Thursday, 18 July 2013

#6 THE BALLAD OF EMILY DUNCAN (YA historical murder mystery)

In 1890s Norfolk, seventeen-year-old Lucy Atwood dreams of happy-ever-afters for herself and her older brother, Wyatt. Working as a governess at Worthington Manor, Lucy's friendship with the handsome and wealthy Cole Marchant is fast developing into something more. Meanwhile, Wyatt has fallen madly in love with Lucy's best friend, Emily Duncan - a beautiful and much-admired lady's maid.

On the night of the Worthington winter fair, Emily accepts Wyatt's proposal of marriage. But the next day, Emily is found dead - her lifeless body discovered floating in the river that runs through the Worthington estate - and Wyatt is arrested for her murder.

Desperate to save her brother from the hangman's noose, Lucy enlists the help of Edgar Harrington, a kind but inexperienced young lawyer. Together, Lucy, Edgar and Cole investigate what really happened the night Emily died, uncovering long-buried secrets as they hunt for the real killer. But it isn't long before Lucy's investigation puts her, and all those around her, in terrible danger...

Inspired by an old English poem and told partly in verse, THE BALLAD OF EMILY DUNCAN (complete at 75,000 words) is a historical, romantic murder mystery for readers aged twelve to adult. It should appeal to fans of authors such as Mary Hooper and Michelle Zink, and to viewers of TV's Downton Abbey.

The Ballad of Emily Duncan

I hope she watches over me,
I hope she thinks me brave,
As I kneel down and lay,
A single rose upon her grave.

Norfolk, 1890

‘Wyatt!’ I push my way through the baying crowd, desperately trying to catch a glimpse of my brother. All around me people jeer in derision, shaking their fists, their eyes flashing with anger and hate. These are people I know, people I once counted as friends.

And now they would see my brother hang for a crime he did not commit.

‘Lucy!’ He calls my name, his voice croaky and rough. ‘Lucy, stay away! It’s not safe!’

I press on, elbowing my way to the front of the crowd, politeness all but forgotten now. I stopped minding my manners the day they clamped my brother in chains.

The day Emily died.


I see him now, being guided through a gap in this mob of people; his clothes ragged and torn; his blond hair lying limp and unwashed; his lip split open and his cheek swollen and bruised from where Gabriel’s fist collided with his face in a furious flurry of rage.

‘Lucy!’ His blue eyes widen as his gaze meets mine. ‘Lucy, get back! Please!’

He is being pulled along by two men bigger and stronger than he, one on each arm, his feet dragging uselessly on the frosty ground as the uniformed officers plough onwards.

His hands are bound together, chained at the wrists, so he cannot fight back. Though there is no need for such measures. All of the fight has drained out of him now. I can see it in his eyes. He is no longer the jovial, carefree young man I once knew.

Some might say the brother I love is already lost to me. But not I. And I will do everything in my power to save him.

‘Let him go!’ I cry, tugging on the arm of one of Wyatt’s captors.

He shakes me off, as if I am nothing more than a petty annoyance.

With tears of anger and frustration welling in my eyes, I clench my hands into fists and jump in front of Wyatt. ‘Stop!’ I yell, stumbling backwards as Wyatt’s guards continue to propel him forwards. ‘Please stop! He didn’t kill anyone! He’s innocent!’

My protests are drowned out by the angry, snarling voices of the crowd. They surround me on all sides, closing in on me, their faces twisted in fury and disgust, their grasping hands reaching for my brother as he is marched to his death.

An elderly woman appears at my side, knocking me out of the way so suddenly that my foot slips on a loose pebble, my ankle turns over and I stumble and fall.

Hands grab me before I hit the ground, dragging me back; the hungry horde swallowing me whole.

But not before I see the old woman thrusting her wrinkled face forward to spit at my brother.


  1. I love the sense of urgency and the mystery surrounding all of your characters. I think this concept is dynamite!

  2. Request from agent Gemma Cooper!

    'Full please to with XmasInJuly in header.'


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