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Death Most Devious Launch - Week 1

Hey, Sleuth!

Hello, hello, and welcome to the best place on the internet right now :)

Well, it is if you want to find out more about my upcoming book, Death Most Devious, and seeing as you're here, I'm going to take a punt and say that's what you want to know about.

As you know, DMD will launch on 30th November 2023, which is getting pretty close now.

So, I'd better get on and tell you a bit about this book, right?

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Sneak Peek: Opening Scene

NOTE: Just in case anyone really doesn't want to anything , I'm putting this and all other sneak peeks/deleted scenes etc in sections where you have to click "Read More" to see the full text.

Professor Sidney Adams wiped sweat from his palms onto his woollen trousers as he glanced around the curtain and at the smallest crowd he’s ever had to face. It consisted of fewer than a dozen people, most of whom were related to him, and all of whom were about to witness the worst, most embarrassing launch of his career. He almost wished his wife hadn’t rustled up the measly three journalists in attendance. They were from some dreadful local rag from a place Sidney had never heard of. It sounded slightly like a disease, as half of these English villages did. But Martha insisted, saying that Mr Killarney or Killingtree or whatever the fellow’s name was seemed like a perfectly pleasant fellow on the telephone. Very sympathetic and understanding, she said, and he’d almost certainly give Sidney a nice write-up - and didn’t he need all of those he could get at the moment? Sidney hated to admit it, but he certainly did. The past few months had been tough, to put it mildly, and he couldn’t see light at the end of the tunnel yet. Considering how things had been going lately, when the light did finally appear, it’d be a blasted train. ‘Ready, Sid?’ said Victor Raynott, director of the only museum still willing to be associated with an academic pariah like Professor Adams. ‘Look, I know there’s not many out there,’ he added in a low tone, putting a friendly hand on Sidney’s shoulder and giving it a reassuring pat. ‘But everything will blow over, eh? It always does. And then you’ll be back on top of your game again. You’ll see.’ Sidney gulped and shook his head. ‘I hope you’re right. I really do. but you only get to reveal the greatest find of your career once. Under the shadow of a scandal isn’t exactly ideal.’ ‘I thought you and Harold were on good terms again?’ ‘We are, but the papers -’ ‘The papers will forget,’ soothed Victor, gently herding Sidney towards the exhibition hall. ‘Come along, it’s almost time.’ ‘They didn’t listen to Harold when he told them there’d been a mistake,’ protested Sidney, digging his heels in to the floor. ‘And he did tell them, Vic. I was there.’ ‘Of course they didn’t listen,’ said Victor, pushing him a little harder. ‘“Famous academic steals student’s work” is a much more interesting headline than “scruffy little oik tries to make a name for himself by kicking up a scandal where there was none,” isn’t it? But they’ll forget, Sid. They always do.’ ‘True.’ Sidney stopped fighting for a second, pitching Victor forward slightly, and sighed as soft footsteps approached down the tiled hallway. ‘Am I a fool for giving him another chance?’ ‘Undoubtably, but neither of us would be where we are today if someone hadn’t foolishly let us try again, would we? So you absolutely did the right thing, even if he is a horrible piece of - Ah, speak of the Devil!’ cried Victor, turning to the new arrival. ‘And how are you this evening, Mr Wychwood?’ Harold Wychwood pushed his round, horn-rimmed glasses back up his nose, the ones Sidney knew the boy didn’t need, but wore with plain glass in them to make himself appear more academic. ‘Very well, thank you, Mr Raynott,’ said Harold, smiling ingratiatingly at the museum director. ‘How are you?’ Victor grinned and clapped Harold on the shoulder. ‘I’ll be all the better after this evening, believe me. Come along, boy. Let’s allow Professor Adams to prepare his great reveal in peace.’ They left Sidney alone again in the corridor, trying to focus his mind on half-forgotten civilisations and defunct religions and dead kings and not his tattered career, fraught home life, and the mysterious woman dressed all in black velvet lurking at the back of the exhibition hall, or the grey-suited young man who looked oddly… official somehow. After all, why would anyone voluntarily come to see him now? There had to be some other reason they were there, and whatever it would undoubtably be bad news. He certainly wasn’t thinking about the damn reporters. Vultures, here to pick over the remains of his story, abandoned weeks ago by the big papers in favour of fresh scandals, and now only fit for gutttersnipes like this Killswitch fellow and his cronies. He gave himself a mental shake. He was a professional, for goodness sake, and this was his greatest find. Nothing could change that, and he was proud – proud! – of his achievements, regardless of the shadows hanging over them. He’d done presentations like this a thousand times. What the devil was he nervous for? And though the pinnacle of his career wasn’t quite as golden as he’d envisioned, the treasures he’d found certainly were. He’d made a pretty penny from his finds, which had almost been enough to clear his debts, thank goodness. At least Martha and the children would never find out what he’d done. Not once he manged to sell it all, anyway. Eventually, he’d find a buyer. Just another week or two, and it would all be like it never happened at all. Then, when all this died back, he’d make even more money with speaking engagements, books, and lecturing roles. It had been worth the risk after all, just like he’d always known it would be. Most importantly, he’d see his name in the history of Egyptology, despite the sabotage he’d faced and the subsequent fall from grace. He steeled himself to face the toughest, most unforgiving crowd of his life, ignoring the tightness in his chest and the dryness in his throat. Blinkingly, he stepped from the gloomy corridor into the room where hot, golden afternoon sunlight streamed through the glass dome in the ceiling and glinted off the greatest finds of his career.

Character Interview: Lucas Rathbone

Because I like to make my characters work extra hard during a launch, I thought it'd be fun to interview each of my three main characters and ask them about the new book.

And as his name is on the cover, let's start with Lucas, shall we?

Good morning, Mr Rathbone! Please could you introduce yourself to our readers?

*Our* readers, Saff? Surely they're *your* readers? After all, you're the writer here, not me.


No, dear, but you know what I mean. Tell the nice people who you are.

I'm not a child, you know. There's no need to be so patronising. All right. For those who don't know me already, I'm Lucas Rathbone. 24 years old, currently of 17 Honeysuckle Close, Castlebury Magna, but shortly to be moving to Mrs Peeble's boarding house in London, which is where Tommy currently lives. He rates her, and, well, even if his judgement is a little wonky - which it usually is - it'll only be for a few weeks until Clara and I can tie the knot and I can move in with her.



Lovely, darling. Now, can you please tell us why you were at an exhibition opening for a load of, what I've repeatedly heard you call, "a load of ancient Egyptian junk"?

Hmm? Oh, right. I see. Well, I own the Castlebury Gazette - it's the local newspaper in our village - and the professor chappie who found all that rubbish invited me to attend and do a write up for the paper.



Really? He invited *you*?

Humph. Well, now you mention it, the invitation was addressed to Tommy - but it came to my office. So I opened it anyway. In case it was important.



Not because you're nosy, then?

Well, yes, because I'm nosy. But of course I'm nosy. You can't be a reporter without a certain amount of nose about you.



Comes in handy when you're hunting down killers, I imagine.

I suppose, but I'd rather not. Gets pretty dangerous sometimes.



Quite often, if I have anything to do with it. All right then, tell us about this exhibition opening you went to. I'd imagine you found it absolutely riveting.

Actually, it was pretty interesting. Lots of names and information that, frankly, is completely irrelevant to anyone living in 1928, but all the same... And it was pretty enough junk. Lots of gold on it, but the hieroglyphics are interesting, too. Don't understand them, of course, but I can't imagine more than a dozen people need to know about that, do they?



Probably not. You didn't pay attention for long though, did you?

Well, no, but there's a good reason for that, isn't there? Someone - naming no names, Saffron Amatti - put a ghost in the museum. It was rather distracting.


Yeah, my bad. At least she's a nice ghost.

She's lovely, if a little formal, but what am I meant to do with her?! She's an Ancient Egyptian priestess! Whoever killed her - and I assume someone did, on account of her being a spirit - is long gone. I can't get justice for her, can I?



Oh, you're a bright lad. You'll figure something out.

I dare say I will, but that's not the point, is it? Anyway, that problem was swiftly eclipsed by a student archeologist dying partway through the exhibition opening, which put a bit of a damper on things.



Sudden, unexplained death will do that to even the most determined of party, you know.

I know. Believe me, I know. But the biggest problem was he looked like he'd been bitten by a snake. A snake! In Cambridge. Whoever heard of such a thing?



There're millions of ways to die, darling. That's just the one that got him.

Yes, and it sounds like it couldn't have happened to a nicer fellow.



Ah, no spoilers.

I hardly think that saying Harold Wychwood was a conniving, manipulative, self-centred, practically delusional piece of -



Behave, Rathbone.


- Work. I was going to say work. Anyway, it's hardly a secret that the world is a slightly nicer place without him, is it? No one really misses him. Not even Noah.




No, no, I know. But it's hardly surprising, really. Anyone would be sad about losing someone they've known since childhood, wouldn't they? I'd be devastated, anyway.



Yes, but you like all your childhood friends. Even Jane Kingsley.

Do not! Ugh, did you have to bring her up? But I suppose you're right in as far as I wouldn't want anything bad to happen to her, man-eating harpy that she is.



But you think Noah wanted something bad to happen to Harold?

No. Stop twisting my words.



It's all part of the fun, my dear. But Noah would have a motive...

Yes, but so would his sister and his parents.



A family affair?

I thought we weren't doing spoilers?



We're not. Just giving our readers -

*Your* readers.



*Your* fans a little taste of what to expect in Death Most Devious.

Humph. Are we done here, Amatti? You saying the word "taste" has made me hungry, and I hear the onion soup at the French place is to die for.



That's an interesting choice of words, Rathbone, considering you live in murder mystery books.

Give over, I live in your head. By comparison, murder mystery books are a walk in the park.



Have you not gone yet?

Not yet. See you later, Saff.



Yeah. Stay out of trouble, if you can. And tell Clara she's up next, would you?


Deleted Scene

This is a scene I didn't particularly want to cut, as it's  - well, it's just fun, really, and I enjoyed writing it, but you'll see why it doesn't work any more when you read the book.

However, because it's just got such a light, easy energy to it, this rather large snippet is my first choice for Deleted Scenes from Death Most Devious. I hope you enjoy it :)

(Oh, and as you'll probably be able to tell, this never got edited into something neater, so please forgive clunky sentences, anything that doesn't make sense, typos, and [notes I left for myself and never fixed]. Thanking you <3)

‘I heard you and Mr Wychwood were an item at one point,' said Tommy. 'So I assume you knew him best.’ Miss Adams snorted her disdain. ‘He wished, but his charming ways that took everyone else in did not fool me. Oh no, Mr Kilbourne, you have to get up pretty early in the morning to fool me, and Harold was the most dreadful sloth.’ ‘I see,’ said Tommy with a smile, handing his overcoat and hat to a stiff-backed porter [wrong word, fix later] and following a handsome young waiter to a table for two, in what looked suspiciously like a corner arranged specifically for the privacy of young courting couples. He wondered who else Miss Adams had brought here, then squashed that line of consideration. ‘So, it was a non-starter for old Harry, was it?’ ‘Non starter? His horse was dead before it even for to the gates, as far as I was concerned. No, Mr Kilbourne,’ she added, her dazzlingly blue eyes scanning the horribly expensive menu. ‘Harry, as you call him - he’d have hated that, by the way, so I thoroughly encourage it - Harry was never my type.’ There was a slight emphasis on the word “my”, making Tommy wonder whose type Harry was. Martha’s would be his guess, though there was the outside possibility of it being Sidney. Stranger things had happened, and Tommy was hardly one to judge. However, if Harry had threatened to reveal the illicit - not to mention illegal love affair with his professor, that seemed like a motive for murder… Something to store away for the future. ‘No, he was a silly, dithering dolt who thought he was far cleverer than he really was,’ continued Georgina, who hadn’t noticed her companion’s musings. ‘Well, perhaps he really was quite clever, I suppose, but he really was far too clever for his own good, and look where it got him. Pot of Earl Grey, please, and a cream tea with strawberry jam,’ she added, addressing the waitress who had just appeared at her elbow, asking whether madam was ready to order or if she needed a few more moments. ‘Make that two, please,’ said Tommy, despairing briefly at the price as he folded the menu and handed it to the young waitress with a smile. She was probably no older than seventeen and looking a little light a frightened rabbit. Probably new to the job and terrified of making mistakes, so may as well make it easy for her. Tommy wished people had made life easy for him, so always tried to do unto others what others had neglected to do unto him. ‘I suppose you think I’m terribly unkind, speaking ill of the dead like this,’ said Georgina carelessly, doodling her fingers across the twining roses embroidered on the linen tablecloth. ‘And I suppose I am, really, but it’s hard to feel sad when someone you hate dies, isn’t it?’ ‘You hated him?’ asked Tommy, a little surprised. ‘I dare say you have your reasons, but hate is a strong word.’ ‘And an entirely suitable word in his case,’ she bit back sharply. ‘I’m sorry, darling,’ she said, reading across the table and giving his fingers a squeeze. ‘You must think dreadfully of me, and we’ve only just met.’ ‘And yet, I feel as though I’ve known you my whole life, Miss Adams,’ murmured Tommy, wondering if a brief flirtation might be in order as he pressed her hand in return. Hardly an unpleasant task, when one’s companion was so beautiful, but he rarely played it so strongly with someone he might have to come into contact with on future occasions. It could get frightfully awkward. ‘I hope this won’t be the only time we meet.’ ‘Oh no, I shouldn’t think so,’ she replied in a brisk, business-like manner, pulling her hand away again. ‘It’s always useful to have friends in the press office.’ ‘Ah, you only want me for my job title,’ said Tommy with a smile. ‘That explains it.’ ‘Explains what?’ ‘Why you were trying so hard to make yourself attractive? I mean, you are,’ he added hastily, eliciting an amused smile from across the table. ‘But young women aren’t usually so… forward. Not nice young women, anyway.’ ‘And you’re assuming I’m a nice young woman? Oh dear, Mr Kilbourne, I can’t have you thinking things like that.’ ‘Call me Tommy,’ said Tommy, thinking that if they were going to be better acquainted at some point, they may as well drop formalities. ‘I’d return the compliment, Tommy, but I’m afraid I rather like being called Miss Adams,’ said Miss Adams with a grin. ‘Though if you play your cards right, Mr Kilbourne, I may allow you to call me Gina, like the rest of my friends to.’ ‘Ah? And what game are we playing these cards in?’ ‘The game of discredit that dreadful Harold boy and get my father’s reputation back.’ ‘Oh. The long game, is it?’ said Tommy, rocking back in his chair slightly, before hastily righting himself again as he caught the stern, disapproving eye of the head waiter. ‘All right, count me in, Gina.’ ‘I told you -’ ‘But I’m confident I’ll succeed,’ interrupted Tommy, resting his elbows on the table and resting his chin on his hands as he studied her again. ‘But for now, Miss Adams, I’ll play by your rules.’ Yes, there was far more than mere beauty going on here, and she was smart enough to know how to use her looks to get what she wanted. Tommy rather suspected that happened a lot, and without her having to take so much as a stocking off in order to do it. She reminded him rather forcefully of Clara, and he liked her all the better for it. Perhaps he might have more luck with Gina Adams than he ever did with Clara Jenkins? ‘Thank you,’ said Gina, straightening herself up and thanking the nervous waitress as she inexpertly set the tea things on the table. Poor kid, she’d be booted by the end of the week if she wasn’t careful. ‘I assume you have a plan of how to restore your father’s good name?’ said Tommy when they were alone again, breaking the sweet scone in half. It was still warm from the over, and the delicious steam rising from the fluffy centre made his mouth water and his stomach growl. ‘A plan which needs a tame vampire.’ ‘A vampire?!’ ‘Someone like me,’ he clarified, putting an unhealthy dollop of clotted cream onto the scone. ‘Your mother referred to my fellow newspaper reporters as vampires, and I must say, she has a point.’ Gina’s pretty face turned an attractive shade of rose pink. ‘She doesn’t like reporters much, I’m afraid. None of us do, really.’ ‘Charmed, I’m sure.’ ‘No, but - well, you see, after what happened with Father…’ ‘It’s all right, I understand,’ said Tommy, taking a large bite of scone, cream, and strawberry jam, all of which melted deliciously together. He briefly wondered if he’d died and gone to heaven, but he doubted that, if such a fantasy existed, it’d come with a bill for [however much an expensive cream tea for two would cost] attached. ‘We don’t exactly have the most honourable profession.’ ‘Well, I suppose, but… well, you seem all right.’ ‘It’s all right, Gina, I’ve already promised to help you,’ he said with a grin, wiping a stray blob of jam away with a fancy linen napkin that probably cost more than his week’s wages. ‘You don’t have to keep buttering me up.’ ‘No, but… well, you seem like a jolly nice person, and you didn’t have to say you’d help me, and -’ ‘Miss Adams,’ he said firmly, taking her hand across the table again. ‘You don’t have to explain. Really. Just tell me what I need to know about your pal Harry to discredit him, and I’ll see what I can do.’ ‘Won’t that reflect rather badly on you, though?’ ‘Nah, I’ll use one of my less honourable pen names for that,’ said Tommy with a grin. ‘I have half a dozen or more aliases. Very useful when rent is due and the wages aren’t. Or for when you’re trying to make a point in the papers and no one will listen to you. Saved more than one innocent neck from the gallows in that way.’ ‘You’re not just a pretty face, are you, Mr Kilbourne?’ ‘Likewise, Miss Adams,’ he said, saluting her with a citrussy cup of tea. ‘Now that we’ve established that we are equals in both mind and looks, shall we get down to business?’ ‘Money isn’t a problem,’ said Miss Adams. ‘However, you should know that I will leave England before much longer, so this shall be a strictly financial transaction.’ ‘It shan’t even be that, Miss Adams,’ said Tommy, rather enjoying using her preferred name as often as possible, to drive home the point that he was using it. ‘I am a professional vampire, and if you provide me with a story I can get paid for, that shall be quite satisfactory.’ An odd flicker passed across her face. Was she, perhaps, hoping that he’d try to woo her? Or was she hoping to control him with either sex or money? Either way, Tommy Kilbourne was not a man to be controlled, no matter how attractive a woman was. Perhaps it wasn’t a bad thing that she was leaving the country? Though there was, just for a moment, the sting of disappointment. ‘Right,’ said Miss Adams, regaining her composure. ‘Well, Mr Kilbourne, if it’s like that -’ ‘By your own admission.’ ‘- Then I suppose I have no choice but to tell you what you ought to know about Harold Wychwood,’ she continued, as though he hadn’t spoken. ‘And what you ought to know about Golden Boy -’ ‘Are we still talking about Harry, or do I have a new nickname?’ ‘- Is that he was a throughly deplorable human being,’ said Gina, though her expression held a touch of amusement. ‘Really, Mr Kilbourne, it’s like you’re trying to distract me.’ ‘I don’t think I’m just trying. Well, go on then, Miss Adams. What deplorable things are you going to pin on poor Harry?’ ‘Poor Harry, my foot. I’ve never met such a scheming, arrogant, charming man as him.’ ‘Well, I suppose you and I have only just met. Swept you off your feet, did he?’ ‘No, he did not, though it wasn’t for want of trying. Flowers, invitations to dinner and the theatre, lavish gifts of jewellery and the like.’ ‘Sounds like a real winner to me.’ ‘But I knew it’s come at a price, Mr Kilbourne. Everything did with him.’ ‘How did you know?’ Miss Adams sighed and fidgeted with her teaspoon, preferring her own distorted reflection to looking at her new friend. ‘My brother, Noah, worshipped Harold since they were boys. He’d do anything to make that man happy, and though on the surface, the affection was reciprocated, behind Noah’s back, Harold was cruel. Mocking him. I heard him boasting one day about how he could manipulate the silly fool into doing anything he wanted. I told Noah, of course, but he didn’t believe me.’ ‘Did you ever confront Harold?’ ‘Oh yes, that’s when his false and overblown show of affection towards me started.’ ‘He was trying to win you over?’ ‘No, you naïve dear, he was trying to win everyone else over.’ ‘I’m sorry, you’ve lost me there.’ Gina sighed and tinged her spoon repeatedly against the rim of her teacup in a note of tuneful exasperation. ‘I was supposed to look like the ungrateful woman, rejecting his devotions and making excuses for why I shouldn’t have him - until no one would believe that it wasn’t for my sake I was rejecting him, but because I knew Noah was better off without the blasted fellow in his life.’ Sibling loyalty? thought Tommy, stashing this snippet of information away with the others. People have killed for far less, I suppose, and she’s certainly bright enough to carry a scheme like that off…

Okay, so I think I'll leave it there for today, partially because there's a lot for you to be reading through, but mostly because I have final checks, promo images, and a cover to do.

The work of an indie author never stops, I tell you.

Anyway, my lovely, I hope you've enjoyed my first set of things about Death Most Devious, and I'll see you next week for another round :)

Take care!


Saff xx

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