Friday, 13 October 2017

BLOG TOUR: The Coven - Graham Masterton

Well, what better way to mark Friday 13th than with a Graham Masterton blog tour?  The Coven is the second book in the Beatrice Scarlet series and this book sees Beatrice return to London after the death of her husband.

I am posting an extract as part of the blog tour today, but first here's a bit about the book:

They say the girls were witches. But Beatrice Scarlet, the apothecary's daughter, is sure they were innocent victims...

London, 1758: Beatrice Scarlet, the apothecary's daughter, has found a position at St Mary Magdalene's Refuge for fallen women. She enjoys the work and soon forms a close bond with her charges.

The refuge is supported by a wealthy tobacco merchant, who regularly offers the girls steady work to aid their rehabilitation. But when seven girls sent to his factory disappear, Beatrice is uneasy.

Their would-be benefactor claims they were a coven of witches, beholden only to Satan and his demonic misdeeds. But Beatrice is convinced something much darker than witchcraft is at play... 

The Coven - extract

Beatrice!’ said Clara. ‘What brings you to my door? Not that you aren’t welcome.’

I was wondering if you could kindly tell my fortune for me,’ said Beatrice.

I have heard about Noah, of course, and my heart bleeds for you. Do you want to consult me about him?’

Partly. But I would also like to find out what might become of us, Florence and me. I have been told that a new parson is coming to Sutton next week, and we will have to leave.’

Come inside,’ said Clara, and ushered Beatrice and Florence into her parlour. The room was so filled up with furniture that it was more like a shop than a parlour – five Windsor chairs and a brocade-covered ottoman, as well as side tables crowded with candlesticks and figurines and framed pictures of various relatives. Almost every inch of the walls was hung with dark oil paintings of angels and engravings of monks and ghosts and extraordinary animals. Florence had been in here before, but she still found some of the pictures frightening, because she clung close to Beatrice’s skirt.

Apart from all the furniture and pictures, the room was also filled with a strong aroma of incense and cloves and stale tobacco smoke. Beatrice didn’t find it unpleasant, but she always felt when she entered the Widow Belknap’s parlour that she had entered into another world – a shadowy, claustrophobic world of mystery and magic. If she hadn’t been able to see the sunlit green outside the window, she could have felt that she was being carried away in the captain’s cabin of a supernatural ship.

May I offer you tea?’ asked Clara. ‘Or I have some cider if you prefer, and apple juice for Florence.’
Yes, a glass of cider would be welcome,’ said Beatrice.

Clara went into the kitchen, but while she was there she called out, ‘I didn’t think you really believed in my fortune-telling, Beatrice. Doesn’t the Lord light your path for you?’

He lights it, yes, but he doesn’t give me a map of where it will lead me tomorrow, and in the days after that.’

Clara came back with a jug of cider and two glasses, a mug of apple juice, and a plateful of thumbprint cookies filled with blueberry jelly. Florence immediately detached herself from Beatrice and sat up with a smile.

Nothing like cookies to overcome your fear of the Devil,’ said Clara. She poured out the cider, and then she said, ‘You brought a luckybone, I trust?’

Beatrice reached into her pocket and took out the wishbone that she had saved from the last chicken that she had cooked. Clara held out her hand and they both hooked their little fingers around it.

One, two, three – what will we see?’ chanted Clara, and they snapped the bone apart. Beatrice had the larger piece, and she shook her head in amazement.

Every time we do this, I win,’ she said.

Clara tapped the side of her nose. ‘We witches, they train us to do that from birth. It takes much more skill to lose than it does to succeed. Now, I used the crystal ball last time to look into your future, didn’t I? But only last week my cousin sent me a pack of new fortune-telling cards from London. She claims they are wonderfully exact in predicting what will happen in the months ahead.’

She pulled out a drawer underneath the low table between them, and produced a cardboard box of cards. They looked like ordinary playing cards, with clubs and diamonds and hearts and spades, and royal cards, too, but each of them had a four-line rhyme printed at the bottom of them.

They have been newly produced by John Lenthall of Fleet Street,’ said Clara, as she shuffled them. ‘He has produced many types of cards, but these are the first that can tell your fortune. There are only forty-eight of them, instead of fifty-two. As your conjuror I am commanded by the Oracle of Delphos to multiply the twelve signs of the zodiac by the four seasons of the year, and no more than that, which means that the four aces have had to be excluded.’

She laid all forty-eight cards face-down on the table in six rows of eight. Florence stopped pretending to feed Minnie with a thumbprint cookie and watched in fascination.
Clara said, ‘Now, Beatrice, place your right hand on your left breast and say, “Honi soit qui mal y pense.” Then pick out a card. If you do not wish to reveal what it says, you can return it to the table and choose another, but whatever your lot, that second card must be abided by. You may pick four cards altogether, one for each coming season.’


Graham Masterton was a bestselling horror writer who has now turned his talent to crime and thrillers. He is also the author of the bestselling Katie Maguire series, set in Cork, Ireland.

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