Riot Most Uncouth by Daniel Friedman is the first in a new series featuring the 19-year old Lord Byron, a brazen poet and student with questionable behavior that decides solving a murder is more important than attending class (available December 1, 2015).
1807, Cambridge, England.
A young woman is murdered in a boarding house, and nobody knows what to do about it. The volunteer watchman who patrols the streets of this placid college town has no idea how to investigate a serious crime and the private bounty hunters the girl's family has hired to catch the killer employ methods that are questionable, at best.
What Cambridge needs is a hero, and, in a situation such as this, it's very easy for a gentleman with a romantic disposition to mistake himself for one.
19 year-old Lord Byron, the outlaw poet, is a student at Trinity College, though he can only be described as a “student” in the loosest sense of the word: He rarely attends class and, instead, spends his time day-drinking, making love to faculty wives, and feeding fine cuisine and expensive wine to the bear he keeps as a pet.
Catching a killer seems like a fine diversion, however, and Byron decides that solving the crime must take precedence over other, less-urgent matters such as his failing grades and mounting debts.
Whilome in Albion’s isle there dwelt a youth,
Who ne in virtue’s ways did take delight;
But spent his days in riot most uncouth,
And vexed with mirth the drowsy ear of Night.
Ah, me! in sooth he was a shameless wight,
Sore given to revel and ungodly glee;
Few earthly things found favour in his sight
Save concubines and carnal companie,
And flaunting wassailers of high and low degree.
—Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, canto 1
A poet must have a keen eye for details and for feelings; for subtext and for innuendo. This same set of skills is also essential if one hopes to have any success at the pursuit and capture of murderers. The 1807 publication of Hours of Idleness, my first collection of verses, cemented my reputation as the greatest poet ever to have lived. It therefore stood to reason that I also was the world’s greatest criminal investigator.
That autumn, I was bored with my studies at Trinity College and feeling quite restless. So I was intrigued and a little annoyed when my butler, Joe Murray, informed me as I enjoyed an otherwise-pleasant champagne breakfast that a young woman named Miss Felicity Whippleby had been butchered in her Cambridge rooms. She was said to have been a quiet and well-mannered girl, and nobody could fathom what she might have done to bring such a fate upon herself.
Murder was a rare thing in Cambridge, and mystery was unheard of. I had no doubt Felicity Whippleby’s name would soon be upon the lips of every local gossip and rumormonger, people whose time would have been better spent talking about me. I resolved to put my first-rate intellect to work capturing her killer. Such a diversion would burnish my notoriety and provide a good excuse to avoid attending classes. Anyway, Cambridge was large enough to support the misdeeds of only one villain. I would not be upstaged on my own territory by a knife-wielding interloper.
[Read more of Riot Most Uncouth here...]