Friday, February 26, 2010

Guest Blogger Ann Tracy Marr plots a Regency mystery

I need a Regency mystery plot. Do a Google search for 1820 England. Aha. Google Books has something.

Oh, what a life. Stick this on the ottoman in front of the couch: a Georgian wine decanter with Port wine, silver cup, and two walnuts. (left)

In 1820, Frederick Acum published a Treatise on Adulterations of Food and Culinary Poisons which tells us that lead was the most common means of preventing wine from souring. Acum writes, "A gentleman who had never in his life experienced a day's illness, and who was constantly in the habit of drinking half a bottle of Madeira wine after his dinner, was taken ill, three hours after dinner, with a severe pain in the stomach and violent bowel colic. His apothecary becoming suspicious that the wine he had drank might be the cause of the disease, ordered the bottle from which the wine had been decanted to be brought to him, with a view that he might examine the dregs, if any were left. The bottle happening to slip out of the hand of the servant, disclosed a row of shot wedged forcibly into the angular bent-up circumference of it… The wine, therefore, had become contaminated with lead and arsenic, the shot being a compound of these metals, which no doubt had produced the mischief."

That makes a great who done it plot. Who poisoned my villain with lead infused Port?

George Cruickshank’s satirical drawing of a Regency gentleman. Looks like the Earl of Nastiness to me. (right)

Nephew Bloodsucker bribes Susie Suspicious to store the Earl of Nastiness’ wine in a decanter of lead shot. Don’t be surprised when Nastiness doubles up in pain in the drawing room after dinner and his ward, Tricia True, wrings her hands. I’ll give him a miserable night while Bloodsucker ransacks the mansion looking for the fabulous ruby Nastiness stole from Tricia’s brother, the East India nabob. In the morning, Nastiness dies, but Bloodsucker doesn’t find the ruby because Susie sold it to Rundell and Bridge, Jewelers, for a cool fifty thousand pounds and bought the posting inn in Newark. But…

Georgian wine glasses. I’d like the third, but how much do you wager Nastiness goes for the heft (and volume) of the second? (left)

Acum provides the final plot twist. "On the 17th of January, the passengers by the Highflyer coach, from the north, dined, as usual, at Newark. A bottle of Port wine was ordered; on tasting which, one of the passengers observed that it had an unpleasant flavour, and begged that it might be changed. The waiter took away the bottle, poured into a fresh decanter half the wine which had been objected to, and filled it up from another bottle… The half of the bottle of wine sent out of the passengers' room, was put aside for the purpose of mixing negus. In the evening, Mr. Bland, of Newark, went into the hotel, and drank a glass or two of wine and water. He returned home at his usual hour, and went to bed; in the middle of the night he was taken so ill, as to induce Mrs. Bland to send for his brother, an apothecary in the town; but before that gentleman arrived, he was dead. An inquest was held, and the jury, after the fullest enquiry, and the examination of the surgeons by whom the body was opened, returned a verdict of -- Died by Poison."

Tricia True, now living with Aunt Gossip, remembers that the owner of the Newark inn was a kitchen maid at the Nastiness mansion. After some hectic detecting, Susie Suspicious is convicted of poisoning Mr. Bland and the Earl of Nastiness with doctored wine. Now to add a romance for Tricia…

Ann Tracy Marr writes award-winning paranormal Regency romances. Her books include: Thwarting Magic, Round Table Magician, and To His Mistress. For contact information and details about her series, visit her website at A computer consultant in the Midwest, Marr lives with her husband, two cats, and plots that bounce off the wall.

Many thanks to Ann for her humourous mystery plot. I will be back next week to talk about Regency education. 'Til then,



Janet said...

Loved that, Ann! I've never thought to do a search for a time period and then play a dominoe effect. Brilliant.

BTW - loved the plotline, too. Question - where do the two walnuts come into play ;)

Off to check out your website.

DanielleThorne said...

What a clever way to find ways to add murderous plots to your work. I appreciated the pictures and data. Very entertaining--and educational, too. :)

Jana Richards said...

Thank you for a very entertaining blog. Good research will give you all kinds of great things for your story, including a mystery plot! Wonderful!


Gail Pallotta said...

What interesting information about wine and lead. Thanks for sharing some of your research jewels with us.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, everyone. I believe using real events makes a story feel right -- if you can't put the reader into the era, you might as well make the story a contemporary.

As to the walnuts... I stole the pic from the Internet and they were already there. I should have Photoshopped some brownies in for dessert.

Ann Tracy Marr