Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Rags of Time by Michael Ward. Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for the invitation to join. I have an extract to share with you all today but first, here is what Rags of Time is all about.
Author : Michael Ward
Title : Rags of Time
Pages : 318
Publisher : Sharpe Books
Publication date : June 23, 2020
| ABOUT THE BOOK |
London, 1639. Spice merchant Thomas Tallant returns from India to find his city in turmoil – overcrowded, ravaged by crime and seething with sedition. A bitter struggle is brewing between King Charles I and Parliament as England slides into civil war.
A wealthy merchant is savagely killed; then his partner plunges to his death in the Tallant household. Suspicion falls on Tom, who soon finds himself being sucked into London’s turbulence. As he struggles to clear his name, he becomes entranced by the enigmatic Elizabeth Seymour, whose passion for astronomy and mathematics is matched only by her addiction to the gaming tables. Can her brilliance untangle the web of deceit that threatens to drag Tom under?
A thrilling murder mystery set in the murky streets of Stuart London, Rags of Time is an intriguing tale of murder, suspicion and the search for enlightenment that will keep you guessing until the final dramatic scene.
| EXTRACT |
21st October 1639 Kensington, London
As he strode across the lower meadow of his country home, Sir Joseph Venell considered his sin, and smiled.
He felt a surge of shameful joy as the late autumn sun bathed the village of Kensington, burnishing the leaves that rained from the tall beech trees surrounding the field. A warm breeze stirred the branches, releasing a further golden shower.
He should not exult in making money, he knew it. Except it would be so much money! And it would fall at his feet like these leaves, each year without fail. A God- fearing man, Sir Joseph rebuked himself, but heard his voice laugh out loud as he calculated his future wealth.
He worked his way down the slope. The grass was lush for the time of year and his stockman had kept the sheep in the upper field. They would be moved to the meadow next week to gorge themselves on the fresh pasture.
Sir Joseph hummed a Gabrieli motet, breaking the tempo to match his bouncing steps as he let the slope take him down the hill. It had been his father’s favourite piece of music. What would Papa think if he could see his son now, about to secure his place among London’s leading merchants, and through the King’s favour no less. Excitement coursed through Sir Joseph. Had life ever been better? The sun was shining, the air was clear and he was off to see his beloved bees. They had remained active during the extended summer but now it was time to make a final inspection of the hives before the cold weather arrived.
The sun cast lengthening shadows, picking out tiny black moths which flew from the grass, disturbed by his steps. This indeed was a heaven on earth, Sir Joseph mused. Even the infernal pigeons had stopped their incessant call: koor, koor, koorrrrr… koor, koor, koorrrrr… koor, koor! Gone! Strange—but most welcome.
The first blow to Sir Joseph’s head threw him forward violently. He staggered but remained upright. It came from behind and he had no time to recover before he was hit again, this time from the side.
In shock, he wheeled around to confront his attacker. Behind him, the pasture stretched up to the gate he had entered minutes ago. He could see the path he had made through the grass. There was no one in sight.
He turned quickly back the way he had been heading, breathing hard. Ahead lay his route to the hives. He looked right, up the slope to the tree line. No one there either. As he turned to the left to check the bottom of the field, he was pitched forward by another jarring blow to the back of his head, this time accompanied by a piercing pain in his scalp.
Sir Joseph fell to his knees, hands out in front. The grass was cool between his fingers as he stared at the ground, his ears full of his ragged breathing and the beating of his heart. O Sweet Jesu. He is quick, this villain. I cannot see him! I must get help, somehow.
‘I have no money on my person,’ he shouted into the ground, hearing the rising panic in his voice. ‘But I am not an unwealthy man. Let me live and I will be generous.’
As he spoke, a rivulet of blood dripped from his head onto his hand. The smell of the warm blood mingled with the scent of crushed grass beneath his knees.
Sir Joseph’s panic changed to rising anger. Who was this bastard toerag to attack him on his own land?
‘Yes, I will be generous… with the rope,’ he muttered to himself, as he staggered to his feet. He carefully quartered the field, north, south, east and west. It was empty.
His anger was quickly doused by the chill of fear. Where was his attacker? He did not understand what was happening but he must get out of this damned meadow immediately. The quickest way was downhill. He ran towards the hives, and the shelter of the surrounding woods.
Four steps later, Sir Joseph was sprawling on the ground once more, hit by another sickening blow to his right temple. He stumbled to his feet and started running again, now gripped by mortal fear. In a moment, he had realised his fate. This was not a robbery. It was a lesson in humility. He had dared to believe he had created a heaven on earth and now was being taught by the Almighty that such arrogance required swift correction. He had been handed to the demons for punishment.
Pain seared his brain as he was hit again. Sir Joseph shouted to the skies, waving his arms in the air, as his steps became more uncertain. He stumbled up the slope, no longer sure of his direction.
‘Oh God, forgive me. I am a mortal sinner.’ Another crash as his words went unheeded. ‘I dared to be filled with selfish pride. Oh Jesu, forgive me.’
Blood was running freely down his face, filling his eyes and mouth. Blinded, he staggered on, turning this way and that across the meadow, screaming.
‘Forgive my greed. I will give my money to the poor. I will do anything if you will only spare ….’
Sir Joseph’s pleas were silenced by another lacerating blow. Again he was pitched forward, but this time lay still on the ground. His eyes stared across the empty field as stalks of grass blew against his face. The sun was now lower in the sky and the air had turned cooler. Blood slowly spread across the ground under Sir Joseph’s head. The buzz of gathering flies filled the air.
The breeze shifted direction and caught the tallest trees at the top of the pasture. More leaves fell and danced through the amber light before landing gently on Sir Joseph’s prostrate body.
The sheep called to each other in the top meadow. Evening was approaching.
And from the trees a familiar sound returned: Koor, koor, koorrrrr… koor, koor, koorrrrr—koor, koor.
If this excerpt has piqued your interest, you can grab yourself a copy of Rags of Time from the following links right now!
| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |
Writing has been central to Mike Ward’s professional life. On graduating from university he became a journalist, working in newspapers and for the BBC. He then went into journalism education, teaching and researching journalism practice before becoming head of the UK’s prestigious Journalism School at UCLan. For the last eight years he has run his own content creation company.
‘Rags of Time’ is Mike’s debut novel. Its sequel is due to be published late in 2020.