Thursday 27 October 2016

Guest Author ~ Susan Grossey

It's always a real delight to welcome this talented writer back to the blog as I'm a huge fan of this well written historical crime series.

Today the author, Susan Grossey is sharing an extract from Portraits of Pretence which is the latest Sam Plank adventure published on the 21st October.

Hi and welcome back to Jaffareadstoo, Susan

Tell us a little about Portraits of Pretence...

An elderly French artist is found dead in his rooms in London clutching a miniature portrait of a little girl. Intrigued, Constable Sam Plank delves into the world of art dealing and finds himself navigating the fragile post-war relationship between England and France. What is the link between this and the recent attacks on customs officers in London Docks? And will a beautiful mademoiselle put paid to Martha Plank’s matchmaking? In this fourth novel in the series, set in the chilly spring of 1827, Plank and his junior constable William Wilson meet Frenchmen in London and daring blockademen in Kent to uncover smuggling and even more dangerous ambitions.

And here's a tantalising extract which I'll let Susan introduce..

The book is set in the spring of 1827 and this extract comes from the second chapter of “Portraits of Pretence”, after Sam has found a miniature portrait of a little girl clutched in the hand of a dead artist. Keen to learn what made the picture so precious to the dead man, Sam takes it to a curio dealer in Piccadilly.

"...The curiosity dealer certainly practised what he preached.  In the room where I waited, every surface was covered with ornaments, statuettes, gilt boxes and coins, while the walls displayed drawings and paintings of every size, from grand landscapes to tiny, intimate sketches.  There was even a pair of miniature portraits side by side near the mantelpiece and I was just walking over to examine them when the door opened and the maid said that Mr Causon would receive me in the drawing room.
In his sombre black jacket and snowy cravat, Henri Causon stood in sharp contrast to the profusion of colour and excess in his drawing room, which was even more filled with examples of his trade than the parlour I had just left.  He was a tall man with defined features, in particular a long, straight nose down which he looked at me now.  He came toward me and bowed before putting out his hand.
“After many years in your fine city, Constable Plank, I have learned how the Englishman does love to shake hands.  With this firm grip, you can tell that I am a man to be trusted, no?”
“I can tell that you are a man not armed with a sword,” I replied.
“Which is also useful to know,” he said with a smile.  “Come: you will join me in a little cognac before we turn to business.”  It was a statement rather than a question, and I took a seat on the small sofa that he indicated.  He poured two measures from a decanter and handed one to me.
“To your health, and to my santé,” he said and raised his glass.  I did likewise.  It was an uncommonly fine wine and I looked at him in appreciation.  “All duty paid,” he said with a wink.  “One of the many benefits of the renewed friendship between our two countries.”
“You say that you have lived in London for many years,” I prompted.
“Many,” he replied.  “My late wife and I came here at the end of the last century, as did plenty of our countrymen.”  I nodded: London had provided sanctuary to many who had fallen foul of the new regime in France.  “We were young then, of course – all of us.”  He smiled at me.  “My wife died nearly twenty years ago now, and my son returned to France.  He was a babe in arms when we came to London, but he always said he felt more French.  And he died for her, for France.  Leipzig.”  I said nothing: what is there to say to a man who has lost a son?  He was silent for a moment or two and then seemed to remember me.  “I, on the other hand, well, there is little for me now in France, and so I stay.  My daughter and I, we stay.”
His mention of a daughter brought Elizabeth to mind and I put my hand to my pocket.  Causon saw the movement and put down his glass.
“Ah, you have something to show me,” he said.  He leaned towards me and I handed him the miniature.  He carefully unwrapped the cloth and held the portrait in the flat of one hand while reaching into his pocket with the other, bringing out a small oval mother-of-pearl case.  He passed it to me.
“Would you open that for me, please?” he said.
I pushed the side of the case and a magnifying lens swung out.  “A neat device,” I said, handing it back to him, but his attention was elsewhere.  He bent forward and looked closely at the miniature, moving the magnifier across it as he examined the picture itself, the frame and even the reverse.  I waited.
“Exquisite,” he said finally, still looking through the magnifier.  “The finest quality.  Where did you obtain it?”  I said nothing, and he looked up at me, blinking.  “I see, I see.  Still, no matter.  You have come to me for a professional appraisal and this I can offer.”
I took my notebook out of my pocket.  “Do you mind?” I asked.  “The memory is not always reliable.”
“It fades, does it not, constable?  The memory, the eyesight,” he waved the magnifier at me.  “It all fades.  By all means, take your notes.”  His voice became business-like in tone.  “Miniature three-quarter portrait of female child in formal wear and setting.  Watercolour on ivory.  Unknown sitter and unknown artist – which does not mean that we shall never know, constable, but simply that the work is unsigned.  Estimated date – I shall say 1800, from the look of the frame, and the way the little girl’s hair is curled.  I cannot be sure, but I would guess that it was painted ad vivum – from life, that is – or at the very least by someone who knew the child well.  The – how to put this? – the emotion of the piece would not be present in a mere copy.”
I looked up from my notebook and nodded.  “I felt that too – and my wife.  She has taken to calling her Elizabeth.”  I flushed slightly.
“Hah!”  My host smiled.  “Your wife is a woman of feeling.  Elizabeth: it suits her, I think, and will work as well in French as in English.”  He took another close look at the miniature.  “Yes, she is definitely French, our little Elizabeth.”

©Susan Grossey

You can find more about Susan and her writing by visiting her website ~ click here

Follow on Twitter @ConstablePlank or @susangrossey

Find on Amazon UK

Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

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Huge thanks to Susan for sharing this enticing extract from Portraits of Pretence and for sharing Sam's world so eloquently.



  1. Thank you both - Jo and Jaffa - for so kindly sharing this extract from "Portraits of Pretence". Sam is a modest man, but I know he is secretly delighted to welcome more readers. And if anyone has any questions for me or for Sam, we would be pleased to answer them.
    Best wishes from Susan

    1. Thanks for being our guest Susan and for sharing this extract from Portraits of Pretence. Sam is a lovely man, Jaffa and I love him dearly :)


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