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Gunshy [A Baltimore Historical Mystery]
by Louise Titchener

Category: Mystery/Crime/Historical Fiction EPIC eBook Award Finalist
Description: It's 1882 and Oliver Redcastle, an ex-Pinkerton detective and a former Union Army sharpshooter, has inherited a house in Baltimore and a new daughter. Oliver dreams of putting his violent past behind him. When John D. Rockefeller forces him to investigate a railway explosion Oliver finds himself plunged into mayhem once again. The plot thickens when a Civil War encampment in the city digs up old betrayals, triggers death and breeds a fresh murder plot that Oliver must foil to prevent his future from becoming as bloody as his past.
eBook Publisher: Hard Shell Word Factory, 2004
eBookwise Release Date: October 2004


14 Reader Ratings:
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Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [271 KB]
Words: 58975
Reading time: 168-235 min.

"Laura Lippman has gained a reputation as an articulate, sympathetic chronicler of life in Baltimore. Louise Titchener, though less well known, deserves a similar reputation. Her latest effort, Gunshy, is a case in point. Set in the discordant days after the Civil War, the novel depicts the tensions below the surface of what was, at heart, a Southern city. Oliver Redcastle, former Union sniper and Pinkerton operative, has retired to Baltimore, after inheriting a house in the city, with the intention of raising his daughter and establishing himself in a less hazardous vocation. Titchener writes well, with realistic dialogue, believable characters, and an obvious affection for her chosen city."--Clyde Linsley, DorothyL List

"Set in Baltimore of 1882, Tichner has created not only a well-written mystery with plots and sub-plots winding around each other until they all merge into a wonderful puzzler. Oliver has to not only deal with the usual riff-raff of the criminal world but also with the emotions and anger left over from the Civil War. This is a novel that will appeal to history, civil war and mystery buffs alike."--Kathy Thomason, Murder and Mayhem Book Club

"It's always a problem in historical and regional novels: how much detail and local colour to use. When a novel is both regional and historical, the problem is compounded. The writer wants to give the reader easy entry into the time and place of the story, but not slow the plot and impede the characters with excessive and unnecessary detail. With a few exceptions (we didn't need to know the brand of matches Oliver uses, but it would have been helpful to know what sort of carriage a jagger was) Louise Titchener has managed the challenge well. Readers will look forward to future books about Oliver Redcastle, Baltimore's first P I, and his developing relationships with his daughter, his staff, and his new career."--Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Chapter One

DEPUTY MARSHAL RACKLEY spit a brown wad onto the wood floor. "Time to see if you're as good as you're cracked up to be." His voice dripped doubt.

Oliver Redcastle folded his jacket over a chair stacked with ladies undergarments. He knocked a stack of corsets off another chair and positioned it at an angle to the window. He took the Remington-Beals Single Shot out of its deer hide case. It's curly maple stock, well-polished by years of use, glowed in the dim light.

He ran a finger down its barrel to check its convertible front site, then peered through the rear site. He manipulated its action to see if it was still smooth as cold satin. It was. He slid in a .32 rimfire cartridge. With an effort, because his knee had been paining him all day, he knelt in front of the open window and rested his bent elbow on the edge of the chair. Slowly, he leaned his weight on it and worked the rifle's butt into his shoulder.

Rackley and Lieutenant Krooth of the Eastern District had commandeered this third floor bedroom atop a corset shop opposite Hiram Flatt's tin emporium. Flatt was holed up with an eight-year-old girl he'd kidnapped hours earlier.

Since two other city children of a similar age had been kidnapped, molested, and murdered, the Baltimore police assumed Flatt intended the same fate for his present victim. This time, however, the tin man had made an error.

The other hapless children had been the offspring of immigrant cannery workers. The police had not exerted themselves. This child, Annie Bailey, was the pampered daughter of a prominent banker. Soon after she'd disappeared, lawmen scoured the city. Now, they'd cordoned off the cobblestone block on either side of Flatt's house. Around the barriers neighbors and curiosity seekers pressed against the officers grimly standing guard in the dusk.

"Light's mighty poor. Think you can get him, Redcastle?"

"Depends if he shows himself at the window before dark. If he stays out of sight, you may have to rush the house." Oliver passed a hand over his forehead. If Flatt didn't show himself, he might be harming the child. If, on the other hand, the tinsmith did poke his fool head out, Oliver would kill him. He'd hoped he wouldn't have to kill a man again.

Rackley tugged at his muttonchop whiskers, then took another cut of tobacco and thrust it into the corner of his mouth. He was beefy, with a ruddy complexion that suggested a quick temper. "Flatt's a cornered rat," he said between chews. "If we rush him, he'll kill the child. Lord knows what he's done to the poor kiddie already."

Oliver understood what it meant to be a father with a child at risk. He shifted some of his weight off his right elbow. Concentration was everything these situations. Let your mind wander and you'd lose your chance. Nevertheless, it was a chore to ignore Rackley spitting as his square-toed shoes paced a groove in the floor.

Rackley said, "I only made such a fuss to get you here because my man, Gloger, is down sick. Gloger's the best shot in fifty miles."

"That so?"

"During the war he went sesesh. Shot blue coats out of the trees like ripe fruit."

Oliver wished Rackley would shut up. The reek coming off him suggested that his monthly bath was inadequate.

"How'd you get to be a marksman, Redcastle?"

"Shooting rattlesnakes for dinner."

"Ain't no rattlesnakes in Baltimore."

"I grew up in Kansas." His gaze flickered over the street below. Flatt appeared to be quite an accomplished tinsmith. His shop windows were stuffed with pans, kettles, buckets, squirrel cages, and the small tin horns used by garbage cart drivers and fish peddlers.

Some of the neighbors shouting jeers at Flatt's upper windows had doubtless patronized his business never guessing his sick obsession with children.

Copyright © 2004 Louise Titchener

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