The Vanishing ThiefHello. I’m Georgia Fenchurch, proprietor of Fenchurch Books of London. We handle the newest novels and periodicals, scientific tomes, and books to help the housewife. We even handle some antiquarian volumes. My assistant in the bookshop, Emma Keyes, lives with me, as does Lady Phyllida Monthalf. We call Lady Phyllida “aunt,” although we’re no relation.

Oh, you’ve heard the rumors about us being involved in the secretive Archivist Society? A proper spinster, even this close to the end of the nineteenth century with Queen Victoria growing older and more feeble by the day, would never admit to carrying on in such an unladylike fashion. An only child, I inherited the bookshop from my parents and it is understood that a spinster without a family must provide for herself. I can’t afford to be known as someone as scandalous as a private investigator. And while I’ll agree that being a wife and mother is the highest calling for a woman, I don’t expect to be called. So I need to go on running my bookshop and maintaining a home for Emma and Phyllida.

Must you be so persistent in asking about the Archivist Society? Very well. I’ll tell you about the Archivist Society’s current case, but you mustn’t tell anyone. Consider all I say to be in confidence.

A woman came running into the bookshop today demanding the Archivist Society do something. Her next door neighbor, Nicholas Drake, had been abducted a few nights ago by the Duke of Blackford. The woman didn’t know why, she only knew she saw Drake carried out of his house late at night by some thugs and put into the duke’s distinctive carriage. The police didn’t believe her, but she won over my sympathy when I saw what she wouldn’t admit, that she was in love with Nicholas Drake.

After I got the woman out of my shop, I left Emma in charge and caught an omnibus to the suburbs to speak to Drake’s housekeeper. On my way, I had a terrible shock. After a dozen years, I’d finally spotted my parents’ killer.

Of course I climbed off the bus and dashed through carriage and wagon traffic and the horse manure they leave to reach the sidewalk, but the killer, dressed in a black coat and top hat, blended in with all the other men along the street. I paced along several blocks of expensive real estate looking for the killer, but I didn’t find him again. Never mind today’s failure, I will go back and search for him. This is my first clue to his identity and his location since the day they died, and I’ll keep looking until I see him arrested and hanged for my parents’ deaths.

I went on and interviewed Drake’s housekeeper who refused to believe there was anything strange about the man’s disappearance despite finding a pool of blood in the front hall. Then I traveled back into wealthy Mayfair to interview the Duke of Blackford.

His butler said the duke didn’t wish to see me, so I outran the man to reach the study. Not a dignified entrance, but effective. The duke cut an impressive figure for a man not much older than myself. I tried to ignore the fact that he is unattached because dukes do not notice middle-class booksellers. However, no one can be held accountable for their daydreams, and he did answer my questions before he threw me out.

That evening, Sir Broderick, head of the Archivist Society, called a meeting so we could discuss this new case. Before we’d decided on a course of action, the Duke of Blackford came to speak to us. He ordered us to drop the investigation since the claim that he’d kidnapped Drake was a slur on his reputation and he’d deal with it. Not long after he left, Lord Hancock showed up, asking us to drop the case. He thought the longer Drake was missing, the less he could influence Lord Hancock’s ward Daisy.

We’d never been thrown off an investigation twice by people who hadn’t hired us. There was more to Drake’s disappearance than we currently knew and the man must be in trouble. But the police believed his housekeeper that Drake wasn’t missing.

That’s the reason the Archivist Society exists. We take on the cases that Scotland Yard can’t or won’t solve because every member of our group has suffered a loss the police were baffled by or ignored.

Tomorrow, we begin our quest for Nicholas Drake, alive or dead, and the reason he’s gone missing.

You can read more about Georgia in The Vanishing Thief, the first book in the new “Victorian Bookshop” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by noon EST on December 7, and you will be entered to win a copy of The Vanishing Thief. One winner will be chosen at random. Unless specified, U.S. entries only.

Meet the author
After a lifetime living in the Nation’s Capital and working in a variety of fields from hospital microbiologist to communication technician, Kate Parker moved to a small Southern town and began the career that has become her favorite – author. The first books she read as a child were Nancy Drew mysteries and her mother’s Agatha Christie novels, and now she can’t write a story without someone dropping dead by chapter five. Her favorite tales are historical mysteries. She loves to read them on long winter nights with a cup of hot tea, although the appropriate attire for the temperature is shorts and a Tee shirt.

Visit Kate at her website, on Twitter or on Facebook.

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