Jonathan Broughton: The Russian White: A Victorian Thriller

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Jonathan Broughton The Russian White: A Victorian Thriller
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    The Russian White: A Victorian Thriller
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    Amazon Digital Services LLC
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    Исторический детектив / Триллер / на английском языке
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The Russian White: A Victorian Thriller: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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The Russian White, a large uncut diamond given by the Holy Eastern Fathers to the founders of the Russian State, is revered by the Russian Orthodox Church. Tsar Peter the Great, determined to rule Russia without the church’s intervention, gives the diamond to King William of Orange of England on a visit to London’s shipbuilding yards and so. with a single stroke, weakens the church’s authority in Russia. King William, aware of the diamond’s significance and certain that the Russian Orthodox Church will attempt to steal the diamond back, hides the diamond with a group he calls The Brotherhood. A group of four of the most influential gentlemen in English society. The date is now 1853. Russian flexes its military might against Turkey. In Victorian London, Russian spies are everywhere and The Brotherhood fights to keep the diamond secret and safe. One of The Brotherhood, William Hunt, has a sister called Isobel. She is a fiery and headstrong young woman who is determined to live her life according to her rules. She runs away from home and joins a theatrical troupe where she falls in love with the young manager, James Turney. The troupe is a front for smuggling Russians into London who have been sent to find and retrieve the Russian White. Isobel is caught up in a dangerous situation that brings her into confrontation with her brother, The Brotherhood and even the government as it faces war with Russia. The Russian White remains a hidden but very real presence as intrigue, deceit and murder are carried out in its name.

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Jonathan Broughton




The bell in the steeple struck two in the morning.

Wolfman sprang out of the shadows and sprinted towards the church. He collapsed against the cemetery wall. His ragged breathing smothered any sounds of pursuit. No time to rest.

He dashed across the fields and mud clung to his boots. Pain burned his legs, and his body staggered as it threatened to topple him over. Then his boot hit hard ground.

A large barn loomed before him with one huge door propped wide open. He stroked the silver wolf charm at his neck, it always brought him luck.

He ran inside. Straw rustled at his feet, and then pricked his face. His hands plunged into its dry sharpness; a mountain of straw, tall enough to cover a man. He dived in, head first, and wriggled. The dust filled his eyes and mouth and he coughed.

Behind him, running footsteps hammered hard against the cobbles. Loud voices, stamping boots, lantern light throwing violent shadows across the barn walls, and then the swish of a sword as it scythed through the straw over his head.

His hand closed over the diamond in his pocket. He scrabbled through the straw until his fingers found a deep crack where the barn wall met the broken floor, and he pushed the diamond inside and secured it between the sharp stones.

Then a strong hand reached down, pulled him up, and exposed him to the lantern light.

The men jeered as they searched him. They hit him with the flats of their swords. They shouted at him, but he didn’t say a word, and that angered them. They cut him. He didn’t cry out, not even when warm blood trickled down his arms. He felt light headed, like dreaming.

Then anger erupted into violence, and the men pushed him onto his knees and sliced his head off. They thrust it into an old sack, but they left his body for whoever might find it.

In the dark, Wolfman’s blood dripped through the straw, and some of it dried on the diamond.

Part One. Chasing the Diamond

Chapter One

On the 20th October 1853 a handwritten bill, pinned to the door of The Garden Room Club in the London Borough of Soho, flapped in the wind. A passing gentleman took a moment to read it.

Venus and Adonis by W. Shakespeare and James Turney.Mister James Turney takes great pleasureIn presenting his Famous Classical Beauties in this Ecstatic Love Poem.One Night Only (23rd October 10pm)Eight Spectacular Scenes. Admission One Guinea.Gentlemen Only.

The gentleman adjusted the tilt of his top hat, pulled up his high collar, made a mental note of the date and time, and moved on.

On the appointed evening, he arrived alone at The Garden Room Club, paid his guinea, and climbed the narrow stairs to the upstairs saloon.

Gentlemen packed the room. A haze of blue tobacco smoke drifted over their heads. Raucous laughter drowned out any attempts at conversation. He bought a beer and found a seat against the wall. A small stage shrouded in white curtains stood at the far end of the saloon.

On the stroke of ten the doors were shut and the lights extinguished, except for two gas lamps on either side of the stage. The gentlemen cheered, and gave their undivided attention to the white curtains swaying in the heat.

An old man shuffled out of a side door and sat down on a wooden stool. He opened a large leather bound book. There was a murmur of disappointment as he began reciting the poem “Venus and Adonis,” by William Shakespeare.

Behind the white curtains Isobel Hunt draped herself over the bed. She affected her opening pose and attempted to look comfortable which required a lot of concentration, because the bed wasn’t a bed, but the touring trunk for the company’s costumes covered in a blue sheet, and the slats that made the trunk secure dug into her skin. She wore a short white cotton shawl and a long blonde wig that wound around her body and made her skin tickle.

Behind her, five “handmaidens,” also dressed in white cotton shawls, though not wigs, giggled as they took up their positions around the stage.

“Ready ladies?” James Turney winked at Isobel as he prepared to open the curtains. She winked back and nodded.

“Here we go then.”

The curtains clattered apart to reveal the first tableaux of the evening; “The Goddess Venus Awaking at Dawn with her Handmaidens in Attendance.”

The heat and tobacco smoke enveloped Isobel like a blanket, though she didn’t let her discomfit show. She liked to think of herself as professional, and she had the audience’s complete attention. She affected a look of dreamy wistfulness, as though unaware of her surroundings. She had perfected this technique over the last few months and knew that audiences liked it. They stared at her without feeling guilty, and it stopped her from laughing. All those eyes gazing at her as if she really were a Goddess.

She smiled as she remembered her first performance at a courtesan’s house in Paris the year before. She had felt no shame and no fear, just silly. James called her a natural actress. She glanced at him, standing at the side of the stage, his black floppy hair falling into his eyes, and pouted. He blew her a kiss.

The gentlemen leaned forward.

Her body ached. Pins and needles tingled in her left leg. She turned to her “handmaidens,” and, keeping her face in profile to the audience, lifted her right arm in a dreamy languid sweep. This was the cue for the nearest “handmaiden” to step forward, take hold of her white shawl and draw it away, slowly revealing her naked body.

Then the door at the back of the room opened. The sudden burst of light startled her. William, her brother, and three other men appeared in the doorway. Her heart thumped. What was he doing here? She gripped the shawl as the “handmaiden” reached down to take it.

“No wait,” she whispered.


“All right, do it quickly.”

“Eh?” Nellie, the “handmaiden,” dithered and did nothing.

Isobel smiled with what she hoped suggested wide-eyed innocence, but it felt forced and the audience murmured. She had to get off the stage. Her brother, she hoped and prayed, was still oblivious to her presence.

She stood, turned her back to the audience, and let the shawl drop to the ground.

There was an intake of breath, but before the gentlemen had time to appreciate the spectacle, James swept the curtains shut.

“What are you doing?” he whispered loudly.

Isobel picked up the shawl and wrapped it around her.

“You’re not supposed to do that until the last scene,” he remonstrated.

“My brother just walked in,” she explained. Her thumping heart made her voice breathy and faltering. “I’ve got to get out. I don’t think he saw me.”

“What’s he doing here?”

“I don’t know. Where can I dress?” She had changed behind the curtains with the girls, so they didn’t have to walk through the Club. She handed James the blonde wig.

“Upstairs. There’s an empty room. I’ll get Peter to show you. Hold on.” The “handmaidens” watched from the stage.

“Next scene ladies.” He clapped his hands to hurry them. “Jessica, you’re playing Venus.”

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