#BlogTour A Pair of Sharp Eyes by Kat Armstrong
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A Pair of Sharp Eyes
by Kat Armstrong
Coronation hears of the murders before she even reaches the slave port of Bristol – six boys found with their throats slit. Horrified, she questions the locals’ readiness to blame the killings on Red John, a travelling-man few have actually seen. Coronation yearns to know more about the mystery. But first she has to outsmart the bawds, thieves and rakes who prey on young girls like her: fresh from the countryside and desperate for work. When the murderer strikes shockingly close to Coronation, she schemes, eavesdrops and spies on all around her until the shameful truth is out.
In the yard at Barbuda House Abraham tugs my hand.
‘Will you come in, Miss? Just for a little while.’
‘I can’t. Not without an invitation from the lady of the house.’
‘Oh, please,’ he wheedles. Away from Mrs Tuffnell his recovery is swift. ‘I’ve something that will amaze you,
truly. The servants are on their half-holiday, none will know. Wait here for me.’ He indicates a small tiled
passageway leading to the offices. Then he darts inside and I can hear his footsteps clatter up the stairs.
When he reappears my heart leaps into my mouth. He bears a silver collar, engraved with ‘Abraham’ in large
The boy unclasps the fastening. ‘Won’t you try it on?’
‘I had rather not,’ I say, laughing, but to please him I stoop and he carefully places the collar about my neck.
The silver is cold and heavy and exceedingly uncomfortable.
‘I can’t see my feet,’ I say, as my jaw catches on the rim. The collar is four inches wide, and not generously
made; it pinches my throat.
‘Last time she tried to make me wear it I struggled until she gave up and had me whipped.’
‘Take it off, please, Abraham. It will look very bad if Mrs Tuffnell suddenly returns.’
‘Ha! She has the key.’ He sees my face and looks ashamed. ‘I have a spare, Mistress, here it is. Keep still.’ He
stands on tiptoe, unlocks the catch with a tiny silver key, and removes the device, taking care not to snag my hair
as he does so.
‘Come while I put it back. Don’t be afraid, no one will see us. Mr Tuffnell has a pair of elephants carved in
ivory that you would like very much, and a book of tinted pictures of all kinds of animals found in Africa.’
It seems so long since I saw a book, never mind one with pictures in it, that I cannot resist.
‘Very well, only we must be quick.’
He leads me up to a small parlour furnished with two carved chairs, a small round tea-table, a green plush sofa,
and a shelf of books, among them the Bible and Foxe’s Martyrs, but also a volume as handsomely bound and
gilded as any I have seen. Abraham takes it down as casually as if it were his plaything.
‘Be careful, Master. I hope your hands are clean.’
He casts up his eyes, props the book on the table, and with his tongue between his teeth turns the pages until he
finds what he is looking for.
About the Author
Kat Armstrong grew up in Bristol, and became an English lecturer after writing a doctoral thesis on eighteenth-century fiction at the University of Oxford. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester, and has written articles for The Guardian as well as a scholarly study of Daniel Defoe. Kat’s debut novel, A Pair of Sharp Eyes, was published by Hookline Books in September 2019.