BOOKCASE – Shades: A Steampunk Fantasy Adventure by Abi Barden

In this series, we invite our Crime Cymru authors to showcase an excerpt from one of their books. This week, G B Williams, writing as Abi Barden, takes us on a fantastic journey into a fascinating fusion of steampunk and crime.

Crime has always existed, since the first caveman stole another man’s kill to feed himself or his family. Murder will probably be the last crime as the last surviving human in the endless whirls of space kills off their companions to have as many last gasps of oxygen for themselves as possible.

Wherever we are in history, in all larger societies, there is crime of some sort. Humans can be endlessly selfish and savage, but that’s not all we are. Which is why you’ll often find crime at the heart of many other genre stories; it is the conflict that binds a lot of tales together.

This is one of the reasons why I put a murder and conspiracy at the heart of my steampunk series. The first instalment of this is Shades: A Steampunk Fantasy Adventure, and released on 1st September 2020. 

For those who don’t know what steampunk is, for me it is any story with advanced technology based on steam and ‘aether’ in a Victorian setting. You will find many other definitions, but this is it for me. Even within steampunk there are strands from Powerpunk, based in the 18th century, through to Dieselpunk which can be any time in the future.

I use lots of historic elements in my books, and do a lot of research to support it. However, I am working in an alternate universe so it won’t be quite the history you might have read about. I’ve tried to reflect the manners and sensibilities of the time, though with a number of characters I’ve taken a practical approach to who treats them what way.

At its heart, this book is about money, a mansion and a mystery. An a bit of romance. Amethyst Forester is studying aetheric engineering with Professor Richards. The Professor’s neighbour Ben Maker, Lord Fotheringham, goes to Richards for friendship, guidance, and to avoid the harridan he foolishly married.  When Professor Richards died unexpectedly, leaving everything jointly to Amethyst and Fotheringham, their troubles are only just beginning. Refusing to believe Richards simply died of natural causes, Amethyst argues that he had to have been murdered and in steps Inspector Jenson of Scotland Yard to investigate.

To give you a taste of who these characters are, here is the first time they are all in the same room:

Amethyst paced the floor and railed at the uniformed officer who listened politely, but she wasn’t stupid, and she wasn’t blind. There wasn’t much room, even in here the Professor had crammed the floor space with bits and pieces of anything and everything. There were more heaps of books, the furniture was tight about the fireplace to allow for the stacks behind. Still the need was too great, she had to move, so she did the best she could.

“He didn’t just die!”

Amethyst paced the floor and railed at the uniformed officer who listened politely, but she wasn’t stupid, and she wasn’t blind. There wasn’t much room, even in here the Professor had crammed the floor space with bits and pieces of anything and everything. There were more heaps of books, the furniture was tight about the fireplace to allow for the stacks behind. Still the need was too great, she had to move, so she did the best she could.

It didn’t take the keen eye of a hawk to see that the young constable was looking for support from the other men in the room. Maker had taken on statue-form again; cold, distant and emotionless. He stood rigid and upright by the fireplace; his hands clasped behind his back, his face blank. Edwards stood by the door, another frozen statue of a man. Why wouldn’t they support her statements? Surely they knew she was right.

She turned to glare at the young uniformed officer. A knock at the front door sent Edwards out of the room.

The officer swallowed, his prominent Adam’s apple bobbing in a way Amethyst was not in the mood to find comical.

“The, er, Professor was, well, an older gentleman.”

Amethyst scowled. “He was only fifty-nine and in perfect health.”

“Apparently not.”

Amethyst turned to the doorway as a gentleman entered. He was noticeably taller than her, but not as tall as Maker. Though slim, he still looked strong. His greying hair carried a kink from the hat he’d obviously removed at the door. He had a serious face, with a serious grey moustache. His starched collar was high and white, a neatly knotted black tie disappeared under his waistcoat and matched jacket in slate grey. Out of interest, she glanced at his shoes. As expected, highly polished black boots.

“Inspector Jenson.” The young officer sounded relieved.

The Inspector nodded to the man. “Constable MacReady, can you bring me up to date?”

“Professor Richards, the owner of the house, was found dead in his study. The young lady here-”

Amethyst gritted her teeth and narrowed her eyes at the way he said that, as if being female made her less rational or reliable than the men in the room, who were still being suspiciously quiet.

“-suggests that it was not, as the doctor states, natural causes.”

“Because,” the Inspector said, “he was only fifty-nine and in perfect health?”

Since the Inspector had turned his attention to her, Amethyst concentrated on him.

“Can you advise me who you are,” he asked, “and what your connection to the dead man was?”

“I’m Amethyst Forester, a friend of the Professor’s.” She indicated each man in turn. “Edwards is, was, his gentleman’s gentleman. And Mr. Stony Silent over there is Benjamin Maker, Lord Fotheringham. Apparently, he has an earldom somewhere in the north. He also lives on the opposite site of the Square and has been a friend of the Professor’s for some years.”

“When you say you were his friend?” The Inspector left the question there.

Amethyst took a breath, her fists balling at her sides. “When I say I was his friend, I mean I was his friend. I met him in a library over three years ago. I attended one of his lectures, but was ejected for not being a student. So he came looking for me and taught me in his own time.”

“What did he teach you?”

“Aetheric engineering.” She crossed her arms and glared at him. “Who taught you chauvinism?”


Amethyst never really stops being feisty, though she does rather soften to the men around her.

Jenson investigates the Professor’s death, determines that it was a murder, and on the way he uncovers a startling new conspiracy that has the power to corrupt Parliament and plunge the British Empire at war with the Russian Empire.  So, all fun and games, an adventure and an escape. 

Read more about Abi Barden’s steampunk series

To discover more about Abi Barden‘s books, follow the link here to her Amazon page

Read more about G B Williams

To discover more about G B Williams‘ books, follow the link here to her Amazon page

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