QSFer Steve Turnbull has a new queer alternate history book out: The Taliesin Affair.
Boarding school can be hell – sometimes it can be MURDER
Maliha Anderson did not enjoy life in the British boarding school, but finding the school bully murdered certainly made it more interesting.
And when the police chose the wrong person as the most likely suspect, Maliha decides to investigate and reveal the true culprit.
But, as the bodies mount up, the murder becomes a plot, and the plot becomes a conspiracy aimed at the heart of the British Empire.
When Maliha herself comes under suspicion, she realises her only chance lies in a dangerous gambit that risks the lives of herself and the people she’s come to know.
This is the story of Maliha Anderson’s first case but can be read at any point in the series (except perhaps between books 5 and 6).
It’s 1908 of an alternate history where partial anti-gravity was first demonstrated by Sir Michael Faraday in 1843. As the technology was developed the world slowly changed from what we know. But even in 1908 much is the same as empires fight for world domination, governments of royalty shuffle around the board trying to gain the best advantage, and alternate sexuality is denied or criminalised. Anglo-Indian Maliha Anderson is investigating the murder of the school bully but gets a strange visit from the school’s own “royalty”…<
Maliha looked at Antonia, she seemed very sad. “You’re a Prussian princess, they have plans for you.”
Jenny’s hand went straight to Antonia’s knee as if to protect her from Maliha’s words.
“How do you know?” said Antonia. She did not deny it.
“Which part? That you’re a princess or that they have plans for you? Your accent in German lessons gave me the first clue. The vehicle that picks you up every holiday was another, the royals never could choose anything other than a Daimler. Once my interest was piqued, I read the papers and your parent’s schedule coincided with your own travel. It wasn’t that complex a deduction. And since you are the great granddaughter of Wilhelm I, yes, it’s not hard to realise they have plans for you.”
“I don’t want any part of their plans,” said Antonia. “They’ll just marry me off to some old English noble to help the politics.”
“The world has changed,” said Jenny, leaning forward. “They just haven’t realised it. The adults are still trying to run our lives but we don’t want that.”
Maliha shook her head. “It’s not that I don’t understand. But there’s nowhere you can go where other people won’t judge you.”
“Do you?” said Jenny.
“No.” Not that she had ever thought about it before but now that she did she realised she had spoken the truth. She did not judge. “As long as you’re happy, why should it matter to me?”
“I knew you were the right person to come to,” said Antonia.
The two of them faced one another, inches apart. Antonia glanced back at Maliha for a moment then she leaned forward and planted a kiss on Jenny’s lips. They closed their eyes and savoured one another.
Maliha frowned. “That’s not getting us anywhere.”
They broke apart as if they had been naughty but with little smiles on their faces. Jenny in particular went red with embarrassment.
“We…” Antonia squeezed her lover’s hand. “I’m sorry but we’ve never done that when anyone else was about.”
“I should think not,” said Maliha. “Even if one of you had been a man, the shock of such licentious behaviour would have split the foundations of the school.”
“You really don’t care?”
“Why should I?”
“Everyone else does.”
“Except for the ones like you,” said Maliha. “You haven’t read Sappho, of course.”
“Sappho?” said Antonia.
“Ancient Greek woman,” said Maliha, “wrote poems about how she loved women, and men come to that. Quite detailed, some of it.”
Jenny seemed the most surprised. “Both?”
“I told you—” said Jenny to Antonia. “—we’re not the only ones.” She turned to Maliha. “Tonia was worried.”
“Does that mean we could find somewhere in Greece, Miss Anderson?”
“No, I—” or perhaps? “—it depends on how much money you have and how far you’re willing to go.”
“I don’t have a lot,” said Jenny. “My parents spend most of theirs keeping me here.”
“I can get plenty,” said Antonia. “I just have to go home.”
Jenny turned. “You can’t steal, not even for us.”
“I don’t have to steal, I have my own. There’s a lot of jewellery. Gifts from rich relatives, that sort of thing. We can get money for that, can’t we?”
They turned back, this time with some hope.
When he’s not sitting at his computer building websites for national institutions and international companies, Steve Turnbull can be found sitting at his computer building new worlds of steampunk, science fiction and fantasy.
Technically Steve was born a working class cockney but after five years he was moved out from London to the suburbs where he was taught to be middle class, and he talks posh now. He’s been a voracious reader of science fiction and fantasy since his early years, but it was poet Laurie Lee’s autobiography “Cider with Rosie” (picked up because he was bored in Maths) that taught him the beauty of language and spurred him into becoming a writer, aged 15. He spent twenty years editing and writing for computer magazines while writing poetry on the side.
Nowadays he writes screenplays and books featuring racially and sexually diverse protagonists.