I’m not familiar at all with Todd M. Johnson. When I saw this book and the synopsis, I was intrigued. I’m looking forward to reading this book in the future.
Read on for a synopsis and an excerpt of this historical legal thriller.
The Barrister and the Letter of MarqueBethany House Publishers
Publication Date August 3, 2021
Genres: Action/Adventure, Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
Setting: England Georgian Era – UK – 1714 – 1837
Written for: Adults
As a barrister in 1818 London, William Snopes has witnessed firsthand the danger of only the wealthy having their voices heard, and he's a strong advocate who defends the poorer classes against the powerful. That changes the day a struggling heiress, Lady Madeleine Jameson, arrives at his door.
In a last-ditch effort to save her faltering estate, Lady Jameson invested in a merchant brig, the Padget. The ship was granted a rare privilege by the king's regent: a Letter of Marque authorizing the captain to seize the cargo of French traders operating illegally in the Indian Sea. Yet when the Padget returns to London, her crew is met by soldiers ready to take possession of their goods and arrest the captain for piracy. And the Letter--the sole proof his actions were legal--has mysteriously vanished.
Moved by the lady's distress, intrigued by the Letter, and goaded by an opposing solicitor, Snopes takes the case. But as he delves deeper into the mystery, he learns that the forces arrayed against Lady Jameson, and now himself, are even more perilous than he'd imagined.
Madeleine listened. From a distance behind her came the clatter of another horse trotting the planks of the bridge. Who would be out in this fog who didn’t need to be? And why did they sound as though they were moving so quickly?
Blind in the fog, she stopped the mare beneath some low-hanging branches to listen again. Wind passed through the trees, played a chord of creaking wood and shivering leaves. A pheasant’s wings launched the bird toward a nearby field. Then the sound of hooves rose again, close enough to hear the other horse’s panting through the fog.
Her chest tightening, Madeleine tugged the reins to force Gypsy off the road and down a shallow ditch, then up the far side into a stand of trees. A few feet into the woods, she reined her in and slid to the ground.
The following hooves came abreast on the road, invisible only yards away. Their sound was passing.
Relief seeped in.
Then the horse and rider slowed.
Madeleine stroked her mare to silence with trembling fingers. The horse on the road backed up and snorted.
“Whoa,” a low voice came through the fog.
The fog and trees shrunk around her like prison walls. The woods behind her were too thick to flee through, and only marshland lay beyond that. The road with the rider offered the sole escape.
A long minute passed.
The voice clucked to the horse on the road, and they began to walk away.
Madeleine let out a long breath. She waited until the road had become deathly quiet, then reached for the cloth sack of coins in her saddlebag. Taking a handful that she slid down into the depths of the saddlebag, she knelt to scrape a hole in the damp earth, where she laid the sack with the remaining coins. Covering the hole with dirt and leaves, she took off her scarf and tied it around the nearest sapling.
Then she stood and huddled for warmth against the mare.
She waited what seemed an hour. When her teeth were grinding and her body shaking, she finally pulled herself stiffly into the saddle and walked Gypsy back onto the road.
The sound of the other horse and rider had disappeared. She tried to clear her mind over her shivering. The wood where she’d hidden had to be the small thicket near the drive to the manor house grounds. Another mile or so and she’d be safely home.
She kicked the mare into a faster walk.
Half an hour passed. A small hedgerow signaling the manor drive emerged from the fog to her right. Madeleine turned her horse onto it.
Home. A fire. Embracing her father. A bath. Her body began to relax.
Gypsy whinnied and sidestepped with alarm. She looked up.
Another horse and rider had appeared out of the fog ahead.
Madeleine gasped, yanking Gypsy to a sudden stop. She peered at the figures through the wisps of gray. The man looked huge, seated calmly atop a black stallion. A scarf was drawn across his chin and mouth. A hood covered his head. One hand gripped a pistol.
“What do you want?” Madeleine forced out.
The man and horse stood quietly in the mist.
“If you’ve no business with me, then get out of my way,” she commanded, her voice lifeless in the wet air.
“Your saddlebag, miss,” the man called in a London accent. “Tie it loose and drop it to the ground.”
Her mind and body were riven in two.
Chapter. 7, page 48
“Johnson debuts with a tense story of powerful interests teaming up to thwart a legal challenge in Georgian-era England…Johnson steeps his story in legal maneuvering, layers of intrigue, midnight chases, and even a hint of romance. While faith elements are subtle, this enthralling novel will appeal to fans of both legal thrillers and historical inspirationals.”— Publishers Weekly
“… a mystery worthy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This richly historical and lively paced story has all the makings of a modern classic.”— Jocelyn Green, Christy Award-winning author of Shadows of the White City
“At once atmospheric and gripping, Johnson’s latest is a luminous and refreshing new offering in inspirational historical fiction.”— Rachel McMillan, bestselling author of The London Restoration, and The Mozart Code
“A fascinating glimpse into a Regency London readers seldom see.”— Roseanna M. White, bestselling author of Edwardian fiction