The first in a hugely entertaining, vivid, colourful and fascinating crime series featuring a down-at-heel countess and her maid on the loose in late Restoration London.
London 1699. Anastasia Ashby de la Zouche, Baroness Penge, Countess of Clapham, former mistress to Charles II, is an aristocrat on her uppers. Cast into the notorious Fleet Prison by the bum-bailiffs, she is forced to turn to journalism: ferreting out scurrilous tit-bits for a scandal sheet. But the Countess and her maidservant Alpiew encounter more intrigue than they bargained for when a mysterious woman hires them to follow her husband, Beau, whom she suspects of adultery.
Their pursuit of Beau leads them to playhouses, scientific lectures, coffee houses, the half-constructed St Paul’s Cathedral and dives of Alsatia, only to end abruptly in a Covent Garden churchyard – leaving the Countess and Alpiew implicated in a murder. And worse is to follow, for to unravel their only clue they must penetrate the mysteries of alchemy.
Unnatural Fire is a wonderfully funny, lively, audacious novel with a cast of characters that leap off the page. But underlying the vivacity and humour is a riveting mystery which perfectly captures the darker side of London at the turn of the 18th century.