- Stoker & Bash: The Fangs of Scavo
- Stoker and Bash #2: The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree
At Scotland Yard, DI Timothy Stoker is no better than a ghost. A master of arcane documents and niggling details who, unlike his celebrity-chasing colleagues, prefers hard work to headlines. But an invisible man is needed to unmask the city’s newest amateur detective, Hieronymus Bash. A bon vivant long on flash and style but short on personal history, Bash just may be a Cheapside rogue in Savile Row finery.
When the four fangs of the Demon Cats of Scavo—trophies that protect the hunters who killed the two vicious beasts—disappear one by one, Stoker's forced to team with the very man he was sent to investigate to maintain his cover. He finds himself thrust into a world of wailing mediums, spiritualist societies, man-eating lions, and a consulting detective with more ambition than sense. Will this case be the end of his career, or the start of an unexpected liaison? Or will the mysterious forces at play be the death of them both?
And just who is Hieronymus Bash?
- 2 To Be Read lists
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay, Transgender
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Class Differences, Criminals & Outlaws, Death of Parent, Enemies to Lovers, Interracial Relationship, Opposites Attract, Slow Burning Love, Thrill of the Chase, Trickster Hero
Word Count: 110,000
Setting: Victorian London
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
A hush fell over the room. Tim followed the guests’ avid gazes to the doorway. He nosed his way through the murmuring crowd until he had a perfect view of... a pair of footmen, who swept back onlookers who had ventured in too close, not unlike a more subdued version of the mob outside the Old Bailey. The head butler cleared his throat with the rigor of an opera tenor. A buzz of anticipation flit from guest to guest until a heady swarm of noise heralded the arrival of... who? The Prince of Wales? The Prime Minister? Her Majesty? Surely only someone of royal blood could command a room before setting foot in it.
A figure loomed in the hallway. Silence fell anew. The head butler gave one last great harrumph... and Hieronymus Bash sauntered in with a little wave for his disciples.READ MORE
He was the most extraordinary man Tim had ever seen. Tall as an oak but sleek as a panther. Bedecked in opulent mauve velour save for the dragon pattern of his waistcoat, the cape he did not remove billowed with his every gesture. A man in constant motion, posing and gesticulating as if life were a grand comedy, and he its star player. He wore the black waves of his hair overlong and lush, skimming his shoulders as if to frame his face in perpetual portrait. His dense but meticulous moustache ill-concealed his pillowy lips. His skin was of a rich brown hue that pointed to foreign origins or ancestry, but his eyes were the main attraction—black as sin and blazing like a dark star, their mercurial glint could bedazzle the Archbishop of Canterbury. That and the clasplike gold earring that studded his left lobe—a wink at piracy that would have had Tim rolling his eyes if he were not too busy wagging his tongue.
He was, in a word, magnificent. Tim felt suddenly as if all the air had been sucked out of the room. He fought to measure his breaths, to slow the percussion of his heart. He stole a handkerchief out of his pocket—not that anyone was looking at him—to blot his hands. If only there was some balm that could dull the tingling constriction in his groin, staunch the flood of shame that suffused him. He hadn’t planned to confront his opponent half-hard and sweat palmed and unbalanced. But that, he would learn, was the effect Hieronymus Bash had on people. At least Tim hoped it wasn’t just him.
It wasn’t. As soon as the footmen retreated, the dam broke. The guests poured over him, by turns flattering and admiring. Those not seeking to seduce him solicited some favor: to find some long-lost bauble, to fetch an absconded relative, to feast as a guest at their table. The star of his celebrity seemingly outshone any reservations they might have about his exoticism.
When at last he tore his eyes away from the dashing Mr. Bash, Tim noticed a bear of a man standing apart from the crowd beside a statue of Osiris. The bushy muttonchops that carpeted his face only added to the menace of his frown. Tim made a mental note to seek the man out later, but for now he had only one appointment. Unfortunately he appeared to be the very last in the queue.
Their host intervened. The guests fell away like heads of wheat as Lord Blackwood sliced through them. This permitted Tim a view of Bash’s two companions: an elegant young blonde woman, likely his ward, and a man with such a regal mien he might have been the Emperor of China, improbably dressed as a manservant. A more mismatched threesome he’d rarely observed.
“Bash,” Blackwood hissed, his spine coiled as tight as a preying cobra. “You are not welcome.”
“Precisely why I came. You are aware, my lord, that a priceless artifact was stolen right under the noses of—” he scanned the crowd, taking in everyone and everything, until his gaze lighted on a startled Tim “—everyone in this room. Save you, sir. Fascinating. Have no fear; I’ll get to you in a bit.” He again confronted Blackwood. “I have been charged with investigating that crime, and since you are hosting a virtual recreation of its circumstances—excepting you are fool enough to display the fang in this very room—how could I fail to attend? Invitation or no. Besides, Goldie will vouch for me.”
“—Goldie’s fang was pilfered doesn’t mean, et cetera, et cetera.” Bash yawned theatrically. “My good man, if you’re going to put on a show, you cannot fail to invite the main attraction.” He addressed the crowd. “Is that not so?”
A chorus of “Hear, hear” and unanimous approval rang out.
“Mr. Bash, this evening’s aim is a serious exploration of the—”
A loud snore interrupted him. Bash startled as if being woken from a nap.
“Blackwood, I assure you, no one is trying to prevent you from dissecting the spiritual ramifications of your underclothes. But a real crime has been committed, a crime that may be repeated tonight, in this very room. No matter what you may think of my abilities, I will not sit at home, quaffing port and smoking cigars, while another house is burgled and these fine people are left at risk.” If the guests were on Bash’s side before, they would now pledge him their firstborn. “May I proceed? Or will you again prove yourself an enemy to common sense?”
Tim could only imagine the expression on Blackwood’s face. Bash confronted it with a cunning smile. In the end no other words were exchanged. Blackwood simply stepped aside to murmurs of approval. Bash and his companions, with an elderly military man in tow, formed a barricade around the giant tooth. Baffled, Tim sought to ingratiate himself with his fellow guests, hoping to ply them for information.
He devoted as much of his full attention as he could spare to them, his eyes lured back to Bash’s mesmeric presence again and again. Though Tim was under no illusions as to the Bash’s true nature—criminal, if not an outright fraud—there was something undeniably magnetic about him. The way he played to the crowd. The way he flouted authority. The pride with which he carried himself. If that was an act, then it was a convincing one.
Tim would take great pleasure in bringing this wild dog to heel.
Lisa on The Novel Approach wrote:
There’s just something amazing about having all your expectations about something blown away and this book did that in spades. When I first started reading, I honestly expected Hieronymus Bash to be something like Sherlock Holmes (the Robert Downey Jr version because he was more fun) with a dash of the irreverent rogue thrown in to help tick off the officers of the Yard. What I got was so very different but so very good!
There are lots of things I could say about Hieronymus Bash but that would also be giving things away that are best left to be discovered as you read. What I will say is that Hiero is a unique, highly entertaining individual who thrives on attention and practically lives for the times he’s in the spotlight. Underneath all that, however, he’s also an incredibly caring man who can’t help but lend a hand to someone in desperate need of one. Timothy Stoker, on the other hand, is considered quite ordinary and, unlike Bash, spends his time fading into the shadows so as not to draw attention to himself. These two men, who should be all rights be on opposite sides of most everything, instead find themselves drawn together first by circumstance and then by a kind of helpless mutual regard that later blooms into more. Both men have their strengths and weaknesses but what drew me to them both as individuals and as a couple were the mysteries they’re each hiding. Bash’s back story is hinted at over the course of the book while Stoker’s own past is more blatantly put forward as an explanation into his choices. In either case, there are questions left unanswered that I’m really looking forward to delving into in future stories.
The mystery itself was fantastic; there was a great variety of characters, all of them fleshed out beautifully, that added to my enjoyment while keeping me constantly guessing as to who the antagonist was. The historical details were pretty spot on, the action scenes were a blast to read, and I found myself completely in love with the descriptions and the way everything was just presented. (Seriously, it was all really good!) By the end of the story I’d changed my mind numerous times as to who the culprit actually was and why and I’m thrilled to say that I was wrong on all counts.
This book was both a complete surprise and a complete joy to read; I was so engrossed in the story and the characters that I was super sad to see the book end. If you enjoy historical mysteries and are looking for a book that features characters that make their own way outside of the expectations of society, I’d give this one a look. I will totally be eagerly awaiting the sequel in the meantime!
Ilona on Bonkers About Books wrote:
It took approximately three seconds of gawping at this book’s cover before I jumped on it. G’head and judge it, if you’d like, because what’s inside this beauty is every bit as fantastic as I hoped it would be, and now I’m salivating for the next book in the series.
Set in Victorian London, author Selina Kray introduces a mystery set in an enigma and wrapped in a conundrum—and then names him Hieronymus Bash. Hiero is many things: a thespian, a provider, a lush, a man who relies on his charisma and a flair for the dramatic, and he’s a consulting investigator for hire (although he isn’t the brains of the operation, and knows it). The author teases her readers horribly—in the most delicious way—as to who Hiero is. Or, perhaps I should say was because, from what I can tell, he’s suffered and has come out of it a different person. He’s lost his long-time lover, Apollo, the man who dragged Hieronymus from the gutter and helped him turn his life around, and now he’s built himself a family of sorts with his ward—and Apollo’s niece—Calliope Pankhurst (who is the brains of the operation), along with his manservant and muscle, Han Tak Hai, who is more than meets the eye. The mystery that Hiero and his cohorts have been challenged to solve is almost, almost, as confounding as the mystery of Hieronymus Bash himself, hiding in plain sight.
Detective Inspector Timothy Kipling Stoker is on thin ice. His job at Scotland Yard is in jeopardy after he blew the whistle on his former guv for skimming money off the top of the rewards his detectives received for solving crimes. Rather than earning Tim respect for his honesty, however, it earned him the scrutiny of his new Superintendent as well as making him the scourge of the Yard and a pariah amongst his fellow officers. Tim’s new assignment, the one that will either sink or save his career, is to investigate none other than one Hieronymus Bash and expose him as a fraud—for the small but unforgiveable sin of embarrassing the police by solving a presumably unsolvable case. And, there’s no small amount of irony that it’s Tim’s honesty and discretion that make him the perfect man for the job.
In an era known for its puritanical ideals, the Victorians sure did love their spiritualism, and there’s no shortage of it connected to the four fangs of Scavo and their disappearance. There’s too much detail to this part of the story to go into it all, and I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say that the fangs themselves are a common thread between the four who hold them, a medium whose ‘talents’ Bash would like to expose (which earns him zero popularity points), and the mystery of who’s stolen several. The story within the story of the Fangs of Scavo is Hieronymus, Callie, and Han working to discover the whereabouts of those that have gone missing, and who’s guilty of stealing them, all while Stoker is working undercover as Tim Kipling to investigate Hiero.
Tim, or Kip as he’s dubbed, and Hiero are like moth and flame, and the more Kip tries to resist (read: deny) his attraction to Hiero, the more he’s drawn into the exotic and flamboyant man’s orbit. Who is Hieronymus Bash, the man who treads the boards, keeps an unconventional household, has a steady supply of Turkish tea and coffee on hand, who powders his face to lighten the color of his skin, is cheeky and flirtatious, and is no stranger to the bottle? Kip is as perplexed and obsessed by Hiero as I am, and I can’t wait to get to know all the man’s secrets.
I loved every single thing about this book: Kray’s voice and gift for grounding the reader in the time and place; the mystery and the story of the fangs; the way she introduced and then layered her characters until they became real and fascinating and diverse people within the framework of their story. Most of all, though, I loved the evolution of Kip’s character. He’s often described as unremarkable, but so is everyone when compared to Bash, and his history is fascinating, especially when it comes to a past that haunts him. Tim’s efforts to smother and squash his attraction to Hiero was as touching as his denial that any sort of future, never mind happiness, with the beautiful and enigmatic and confounding man could be for a man such as him. This paragraph really says it all:
If Tim could have this, only this, a sacred memory to conjure up on sleepless nights after his disgrace, all the shame and rejection and recrimination would have been worth it. To know that for one shining moment he was cherished, however ephemeral Hiero’s affections proved… He might very well survive the trials to come.
Kray writes with such grace and substance, which made this book a pleasure to get lost in for a while. And anyone who invokes Wilde (he had to get his inspiration from somewhere!) is doing everything right in my book.
Have you ever heard the quote "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma"? If you have, and know the follow up, then the 'key' in this case is not the Russian national interest but the personal aggrandisement of the main character of Hieronymus Bash - or is it?
Over all this book was a lot like that quote, both in terms of the complex but intriguing Heiro and in the mystery of the Fangs of Scarvo and why they are being stolen. I think this is very much like a wonderful Sherlock Holmes type detective novel with Tim Stoker having all the intelligence of Sherlock with the self effacing demeanour of a Dr. Watson. It is also an historically accurate portrayal of how Gay men had to live their lives in the late 1800's with all the theatricality and danger of their lives. A truly enjoyable read that actually kicked me out of the reading slump I was heading into (having tried a number of books only to lose interest in them) I can only say that I hope Ms Kray writes many more stories with Stoker and Bash, I know I for one will be devouring them avidly.