are approached by a stranger who wants them to follow her husband for proof of adultery. But the uncomfortable job of trailing after the handsome merchant in the depths of winter, whether to the half-constructed St Paul's Cathedral or through the notorious dives south of Fleet Street, ends abruptly in a Covent Garden Churchyard.

The Countess and Alpiew, now implicated in the murder, get sucked into a complex labyrinth of deceit and violence, the key to which might lie in the abstruse science of alchemy. The more they investigate, the more involved the picture become, involving everyone form the lowest of the low backstreet criminals to some of the most influential people in the land.

'Unnatural Fire' is a wonderfully, lively, audacious novel with a cast of characters that leap off the page. But underlying the vivacity and humour is a riveting mystery which perfectly captures the darker side of London at the turn of the 18th Century.

PRAISE FOR FIDELIS MORGAN
'The Well Known Troublemaker'
'A book crammed with bright ideas – fascinating'
LORNA SAGE, 'Observer'

'The Female Wits'
'Overdue and delightful restoration of women playwrights of the Restoration'
'The Times'

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Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (2001)
ISBN 10: 0006514529 ISBN 13: 9780006514527
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