CROSSED QUILLS (Now on sale at $1.99 for Kindle or UK £1.34) is not a mystery. It's a Regency, and no one is murdered in it.
But it does have a subplot dealing with unnatural death.
It's the story of a couple of star-crossed writers. Pippa writes Radical political tracts under her deceased father's pseudonym. Wynn Selworth writes spicy Gothic melodramas under the pen-name Valentine Dred. Then Wynn inherits a noble title and must make his maiden speech in the House of Lords. He begs for help from Pippa's father, whose writing and radicalism he admires.
How can Pippa aid him without giving away her secret? Not only is her work politically dangerous, but Society would shun her if they knew about it.
How can Wynn keep his racy authorship hidden from the Ton? No one will take him seriously as a politician if they find out.
Pippa's first suggestion is to narrow his focus from all the ills of Regency England to one specific topic, where he might have a chance of changing people's minds and making a difference. Between them (though Wynn still believes he's communicating through Pippa with her father), they settle on the horrible plight of chimney sweeps.
Little boys as young as 5 were sent up chimneys to clean them. If they objected, the master sweep often set a fire to force them to climb. Sometimes, in the days when every room had a fireplace, they got lost in complicated mazes of interconnected flues:
They often suffered burns and bruises. They might suffocate in a fall of soot. They coughed and wheezed. Their masters were legally obliged to feed them but often left them to scrounge or steal for food. And in the end, if they survived to grow up, they developed "chimney sweep's cancer," later diagnosed as squamous cell cancer, usually of the scrotum.
Where did the master sweeps find these unhappy boys? They bought them from the Poor Houses and from poverty-stricken parents. Cases were known of well-born children kidnapped and sold into the trade.
And did my fictional Wynn, Lord Selworth, succeed in awaking the conscience of the nation? Or at least the conscience of the House of Lords? You'll have to read Crossed Quills to find out the result of his crusade.
You can start with a couple of excerpts here: