A young gentleman of means but of meaningless pursuits, Grainger is cast into the notorious Bellstrom Gaol, where he must quickly learn to survive in the filthy, ramshackle prison. The “Bells”—where debtors, gaolers, whores, thieves, and murderers all mix freely and where every privilege comes at a price—will be the young man’s home for the rest of his life unless he can prove his innocence.
But his friends, the journalist William Quillby and Cassie Redruth, the poor young girl who owes Grainger a debt of gratitude, refuse to abandon him. Before they can win his freedom, however, they must decode the meaning behind the crude wax seal that inspires terror in those who know its portent and contend with forces both inside and outside the prison determined to keep Grainger behind bars.
Set against the urban backdrop of late 18th-century England, The Raven’s Seal unravels a tale of corruption, betrayal, murder, and—ultimately—redemption and love.
Praise for The Raven’s Seal:
“Baltakmens captures the flavor and scope of classic British fiction.” —Kirkus Reviews
“This atmospheric, character-driven, and plot-twisty bildungsroman is a worthy paean to Oliver Twist and Great Expectations.” —Booklist
“Baltakmens gives readers of The Raven’s Seal all of the history and the mystery his subtitle promises. The mood, color, details, and dialogue come across as very authentic . . . [his] characters would not be out of place in a work of DeFoe or Thackeray. In fact, there is much of the latter’s Barry Lyndon here, with its plots and duels and confidence games, as well as deft touches of the former’s Moll Flanders, with its bawdy wenches, prison intrigues, and period squalor.” —ForeWord
“The author’s exquisite prose rushes along full of surprises, shadows, betrayal, and squalid situations where the high-born and criminals intermix. A superb mystery with vibrant characters.” —Historical Novels Review
Andrei Baltakmens was born in New Zealand and holds a Ph.D. in English literature focused on Charles Dickens. His first novel, The Battleship Regal,
was published in New Zealand in 1996. He continues to publish short
fiction and is currently a graduate student in the Creative Writing
Program at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, where he
lives with his wife and son. The Raven’s Seal is his first book to be published in the U.S.
Gabriel Carver, the convict hangman of Sydney Prison, knows that none of his kind may depart Australia’s penal colony without the system’s leave. Then three people are murdered, seemingly to protect the “Rats’ Line,” an illicit path to freedom that exists only in the fevered imaginations of transported felons. But why kill to protect something that doesn’t exist?
When an innocent woman from Carver’s past is charged with one of the murders and faces execution at his hands, she threatens to reveal an incriminating secret of his own unless he helps her. So Carver must try to unmask the killer among the convicts, soldiers, sailors, and fallen women roaming 1829 Sydney. If he can find the murderer, he may discover who is defying the system under its very nose. His search will take him back to the scene of his ruin—to London and a past he can never remake nor ever escape, not even at the edge of the world.
“Baltakmens, echoing the voices of 19th-century masters like Conrad and Melville, combines adventure and mystery in a high-stakes tale of class, morality, and justice.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Gabriel Carver is a great character, and Baltakmens’ style is intelligent and evocative.” —Historical Novels Review
“The story is a page-turner, a savory treat to be devoured.” —Foreword Reviews
From Andrei Baltakmens, author of The Raven’s Seal.
In this sequel to Maids of Misfortune, it is the fall of 1879, and when the young San Francisco widow, Annie Fuller, is asked to investigate a fraudulent trance medium, she comes to a troubling realization. Despite Annie’s growing financial success as the clairvoyant Madam Sibyl, she feels increasingly guilty about the fact she doesn't believe in the astrology and palmistry her clients think are the basis for her advice.
Kathleen Hennessey, Annie’s young maid, has a plan. Just like the Pinkerton detectives she has read about in the dime novels, she is determined to assist her mistress in her investigations.
Nate Dawson, up-and-coming San Francisco lawyer, faces a dilemma. He wants to marry the unconventional Annie Fuller, but he doesn't feel he can reveal his true feelings until he has a way to make enough money to support her.
With Kathleen and Nate Dawson’s help, Annie delves into the intriguing world of 19th century spiritualism, encountering true believers and naïve dupes, clever frauds and unexplained supernatural phenomena, and she soon finds there are as many secrets as there are spirits swirling around the séance table. Some of those secrets will threaten the foundation of her career as Madam Sibyl and the future of her relationship with Nate Dawson, and, in time, they will threaten her very life itself.
In this second historical mystery in Locke's USA Today bestselling cozy Victorian San Francisco mystery series, readers will find the same combination of romance, mystery, and suspense they found in Maids of Misfortune. Uneasy Spirits is followed by Bloody Lessons, Deadly Proof, and Pilfered Promises. Locke’s shorter works, found in Victorian San Francisco Stories and Victorian San Francisco Novellas, feature minor characters from the series.
In Bloody Lessons, the third book in the bestselling Victorian San Francisco mystery series, it's the winter of 1880, and the public school teachers of San Francisco are under attack: their salaries slashed and their competency and morals questioned in a series of poison pen letters.
Annie Fuller, the reluctant clairvoyant, has been called in to investigate by Nate Dawson, her lawyer beau, and the case becomes personal when they discover that Nate's sister Laura may be one of the teachers being targeted.
In this historical mystery, readers will find the same blend of a cozy mystery and romantic suspense that they found in Locke’s Maids of Misfortune and Uneasy Spirits. However, if new to this series, they will still enjoy spending time with the lively residents of Annie Fuller's O’Farrell Street boardinghouse and visiting San Francisco when Golden Gate Park was filled with horse-drawn carriages, politics were controlled by saloon-keepers, and kisses were stolen under gaslight.
Bloody Lessons is followed by Deadly Proof, and Pilfered Promises, and Locke’s shorter works, found in Victorian San Francisco Stories and Victorian San Francisco Novellas, feature minor characters from the series.