THE CROWN AGENT
Shortlisted for the 2020 Bloody Scotland Scottish Crime Debut of the Year
Estonian, French, German, Latvian, Lithuanian, Serbian, Spanish
Stephen O’Rourke is an advocate and a Member of the Institute of Chartered Arbitrators. He formerly wrote a regular column for The Scotsman and has written for The Guardian, Caledonian Mercury and Think Scotland websites. In 2012 he won a short story competition run by The Daily Telegraph, which proved to be the basis for The Crown Agent.
In 1829: Young Edinburgh doctor Mungo Lyon has been disgraced and disillusioned by his association with the surgeon Robert Knox – considered by many the father of the science of anatomy – and his involvement with the grave robbers William Burke and William Hare. Knox bought corpses from the two for dissection at his frequently packed lectures. At his lowest ebb, his mentor vilified for imagined involvement in the murders, and himself disbarred, he is summoned by the Lord Advocate, Scotland’s most senior minister, and the Collector of Her Majesty’s Customs, an ever-growing source of Crown revenue, and asked to investigate a mysterious murder of a lighthouse keeper and a ship adrift with all hands dead off the west coast. Lyon, despite his own intelligence and his father’s reputation as a senior official of the East India Company and a part-time agent, is the wrong man for such a task – something he comes to realize as he blunders his way around the Scottish countryside and finds himself out of his depth in a web of smuggling, kidnap, an ancient secret society and treason. He is helped in his quest by a strange combination of his invalid chair-bound sister – a mathematical genius – and the surprise reappearance of Hare, who disappeared after being freed for turning King’s Evidence against his former partner, who, now employed for his criminal skills and ruthlessness, works as an undercover agent of the Advocate’s department. This is a classic, colourful and fascinating adventure story from a lawyer and journalist who gained his start in a third profession when in 2012 he won a short story competition run by The Daily Telegraph’s creative writing group – and has now been expanded to provide the basis for his first published work. O’Rourke is proud of his Scottish west coast heritage, its hardy people and its varied and spectacular land and seascapes and that pride runs through the book. It’s a superb debut for those who like a simple story, brilliantly told with plenty of derring-do.
‘This is a colourful and fascinating story - the first of what I hope will be many adventures penned by the talented Mr O’Rourke." _Alexander McCall Smith ‘Fast-paced and not a word wasted, this is a classic adventure...