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The Gobblin' Society

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The Gobblin' Society

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Author: James P. Blaylock
Publisher: Subterranean Press, 2020
Series: Langdon St. Ives: Book 8
Book Type: Novella
Genre: Fantasy
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For more than thirty years, James P. Blaylock has enthralled and delighted readers with a series of stories, novels and novellas featuring Langdon St. Ives, adventurer, man of science, Victorian gentleman. The best of these, such as Beneath London, Lord Kelvin's Machine, and The Aylesford Skull are among the most stylish, consistently witty entertainments of recent years. The Gobblin' Society, the latest episode in St. Ives's colorful career, belongs very much in that company.

The story begins with an inheritance. Following a protracted legal battle, Alice St. Ives, Langdon's wife, has come into full possession of Seaward, the house left to her by her late Uncle Godfrey, a man with a number of bizarre proclivities. Heartened by this good fortune, Alice, Langdon and their surrogate son Finn prepare to take possession of the house. From this point forward, events spin out of control, taking on a madcap logic of their own that is exhilarating and--in typical Blaylock fashion--often quite funny.

What follows is, in a sense, a tale of two houses. The first, of course, is Seaward, a "rambling, eccentric old house" with it its history, its secrets, its priceless accumulation of volumes of arcane lore. The other is a neighboring house known, for good reasons, as "Gobblin' Manor," home base of The Gobblin' Society, a "culinary establishment" with its own peculiar--and very dark--traditions. In the course of an event filled few days, St. Ives and his cohorts will encounter smuggling, mesmerism, kidnapping, cannibalism and murder. It is, in other words, a typical--and typically eccentric--Langdon St. Ives adventure.

Like its predecessors, this latest extravaganza is fast-paced, unpredictable, and a thorough delight to read. Few novelists evoke the essence of Victorian England as successfully as Blaylock. Fewer still bring such wit, style, and propulsive narrative talents to the task. In The Gobblin' Society, Blaylock has given vibrant new life to one of his signature creations. The result is a gift both for Blaylock's longtime fans, and for newcomers lucky enough to come along for this astonishing--and thoroughly enjoyable--ride.


Chapter One

A Quiet Supper

The half-timbered manor house, built in the Gothic style, stood on a prominence above the village of Broadstairs, well back from the sea. High and narrow, with bay windows and sharply peaked gables, it had been built some years before Broadstairs itself grew up along the chalk cliffs of the Kentish coast. A widow's walk on the southeast corner was partly obscured by the grove of elms and beeches that had risen around the manor over the last century.

From the eminence of the widow's walk, there was a view of the ships anchored in the Downs or steaming up from the Channel, and one could just make out the forward edge of Kingsgate Castle through the trees. On particularly clear nights moonlight shone on the Goodwin Sands, and in the pre-dawn darkness, a sharp eye might pick out smugglers running in toward convenient bays in swift-sailing luggers. There were arched shutters over the second story windows of the house, closed at night, which gave it a secretive air, and when the house and high trees were veiled by a sea mist the old, grey manor simply vanished. Holiday travelers staying in one of the seaside hotels in Broadstairs might remain a month in the village and be unaware of the manor's existence. Local residents shunned it.

Julian Hobbes studied the house uneasily, having passed through the open gates and walked halfway along the long carriage drive that led up from the road. The shutters on the second floor windows were thrown open and he could make out a figure moving beyond the leafy shadows on the panes of glass. The sun was low in the sky, and it was later in the day than he would have chosen to arrive, given the spectral house that loomed above him. His coach had lost a wheel, however, coming out from Canterbury, and had taken hellfire long to repair.

He had no idea what welcome he would receive here, if any sort of welcome at all, but he was fairly certain that his mission did not warrant bringing a constable along. If there was trouble, the weighted stick that he carried would have to suffice. There was something off about the old house, something unsettling that he couldn't quite name. But it was a fanciful thought, and not being a fanciful man he dismissed it from his mind, knocked the head of his stick against his palm, and set out through the trees, determined to be comfortably aboard the evening coach that left for Canterbury in two hours.

Copyright © 2020 by James P. Blaylock


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