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The Larkspur Mysteries series by Jackson Marsh
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Jackson Marsh
14 August 2021
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The greatest gift one man may give another is his trust.”

Barbary Fleet, 1890.

Standing stones, messages written in symbols, and the language of the deaf. It falls to Lord Clearwater to unlock the mystery of Dalston Blaze and his deaf friend, Joe Tanner, two young men arrested for committing ‘unnatural offences’ at the Hackney workhouse.

Dalston hopes for a prison sentence. It’s the only way to save his life. Instead, he is bailed to the Larkspur Academy on Lord Clearwater’s Cornish estate, where there is only one rule: honesty above all else. For Dalston, this means confronting his past, learning to trust, and admitting his secrets. Joe is the key, but Joe is missing, and his location is locked deep inside a memory seen in sign language, and clouded by eighteen years of workhouse life.

If Dalston remains silent, the immoral workhouse master and his sadistic schoolteacher will continue to inflict pain and suffering on all inmates of the Hackney workhouse. If he tells the truth, he and Joe will die.

The Guardians of the Poor is a combination of mystery, adventure and male romance, set in 1890. It draws on first-hand accounts of workhouse life at the time, and is the first of a new series of mysteries set in the Clearwater world.


The Larkspur Mysteries

Beginning in 1890, The Larkspur Mysteries follow on from The Clearwater Mysteries series of 11 novels. It’s not necessary to have read the Clearwater books before you embark on the Larkspur series. However, if you enjoy mystery, romance, adventure and a mix of historical fact and fiction, then begin the journey with ‘Deviant Desire.’ (Or the non-mystery prequel, ‘Banyak & Fecks.’)

Lord Clearwater has created a unique academy for disadvantaged young men. The Larkspur Academy is, ‘A non-academic institution with the aim to provide deserving men the opportunity to expand talent, horizons and knowledge for the betterment of the underprivileged and general society.’ It’s not a school. There are no lessons, no teachers, no schoolboys and no rules. The series exists in the established Clearwater world of the late 1800’s where homosexuality is a crime everywhere but on Clearwater’s country estate in Cornwall.

The series is ongoing. Each story involves male bonding, bromance, friendship and love. Mystery, adventure and a little comedy play their parts, and every story is inspired by true events from the past.

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The Central Criminal Court, London

July 31st, 1890


Dalston Blaze knew when to keep his mouth shut, and the holding cell of Newgate Prison five minutes before his sentencing was one such time. The departing guard was a brute who stank of stale sweat, and intimidated prisoners by slapping his truncheon into the palm of his hand, and everyone was glad to see the back of him. As much as Dalston wanted to give him a mouthful as a parting gift, he remained silent, because silence was his only weapon.

The replacement officer was younger, and to Dalston’s mind, far more kindly-looking. The man was still a constable, though, and even if he was friendlier than the one before, and asked Dalston if he wanted a drink of water, Dalston knew better than to engage him in conversation. Besides, it was unlikely he could drink without throwing up. Nervousness cramped his stomach, and bile bubbled at the back of his throat. His trembling hands were the only outward sign of his apprehension, he otherwise sat motionless, manacled to the bench by cuffs that scraped his ankles and weighed heavily on his wrists.

Guards stood watch over other waiting prisoners, throwing insults, swiping the drunks, and clubbing those who gave backtalk. Each time one escorted his prisoner to the courts upstairs, Dalston’s stomach tightened, and his heart pumped faster. They said he was guilty of an unnatural offence, and not so long ago, his sentence would have been death by hanging. Times had changed, and although Dalston wouldn’t hang, he was going to be sent down.

He had to be. It was the only way he could save his life.

‘Recess is over.’ A call from the top of the stone stairs echoed through the vaulted chamber, causing some to wail, others to swear, and Dalston’s guard to jangle his keys.

‘Get ready,’ he said, starting on the locks. ‘You’re on next.’

All he had to do was stand in silence and not react. In fact, he remembered the new barrister’s words exactly. They had played through his mind during the night when sleep was impossible, because of the snoring and moaning from the condemned, the unwanted advances rebuked with fists, and the constant rattling of chains. He’d longed for sleep to give him respite from the stench of shit, but sleep had refused to come.

‘You are not going to prison,’ his new brief had said, causing Dalston to panic and blurt out that he must. ‘Why would any man want to be incarcerated? No, Sir. We have other plans for you.’

Everyone had plans for Dalston Blaze. The workhouse master in particular.

‘I can’t go back there, Mr Creswell, Sir.’

‘Trust me, dear boy, you only have to do as I say. Now listen, and remember this. If I say you have agreed to something, you have. Do not, on any account, open your mouth to refute or rage. Show nothing but contrition. Keep your head down, and when your guard gives you an order, you follow it.’

Creswell had appeared two days before the date of sentencing, and with an assistant, had asked a sackful of questions and made endless notes.

Dalston had a question of his own. Why? Why had this man, knighted for his services to the law, been assigned to a pauper from a workhouse?

‘You will see,’ was the barrister’s reply, followed again by his explicit instructions. ‘Fear not,’ he said at the end of the interview. ‘We shall have you freed in no time.’

Dalston prayed he was wrong.


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