1666 is a historical mystery for 9 to 12 year olds and complete at 64,000 words.
It’s the story of Flick, a 14 year old illusionist who finds herself trapped in her cellar with a fresh corpse just after her father disappears. With the Great Fire raging across London, Flick must race to find her father by solving a trail of clues he left behind and uncovers a deadly plot that leads all the way to the king.
1666 has just been announced as the winner of the WriteMentor Children’s Novel award 2021. I couldn’t be more pleased! It was also shortlisted in the Bath Children’s Novel Award and Longlisted in the Flash500 Novel Opening Award.
Exract from the opening of 1666…
Saturday 1st September, 1666
The day before a dead body turns up in her father’s cellar, Flick Cutler is preparing to stab herself in front of fifteen drunks at The Boar’s Head Tavern.
There is not much light. Flick’s face is illuminated by a single guttering candle on the beer stained table where she sits. Her dark brown eyes appear black in the gloom and her raven hair falls over high cheek bones. She is looking down, drawing all attention to the back of her hand, cleverly diverting attention from the blade switch that she makes effortlessly; she has been practising this for weeks. The fingers of her left hand are splayed out across a chopping board. This is a stunt they have seen a hundred times but in this dark corner of London, excitement is rare and welcome.
Money is changing hands and the whole place reeks of sweat. It has been another sweltering day and the windows, open in the vain hope of breeze, yawn uselessly into the night. The beams, the walls, the floor, are all parched like the sand in the timer that is brought to the table. Althea, the landlady, has agreed to act as judge since she is the last person that anyone in the tavern would dare to cross. The bloodstains on the rolling pin she keeps in her apron are allegedly human. Althea knows that such activities are banned by the City of London authorities and that if she is caught again, they will remove her licence, but with at least two of the city’s magistrates already asleep at the bar, she considers it a risk worth taking. Flick’s trick with the knife promises customers will stay much later; those who win money will lose it just as quickly to the drink.
“100. No more,” says a man with a voice like gravel.
“You must be joking,” Smythy roars back, “she done 121 last time. It’ll be more,” he lisps through his broken front teeth. “126.” A final change of coins clinks into a hush.
Usually, Flick will spread her hand out on the table and stab the gaps between her fingers as quickly as she can. Flick’s skill at the knife is unrivalled and people have long since stopped challenging her in favour of marvelling at her skill and dexterity. This time, it would be different though. Flick quite literally had a surprise up her sleeve.
Althea holds up her hand to indicate silence. This is it. Flick has practised this stunt a thousand times since reading about it in one of Blaise’s “forbidden” books. The specially adapted version of her father’s gutting knife is raised to her ear as though she is listening for the perfect time to stab.
She brings the knife down hard – straight through the back of her hand and into the chopping board with an unsympathetic thud.