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Deadly Destinations once again ventures into the eerie and infamous Whitechapel. Cherry St. Croix from the steampunk/urban fantasy St. Croix Chronicles is here today to tell us all about it. Tarnished, the first book in the series is available now. Want to know our thoughts on this title? Read Sheila’s review here. Enter for a chance to win Tarnished and two backlist titles from Karina Cooper! Thanks to Karina and Avon for this giveaway!
The fog fills the air like a sack full of mud, doesn’t it? We call this a peasouper, thick as treacle and lacking anything sweet to make it bearable. Breathe in through your nose, and you’ll singe the fine hairs right down to the roots. Through your mouth, and your lungs will spend days trying to hack it out.
This is London below, where the devil-fog chock full of factory delights plays host and confidant to the things that go on in these streets. From the fragile gray haze of daylight to the noxious, oily blanket of yellow and black by night, the fog sees all, knows all—claims all.
He’s been at it again. You’ve seen the dailies yourself. The broadsheets, the ink drafted by the bucketful speculating about the identity of the murderous Leather Apron. You know of the arrests and inquiries; but that’s why you’re here, isn’t it? Down in the muck and the filth of London below, hunting the very same streets that fiend himself haunts.
Aren’t you down for a bounty?
No, I see. I’d mistaken you for a collector in the dank and dark. An easy mistake to make, although somewhat less terminal than it could be since it’s me what you ran into first, and not some other soul. What would you have done had you tripped merrily into Leather Apron’s bloody path?
Shh! Not so loud. Have you never been below? Come, step cautiously and follow close. Leave your goggles on lest you spend the rest of tomorrow wiping stinging tears away. I’ll lead you back out to the West India Docks. You’ll catch a sky ferry there and be up among the civilized in two shakes. Assuming you could call them what live above as civilized.
We’re in Whitechapel, not far from Dutfield’s Yard, St. George’s-in-the-East. No, don’t bother looking for street signs, they’re all but invisible in the fog. Footpads count on toffs like you to stray from the usual paths, pockets a’jingling. Look, just to your right, can you see it? You can’t, can you? You’ve not had the time to develop fog-sense, that instinct that warns us who make our coin below when foul things are afoot. In the alley just on the other side of No. 42 Berner Street. What you think is just shifts of smoke will offer you a rude surprise, indeed.
Do you hear the merriment? It sounds far enough away, doesn’t it? Laughter and voices and the clink of glasses. Would you be surprised to know it’s coming from this building just behind us? No. 40, the International Working Men’s Educational Club. Don’t let the name fool you—it’s little more than a so-called club for immigrant anarchists. They’ll drink themselves near blind and stagger out in ones and twos, where those blokes there will get the cosh in and filch whatever’s left.
St. George’s-in-the-East isn’t a wealthy parish. Most of what you’ll land here are dollymops and working men taking the evening’s swagger. Whether it’s coming from the Yiddish anarchists over at No. 40 or out of any number of the drinking establishments just off the road; or, as is just as likely, coming down the steps from the many rooms rented by the doxies of Whitechapel above the storefronts. Drink is cheap, but so are lives. That much has been proven.
Watch your step, now. These cobbles aren’t tended often, and ruts are carved from the carts. Don’t strain so much to see into the gloom. If you can’t see them, they like as not can’t see you, either. It’s a fair bit of wisdom learned the hard way. That’s why I’ve got these protectives, of my own design. I can see them a quick sight sooner than they see me, which means—no, not that I can land the first blow, but that I can escape anything coming at me in the open like this.
Fight? For no reason? I’m a collector, not a ruffian. I claim no membership in the gangs and have nothing to prove by assaulting anyone. Besides that, I’m a woman on my own, and the less that bit of gossip gets around, the better. Footpads are wary of collectors—most are, down here—but they’ll get cocky should they realize my sex. Men are often miserable judges of capability when pride is on the line.
This road, should we follow it, will take us straight through the heart of Whitechapel and onward. You stay close here, stay off the far-flung alleys, and you’ll get home with your skin intact.
That’s assuming Leather Apron doesn’t find you first.
Remember: them what come below often expect matters to be handled same as London above. But the world up there is one of lights and delicacy and honor. There’s no honor to be found at the edge of a knife. There’s the occasional royal foot scamp here and about, but you won’t find that sort in Whitechapel. If it’s honor you want, go back to Captain Abercott and pay him his fee to take you aloft.
This is where we part ways. Follow this road, you can’t miss it. Don’t go wandering into dark avenues and stay off the lanes. Ignore anyone talking at you, you hear me? The doxies have better time to spend than chasing you, so they won’t be much of a bother, but most of the sharper ones have got a low toby man about. Ignore them all, pleading or otherwise.
Me? I’m headed another way. There’s a small matter of a collection fee to handle, and I’d like to leave plenty of time to ensure that Mr. Micajah Hawke does not stiff me another collection. No, I’ll not be carrying you along to the Midnight Menagerie. If you want to lose your fortune—to say nothing of your soul—in that indelicate serpent’s grasp, then you do so on your own terms. I bid you good evening.
…Just follow the road. The Scarlet Philosopher will be waiting at the West India Docks. I promise you, you can’t miss it. Off you go then.
Oh, and one last piece of advice? If you should hear a whistle in the fog, run.
After weaving happily ever afters for all of her friends in school, Karina Cooper eventually grew up (kind of) and fell in love with writing. She broke into the scene with her gritty Dark Mission series, introducing a world that RT Book Reviews calls “an electrifying start”.
One part glamor, one part total dork, and all imagination, she writes dark and sexy paranormal romance and Steampunk-flavored historical urban fantasy. When she isn’t writing, Karina is an airship captain’s wife and Steampunk fashionista. She lives in the beautiful and rainy Pacific Northwest with a husband, four cats, two rabbits, the fantasy of a dog and a passel of adopted gamer geeks.
Want to read more from Karina Cooper?
This giveaway is provided by Karina Cooper and Avon
One lucky winner will win Tarnished and two backlist titles from Karina Cooper
Available June 26, 2012 from Avon/HarperCollins
About this Book:
My name is Cherry St. Croix. Society would claim that I am a well-heeled miss with an unfortunate familial reputation. They’ve no idea of the truth of it. In my secret world, I hunt down vagrants, thieves . . . and now, a murderer. For a monster stalks London’s streets, leaving a trail of mystery and murder below the fog.
Eager for coin to fuel my infatuations, I must decide where my attentions will turn: to my daylight world, where my scientific mind sets me apart from respectable Society, or to the compelling domain of London below. Each has a man who has claimed my time as his–for good or for ill. Though as the corpses pile, and the treacherous waters of Society gossip churn, I am learning that each also has its dangers. One choice will see me cast from polite company . . . the other might just see me dead.
Click HERE to read an excerpt
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