Immortalized to Death, Excerpt by Lyn Squire

Death strikes England’s foremost novelist, his latest tale only half told. Was he murdered because someone feared a ruinous revelation? Or was it revenge for some past misdeed? Set in the Kent countryside and London slums of 1870, Immortalised to Death embeds an ingenious solution to Charles Dickens’s unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood within the evolving and ultimately tragic consequences of a broader mystery surrounding the author himself. Debut author Lyn Squire kicks off his fascinating Dunston Burnett Trilogy with legendary Victorian novelist Charles Dickens dead at his desk, pen still in hand. Convinced that the identity of Dickens’s murderer lies in the book’s missing denouement, Dickens’s nephew and unlikely detective, Dunston Burnett, sets out to complete his uncle’s half-finished novel. A stunning revelation crowns this tale about the mysterious death of England’s greatest novelist, and exposes the author’s long-held secret.

Excerpt: Chapter 1

A slight tingle in his right arm, enough to pause his quill mid-word, but nothing to worry about.  The writer ran his left hand over his scraggly, almost-white beard, straightened the sleeve of his velvet-collared jacket, and returned to his task.

    The sharp spasm that jolted him only three sentences later could not be so easily ignored.  Shaken, he set the quill down and sat up, seeking relief, reassurance, finding neither.  Nor any respite.  Powerful convulsions shuddered through his body before he could take a single calming breath.

    A moment later, the onslaught was over, the damage done.  With an ebbing-tide sigh, his head dropped to his chest; his torso, poised for a split-second, followed suit, thudding onto the desk with the doomful finality of a cell door slamming shut on a condemned man.

    The sun, as if in sympathy, withdrew behind the clouds.  With it went the light that had so gloriously brightened the book-lined study throughout the early June morning, leaving in its stead, a leaden gloom intended, or so it seemed, to hide from view the items scattered across the parquet floor by flailing arms: blood-red geraniums, his favourite, bleeding from a small decorated vase; a bronze statuette of duelling toads locked forever in mortal combat; white oblongs of writing paper, trailing towards the door like a fleeing murderer’s footprints.

The minute hand on the study’s eight-day chiming clock dawdled through a quarter-turn before the sun, energy restored, burst from its retreat, its brilliance revitalising the study… and the sorry shape draped across the desk.  Like a mummy rising from its sarcophagus, the stricken man struggled to raise head and shoulders, a trivial task for most, but monumental for this wreck of a human being.  He pushed himself upright and sat there unmoving, gasping for breath, head bowed, eyes unfocused.

    Several minutes passed before his right arm reached out, combing the desktop, circling blindly like an eyeless tentacle, not resting until his trembling hand grasped its prize.  He leaned forward, dipped the quill into the inset inkpot, and with the spirit of a life-long writer burning in his breast, sought to record his final words.

    But it was not to be, his dying effort to document his passing cut cruelly short by another more destructive wave of pain, striking him before he’d completed even a single word.  The gutted effigy stared for a woeful moment at the four letters he’d scribbled and then slumped forward like a weathered gravestone toppling to its final resting place.

    Struck down well before his three score and ten, Charles Dickens, his latest tale only half told, lay dead at his desk, a barely legible scrawl his final message to the world.

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Meet Lyn Squire

LYN SQUIRE was born in Cardiff, South Wales.  He earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Wales, his master’s at the London School of Economics and his doctorate at Cambridge University.  Lyn is now an American citizen living in Virginia. During a twenty-five year career at the World Bank, Lyn published over thirty articles and several books within his area of expertise. Lyn also served as editor of the Middle East Development Journal for over a decade, and was the founding president of the Global Development Network, an organization dedicated to supporting promising scholars from the developing world.

Lyn has always been an avid reader of whodunits and has reviewed scores of mysteries for the City Book Review (Sacramento, CA), but it was the thrill of solving Charles Dickens’s unfinished ‘Mystery of Edwin Drood’ that convinced him to put aside his development pen and turn to fiction. Finding a solution to the mystery has attracted massive interest since the author’s death in 1870.  A 1998 bibliography lists over 2,000 entries, with continuations ranging from the obvious (a Sherlock Holmes pastiche) to the absurd (The Mysterious Mystery of Rude Dedwin).  Lyn’s version of what happened to Edwin is revealed in his first novel, Immortalised to Death. The adventures of his protagonist, Dunston Burnett, a non-conventional amateur detective, continue in Fatally Inferior and The Séance of Murder, the second and third stories in The Dunston Burnett Trilogy. Find more about Lyn on his website

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