Order it here: Amazon UK and is already available on Amazon US
And a look at a work in progress now: Sherlock Holmes and the Scarborough Affair. A tale of strong women, chambermaids, spies, murder and cricket.. It is a collaboration between myself and Gill Stammers. A quick peek:
Miss Poole turned to face me and for the first time during the interview, she showed surprise. I was a little abashed as I realised immediately that I had been somewhat curt, having berated Holmes for his own rudeness earlier.
“Ah, you and I have come between Dr Watson and his supper, Miss Poole. A very unwise course of action, of which I have been guilty many a time and should know better. Liberate our food from beneath its cloche, Watson and we will all partake of the meal. Perhaps, then, we can continue our discussion in a less formal manner and Miss Poole may consider us as colleagues rather than foe.”
Although I found Holmes’s choice of words unexpected, I wasted no time wondering about them and gave my full attention to removing the covers. I was delighted to see, not only the fare that lay beneath, but also that the food was still warm. I barely registered Miss Poole’s response.
“Colleague, Mr Holmes?”
I busied myself with creating space for our plates. The chef had prepared a luxurious selection of the finest fish, meats and an array of English vegetables, transformed with Gallic flare, to create a merger of the two culinary cultures. The Beaune had been opened by the sommelier before being despatched to the room to allow it to breathe. I decided it had breathed long enough.
“Miss Poole, may I pour you a glass of wine to apologise for my former manner?”
“Thank you, I accept your apology, but there is no need to give up your wine. It is a vintage for gentlemen, not housemaids. Besides, I observe there are only two glasses.”
I looked at her with some scrutiny to see if she was mocking me. Holmes chuckled.
“Even with your experience of women on three continents, Watson, on occasion, you are still able to be silenced by them. I will forgo the wine.”
Chastened, I set about dividing the food and despite Miss Poole’s protestations, I poured her a little of the wine to see if indeed it was acceptable to a housemaid. She, at first declined the food, declaring that it may be too rich for her. I persuaded her to take a small amount of fish.
“Fish is excellent food for the brain, Miss Poole.”
“Thank you Dr Watson, I will be sure to eat as much fish as possible in future. It is fortunate that it is in ready supply in Scarborough.
“May I repeat my query, Mr Holmes? You said ‘colleague’.”
“Your self-proclaimed attention to detail suggests to me two occupations, neither of which is housemaid. The first, although I have discounted it, is that you are a writer, following in your father’s footsteps.”
“That must be it, Holmes! Miss Poole is writing detective fiction. No doubt, we are to be rewritten as characters in her book and the setting is The Grand Hotel,” I exclaimed with excitement as it seemed to fit her actions. “You must have blessed your fortune to be able, not only to observe, but discourse with the great Sherlock Holmes.”
“Watson, you have overlooked the fact that I have discounted the theory that she is an author, using the hotel and ourselves for material in a penny-dreadful, for housemaids by a housemaid. I believe Miss Poole, that you consider yourself to be an amateur detective.”
“How are you able to arrive at that theory, Holmes?” I said, somewhat disappointed. I had envisaged Miss Poole entreating me for advice, being a published author myself.
“The answer is, as always, simple, Watson. Had Miss Poole been immersed in a plot for her own novel, she would have been unable to keep it to herself when she spoke of her father’s work. In my experience, writers are not known for hiding their profession modestly under a bushel. Self-promotion is key to success and ego.”
I felt I had been admonished; my character tainted.
“Come, come, Watson, grant me a little amusement at your expense. You are aware that I suffer your writings of my exploits with forbearance.
“So, Miss Poole, am I correct in my reasoning or is Watson going to spirit you away to discuss villains and nefarious deeds?”
“My half-sister, Elizabeth and I are in the process of establishing our own two-woman detective agency,” she announced. I was pleased to observe that she did not pander to Holmes’s vanity by exclaiming his genius at discovering her secret.
“I am, as I explained earlier, a housemaid and have been since my arrival in May. My intention was to join my sister in Scarborough at the beginning of the summer to work as a means to an end in supporting myself whilst my sister takes care of the arrangements in setting up our agency.”
“What nature of cases do you intend to investigate? Whom do you expect to use your services? It is an unusual occupation for young women and I am intrigued.”
“We are ambitious, Dr Watson and hope that our business is not restricted to finding lost cats for wealthy women, although I suspect there may be many of those.”
“Do you not see, Watson, a detective agency run by women is a capital idea. Surveillance by a woman would be so unlikely as to go entirely unnoticed. Baskets of shopping, waving parasols, taking tea, gossiping on street corners in various apparel; hiding in plain sight; it is the perfect cover. Sisters going about their daily routine, uncovering crime; who would suspect them?”
“That was precisely our conclusion, Mr Holmes and of course, we could keep a look out for lost cats at the same time.”
“So, as I have said, we are colleagues, Miss Poole. I assume you stumbled on this case quite by chance.”
“I may be working here to make ends meet, but I keep my eyes and ears open at all times. I have watched the events of the last two days unfold and not only do I know that there is a jewel thief in the hotel, but I also know his identity.”
Holmes leant forward on his elbows, his eyes shining, “So, Miss Poole, perhaps you would care to enlighten us, although I have my own suspect in mind. Are they one and the same?”
“Perhaps, if you had enlightened us at the beginning of the interview, I could have been enjoying an evening in the ballroom,” I muttered.