My novel, And by Fire, involves a collection of “case notes” discovered by my modern London detectives—DIs Nigella Parker and Colm O’Leary—but written by a pair of amateur sleuths more than three-hundred-fifty years earlier.
Tucking things away in books not unheard of. I find everything from receipts to old school pictures tucked in mine. But during the research for my novel I learned of a fascinating case where a message in a doomed King’s hand turned up in a book.
Not just any King either.
In And By Fire Charles II sits on the English throne, as a result of the “restoration” of the monarchy after a period of rule by the Roundheads. Charles’s father, the unfortunate Charles I, was executed by these Puritan uprisers. Years later a “message for the future” from the dead king was found in a book—a copy of The Faerie Queen being prepared for auction. On the flyleaf the volume containing Edmund Spenser’s epic poem the king wrote: “While I breathe, I hope.” Poignant. But also inspiring. Isn’t that what we all do—even three-hundred-seventy-three years after Charles I lost his head?
Charles’s note was not discovered for more than three-hundred-sixty years.1 So it is entirely plausible that Lady Margaret Dove’s faithful recording of her investigation (partnering with royal fireworks maker Etienne Belland) of the disappearance of a friend gone missing during London’s Great Fire might lay undiscovered for centuries. Like O’Leary I believe in fate—that the long dead hands of those past can reach across time to help and comfort those now living:
“O’Leary we don’t have time for a cold case more than three hundred and fifty years old”
“I am not sure about that, Ni. I think we were meant to find them.”
“You realize that you sound like a superstitious fool.”
Maybe to a lot of people, Ni, but not to you. You’ve got a bit of it in you as well—the sense that in this carzy job blending science, smarts, instinct and luck, things happen for a reason.”
Yes DI O’Leary they sure do . . . at least when I am writing the novel.
1 For more about the fascinating discovery of King Charles’ note click here.