The Rival Queens
A Novel of Artiface, Gunpowder and Murder in Eighteenth-century LondonBook - 2002
Restoration London, 1700. Those intrepid and destitute heroines the Countess Ashby de la Zouche and her maidservant Alpiew -- whose most recent caper involved trying to uncover an adulterer and accidentally unearthing a plot involving corruption, alchemy, transvestitism, treason and murder -- are once more scavenging for scandal to entertain the readers of that scurrilous rag the London Trumpet. With the tireless bailiffs hot on their skirt tails, the Countess and Alpiew are reduced to seeking refuge in a philosophical lecture at the York Buildings concert hall. But their expectations of a dull evening are confounded when one of the players staggers onto the stage, her hands dripping with blood. A doyenne has been decapitated under their very noses!
In the resulting chaos the unlikely sleuths find themselves with an abundance of suspects: players, phanatiques, punks, ruffians in pink ribbons, a Punch-and-Judy man -- not to mention a painter with a silver proboscis. Determined to leave no stone unturned, they relentlessly pursue their suspect from the Tower of London to Bedlam, with a brief detour to the wilds of Wapping. Along the way they uncover -- with a little help from Samuel Pepys -- a vast web of intrigue and corruption that extends into the highest echelons of both society and the judiciary.
Building upon her beguiling first novel, Unnatural Fire, Fidelis Morgan once again weaves a fabulous romp through London's darker and seamier side, with a charged historical mystery that is as darkly funny as it is gripping and entertaining. An unforgettable story of murder and mayhem, The Rival Queens is a wonderfully complex and revealing portrait of London at the dawn of the eighteenth century.