4 Steampunk Mystery Excerpts You Should Read
Steampunk combined with mystery are really enthralling. That’s why we picked four steampunk mystery excerpts, just for you. Warning…you may be lured into getting ALL of them if you don’t watch yourself!
Murder on Black Swan Lake (A Wrexford & Sloane Mystery Book 1)
A plume of steam rose from the bubbling crucible, the curl of silvery vapor floating ghost-like against the shadowed wood paneling before dissolving into the darkness. After consulting his pocket watch, the Earl of Wrexford scribbled a few more notations in his ledger, the scratch of his pen punctuated by the soft pop, pop, pop of colorless chemicals.
“The Devil’s brew,” he murmured, leaning back in his desk chair and staring at the brightly colored satirical print propped up against a stack of books. “Though I give the artist credit for coming up with a far more poetic phrase.”
Satan’s Syllabub. Pitchforks had been drawn in to replace the two l’s of the print’s red-lettered title. As for the caricature of him . . .
A mirthless laugh slipped from his lips.
A pair of scarlet horns poked out from the tangle of long black hair. “I must remember to visit my barber this week,” he murmured, brushing a strand of the shoulder-length locks from his collar. “And is my nose really that beaky? I have always thought it rather elegantly aquiline.”
Shifting his gaze lower, he saw that the artist had drawn him without his trousers on and that his bare hairy legs—a gross exaggeration—ended in cloven hooves. The fine print of the caption explained that he was in the habit of concocting his noxious brews right after enjoying an amorous interlude with his latest conquest.
“Lies,” muttered Wrexford wryly, taking a moment to eye the clever caricature of a near-naked lady peeking out from the large copper crucible cradled between his knees. The deft pen strokes had captured Diana Fairfield’s petulant pout with frightening accuracy.
Yes, the face was perfect, but the implied timing was all wrong.
“I never mix business with pleasure.” For one thing, performing chemical experiments in the nude could have very painful consequences.
But then, he supposed the artist couldn’t be blamed for taking poetic license. A. J. Quill had earned a reputation for creating London’s most scathing satirical prints, and no doubt earned a pretty penny for his merciless skewering of those caught up in the latest Society scandal.
Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices Book 1)
The demon exploded in a shower of ichor and guts.
William Herondale jerked back the dagger he was holding, but it was too late. The viscous acid of the demon’s blood had already begun to eat away at the shining blade. He swore and tossed the weapon aside; it landed in a filthy puddle and commenced smoldering like a doused match. The demon itself, of course, had vanished—dispatched back to whatever hellish world it had come from, though not without leaving a mess behind.
“Jem!” Will called, turning around. “Where are you? Did you see that? Killed it with one blow! Not bad, eh?”
But there was no answer to Will’s shout; his hunting partner had been standing behind him in the damp and crooked street a few moments before, guarding his back, Will was positive, but now Will was alone in the shadows. He frowned in annoyance—it was much less fun showing off without Jem to show off to. He glanced behind him, to where the street narrowed into a passage that gave onto the black, heaving water of the Thames in the distance. Through the gap Will could see the dark outlines of docked ships, a forest of masts like a leafless orchard. No Jem there; perhaps he had gone back to Narrow Street in search of better illumination. With a shrug Will headed back the way he had come.
Narrow Street cut across Limehouse, between the docks beside the river and the cramped slums spreading west toward Whitechapel. It was as narrow as its name suggested, lined with warehouses and lopsided wooden buildings. At the moment it was deserted; even the drunks staggering home from the Grapes up the road had found somewhere to collapse for the night. Will liked Limehouse, liked the feeling of being on the edge of the world, where ships left each day for unimaginably far ports. That the area was a sailor’s haunt, and consequently full of gambling hells, opium dens, and brothels, didn’t hurt either. It was easy to lose yourself in a place like this. He didn’t even mind the smell of it—smoke and rope and tar, foreign spices mixed with the dirty river-water smell of the Thames.
Looking up and down the empty street, he scrubbed the sleeve of his coat across his face, trying to rub away the ichor that stung and burned his skin. The cloth came away stained green and black. There was a cut on the back of his hand too, a nasty one. He could use a healing rune. One of Charlotte’s, preferably. She was particularly good at drawing iratzes.
A shape detached itself from the shadows and moved toward Will. He started forward, then paused. It wasn’t Jem, but rather a mundane policeman wearing a bell-shaped helmet, a heavy overcoat, and a puzzled expression. He stared at Will, or rather through Will. However accustomed Will had become to glamour, it was always strange to be looked through as if he weren’t there. Will was seized with the sudden urge to grab the policeman’s truncheon and watch while the man flapped around, trying to figure out where it had gone; but Jem had scolded him the few times he’d done that before, and while Will never really could understand Jem’s objections to the whole enterprise, it wasn’t worth making him upset.
With a shrug and a blink, the policeman moved past Will, shaking his head and muttering something under his breath about swearing off the gin before he truly started seeing things. Will stepped aside to let the man pass, then raised his voice to a shout: “James Carstairs! Jem! Where are you, you disloyal bastard?”
This time a faint reply answered him. “Over here. Follow the witchlight.”
Will moved toward the sound of Jem’s voice. It seemed to be coming from a dark opening between two warehouses; a faint gleam was visible within the shadows, like the darting light of a will-o’-the-wisp. “Did you hear me before? That Shax demon thought it could get me with its bloody great pincers, but I cornered it in an alley—”
“Yes, I heard you.” The young man who appeared at the mouth of the alley was pale in the lamplight—paler even than he usually was, which was quite pale indeed. He was bareheaded, which drew the eye immediately to his hair. It was an odd bright silver color, like an untarnished shilling. His eyes were the same silver, and his fine-boned face was angular, the slight curve of his eyes the only clue to his heritage.
There were dark stains across his white shirtfront, and his hands were thickly smeared with red.
Will tensed. “You’re bleeding. What happened?”
Now that’s what I like! Action in the leading sentence. Catch more!
Fires of Invention (Mysteries of Cove)
This was going to be the best thing Trenton had ever built—assuming he could finish assembling it without getting crushed. The “getting crushed” part was a real possibility. Every sixty seconds exactly, the horizontally spinning gear he clung to carried him beneath a cast-iron beam that would smash his head if he didn’t press himself flat against the spinning surface. If the impact didn’t kill him, the twenty-five-foot fall to the ground would.
Gripping his wrench in his right hand and clinging to the gear with his left, he counted silently. At fifty-seven, he tightened the bolt with one last twist.
Fifty-eight . . . He pulled the wrench free of the bolt.
Fifty-nine . . . He looked up to see the beam coming toward him.
And . . . sixty. He pressed his cheek against the grease-coated metal and passed so closely under the beam that he felt it brush his curly brown hair.
As soon as he was clear of the beam, he popped up and double-checked each bolt. A rumble came from the small metal building nearby—the power-conversion machinery turning the gear. The wind blowing against his face carried the scent of oil, metal, and burning coal—a smell he could never get enough of.
“Trenton,” one of the kids below yelled up at him. “If you get killed, can I have your tool set?”
“What would you want with my tools?” Trenton shouted back. “As clumsy as you are, you’d end up cutting off one of your fingers and getting blood all over my kit.”
General laughter sounded from below, and Trenton grinned. With the bolts checked, he swung through one of the holes in the giant gear and wrapped his legs around the second of two chains hanging below it.
“You look like a monkey,” a redheaded girl called.
Although none of the kids had actually seen a real monkey, they’d read about them in their history of Earth class that year. Swinging from the chain, Trenton hooted and pantomimed eating a banana. The girl laughed, and he felt a pleasant heat rush to his face. Simoni was the main reason he’d gone to all this trouble.
Two weeks before, he’d overheard her telling a friend that there was nothing fun to do. The idea of using the huge gear attached to the conversion station to power his ride had popped into his head as if it was meant to be. Since then, he’d scavenged spare parts and sketched out the plans for what he hoped would show Simoni that he was more than someone who happened to be good at fixing bicycles and greasing playground equipment and roller-skate bearings. He shimmied up the chain to where he’d rigged a complicated series of pulleys, cables, and a metal lever that engaged the contraption.
Holding a screwdriver between his teeth, he hooked a spring to one end of the lever. He took the screwdriver from his mouth and used it as a pry bar to stretch the spring until his arm began to shake. Then he looped the spring around a metal hoop that had once been part of a water pump, and the whole thing snapped into place.
“Look,” said a voice that was all too familiar—Angus. “The grease monkey made a toy so he won’t have to play in the coal pits anymore.”
Trenton hadn’t invited him to the lot outside the power-conversion station, but the boy with the perfect hair and big biceps followed Simoni everywhere like a puppy. Making coal jokes was one of Angus’s favorite taunts, partly because Trenton’s last name was Coleman, and partly because Trenton’s father worked in the mines.
Trenton tied a rope around the end of the lever, yanked it tight, and slid down to a leather seat hanging between the two chains. From there it was a drop of only six or seven feet to the ground. Still, he had to make the jump carefully because the seat spun at the same rate as the gear it was connected to.
He hit the ground, rolled on one shoulder, and leaped to his feet. He might not have been as big or as strong as most of the other boys his age, but he was nimble. Folding his arms across his chest, he looked up at his finished work with pride. With one chain attached to the inside of the gear and the other to the outside, the seat swung gracefully overhead, powered by the rumbling equipment of the station. The rope hung in easy reach, trailing around and around like the tail of a circling beast.
“What’s it supposed to be?” asked a second grader who’d tagged along with his older brother.
If you want to find out what Trenton is building…you’ll have to grab your copy!
Saving Verity (Experiments in Love & Steel Book 1)
London. June 11, 1887.
Detective Inspector Jacob Howell barely recalled when he’d last slept, or shaved, or eaten. The last time he’d taken comfort in a woman’s bed? Much longer. Even so, when the call about this murder came he abandoned his ambitions for the first three and canceled an assignation with an actress who understood his need to forget.
It wasn’t the victim’s fault Howell had been summoned to investigate a new case before the ink dried on his latest report, so he suppressed his sense of misuse. But when he discovered the killer, he’d make his displeasure plain.
The man slumped upon the desk might have been sleeping but for the rusty stain on his collar and the blood sprinkled across the paper on the pantograph’s platform under his cheek. The bulky brass rods and gears of the duplicating device stood motionless over the victim’s head like a bulldog guarding a pup.
Howell no longer believed everything his mother taught him, but tattered shreds of her Druid faith clung to his memory. He didn’t take chances with souls. They deserved respect wherever they went. He raised three fingers of his right hand and touched the man’s hair. “Goddess bless this turning, Wilfred Drum, and speed thy soul into new life.”
The words made the office feel emptier.
He shunted aside his discomfort, pulling his bi-ocular magnifiers from his inside pocket. He settled the heavy spectacles on his nose and the world blurred. He cursed under his breath. The fixed focus never held anymore.
He twisted the small screws. The upper portion of each lens cleared. His view of the skin on the back of the man’s neck sharpened until he could count the individual greying hairs.
Footsteps echoed over the floorboards in the outer office. Howell paused. This wasn’t his sergeant back from canvassing the area. A lighter tread. Someone new.
“Is anyone here?” A woman’s voice. Upper class accent. “I’ve come about a package.”
He pulled off the bi-ocs, blinking his vision back to normal. The clock on the wall showed it was just gone six. Early for a lady to come calling. He stepped to the window.
Almost nothing on the busy street seemed amiss. Men shouted. Women hawked wares. Handcarts trundled along the cobblestone. No one passing paid the least attention to the two men inside — one alive, one dead — but they gave curious berth to a hansom cab with the initials “CL” elaborately scrolled in gold on the door.
No, not the registered Calvert Livery cab. The residents of the docks stepped carefully around the mechanical horse between its shafts.
Equipoids were uncommon south of the river, where the prohibition against real horses didn’t apply. Few locals could afford the fare. Whoever she was, this woman had money and mettle enough to order a cab into Southwark at dawn.
“Mr. Drum?” the woman called. Heels clipped across the floor, coming closer.
His hand tightened around the bi-ocs. The nobility always overreacted. She’d either ignore the body or scream the building down.
The door opened. The woman hesitated on the threshold.
His senses sharpened, alert.
She wore the costume of an office worker or shop girl: a brown tweed jacket over a lawn shirtwaist, and a bombazine skirt with a small bustle. Neat, tidy. Commonplace.
Except for the veiled hat and the dark glass she wore beneath them. She’d gathered thick black lace and pinned it close around her throat so that he only supposed her skin and hair were pale. She meant for no one to see her face or her eyes, even by accident.
And not what he’d expected.
He smoothed down the front of his waistcoat, acutely aware of his rumpled countenance, his stubbled chin, his burning eyes. His chest tightened, feeling suddenly self-conscious.
She took one long look at the body at the desk, then turned toward him.
He felt their eyes connect, though he couldn’t see hers clearly. The hairs rose on the back of his neck. Ridiculous. He cleared his throat. “Have you looked your fill?”
“Pardon me.” She stepped closer. “Is he dead?”
“Yes.” He hoped she didn’t scream.
If you want to know what happens next, you’ll have to grab your copy.
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