In August I briefly described The Stone of Power, the first planned book in the “third arc” of the Shine Cycle. After Stone of Power the “main line” of the Shine Cycle becomes somewhat fragmented, but the next planned part of the series is what I think of as a “triptych” about a famous detective. Today’s post is a brief introduction to the first of three “panels” in the “triptych,” The Adventure of the Suspended Rose.
Because the identity of the detective who is the central character of the three works is, in the second work (which I plan to reintroduce next month), left unstated until the end but hinted at throughout to provide something of a “mystery” for the reader, I will conceal it in these précis as well.
The Adventure of the Suspended Rose is the story of the detective’s arrival in and acclimation to the Shine and Wild Empire of “the present day” from his home in early-20th-century London. It begins with an unexpected visitor inviting him to come to the Shine and Wild Empire to solve a perplexing murder case, and then to live there thereafter. The visitor is Argentmentes, the Empire’s Minister of Justice. The offer is compelling, if true: medical care to extend the aging detective’s working life significantly, new tools—“applied metaphysics”, computers, and instant photography, among other things, as well as the more obvious improvements to a detective’s arsenal—and a new environment with “the Law” seeing him with collegiality rather than competitively, yet offering new and varied challenges.
To bolster his credentials and overcome the detective’s skepticism, Argentmentes demonstrates “applied metaphysics,” producing a rose from the air above the detective’s head and making it slowly turn there. This is the first occurrence of the motif from which the story takes its title, but it will not be the last.
After some deliberation, the detective decides to accept the offer, and after collecting his most treasured possessions that he will have any use for anymore—mostly books and papers—he joins his visitor in the antechamber, where they are transported forward in time and between universes.
On his arrival, the detective is rushed into medical care, where the usual ailments that afflicted every Londoner of his era are fairly quickly cleared up. A brief orientation session—of which we see only the smallest portion—introduces him to the changes from his home to this new world that he needs to understand.
Hildegarde, a skilled mage with some training in intelligence work, is assigned as his partner and assistant. After decades of working alone or with generally-incompetent assistants, and still not convinced of the necessity of “applied metaphysics,” he’s dubious and not always cooperative. And she, unhappy to have been pulled from an assignment she saw as more interesting and rewarding just as it was getting underway, and taking her cue from him besides, is reluctant and unhappy with these orders. But over the course of the story their relationship changes from friction to pleasant professional respect.
Because it would not do to throw him into a sensitive and complicated case unprepared, the detective and his new partner are initially given a series of simpler, more straightforward cases to get them used to working together and to get him used to this new world.
But just as they close the third and last “orientation” case, their real work begins. When he described it as “a perplexing murder case” in his invitation, Argentmentes had been simplifying it significantly; no one had yet been killed, but the authorities knew that an unidentified group of criminals was planning to bring terror to the capital streets. Between mages’ “premonitions,” anonymous tips, and professional hunches, the detective and his partner have enough to try to anticipate the criminals’ targets. They generally manage to avert murders just in time, but it takes several rounds of tip, attempted murder, investigation before they are able to really put things together.
At that point the detective takes the next tip and lays a trap for the criminals. This is very nearly successful, and for the first time he gets a clear glimpse of several members of the gang, but the criminals escape. After further investigation, he and his partner determine the identities and locations of the criminals, secure a warrant, and are finally able to arrest them, bringing a close to his first real case in the Empire.
The two principal characters are the detective (whose name, as I mentioned above, I am holding back at this point) and Hildegarde, his partner. Other “favorite characters” make an appearance at the beginning, in the “orientation” sequence, and Argentmentes should also appear throughout, since the detective later remarks on their close working relationship that started with this very case.
Next month I hope to give you the précis of the second “panel” of the “triptych,” which is a novelette I’m currently revising, and so is in a much more complete state than anything other story I’ve described so far.
But do you have any thoughts on this story?