Sampler: Queen’s Gambit by Bradley Harper

Review: A highly adventurous read full of dynamic characters, witty conversations, and surprising plot twists with an overall shocking ending.

Spring, 1897. London.

Margaret Harkness, now in her early forties, must leave England for her health but lacks the funds. A letter arrives from Professor Joseph Bell, her old comrade in the hunt for Jack the Ripper and the real-life inspiration for Sherlock Holmes.

Bell invites her to join him in Germany on a mysterious mission for the German government involving the loss of state secrets to Anarchists.

The resolution of this commission leads to her being stalked through the streets of London by a vengeful man armed with a powerful and nearly silent air rifle who has both Margaret and Queen Victoria in his sights.

Margaret finds allies in Inspector James Ethington of Scotland Yard and his fifteen-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, who aspires to follow in Margaret’s cross-dressing footsteps.

The hunt is on, but who is the hunter, and who the hunted as the day approaches for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee when the aged empress will sit in her open carriage at the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral?

The entire British Empire holds its breath as the assassin, Margaret, and the Queen herself play for the highest of stakes with the Queen’s Gambit.

Bradley Harper

Sampler: Gambit


Berlin, March 15, 1896

Office of the German ReichsKanzeller

 Chlodwig Carl Viktor, Prince of Hohenlohe, Chancellor of Germany and Prime Minister of Prussia, was glaring. The two men sitting on the far end of the small table looked down at their hands when they spoke, trying their best to avoid the heat.

“Explain to me gentlemen,” he said, his slow exact speech mimicking the tone one would use with a dull child, “how our agents can plan an operation for months, only to find the nest of traitors empty? Three times now we have had good intelligence on the location of these anarchists, only to find they have slipped the net. Could there be a spy in our midst?”

Oberst (Colonel) Adler, the head of the Security Service, twisted his hat in his hand and looked out the window at a passing bird, before he replied. “I have studied the logs of all who were present for meetings concerning the operations, and the only person involved in every case was …,” he looked down, twisting his hat more viciously, “me.”

The Chancellor snorted. “Then you are either the worst double spy in history, or the cleverest, to hide yourself in plain sight. What other explanation is there?”

Adler spread his hands. “I have none, Mein Herr. Coincidence is most unlikely. Somehow, they are getting intelligence from my office, but are too clumsy to hide that fact effectively.”

Herr Schork, the Chancellor’s private secretary, had kept silent until now. Clearing his throat, the two older gentlemen looked at him as though the furniture had just spoken. “Gentlemen, I have a proposal, if I may.”
His superior looked down his nose, but nodded. “Very well. A new idea would be welcome.”

Adler flinched at this, but remained silent.

Schork ran his hand through his hair before continuing, “I think we need someone from outside to look for our spy. Someone who would not be known within our usual circles, and could be discrete.”

“And someone we could trust,” Adler added, uncertain of the direction the young man was headed. “Where could you find such a person?”

The Chancellor interrupted. “Herr Oberst, since you are a suspect, I request that you leave the room before Schork and I continue this conversation. If you know the identity of our “consultant,” the findings would be suspect if you are cleared.”

Adler’s jaw tightened as he glared at Schork, then rose, and left the room as quickly as his dignity allowed.

Once the swirl of the Security Chief’s departure had subsided, the Chancellor looked at Schork with a new respect. “You know of course, that once this matter is settled, it is unlikely you can ever work with Adler again. Not to worry. If you can resolve this matter to my satisfaction, you will find yourself promoted.” Then, clearing his throat, “Of course, if you do not, you will have other matters to concern yourself. Now, the name of this remarkable individual?”

Schork swallowed at the implication of the Chancellor’s words, then said, “You are aware, I believe, of the fictional character, Sherlock Holmes?”

The Prince of Hohenlohe doubled his fists before replying, “You want to employ a make-believe detective?”

“N-N-No Sir!” Schork stuttered. “But the man who inspired the character is very real! He has helped the police in more than one case. I suggest we call in the real Sherlock Holmes!”

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