Roger Butters

The Trouble With Mercia

The Trouble With Mercia

Early in the morning of the last day of 1842, in the middle of the small midland community of Churchfield, nominally a city because of its impressive cathedral, there is found the body of a murdered stranger, shotgun by his side, a finger clutched around the trigger in an attempt to suggest suicide. Nothing of the sort has occurred within living memory.

A novel of a dystopian future, but with a difference. The year is 2278. After an unspecified disaster of worldwide proportions in the 21st century, humanity has had to rebuild civilization, aided by those records and artefacts surviving from before the cataclysm, and a standard of technology has been attained approximating to that of early Victorian times.

Socially and politically matters are more complex, modern in some ways, old-fashioned in others. Federalism has resulted in an England consisting of half a dozen regions based on the pattern of the old Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. Exasperated by the failure of national government to deal with a breakdown in law and order, the largest province, Mercia, has attempted a return to Victorian standards, including an end to divorce and reintroduction of the death penalty. If this were not sufficiently disruptive, its rulers have sparked constitutional crisis by demanding full-scale independence. Matters are further complicated by widespread religious terrorism, and an elected ruler generally regarded as an ignorant and dangerous buffoon.

Against this turbulent background of an England dominated by the great and not-so-good, we follow the fortunes of half a dozen people in a small Mercian town, including an unscrupulous but incorruptible investigative journalist, a beautiful actress unjustly convicted of murder, and a public prosecutor who is in love with her. All are destined to play leading roles in the unfolding national crisis.

An action novel which raises questions highly relevant today, The Trouble with Mercia makes an exciting and disturbing read for those of all political persuasions.

Early in the morning of the last day of 1842, in the middle of the small midland community of Churchfield, nominally a city because of its impressive cathedral, there is found the body of a murdered stranger, shotgun by his side, a finger clutched around the trigger in an attempt to suggest suicide. Nothing of the sort has occurred within living memory.

The enquiries of Constable Buckingham lead him to the household of Elijah Lightfoot, respected banker and pillar of the local community. It soon becomes clear that not only Lightfoot himself but most of his family and their acquaintances have guilty secrets to conceal: adultery, fraud, blackmail, even a taste for pornographic pictures. Which of them knew and had reason to fear the dead man?

Yet not every member of the Lightfoot household is corrupt. The exception is their young governess, Agnes Bell, despised by her employers, reduced to despair by the antics of their monstrous children, and grieving over the recent death of the man she loved. As a means of partial excape from her misery she sets herself the task of uncovering the truth.

Physically delicate and agonizingly shy, Miss Bell is nevertheless a more formidable young lady than she appears. As the cosy and complacent world of the Lightfoots disintegrates into a nightmarish scenario of financial ruin, social disgrace and violent death, it is Miss Bell, steadfast in her pursuit of the truth, unafraid of death, and bearing more than a passing resemblance to Anne Brontë, who finally succeeds in her perilous and near-fatal quest for the murderer.

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