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Children of Fire by Paul CW Beatty - Book Blitz

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Children of Fire
Can Josiah solve the puzzle before more people die, or is he out of his depth?

In 1841, at the height of the industrial revolution in the North West of England, Josiah Ainscough returns from his travels and surprises everyone by joining the Stockport Police Force, rather than following his adopted father’s footsteps into the Methodist ministry.

While Josiah was abroad, five men died in an explosion at the Furness Vale Powder Mill. Was this an accident or did the Children of Fire, a local religious community, have a hand in it. As Josiah struggles to find his vocation, his investigation into the Children of Fire begins. But his enquiries are derailed by the horrific crucifixion of the community’s leader.

Now Josiah must race against time to solve the puzzle of the violence loose in the Furness Vale before more people die. This is complicated by his affections for Rachael, a leading member of the Children of Fire, and the vivacious Aideen Hayes, a visitor from Ireland.

Can Josiah put together the pieces of the puzzle, or is he out of his depth? Children of Fire won the Writing Magazine’s Best Novel Prize for 2017

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Constable Josiah Ainscough has been sent to visit the religious community of the Children of Fire by the Chairman of the Watch Committee in charge of Stockport’s new Police Force. Josiah has been instructed to infiltrate the community and find out about them, particularly if they have any animosity towards a local Gunpowder Mill at Furness Vale which had recent fatal accident.

Next to the farmhouse stood a small chapel, above the door of which was a black plaque with white letters: Bethel J T 1801. Whoever JT had been, it was a fine memorial to him and his faith.
The downstairs windows of the farmhouse were open, and a girl was happily singing a hymn. The voice was light and the singer happy; who would not be in such a place? Swallows flicked and skidded their way round house, chapel and under the trees. The hedges had more than their fair share of finches, warblers and throstles.  Josiah pushed open the garden gate and walked down the path. He knocked and the singing stopped. After a few seconds the door opened and there was the girl.
             She was not the down to earth, bucolic milkmaid, used to hard physical labour he had expected. Though she was flushed from the efforts of her work and there were wisps of untidy hair floating over her oval face, that was as far as earthiness went. This girl was tall and slim, with dark golden hair and hazel eyes. The hands she was wiping had long fingers. He guessed that like him she was in her early twenties or perhaps a little younger. She was beautiful and the increase in his pulse rate indicated that it wasn’t merely an intellectual assessment. She wore an inquisitive look, accompanied by a friendly smile.
             ‘Can I help you?’ she said.
             ‘Well I was passing and it’s a hot day. I wondered if I could beg some water.’
             ‘Of course, our pump is in the backyard. You are welcome to come and drink or wash if you need to get the dust of the road from yourself. We pride ourselves on our hospitality. All are welcome to Long Clough.’
             Inside, the house was as unexpected as the girl. The front door did not lead to a corridor between living rooms but directly into a stoutly flagged, capacious kitchen. On the right was a black metal range with a fire. Hooks to the ceiling held a variety of iron and copper pans. Opposite the door was a fine oak sideboard, heavily carved and decorated with mouldings. Daylight came in from leaded windows in the back wall.
The girl led him up two steps into a second, high-beamed room with a long table. From this room was a corridor that led to storerooms and finally a washhouse, complete with a steaming copper and a basket of washing.
             ‘You are welcome to whatever you need,’ she said indicating a sunlit door at the end of the corridor.
Josiah emerged into a cobbled courtyard with a pump over a trough. Taking off his pack and putting down his walking stick he pumped out water with one hand as he ladled it into his mouth with the other. It was cold and tasted slightly earthy but it was clear and pure. Having slaked his thirst, he rolled back the collar of his shirt and drenched his head under the full force of the pump.
             ‘You look as though you needed that.’
He had not heard her coming, probably because his head was under the water.  He did not know how long she had been watching him, which made him feel uncomfortable. Perhaps his attraction was far too visible to her.
             ‘Yes,’ he said. He laughed awkwardly and cursed himself for his sudden nervousness. He had negotiated his way into jobs on farms dozens of times while on his travels. He had chatted happily with young women in exactly these circumstances without embarrassment and he’d done it in French or Spanish. Now, being aware of his attraction to Rachael made him nervous and uncertain despite his desire to be seen as confident and experienced.
             She smiled and handed a towel to him. ‘When you’ve dried yourself would you mind helping me hang out the washing?’
             ‘It would be my pleasure,’ he said. He held out a wet hand to her. ‘My name is Josiah. What is yours?’
             ‘I am Rachael, Sister Rachael.’
             ‘Sister? If I may say so, that’s a strange way for a young woman to describe herself.’
             She laughed. ‘I suppose it is. I’m so familiar with it I suppose I don’t notice that it might sound odd to a stranger like yourself. I am a member of a religious community here in Long Clough. We’re called the Children of Fire. We’re intent on living from the land, praising God and serving our neighbours. We call each other Brother and Sister. You may have heard of us?’

Author Bio – 
Paul CW Beatty is an unusual combination of a novelist and a research scientist. Having worked for many years in medical research in the UK NHS and Universities, a few years ago he took an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University emerging with a distinction.

His latest novel, Children of Fire, is a Victorian murder mystery set in 1841 at the height of the industrial revolution. It won the Writing Magazine’s Best Novel Award in November 2017 and is published by The Book Guild Ltd. 

Paul lives near Manchester in the northwest of England. Children of Fire is set against the hills of the Peak District as well as the canals and other industrial infrastructure of the Cottonopolis know as the City of Manchester.

Social Media Links – Twitter @cw_beatty

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