A Gentleman in Pursuit of Truth
Book 4 in the Lord Julian Mysteries series
Lord Julian Caldicott is summoned to the country home of a family friend to look for a prize foxhound who’s gone missing. The purloined canine turns out to be only the tail of a series of puzzles involving family secrets, slander, blackmail, and fraud. Matters grow more baffling when Julian is told to drop the investigation, though suspects abound, motives are multiplying apace, and a large sum of money has come into play.
Julian survives an attempt on his life, and endures slights to his honor rather than give up on his objective. Before the truth is revealed–and the hound brought safely home–he will have to choose between protecting his only surviving brother from ruin, or allowing a scoundrel to get away with the next thing to murder.
Enjoy An Excerpt
“I tell you, Julian, a houndsman on the subject of pedigrees, begats, and bloodlines is the lexicographer’s definition of a person gripped by an obsession. The turf fanatics and the Mayfair matchmakers pale by comparison.” Osgood Banter raised the curtain on the coach window and surveyed the passing countryside. “Once talk of sires and dams starts up with dear cousin Nax, all hope of pleasant conversion is lost.”
We were enroute from London to the wilds of Sussex, where Banter’s cousin-by-marriage, Anaximander Silforth, had apparently got into a spot of bother over a missing canine. I did not ride to hounds, was no fancier of the racetrack, and was blessedly beyond the notice of Mayfair hostesses, despite my brother’s ducal title.
I’d simply wanted an excuse to quit London, and Banter’s cousin had provided it. “My job is to find the dog?”
“Anaximander might prefer the term hound. Thales was not yet standing at stud, more’s the pity.”
“Does Silforth name his children after philosophers as well?”
The coach hit a deep rut and I again cursed myself for not making the journey on horseback. My mount, Atlas, was up to the distance, but my eyes were not up to the bright sunshine of an English summer day—just one of many disabilities bequeathed to me by my years in the military. At least I could to some extent protect my eyesight with blue-tinted spectacles.
“Goddesses for the girls,” Banter said, “Kings for the lads. Lizzie put her dainty foot down when it came to the children. Makes me glad I’m a solid, unassuming Osgood.”
Osgood was not particularly solid. He tended more to lankiness, and his features bore a certain elfin fineness. Merry eyes, ready smile, slightly pointed chin, and brows that arched to give him a quizzical air. He was fashionable, witty, and nobody’s fool.
Also my brother’s lover.
Realization of Arthur’s relationship with Banter had come upon me as one of those insights all but obvious in hindsight. Arthur, His Grace of Waltham, had friends, but no lady friends of the sort dukes are expected to maintain on quiet streets on the edges of elegant neighborhoods. Arthur socialized as befit his station, but he also ruralized far more than most peers.
Growing up, I’d believed Arthur isolated by the expectations weighing upon him, but more than a mere dukedom had set my brother apart. He and Banter were planning a version of a grand tour on the Continent, though I doubted much sightseeing would occur until a good month into the journey.
But first, this business with the missing Thales must be resolved.
“What’s so special about this beast?” I asked, when the coach was racketing along once again.
“Nax bred Thales himself, and knows the bloodlines back into doggy-antiquity. Thales is a handsome specimen, big for a foxhound, and apparently has the stamina of a Spartan and an oracular nose. If Thales says Reynard headed for the river, that’s as good as holy writ for the rest of the pack.”
“Do you ride to hounds?” The Banter family estate was a pleasant hour’s ride from Caldicott Hall. By rural reckoning, that made us neighbors. Banter was five years my senior, however, and thus we’d not moved in the same circles. Then too, Banter had not served in uniform.
“I was made to join the hunt, of course. Papa expected his sons to trot dutifully in his footsteps. Don’t care for it myself. You?”
Clearly, the topic was sensitive. “I thought it whacking good fun to get tipsy and gallop hellbent across the countryside. Then I realized that the hunt often galloped over land that wasn’t yet frozen. Late in the season, we even took a few shortcuts over tilled fields, and God alone knows how many times gates were left open that resulted in loose livestock and worse.”
“And what can a tenant say?” Banter murmured, “when it’s his own landlord riding roughshod over the turnips, and the landlord’s brother sits as magistrate?”
My sympathies were not with the turnips, though I well knew the value of a winter crop. My sympathy was honestly with the fox, who was generally engaged in nothing more criminal than an effort to feed her family. True, a poorly maintained hen house was a temptation no self-respecting fox would resist, but foxes also kept rabbits, rats, voles, and other garden plagues in check. The foxes, along with the struggling yeomanry, were in my opinion, cruelly tried by what the squires deemed good sport.
Let the jolly squires run for their lives, let them scrabble for survival on the freezing slopes of the Pyrenees, let them learn to fear their fellow man as most of nature must fear humankind, and see how sporting the whole riding to hounds business looked then. Assuming the good squires survived the experiment.
“Might we conclude that your cousin’s prize hound has simply gone on his own grand tour?” I asked.
“Everybody in the area knows Thales on sight,” Banter replied. “His portrait hangs in Nax’s formal parlor, and he is the envy of the nearby hunts. If Thales was out courting—or running riot—somebody would have recognized him.”
Oh, not necessarily. Dogs and children when at liberty were likely to cast off their drawing room deportment. After a day in the wild, Thales might well have acquired a thicket of burrs, mud on his coat up to his belly, and a few nips and cuts from his adventures.
“What aren’t you telling me, Banter? You came up to Town personally to fetch me, or to inveigle me into coming back with you if I’d been reluctant. You might have sent me on ahead while you tarried with Arthur, but you’re galloping back to the scene of the hound’s last known whereabouts. What about the situation has you worried?”
The coach slowed and swung through a right turn, suggesting we’d passed the gateposts to the Banter family seat.
“Arthur has the same instinct for what’s not being said,” Banter replied. “He drove his tutors batty with it at university. Your late brother Harry was a canny sort too. Waltham keeps his own counsel more these days, but I’ve learned not to underestimate him.”
“As have I, and you are prevaricating.” The last thing I needed or wanted was to waste a fortnight untangling some Banter family drama that had only marginally to do with a missing canine. I disliked London, true, but I had much to learn before Arthur took ship if I was to hold the reins of the Waltham duchy in his absence.
I was happiest at Caldicott Hall, and at the Hall I would bide when this missing canine situation was resolved.
“I’m worried,” Banter said. “You’re right about that, but as to why… Lizzie and I were close growing up, though she’s a few years my elder. There was talk of us marrying at one point. Nax would never let on if he suspected foul play, but if he learns that Thales has been done a mischief, he might… react badly.”
“He does have a temper, and Thales is very, very dear to him.”
My objective became somewhat clearer: Find the dog, or find a harmless explanation for his absence, before dear Cousin Nax turned the whole situation into a bloody, criminal mess.
End of Excerpt
A Gentleman in Pursuit of Truth is available in the following formats:
Grace Burrowes Publishing
February 27, 2024
A Gentleman in Pursuit of Truth is Book 4 in the Lord Julian Mysteries series. The full series reading order is as follows:
- Book 1: A Gentleman Fallen on Hard Times •
- Book 2: A Gentleman of Dubious Reputation •
- Book 3: A Gentleman in Challenging Circumstances •
- Book 4: A Gentleman in Pursuit of Truth •
- Book 5: A Gentleman in Search of a Wife •