QSFer Gillian St. Kevern has a new MM gothic paranormal romance out: “The Dead Letter Office.”
Look what the mailman dragged in…
Jasper Carruthers has turned deciphering smudged addresses and avoiding conflict into a fine art. A crate from Egypt contains a problem he cannot return to sender: a mummified cat sought by a desperate thief. Failure to deliver the cat will give the Postmaster General—Jasper’s vengeful son—the excuse he needs to oust Jasper from the postal service.
Jasper’s attempts to deliver the package attract the interest of Captain Candy, an insufferable bore under the mistaken impression that Jasper tolerates him. Even worse: the cat does not seem to realise she’s dead. Jasper’s not sure if he needs an Egyptologist or an exorcist. There’s only one thing he’s certain of: he needs help.
Forced to trust Candy with his secret, Jasper may at last have found something worth fighting for—but can he deliver the package before the cat lets herself out of the bag?
The Dead Letter Office is book twelve in the Read by Candlelight series of standalone Gothic novellas featuring an expanding cast of LGBTQIA+ characters. Pairs well with a hot pot of tea and a biscuit.
Jasper ran his fingertips over the stiff card of the envelope. “Feel the quality. Either the letter emanated from the upper echelons of society or our correspondent is desirious of creating the impression that it does. Then there’s the handwriting.”
He held the envelope close to the gas lamp above his desk. Buried in the basement of the post office, the Dead Letter Office had been an afterthought—and no thought at all had been given to its lighting. Jasper beckoned his companions closer. “The many unnecessary flourishes indicate an infrequent correspondent. Observe the discolouration in the ink. Between writing the name and the address, our writer was interrupted. Our letter was set aside, rediscovered, and posted at a later date.”
Nora crossed her arms over her chest. “I resent your inference that the writer was a woman. Plenty of men have hopeless handwriting.”
Jasper beamed. Nora wore her thick black hair swept off her face in a serviceable bun. Her modest navy gown’s red collar and trim echoed the uniform of their colleagues in the delivery service. Most suitable—as was Nora herself: punctual, practical, and particular. True, she was not as subservient as was desirable in a departmental junior, but Jasper saw no harm in allowing her to speak her mind. Nora’s observations were to the point.
“True, my dear, very true. The majority of letters in our office back you up. However, the quality of the paper, the fact the letter was not sent promptly—and the mere fact of its arrival here—all point to a society hostess juggling the demands of managing her household, her family, her social engagements and her correspondence. Then there is the final, most damning evidence of a casual letter writer.” He turned the envelope over, revealing the bare card. “No return address.”
His companions echoed his sigh. Baxter and Nora had been in the Dead Letter Office long enough to share Jasper’s feelings on the carelessness of those who omitted the return address.
“There is no street in London called Trafalgar Place.” Baxter’s shoulders slumped. “I tried Trafalgar Square, Trafalgar Avenue, Trafalgar Road—they all came back ‘not known at this address.’” The scarring that marred Baxter’s face exacerbated his mournful expression, giving a permanent droop to his mouth. His quick thinking when confronted with the letter bomb saved the lives of his colleagues. However, his resultant countenance was considered off-putting to the general public. Baxter received a medal of bravery and a demotion to the Dead Letter Office. He’d been there five years.
Jasper shook his head. “Not Trafalgar Road. The quality of the envelope! No—we must look closer to home. Our solution is in the writer. A harried society woman pressed for time might confuse our nation’s great naval victories. Substitute ‘Waterloo Place’ for ‘Trafalgar Place’ and I fancy your envelope will find its home.”
Of course!” Baxter took the letter with a grin. “Thank you, Mr Carruthers.”
Jasper chuckled, polishing his eyeglasses on his vest. “Always pleased to be of service.” He glanced at the clock. “You’ve got just time enough to catch the afternoon mail.”
I realised I wanted to be an author when, as a teenager, I found myself getting annoyed that the characters in the books I read weren’t doing what I wanted them to do. Now that I’m a writer, they still don’t.
I write a variety of genres, ranging from short and silly contemporary romances to urban fantasy and mystery. My current project is the Read by Candlelight series of gothic romances inspired by the works of M R James, J S Le Fanu and the Brontë sisters.
In my non-writing life, I live in my native New Zealand, where I enjoy flat whites, playing pretend with my niece and nephew and trying to keep up with my ever increasing to be read pile. I’m the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance Writers.