The Bedlam StackseBook - 2017
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Merrick Tremayne, wounded from his smuggling days in the Far East and biding time at his decrepit family estate, should have known something extraordinary was going to happen. The distinct and ancient white-wooded tree, brought back from Peru by his Grandfather, fell onto the roof and exploded. The eroded, smiling statue outside his beloved greenhouse seemed to shift position of its own accord. Among his grandfather’s papers he finds a strange and disturbing sketch that he vaguely recognizes. So when a former army colleague shows up and invites him to Peru to smuggle out valuable cinchona trees – the source of much needed quinine for the British Empire – Merrick figures he has nothing keeping him in Cornwall and decides to go, even though with his wounded leg it will be a hard journey indeed.
Saying they are in Peru for coffee, Merrick and his partner meet their guide, Raphael, a priest of undetermined race and background. Though reluctant to help the British foreigners, he leads them to the hidden village of Bedlam, high in the mountains. It is slow going, and by turns freezing and hot, and between bouts of altitude sickness Merrick begins to realize the strangeness of his new surroundings… the is village separated from the forest by a line of salt and bone, and luminous pollen powers clockwork lamps and leaves trails in the woods where someone, or something, travels. There are more of the statues which do indeed move, perhaps of their own accord, and perhaps are far more important than mere decorative markers. While the deadline to acquire the cinchona trees looms, Merrick begins to understand the mysterious and taciturn Raphael, and in turn learns more of his own family’s connection to this area of deepest Peru – and that means he must make a nearly impossible choice before he loses what is most important to him in the world.
Natasha Pulley’s second novel is as evocative and beguiling as her first (The Watchmaker of Filigree Street), containing lush description and elements of steampunk, history, swashbuckling and magic – perfect for any armchair adventure-seeker.
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