London, the summer of 1795: a season of revolutionary fervour, scientific discovery and vicious murders. The British government is in disarray, unable to stem the flood of secrets to Paris; betrayals that doom her war efforts to failure. In rural Kensington a group of French emigr-s are pursuing a scientific dream, the discovery of a planet they call Selene. The group has fallen under the spell of a beautiful and amoral woman – Auguste de Montpellier who is at once their muse and dark angel. Meanwhile a killer lurks in the back streets of the capital: the victims are all prostitutes and have been paid in French Louis d’Or, the currency of France’s spies. Jonathan Absey is a Home Office clerk whose official task is to smash the French spy ring. Privately however, he has become obsessed with the murders. These interests intersect when he finds himself drawn into the Montpellier circle, yet his pursuit for truth remains obscured through coded letters, opium and conspiracy. Absey must uncover the mystery before the summer dies; an invasion fleet is being prepared to set sail across the channel and the lives of those on board now rest on his discoveries.
The end of the 18th century is a fascinating era, when French spies mixed with the aristocratic emigres in London, who had fled to save their heads. The city was a dangerous place for the underclass and Jonathan Absey becomes obsessed with solving the murders of several prostitutes because he believes his daughter was the first victim.
Suspicion falls upon the household of Auguste de Montpellier and her sick brother Guy. Aided by Doctor Raultier, Guy fights his illness to prove the existence of a new planet which he calls Selene, which he believes must exist after the discovery of Uranus by Herschel in 1781. Jonathan persuades his half-brother Alexander Wilmot, a gifted musician and amateur astronomer to make contact with the Montpelliers so that he can discover their secrets, but Alexander is unwilling to betray his new friends and walks into a perilous situation.
There is a gothic quality to this novel, several characters implying languorous evil and sexual deviance. The historical content is sound, and the suspense increases with each new murder, but only Alexander earns our empathy and for this reason was the only character I could believe in. Choose this novel for revelations about post-revolutionary Europe and an insight into scientific interests at that time but do not expect to become emotionally involved with people you meet within its pages.
The Music of the Spheres can be purchased on Amazon UK
Elizabeth Redfern was born on October 29, 1950 in Cheshire, England and attended the University of Nottingham, where she earned a BA in English. She then earned a post graduate degree as a Chartered Librarian at Ealing College and a post-graduate certificate in teaching at the University of Derby.
Redfern trained and worked as a chartered librarian, first in London and then in Nottingham. She moved to Derbyshire with her husband, a solicitor. And after her daughter was born, Redfern re-trained as a teacher and began work as an adult education lecturer – main subject, English – with the Derbyshire County Council.
Since then, she’s been involved in various projects in nearby towns, including working with the unemployed and skills training in the workplace. She lives with her husband and her daughter, who attends a local school, in a village in the Derbyshire Peak District. In her spare time Redfern plays the violin with a local orchestra, the Chesterfield Symphony Orchestra.