Although it still feels like summer where I live, autumn’s cooler weather is just around the corner. It’s the time of year when I am most drawn to mysteries, thrillers, and gothic tales. One such book that perfectly fits the bill is Millstone of Doubt by Erica Vetsch, the second in her Thorndike and Swann Regency Mysteries series. Set in 19th century England, it follows as a Bow Street Runner named Daniel Swann and a debutante, Lady Juliette Thorndike, team up to figure out who killed a wealthy businessman. In addition to solving the crime, Daniel may uncover secrets of his own past, too.
Millstone of Doubt looks like a book that offers a lot: the thrill of solving a murder, some hidden drama surrounding a lead character, and a bit of romance to sweeten it all. I hope to read this one soon, just as soon as I’ve read the first Thorndike and Swann installment, The Debutante’s Code!
Following the excerpt from Millstone of Doubt, you can also find out more about the book – including where to get it – below. Do let me know if you’re planning to pick up Millstone of Doubt, and if you’ve already read it, let me know how you liked it in the comments! I’m hoping to read it soon, so stay tuned for my review.
Exclusive Excerpt From Millstone of Doubt
She nodded, but she averted his gaze. Once more he swiped at the trickle. Was he making it better or worse? He had no time right now for her squeamishness, and yet he didn’t want to leave her to faint on the cobbles.
Miss Montgomery and the viscount descended from the carriage.
The viscount kept his arm around Miss Montgomery’s waist as they tried to take in what had happened.
“There appears to have been an explosion at the mill.” Daniel hated saying such in front of Miss Montgomery, but it was impossible to miss. More men hurried past them toward the stone structure. Smoke tendrils filled the air. “If neither of you are hurt, I must go help. There may yet be men to save.” Daniel gripped the viscount’s arm. “See to the ladies.”
He unclasped his cloak and swirled it around Lady Juliette’s shoulders. “Look after that for me.” He wouldn’t want to be encumbered by the garment if he was sifting through wreckage or fighting a fire, and she needed to be kept warm.
Daniel felt the back of the waistband of his trousers, reassured to feel his truncheon still there under his coat. As an officer of the Bow Street Magistrate’s Court, he must step into the crisis and lend aid.
Miss Montgomery broke free from the viscount and clutched Daniel’s arm. “My father! You must save my father. He was in there. Let me come with you.” Her eyes were like burning holes in her pale face, and fear etched her features. He hoped she wasn’t going to have a fit of hysterics, though he wouldn’t blame her.
Daniel shook his head. “No, it will not be safe for you. Stay, and if I’m able, I’ll bring him to you.” He caught the viscount’s eye and jerked his head. “Keep her here. And help the tiger with the horses.”
The viscount’s mouth set in a sour line, as if he was not in favor of taking orders from a mere peace officer, but Daniel ignored his pettiness. With a last glance at Lady Juliette, he joined others hurrying toward the mill. He still felt sore and light-headed, but he had a job to do.
The closer he moved to the mill, the worse the destruction. Tongues of masonry and splintered wood clogged the narrow lane, and split shingles lay like scattered playing cards on the cobbles. Broken barrel staves hung slack around a spilled pile of dried beans, and rubble crunched beneath his boots. Buildings around the mill had taken the brunt of the blast, with windows broken, thatch and roofing blown off, and belongings strewing the street.
Two men passed them heading away from the mill, carrying an injured man on a door between them, carefully picking their way along. The wounded man groaned with each shift of his weight. At least he had survived the initial blast. As they passed a low stone wall, one of the men brushed against it, and it gave way, stones tumbling down. The man had to skip out of the way, juggling his hold on the door and nearly spilling the patient.
How many other walls were ready to give way after the shaking they’d taken? Would there be another explosion? What had caused this one?
Several lines had formed, men passing buckets of water from the river up the bank to the mill. Daniel had expected more fire, but they seemed to be making good headway already. Heat and steam rose each time a gout of water cascaded through an open door or window to douse the flames. At first glance it appeared the entire mill hadn’t yet been engulfed. Perhaps they stood a chance of saving the structure.
A dwelling next to the mill had not fared as well. There must have been a candle or lantern burning, or perhaps that was where the fire had started? A blaze gusted from every window and door, and the thatched roof smoldered, ready to ignite. The bucket brigade hurried to quell the flames, not so much to save that building but to prevent the fire from spreading further.
Daniel headed to the right, away from the fire since plenty of men were already there helping. Here on the side away from the flames, the air was cooler, and they were more likely to find survivors. A handful of others were busy pulling aside splintered wood and broken stone, climbing over a glacier tongue of detritus spilling through an opening where once had hung wooden doors large enough to drive a wagon through. Those doors had been blown flat and now lay a good twenty yards from the mill, half leaning against a blacksmith’s shop.
“Here, you, lend me aid.” A burly man in a dirty leather apron—the blacksmith himself?—waved Daniel over to the wreckage-filled door- way. “There’s someone here.”
A hand, the same chalky color as the dust coating everything, lay under a pile of broken wood. Daniel and the big man tossed aside splintered planks.
“He’s most likely dead, but be careful, just in case,” Daniel cautioned.
“Agreed.” The stranger lifted the end of a beam that must be all of a foot square as if it were mere kindling, letting it fall to the side with a thump that sent flour and rock dust swirling into the air.
The buried man stirred, his fingers clenching and grasping.
“He’s alive.” Daniel shoved away a broken toolbox and a bucket that would never hold water again, revealing the man’s head and shoulders. “Sir? Sir, can you hear me?”
There was no more movement, but when Daniel felt the man’s neck, his pulse beat there. “Can you find something to carry him on?” he asked his co-rescuer. “Where is the nearest physician?”
“On the high street. This here is the mill manager, Mr. Coombe. A good man.” The stranger brushed his hands down his apron. “I’ll find some men to carry him.”
Daniel eased the mill manager over so as not to cause further dam- age, but he wanted to get the man’s face out of the dirt and ensure he could breathe. A nasty cut adorned his forehead, and his arm lay at an odd angle.
“Do you think it safe to go inside? The structure won’t fall, will it?” Daniel turned from where he knelt. Viscount Coatsworth stood,
eyeing the upper floors uncertainly.
“What are you doing here? What about the ladies?”
“Duke von Lowe arrived. And Agatha was beside herself, insisting she be allowed to come down here and search for her father. I told her I would come instead. I left the women with the duke, and here I am. Do you think he’s in there? And if so, where?” The viscount surveyed the area with a grimace, dusting his hands together as if to get off dirt—though he had yet to touch anything.
Heinrich? Why had he come? Had Thorndike or Haverly sent him?
Or was it Juliette who had drawn him here?
The blacksmith returned with three men, and they carefully loaded Mr. Coombe onto a blanket and carried him away, navigating the treacherous terrain as a team.
Daniel turned back toward the warehouse attached to the mill. “This way. If there’s anyone left inside, they’ll most likely be in this part of the building.” Had the blast weakened the stone walls? Jarred the roof loose? Was another explosion imminent? Daniel shoved those thoughts aside. Despite the potential danger, if there was a chance of saving a life, he must act. And he had promised Miss Montgomery he would locate her father.
The viscount followed, his knuckles white and his movements stiff, as if ready to bolt at the first sign of trouble.
Climbing the pile of wreckage half filling the doorway, Daniel winced as splinters dug into his skin. Slipping and grasping, and then sliding and bracing, he made it onto the warehouse floor. Inside, the center of the room was clear. The broken bits had been forced to the perimeter and away from the main part of the mill. Here, grain heaped along the walls, with tatters of burlap embedded in the piles, bags burst and thrown about like pillows tossed by an angry giant. Gaping sacks of flour lay everywhere, and the air let in through the broken windows swirled the dust up and out.
Smoke hung in ribbons in the air, and the shouts of the men fighting the blazes in the other part of the mill echoed through the room. A door on the river side of the warehouse had also been blown open. Perhaps someone else had been hurled outside like the manager. They should check before venturing into the hallway connecting the warehouse to the mill.
“What do you think happened?” the viscount asked between coughing spates. “What caused this?”
Daniel didn’t want to speculate, but with his recent conversation with Mr. Finch on his mind, he suspected something sinister.
Chapter 2, pages 29 – 33
A Bow Street Runner and a debutante in London Society use their skills to find the killer of a wealthy businessman, but the killer’s secrets aren’t the only ones they will uncover.
Caught in the explosion of the Hammersmith Mill in London, Bow Street runner Daniel Swann rushes to help any survivors only to find the mill’s owner dead of an apparent gunshot–but no sign of the killer.
Even though the owner’s daughter, Agatha Montgomery, mourns his death, she may be the only one. It seems there are more than a few people with motive for murder. But Daniel can’t take this investigation slow and steady. Instead, he must dig through all the suspects as quickly as he can because the clock is ticking until his mysterious patronage–and his job as a runner–comes to an abrupt and painful end. It seems to Daniel that, like his earthly father, his heavenly Father has abandoned him.
Lady Juliette Thorndike is Agatha’s bosom friend and has the inside knowledge of the wealthy London ton to be invaluable to Daniel. She should be in a perfect position to help with the case. But when her trusted instructor in the art of spy craft orders her to stay out of the investigation, Lady Juliette obeys. That is, until circumstances intervene, and she drops right into the middle of the deadly pursuit.
When a dreadful accident ends in another death on the mill floor, Daniel discovers a connection to his murder case–and to his own secret past. Now he and Juliette are in a race to find the killer before his time runs out.
Get the Book
You can buy Millstone of Doubt at the links below – it’s available as a paperback and ebook.
|Millstone of Doubt by Erica Vetsch|
|Series||Thorndike & Swann (#2)|
|Genre||Historical Mystery; Historical Romance|
|Number of Pages||304|
|Original Publication Date||September 20, 2022|
About the Author
Erica Vetsch is a New York Times best-selling author and ACFW Carol Award winner and has been a Romantic Times top pick for her previous books. She loves Jesus, history, romance, and watching sports. This transplanted Kansan now makes her home in Rochester, Minnesota.