Extract / Preview: Beneath London by James Blaylock

CBP Titan - JPB A short time after sending Mr. Lewis back to work, Mr. Treadwell and Mr. Snips leaned against a wooden railing above the Thames and looked down into the void opened by the Great Sink-Hole, as the Times referred to it. From their vantage point they could see little of the cave that reportedly led away beneath Upper Thames Street, but they could easily make out the remnants of the fallen buildings and the rubble of broken pavement that lay mired thirty feet below.
An army of men was active along the river: shipwrights, carpenters, masons, and laborers taking hurried advantage of the waning tide, and, in the case of the laborers, of the Crown’s offer of ten shillings a day for ten hours work, many of the men working double shifts to gain the one-crown bonus. A bulwark of posts had been sunk into the Thames mud in a great half circle around the hole. The posts were fitted with strake upon strake of good English oak. The pitch tubs were smoking hot, the heaps of oakum ready for the caulking mallets. A portable crane on a barge belched steam and noise as it placed enormous boulders at the upriver end of the hole in order to convince the Thames to flow around it rather than sloshing into it when the tide rose again.


“Poor Mr. Lewis,” Mr. Treadwell said, although Treadwell was not in fact his name, nor was Snips the name of the man who accompanied him. “He doesn’t much like the look of a severed thumb.”

“Not many men do, I’ve found.”

“You’re in the right of it there. It’s a persuasive argument. What did Mr. Franklin say? ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’ if I remember correctly. I find Mr. Franklin a sad bore with his maxims. What do you think of him?”

“I don’t know him, unless you mean Sidney Franklin, the prizefighter. I knew him when he was tap-boy at the Lamb and Kid near Newgate. He was a good lad, but had his eye gouged out and his back broke in his bout with Digby Rugger. That put an end to his capers in the ring. He died a beggar.”

“I suspect that we’re referring to different Franklins. But speaking of pugilists, I’m not entirely fond of your new mate, Mr. Bingham. He’s weak, deceptive, and deeply stupid. By ‘weak’ I refer to his mind, of course.”

“His fists have come in handy a time or two. I can keep him on the straight and narrow.”

“Can you now? I’ll hold you to that. When you go into Kent a week from now, watch him carefully. If he becomes a hazard to navigation, sink him. You’ll collect his portion of the profit if you do. The decision is yours to make, although I advise you to consider it thoroughly.”

“What if this Professor St. Ives won’t play cricket?”

“He will. Harrow’s expedition will draw him into London. St. Ives put paid to Narbondo’s capers with Lord Moorgate, which cost several of us a pretty penny, and he’s a neighbor of the Laswell woman, who, as you know, mustn’t be allowed to interfere with our goals, but at the same time St. Ives must not be harmed. I have use for him. I do not resent St. Ives for his efforts, mind you. He’s a do-gooder, widely known as an honorable man, which is his chief weakness. That being said, we had best not underestimate his considerable intellect and his penchant for what is commonly called heroics. No, sir. St. Ives can be a right dangerous opponent, although also being a humble man he does not characterize himself that way, which has led others into stupidities, Ignacio Narbondo among them. I repeat that he must not be harmed. As my agent you’ll avoid stupidities as you value your life.”

[Extract from pages 12-13]

CBP Titan - JPB
Beneath London
James P. Blaylock
When the sudden collapse of the Victoria Embankment uncovers a passage to an unknown realm, Langdon St. Ives sets out explore it, not knowing that a wealthy psychopath is working to keep the underworlds secrets hidden for reasons of his own. Assumed to be dead and buried beneath London, St. Ives lives secretly on the streets of the great city and investigates a string of ghastly crimes.


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