London, June 1914. A young man is mauled to death at London Zoo after deliberately climbing into the bear pit. Shortly afterwards, another young man leaps to his death from the notorious Suicide Bridge. Two seemingly unconnected deaths – and yet there are similarities.
Following a third attempted suicide, Detective Inspector Silas Quinn knows he must uncover the link between the three men if he is to discover what caused them to take their own lives. The one tangible piece of evidence is a card found in each of the victims’ possession, depicting a crudely-drawn red hand. What does it signify? To find the answers, Quinn must revisit his own dark past. But can he keep his sanity in the process…?
In this extract, one of the members of Quinn’s team, Sergeant Macadam, is following up a lead concerning a pacifist movement known as the Fellowship of the Gracchi, which is connected one of the young men who committed suicide…
Macadam was shown into a drawing room and invited to wait for the Master who would be along presently.
Before too long, the door opened and a woman of middle years came in. She possessed that confidence that came from being born into money. She radiated command. It was her birthright. And yet Macadam felt that she would find it very interesting – because it would be novel – to have anyone stand up to her. It seemed likely that she had once been beautiful but that this had never mattered to her. Perhaps she had not even noticed.
So, he thought. This is a socialist.
‘Are you the policeman?’
‘That’s right, ma’am. And you are . . .?’
‘That need not concern you.’
‘Oh, but I am very much afraid that it does concern me. I like to know to whom I am speaking, you see.’
‘How very extraordinary. Have you come to arrest my brother?’
‘Is your brother Mr Manley Adams?’
Then that would make her Cordelia Manley Adams, Macadam knew from his research. ‘Is there some reason why I should?’
‘He is the most frightful pacifist.’
‘I see. It is on account of that that I have come to speak to him. But I know of no reason why I should arrest him.’
‘Is it not against the law to be a pacifist?’
‘There is no specific offence of pacifism. But if one’s pacifism causes one to break the law, for example to obstruct the course of justice, or vandalise the Houses of Parliament, then one may well find oneself on the wrong side of a cell door.’
‘I like you.’
At that moment, a dark-haired man with an equally dark beard entered. Behind his silver wire-framed spectacles, his expression appeared preoccupied to the point of distraction. When he saw Cordelia already there, he rolled his eyes.
‘Don’t pay any attention to my sister. She’s mad.’ The man held out his hand to Macadam. ‘Adam Manley Adams, what’s this all about?’
A much younger woman with fine fair hair tied up at the back and a wistful expression followed him into the room. She flashed a shy look at Cordelia and blushed.
‘Oh,’ said Manley Adams, becoming distracted again. ‘This is my wife, Bella.’
‘No, no, she’s my wife,’ corrected Cordelia. ‘We’re all adults here, there’s no need for all this pretending.’
‘She can’t be your wife!’ Manley Adams’ voice rose to a near scream. ‘You’re a woman! She’s a woman and you’re a woman! And besides, she’s married to me! You were at the ceremony, I believe.’ Turning to Macadam, he added: ‘I told you she was mad.’
‘I’ll tell you what’s mad!’ Now it was Cordelia’s turn to scream. ‘Mad is printing leaflets calling on this country to abandon its national defences and surrender abjectly to a foreign power!’
Macadam thought that perhaps this was his moment. ‘Ah, yes. It’s about those leaflets that I wished to speak to you.’ He produced the piece of paper that was found in the clothes of the first suicide. ‘Is this one of yours?’
‘I knew it!’ cried Cordelia delightedly. ‘They’re going to take you away!’ She turned to the other woman. ‘We can be together at last, Bella.’
‘But I don’t want him to go to jail!’ cried Bella.
‘What do you want?’ demanded Manley Adams, ignoring the leaflet Macadam had given him. Perhaps sensing that he was upsetting his wife, he softened his tone. ‘That’s what you need to decide, Bella dearest. At the moment, it seems that you want . . .’ He threw up his hands in exasperation. ‘Well, I don’t know what you want!’
‘I want both of you,’ said Bella simply. And the way that she said it, even Macadam had to admit it sounded quite reasonable.
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R. N. Morris is the author of eight historical crime novels. His first, A Gentle Axe, was published by Faber and Faber in 2007. Set in St Petersburg in the nineteenth century, it features Porfiry Petrovich, the investigating magistrate from Dostoevsky’s great novel, Crime and Punishment. The book was published in many countries, including Russia. He followed that up with A Vengeful Longing, which was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger. A Razor Wrapped in Silk came next, followed by The Cleansing Flames, which was nominated for the Ellis Peters Historical Novel Dagger. The Silas Quinn series of novels, set in London in 1914, began with Summon Up The Blood, followed by The Mannequin House, The Dark Palace and now The Red Hand of Fury, published on 31 March, 2018.
Taking Comfort is a standalone contemporary novel, written as Roger Morris. He also wrote the libretto to the opera When The Flame Dies, composed by Ed Hughes.