A Very Curious & Capricious Agent

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Clodagh Chapman
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£14.99, US$ 23.99, €21.50
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About The Author

Clodagh Chapman is the author of radio plays, short stories, and 9 novels, published by such leading houses has Piatkus, Headline, Fontana, and Weidenfeld. She has worked as a land-girl, written propaganda for the war-time Ministry of Information, and worked as a school teacher. She has bred show ponies, been a Morris Dancer and played in a folk band. She has two children and six grandchildren, and with her husband lives part of the year in Suffolk and part in Brittany. As a mature student with the Open University she gained the degrees of BA and MA in the humanities. Her research for the MA uncovered the history of a catastrophic explosion in her local Suffolk town. This she has used as a background to her historical novel, A Very Curious and Capricious Agent.

About The Book

Based on the real events of a major industrial accident in a West Suffolk town in August 1871, this is a tale of love, lust, greed and jealousy, all of which are curious and capricious agents in directing human behaviour … yet it is a wholly different agent which directs the final act of this drama. Before the disastrous explosion on that fateful August day, the inhabitants of this Suffolk market town could look back with certain self-satisfaction at their prosperous thriving industries, all based on agricultural success. All seemed normal with people in their proper place in the traditional almost feudal class structure, which is dominated by one family, the powerful Bullard clan. But look closer and there are grounds for concern: unusually hot weather and lack of rain, the belief among many that Judgement Day is at hand, and the influence of an extreme religious sect which has mushroomed in the neighbouring countryside.

The Felgate family appear at first sight as typical: Robert holds a responsible position as foreman of a department in Bullard’s Gun-Cotton factory, and is intent on bettering himself, perhaps by even becoming Works Manager. Eliza, his wife, works as a seamstress, putting by her savings for her three surviving children. Work-worn, she is increasingly dependent on laudanum obtained from her son, Frank, who works for the town’s apothecary, and has fallen under the influence of a charismatic religious sect. Physically handicapped, he is a disappointment to Robert, and the dislike is mutual.

Whilst Lizzie, the elder daughter is involved in a difficult love-choice in deciding her future, her father embarks on a dangerous flirtation with the governess at the town’s School for Young Gentlemen. When this is discovered by Frank he hatches an increasingly hysterical plot, and inveigles his younger sister, Susan, an intelligent but rebellious girl, to assist him in the conspiracy. The outcome of this raises the question as to the cause and responsibility for the disaster which is to hit the town in August 1871.