Read Secret Lament Online

Authors: Roz Southey

Secret Lament

BOOK: Secret Lament
8.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Secret Lament

Roz Southey

First published in 2009
by Crème de la Crime
P O Box 523, Chesterfield, S40 9AT

Copyright © 2009 Roz Southey

The moral right of Roz Southey to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any
information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is

All the characters in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Typesetting by Yvette Warren
Cover design by Yvette Warren
Front cover image by Peter Roman

ISBN 978-0-9557078-6-5
eBook ISBN 978-1-906790-86-8
A CIP catalogue reference for this book is available from the British Library

Printed and bound in Germany by Bercker.

If you enjoyed “Secret Lament” by Roz Southey, you might also enjoy:

Or try another eCC Creative Crime title:

Follow us on Twitter:

Praise for Roz Southey’s inventive historical mysteries:

… points for originality… different, absorbing, and with an unhackneyed setting…

– Alan Fisk, Historical Novels Review

what really makes the novel come alive is its setting… she seamlessly incorporates the historical information into the novel… The dialogue, too, rings true:
just ornamented enough to feel right for its time… A charming novel…

– Booklist, USA

A fascinating read, and certainly different.

– Jean Currie, Round the Campfire

… plot as intricate as a fugue… wickedly pointed characterizations and the convincing evocation of the sounds and stink of a preindustrial city. Southey
deserves an encore…

– Publishers Weekly, USA

… a masterpiece of period fiction that delights while it provides an intriguing puzzle that keeps the reader riveted until the end.

– Early Music America

… it is good to see a publisher investing in fresh work that… falls four-square within the genre’s traditions.

– Martin Edwards, author of the highly acclaimed Harry Devlin Mysteries

Creme de la Crime… so far have not put a foot wrong.

– Reviewing the Evidence

With thanks

… to Lynne Patrick at Crème de la Crime for her unfailing support and belief, and to Lesley Horton for her clear-sighted assistance as editor. To Larisa Werstler
for all her hard work in America. And to Jeff, for his entertaining company at various books signings, book fairs and conventions, including that fantastic trip to Philadelphia and

… to my sisters, Wendy and Jennifer, and to my brother-in-law John, for their generous help over the years, and to all the family (including Billy, who is much too young
to know anything about the matter at all). Thanks too to Jackie, Laura and Anuradha for their continuing support.

… and especially to my husband, Chris, who as usual has obliged with endless cups of tea and a shoulder to cry on when things get rough. And thanks too for his
enthusiastic organisation of trips all over England and even to America. I said there’d be a few good holidays…

Roz Southey is a musicologist and historian, and lives in the North East of England.

For Wendy, Jennifer and John


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 44

Chapter 45


Indeed, sir! There is nothing to be compared with the conviviality of a troupe of comedians!

Reminiscences of a theatre manager
, Thomas Keregan (London: published for the Author, 1736)]

If ever a man was born to be murdered, it was John Mazzanti.

I was not in the mood to be tolerant. My head ached with the June sun beating in through the windows of the makeshift theatre, catching clouds of dust and sawdust in its rays. Outside, in the
timber yard, sawyers could be heard shouting and clattering; inside, the resinous scents of the pine and cherry and rosewood that were normally kept here made me giddy. The store had been swept
clean and the stage raised at one end for us to stand on, yet the scents still lingered.

But it was Mazzanti who tried me most. Here he came again, pounding up the wood floor of the warehouse, a tall thin man with a sour twist to his mouth. The very worst kind of theatrical
director. He called imperiously, “Violino! Quiet! Damn it – can’t you play more softly than that!”

Amongst the assembled company gathered on the stage, someone tittered. Mazzanti swung round on them. His gaze settled on Ned Reynolds, our leading man, playing the role of the dashing hero.
“You laugh, sir!”

Ned stared at him, with an insolent little smile. Mazzanti reddened but snarled. “You have nothing to be proud of, sir! You began the song too slowly. And you!” He rounded on elderly
Mrs Keregan, resting her bulk against a table on the stage. “Yes,
, madam! Do not breathe so loudly in your dialogue!”

“Want me to stop altogether, eh?” Mrs Keregan wheezed. Her husband, the company manager – kind, gentle, inoffensive Mr Keregan – fluttered and stuttered unhappily.

The real problem – the reason we all disliked Mazzanti so much – was that he wasn’t even Italian. All could have been forgiven if he had been – or at least swallowed with
some resentment. Everyone knows that Italians are the crème de la crème as far as music and the musical theatre are concerned. Or at least it’s fashionable to say so. But
Mazzanti might have had an Italian name, and an Italian father, even a performance or two before the nobility of Europe, but he was as English as I am.

Besides, I had a personal grudge against him: he had been hired to lead the band for the concerts in Race Week and throughout the winter. That had been

“Very well,” Mazzanti snapped. “Let us start again – from the beginning of Julia’s song.”

Someone groaned. That damn girl. Julia, John Mazzanti’s daughter, his pride and joy, his rising star of an actress and singer, even now hesitating with modest innocence at the front of the
stage. Seventeen years old, golden-haired and blue-eyed, demurely dressed in white and pink. A limpid melting gaze. She turned to smile coyly at Ned Reynolds. He was playing her lover in this
nonsensical little musical entertainment and did his best to look adoringly down at her, but I saw his jaw clench as he fixed his smile hard.

“No, no!” Mazzanti said. “Hold her hand, you fool.”

A muscle worked in Ned’s cheek; he took the girl’s hand. Yes, surely someone must have planted a punch in Mazzanti’s face before now, maybe several times. I was tempted

We began again. The sun beat in and bathed us in sweat. The players in the company walking the stage around me were surrounded by a bright glare that made my head ache. I screwed up my face in a
desperate attempt to play quietly enough so that Julia’s song could be heard. She had the worst singing voice I have ever known, a breathy little girl’s voice that you could hardly hear
a foot away.

My sweaty fingers slipped on the violin neck; the squeak was loud enough to be heard over the shuffling of the actors.

“Damn it, violino!” Mazzanti roared. “Are you completely incompetent?”

“Play it fortissimo, Mr Patterson,” advised a Scotch voice above me. Glancing up, I saw a huge cobweb – a single line drifting in the sunlight – and on the end of it a
bright gleam. A spirit. Timber yards are dangerous places at the best of times and many a man has met his death here; three days later, his spirit disembodies and – as spirits cannot move
from the place of the living man’s death – joins the throng already here, happily spending their eighty or hundred years before final dissolution in the company of their friends and
fellow workers.

I knew the spirit on the cobweb of old; the living man had been killed when a stack of oak fell on him and the spirit, once disembodied, insisted it was the best thing that had ever happened to
him. To be confined to a snug warm wood-scented building was apparently his idea of heaven, particularly during the winter months and in June’s Race Week when the building was cleared of all
its wood and transformed into a theatre, and he was given plays and farces and pantomimes for free.

“As loud as you can, sir,” the spirit whispered, swinging dangerously on the end of the cobweb. “Drown the girl out! She’s not worth hearing.”

Mrs Keregan took a hand, saying loudly, punctuated by heavy breaths: “Ignore His Foreign Highness, Charlie boy. I’ve been in this business fifty years and never yet cowtowed to no
Italian.” The Keregans’ daughter, Athalia, spirited and red-haired, said: “You tell him, Mama.” But then Athalia was jealous of Julia Mazzanti who, she insisted, had stolen
the leading role from her.

Mazzanti flushed bright red, clearly remembered just in time that it was unwise to shout too often at the wife and daughter of the theatre manager, and took out his ire on the spirit instead.
“Get those damn cobwebs out of the way! They’re catching the light and blinding me!”

He stood immoveable until young Richard the errand boy brought a broom and swiped at the cobwebs. The spirit scuttled away to a corner beam, and Richard hurried after to apologise. Never offend
a spirit if you can avoid it. Eighty or a hundred years is plenty of time for them to wreak revenge on someone they don’t like.

Mazzanti banished me to the back of the stage where I could ‘scratch away’ without overwhelming the singers. On his way back to his place, he glowered at Ned Reynolds. “Take
your hands off my daughter!”

BOOK: Secret Lament
8.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

The Imperial Wife by Irina Reyn
Harry Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser
Shadow of Doubt by Melissa Gaye Perez
Men by Laura Kipnis
Serpent's Kiss by Ed Gorman
Faerie Blood by Angela Korra'ti
The Buccaneers' Code by Caroline Carlson
The Dumont Bride by Terri Brisbin
Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf