25 July 2013

Excerpt Thursday: Thieves' Quarry by D. B. Jackson

This week, we're welcoming author D.B. Jackson, whose latest novel THIEVES' QUARRY is set in America's 18th century and follows Jackson's earlier novel, THIEFTAKER. Join us on Sunday, when the author will offer a free copy of THIEVES' QUARRY to a lucky blog visitor. Here's the blurb:

Boston, Province of Massachusetts Bay, September 28, 1768

Autumn has come to New England, and with it a new threat to the city of Boston. British naval ships have sailed into Boston Harbor bearing over a thousand of His Majesty King George III’s soldiers. After a summer of rioting and political unrest, the city is to be occupied.

Ethan Kaille, thieftaker and conjurer, is awakened early in the morning by a staggeringly powerful spell, a dark conjuring of unknown origin. Before long, he is approached by representatives of the Crown. It seems that every man aboard the HMS Graystone has died, though no one knows how or why. They know only that there is no sign of violence or illness. Ethan soon discovers that one soldier -- a man who is known to have worked with Ethan’s beautiful and dangerous rival, Sephira Pryce -- has escaped the fate of his comrades and is not among the Graystone’s dead. Is he the killer, or is there another conjurer loose in the city, possessed of power sufficient to kill so many with a single dark casting?

Ethan, the missing soldier, and Sephira Pryce and her henchmen all scour the city in search of a stolen treasure which seems to lie at the root of all that is happening. At the same time, though, Boston’s conjurers are under assault from the royal government as well as from the mysterious conjurer. Men are dying. Ethan is beaten, imprisoned, and attacked with dark spells.

And if he fails to unravel the mystery of what befell the Graystone, every conjurer in Boston will be hanged as a witch. Including him.

Thieves' Quarry is the second volume in the Thieftaker Chronicles, the new historical fantasy series from D.B. Jackson. Combining elements of traditional fantasy, urban fantasy, mystery and historical fiction, the Thieftaker books are sure to appeal to readers who enjoy intelligent fantasy and history with an attitude.

**An excerpt from THIEVES’ QUARRY, by D. B. Jackson**

Boston, Province of Massachusetts Bay, September 28, 1768

            He heard the man’s footsteps first, boot heels clicking on the cobblestone street leading toward Clarke’s Shipyard. A moment later, Tanner came into view, a bulky shadow against the faint, distant glow of the comfortable homes of Boston’s North End. He walked with purpose, his hands buried in his pockets. Every few strides, he glanced back over his shoulder.

            Tanner passed Ethan Kaille without noticing him, though Ethan stood just off the lane, so close that he could have grabbed the man’s arm as he hurried past. With the concealment spell Ethan had placed on himself a few minutes earlier he could have planted himself in the middle of the street and Tanner would have collided with him before realizing he was there. Still, Ethan breathed into the crook of his arm, so as not to give himself away with a puff of vapor in the cool autumn air.

            He watched as the man walked onto the wharf and crept past the first of the shipyard warehouses. Tanner moved with more caution now, his steps on the gravel and dirt fill of the wharf nearly lost amid the sound of small waves as they slapped against ships’ hulls and lapped at the timbers of the pier.

            The moon, a night or two past full, hung low in the east, like some great, lidded red eye. Its reflection wavered on the smooth waters of Boston Harbor, casting just enough light for Ethan to mark Tanner’s progress as the thief slipped from shadow to shadow.

            Somewhere out on the wharf, amid the warehouses, Tanner had hidden a small package containing several gold watches that he had pinched from a watchmaker named Charles Short. All told, they probably were worth five times the ten pounds Short was paying Ethan to recover them. But Ethan tried not to think about that. A thieftaker’s reputation depended not only on his cunning, not only on his prowess with a blade or his brawn, or, in Ethan’s case, his skill as a conjurer, but also on his honesty.

            Unless that thieftaker happened to be Sephira Pryce. But he tried not to think about her, either.

            Ethan had been working this job for the better part of a month, watching the wharves, learning what he could of the men and women who unloaded trading ships when they arrived in Boston, even making inquiries with merchants and wharfmen about the captains of the various vessels . . .

            . . . After enlisting the help of a friend, Ethan had begun to watch Tanner, observing him from a distance as the man worked the shipyard, and following him through the narrow alleys of the South End to a small, rundown tavern where he spent most of his evenings. The thief was easy to spot: brawny and tall, mustached and fair-haired. He spoke with a faint Cornish accent, and he had a raucous laugh that frequently punctuated his own jokes.

            It had taken Ethan only a couple of days to decide that his friend was right. Tanner had to be their man. The Cornishman had returned to the shipyard warehouses several nights running, each time arriving after midnight, skulking through shadows, and crawling on his hands and knees out near the end of the pier. He had also met with a number of men who Ethan knew to be fences. But thus far, Ethan had yet to see Tanner exchange money or goods with any of them. And, on the one occasion when Ethan managed to get onto the wharf unseen and search for the watches himself, he found nothing.

            That was why he had come tonight. He had guessed that Tanner would return to the shipyard yet again, and this time he intended to confront the thief while he had the watches on his person. As Tanner continued along the side of the warehouses, Ethan eased onto Ship Street and began to make his way toward the wharf, still concealed by the spell.

            Out on Boston Harbor, in the distance and to the south of where Ethan walked, lights bobbed on the gentle swells: lanterns burning on a dozen or more British naval ships. Several of the vessels had been anchored within sight of the city for a week or more; eight others had sailed into view earlier this day. They were arrayed in a loose, broad arc, their reflections dancing and swirling like fireflies. They might have been beautiful had it not been for what they signified: more strife and fear for a city already beleaguered by its conflicts with the Crown.

            But these were worries for another time. Tonight, Ethan had business with Christian Tanner.

            He stole toward the wharf, placing his feet with the stealth of a housebreaker, peering into the shadows, trying to keep track of the thief. Before he had gotten far, however, he heard raised voices. A man cried out and was abruptly silenced. An instant later something -- or someone -- fell to the ground with a heavy thud. A torch was lit on the merchant ship nearest the end of the wharf, and then another.

            Ethan started running toward the commotion, but halted at the sound of an all-too-familiar voice. It was that of a woman, low and gravelly, so she sounded as though she was purring as she spoke. Except that her words didn’t match her alluring tone.

            “. . . Not very clever, Tanner,” Sephira Pryce said. “Mister Short isn’t pleased, and that means that I’m not pleased either. You’re new here in Boston, but that doesn’t excuse what you’ve done.” She stood over the man, and even from a distance, even in the flickering light of the torches held by her toughs, Ethan could see that she looked lovely. Black curls cascaded down her back, shining with torch fire, and her breeches and the tight-fitting indigo waistcoat she wore accentuated the generous, perfect curves of her body. “When you come to a new city you should inquire of those who are familiar with its customs and its habits. You should find out who to avoid angering, and who to avoid altogether. Wouldn’t you agree, Ethan?”

            This last she pitched to carry.

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