Published by Zaffre (5 April 2018)
Available in ebook and paperback
by A J Mackenzie
Few substances have had a more dramatic impact on human history than gold. It has started wars, led to murders and suicides, ruined lives and families, created vast wealth and also great hardship. In The Body in the Boat, gold helps to arm England’s enemies and puts the country itself at peril.
An alien arriving on this planet would probably be puzzled by the allure of gold. Apart from money, it doesn’t really have many functions apart from a few modern technological uses. It is primarily decorative. Even as money, it has its drawbacks; it is heavy and hard to transport in quantity, and it is also hard to keep secure. In many societies, people turned their gold into jewellery, portable wealth, and wore it on their bodies partly in an effort to keep it safe.
But the appeal of gold is emotional as well as practical. One of the softer metals, it is very tactile and easy to mould into pleasing shapes. Its colour and brilliance remind us of sunlight and warmth, things which our brains instinctively crave. Gold makes us happy. Scientists have discovered a neurotransmitter in our brains, a hormone called oxytocin, which is released by certain experiences – having sex, eating chocolate, using mobile phones – which makes us more happy and contented. It would be interested to see if holding or touching gold had a similar impact.
Because there is no doubt that for some people, gold is addictive. Think of the miners who went to California in 1849 and the Klondike in 1898, enduring terrible hardship, dying like flies, in the pursuit of gold. They went in part because they wanted to get rich, but as the Scottish bank clerk turned gold prospector Robert Service tells us in his poem The Spell of the Yukon, the gold itself was addictive:
I wanted the gold, and I sought it;
I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvy, I found it;
I hurled my youth into the grave.
An obsession with gold is one of the running themes in The Body in the Boat. During the French Revolution the French government, starved of gold, began issuing paper notes called assignats. The French people rejected these; paper, to them, did not mean money. They wanted the comfort and security of gold and silver. Soldiers in particular demanded to be paid in ‘real’ money. To solve the problem, the French began encouraging smugglers to carry gold out of Britain into France. The early efforts were fairly haphazard, but later under Napoleon gold smuggling became a big and well organised business.
With gold haemorrhaging out of the country, the British government reacted quickly. Exporting gold became a criminal offence, punishable by hanging. The Bank of England also issued paper banknotes of its own, with predictable outcry among the public. Don’t worry, the Bank soothed, it’s just a temporary measure; as soon as the war is over, we’ll go back to gold and silver. (They did, for a few years.) But the need for gold, and the profit that could be made from smuggling it, was not much of a deterrent. The gold smuggling continued – with, in the case of The Body in the Boat, fatal results.
| About the Book |
A gripping tale of murder and mystery in eighteenth Century England, for fans of S.J. Parris
Across the still, dark English Channel come the smugglers. But tonight they carry an unusual cargo: a coffin. Several miles inland, a respected banker holds a birthday party for his wife. Within days, one of the guests is found shot dead.
What links this apparently senseless killing to the smugglers lurking in the mists? Why has the local bank been buying and hoarding gold? And who was in the mysterious coffin?
Reverend Hardcastle and Mrs Chaytor find themselves drawn into the worlds of high finance and organised crime in this dramatic and dark Georgian mystery. With its unique cast of characters and captivating amateur sleuths, The Body in the Boat is a twisting tale that vividly brings to life eighteenth-century Kent and draws readers into its pages.
A J Mackenzie is the pseudonym of Marilyn Livingstone and Morgen Witzel, an Anglo-Canadian husband-and-wife team of writers and historians. The Body on the Doorstep is their first foray into fiction and was published by BonnierZaffre in April 2017. The 2nd instalment of the Hardcastle & Chaytor Mysteries, The Body in The Ice is out on 20th April.