Consulting Detective Gregor Sherringford and his partner, Joan Krieger, return in A Hanging at Lotus Hall by Corrina Lawson, the sequel to the Amazon bestselling book 1, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract.
A Hanging at Lotus Hall shifts the setting from an alternate Victorian London changed by magic and steampower to the ancestral home of the Sherringfords, Lotus Hall.
The hall is permeated by secrets, no more so than the dark ones hiding at the heart of the family. In this exclusive excerpt for Writerspace, Joan is already under attack, even before she leaves London.
Joan tilted her head to hear the voices at the door. A man, but not Gregor. There was talk of a package. Margaret returned with her arms wrapped around an oversize box. Joan helped the older woman place it on the kitchen table.
“Well. Any idea who it’s from?” Margaret adjusted her hairpin to pull back a few strands of gray hair that had come loose. “It came by special messenger.”
“The return address is Lotus Hall.” Dispatched the same time as the flying carriage? But then, why not have Henry deliver it? “That’s Gregor’s family estate.”
“Oh. I hadn’t realized Mr. Sherringford came from one of those families. I thought this was one of those cases he takes on for the nobility.”
Joan smiled. “One side of his family, in any case. Well.” A peace offering from his mother, perhaps? Hard to tell from the unadorned boxboard. “Let’s open it now. It could be something I should have when I travel to Lotus Hall.”
She cut the tape with her letter opener, then pawed through several layers of packing material. They lifted the item out together, hands on both sides.
“Well, that is right beautiful,” Margaret said as the silver teapot was fully revealed.
Beautiful was a poor word for the ornate teapot they set on the stove. It was real silver, Joan suspected, not silver plate, and the metal gleamed in the light of the kitchen window. It came with its own heating mechanism below the removable teapot.
But the true beauty lay in the etched engravings. Scenes of a young woman, bent to sewing, occupied one side, while the other was the same woman wearing the dress she’d been sewing.
“Oh, my, it’s been special made for you, Miss Krieger,” Margaret breathed.
“It certainly has.” Joan ran a hand over the handle. A small spark of magic met her palm. Artists often left something of themselves behind in their creations, as she did with her clothes. This artist clearly had poured their gift into their work.
“Let’s see how it works. Brew enough for two, Margaret.” If this was a gift, better to use it now so she could compliment the giver, when she encountered whoever it was at Lotus Hall.
Margaret smiled. “Tea, it is. I’ll feel right fancy pouring from it.”
“Lovely. I’ll fetch my trunk and coat downstairs while it’s heating, as it would be just like Mr. Sherringford to arrive as we’re sitting down.”
Joan heard the water running to fill the new pot as she climbed the stairs, then the clink of the cover as it was set to boil. Tea, yes, a particularly strong pot would be needed for today.
Her foot missed the next step. Odd. She tried another and almost fell, dizzy. She grabbed the railing and went down on one knee, for balance. The world around her blurred. Her throat closed up.
This felt wrong. Magically wrong.
No air could enter her lungs. She swayed and doubled over. Magic prickled over her skin. Breathing halted.
With shaking hands, she curled her fingers around the lotus pendant, slipped open the catch, and revealed her grandmother’s antique Grecian cameo. A thing of antiquity but also an item of magic. The focus of her power.
Her eyesight dimmed from lack of air. She crawled to the top of the stairs and rolled to her back, unable to even pant. Cold encased her. She closed her eyes to shut out distractions and called her power. Instantly, shields surrounded her, a glowing golden armor. Her sight cleared.
She could breathe again.
She pulled herself upright using the railing, still swaying, and remembered the touch of magic on the teapot’s handle.
Margaret was right next to it!
Joan cursed each careful, infirm step of her descent. It took both hands on the railing to maintain balance. An unseen magical force pressed at her shields.
Finally, she reached the solid floor and rushed to the kitchen, flinging her power ahead of her, hoping to dispel the magical poison that must be responsible for this weakness.
Margaret lay on the floor. The new kettle whistled, steam pouring from its spout. Joan gathered her hands in front of her, as Gregor had taught her, and flung her golden shields around the teapot.