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My new novel


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There is still much work to do, but I'd like to share with GA readers a foretaste of my 6th (and probably last, lol) novel. Here is the blurb I'm toying with for the back cover:

 

"Times of environmental disaster, political upheaval and endless wars… 1816 is relevant to the world we find ourselves surviving in today. Antonin Carême, the world’s greatest celebrity chef – with his rockstar salary and good looks – heads to an open-ended engagement at the Prince Regent’s seaside home.

What, though, are his true motivations for going? What about all the deaths and attempted killings unfolding at the Pavilion while he’s there? Who is this mysterious doctor who draws him into the investigations?

A mystery novel with elements of espionage, and liberal doses of mouth-watering food, “Carême in Brighton” is one book you’ll never forget reading."

 

And, in case this has whet your appetite, here is the in-development Prologue. Let me know what you think. 

 

 

Prologue --

"Carême in Brighton"

 

Producing a cold, wet and murderous atmosphere, not a soul who lived through it would ever forget 1816 as “the year without a summer.”

The bad weather served as allegory for notoriously uncertain times. Napoleon may have been taken down by the Allies the year before at Waterloo, but little feeling of relief accompanied it within the mind of the Everyman. For the ordinary people, there were no rainbows in the sky to promise a liberated and stable world, as God’s vow to Noah had been, but a return to oppression and brutalism. The status-quo-enforcing Congress of Vienna had seen to that.

No, instead of the assurance of forgiving portents, after the tumultuous flood of twenty years of war, there was nothing but an ominous, starvation-producing vault of air overhead. It was such that with the constant chill and damp, the people felt as of they were on the verge of a shiver that would not come; of one they could not shake.

It rained in Paris as two men sat in the Hôtel Galliffet.

“These are dark, dangerous times,” Prince Talleyrand was saying while tapping his foot. “Dark and potentially explosive.”

The Grand Chamberlain of France – Her highest Minister of State – carried every one of his sixty-two years as crease lines around the large blue eyes that peered from his otherwise alabaster face.

He was a survivor and more than wily enough to occupy towering positions in each of the consecutive Administrations of France. First under Louis XVI, then the Revolutionary Government, the Terror, and the Directoire. But it was over Napoleon’s Empire he held the power that allowed Talleyrand to fenagle ‘continuity’ and remain the leverage behind the incoming Louis XVIII. It was shrewd, ever-calm, eternally unflappable Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord who was in control.

The far-younger man sitting across from the Chamberlain in his private office was pivotal to his plotting possible deviations for the course of history. Theirs was one final, pre-mission conference before the agent was dispatched overseas.

As for the would-be provocateur, he had met with Talleyrand any number of times but never felt comfortable subjected to the minister’s unflinching gaze. It was made all the worse by the fact the man hardly ever regarded a person with anything but half-raised eyelids. The stare never parted from anyone beholden to the Prince Chamberlain, and that was nearly everyone.

The operative said, “Leaving Paris will be bittersweet, but I shall not miss this strange July with its smog, produced by all the coal-fueled parlour fires choking the city.”

Disinterested, the minister replied, “It’s human nature. Every one of us scrambles for just a bit of warm and dry.”

“Yes, it’s true. But I will be loath to remove myself from our city, as she’s beating gastronomic heart of Europe. I do not want to miss any important innovations while I’m playing the exile.”

With bone-dry wit, the Chamberlain retorted, “Take some of your passion to Brighton. I’m sure they need it there, amongst their damnably greasy mutton and turnips.”

Behind his thin smile, all joking aside, he gloated silently about his accomplishment. He’d groomed in the man before him now an asset so deeply covert, not even the professional’s closest of colleagues knew of any connection to the powerful minister of international affairs.

But the Prince wasn’t shy of reminding the other of his allegiance to Talleyrand. “As you go about your mission, monsieur, I trust you will bear in mind who plucked you from obscurity and placed you where good fortune could best discover your talent. Talents, I’m assured, worthy of the great name attached to you.”

For the one sticking his neck out for France, the snakelike hiss of implicit threat rattled in his ears. Hypnotic and dark, the effect was like of a mouse under a cobra’s spell. “Oui, seigneur. I shall not forget the power you have wielded and may yet wield.”

The blow was struck. “And do not worry while you are absent – your Agathé and Marie, left behind in Paris, will be under my constant watch and supervision.” He grinned. “They’ll never leave my sight.”

The other man chilled. He walked a tightrope, and although motivated by a deep-seated patriotism, he was never allowed to forget he acted under compulsion. “Thank you.”

“Well”—the Chamberlain cleared his throat—“leaving thoughts of Paris behind, I can tell you the same rain and saturated conditions, the same coal-choked smog plagues London. In addition, the tripling of the price of fuel there is only adding to the cause of the English revolutionaries. The stench of revolt – of a coming forced change – is in the air. The place is a tinderbox where the people merely wait for a spark to detonate.”

“If such an explosion comes, then the Roast Beefs will feel their empire reduced to match an armless France.”

“Right you are, monsieur. And it is well under way. Graffiti slogans appear overnight all over the city, for even on the walls of Carlton House – the Royal residence – it is painted: ‘Bread or the Regent’s Head!’ And this fat George is pelted with stones, mobbed and jeered wherever his carriage dares to go in public, even on the day he slipped on his rented crown to open their Lordly Parliament.”

“Is this then why,” the agent enquired, “the Regent spends so much time by the sea, in Brighton?”

“Presumably, for it’s action fit a coward who runs from the reality of his starving people to live like Genghis Khan in his pleasure dome, swaddled in all manner of exotic luxury.”

The other scoffed. “And such a man is credited with defeating our mighty Napoleon. Preposterous!”

“Yes, my friend, and we know it’s not over yet. Even a dying stag can gore its hunter to death.”

“At least I hope to be away from unhealthy air at the English seaside.”

“Speaking of which, you and your companion’s travel arrangements have all been made. You will leave by private coach this afternoon for Calais. Once you have settled into your new positions, your coded intelligence reports will get from Brighton to Paris via secret fishing-boat handoffs. Use the designated drop off location and times, but never be seen doing it.”

“Oui, seigneur.”

“You will be my eyes and ears in the English court, so report everything you hear, even if you think it’s inconsequential. All intelligence can lead to leverage of the most appalling variety.”

The Grand Chamberlain rose, extending a hand to be grasped.

The operative stood and shook it.

“Remember,” said Talleyrand, “Whitehall’s empire is cracking under the weight of independence movements growing in Dublin, Edinburgh and Cardiff. Soon, these capitals will declare sacred sovereignty over the inactive and costly bureaucracy of England. So, bon chance, monsieur!”

The younger man let go his hand, barely able to mutter, “S’il doit étre.”

 

~

 

 

 

 

 

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Edited by AC Benus
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