Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Monday, November 11, 2019

not all monsters are the same... Beneath London’s Fog by Iona Caldwell

"I could definitely see myself reading this again, and I'm so glad I read this right before Halloween, because it really put me in the mood for my favorite holiday. It was hauntingly beautiful and really came to life, with just the right amount of horror and paranormal aspects. And the ending left me with hope for a second installment! What a satisfying read!" - Darque Dreamer, Goodreads


Published: October 30th, 2019 

Jonathan is the immortal master of Raven Hollow Manor – a decrepit mansion riddled with superstition, murder and restless ghosts. Beneath it lies a restless malice.

Its previous owner driven mad, violently kills his guests with a rusted ax, creating the perfect venue for Jonathan to seclude himself in a prison of his own device.

When the streets of London begin to run red with blood; the bodies exhibiting disturbing signs and baffling wounds, the identity of the killer remains elusive to police.

The bodies are just the beginning of Jonathan’s troubles. A mysterious letter accusing Jonathan of committing the murders appear, raising suspicion in the police. Hidden beneath the mangled bodies, Jonathan soon realizes he is being forced to face demons he thought died in a forlorn past he attempted to escape.

One thing Jonathan knows for certain: He must deal with the demons of his past if he is to survive his future. Not only him but those he has come to love as well.

For fans of Jim Butcher, Stephen King, Darcy Coates and Nick Cutter.


   I. The Streets Ran With Blood
I want it known before this tale begins – I am not a hero but a villain. I want no sympathy from whomever reads this recalling of my story; no mourning for the tragedy that befell my life. I am not an innocent man but a sinner forced to face the ravaging demons and ghosts of his own creation. 
My story began as many do – a lie, a fire and murder. One of my kind murdered the woman I loved in the coldest of blood in one of history’s darkest times at the behest of a possessive noble.
After a run in with him in Nottingham, I soon found myself fleeing for my life from hunters, framed for a murder I had not committed. 
Forgive me, I am getting ahead of myself. 
Let me begin where this part of my story took place.
A bloody civil war ravaged London followed shortly by the Great Fire in 1666. A glorious time for me and those like me to take advantage of the chaos and remain hidden in the shadows. 
I managed to pursue the one responsible for nearly getting me killed two centuries prior to the plague which befell London before the fire. 
Within the shadows of the flickering flames of St. Peter’s Cathedral, I struck him down and departed the city, thus avoiding my demise.
I had yet to escape him, however, when his vengeful spirit devoured the souls of the innocent in a mad bloodlust. 
Though greatly injured, I managed to drive his spirit to my new home Raven Hollow Manor in London, imprisoning him in stone coffin in the crypt beneath it. 
Peace resumed in my life and nobles of all kinds enjoyed lavishly hosted parties within the halls of my estate. 
Unfortunately, the short lived splendor at the hands of the hauntings filled the ears of the locals and my beloved home decayed into a tangled web of blood-filled rumors and superstition.
My once glorious halls became infested with dust, its crystal chandeliers covered with cobwebs, their spiders fat on the insects buzzing around the decay and mold-covered wallpaper. 
Yet, there I remained as it proved a decent place to not only contain my greatest sin but served also as a castle of solitude. 
The tides of time swept by in a cacophony of modernization and the movement from superstition to things only mortal science could explain.
I still needed to venture into the city, not only to feed but also to purchase other items needed for everyday living.  
It wasn’t until the winter of 1910 that my silence would be disrupted in the form of a girl named Holly, a young street urchin accused of theft. I took her with me after using a bit of “persuasion” on the local officers to let her go.
They did not need to know where I would take her and she soon grew into a wonderful messenger on my behalf. She became a rather attractive young woman with bouncy blonde curls who kept me company with stories of what went on in the city. 
I am sure, at one time, she became infatuated with me. It did not surprise me. To mortals, my kind held a certain allure they found difficult to ignore. I ended her infatuation quickly following a stern talking to and dousing with cold water.
One day, while in my labyrinthine garden, Holly came to me in tears. 
When the people of London learned where Holly lived, the townsfolk dubbed her a practitioner of black magic.
One day, I found Holly sitting on one of the marble benches in the garden, sobbing. I picked a flower and put it in my daughter’s hair, sitting next to her beneath the statue of a praying angel. 
“You need not worry about them, dearest. Mortals are always quick to place labels on what they do not understand.”
Holly sniffled and sobbed, wiping her nose and offering me a smile. “But why do they avoid this place, Jonathan?” 
“Mortals fear what they cannot comprehend. Pay them no mind. You are a wonderful young woman,” I purred, brushing a blonde curl from her face. 
The words appeared to have placated her as she smiled and joined me in a moonlight stroll through the garden.


Around midnight, after dinner with Holly, I dismissed her to bed. Once she departed, I sought out sustenance in the city. 
A dense fog rolled in due to the cool winter weather and the recent days of rain. 
Combined with the darkness of the streets and alleyways, I managed to meet a young working woman on the corner and wooed her into joining me for a walk to the park. As with other women, I made sure she understood I respected her body with gentle caresses and loving words murmured into her ears. 
Once I placed her deep under my spell, I kissed the tender flesh of the woman’s throat and exposed shoulder, thanking her for her gift. 
My fangs pierced her flesh, earning a moan of pleasure as her body surrendered its precious life force without any significant damage. Her body pressed against mine, her moans increasing with pleasure at my kiss. 
I preferred this method to those of many of my other brethren who tore their victims apart during a feeding, choosing power to subdue instead of sexual allure. 
When signs of weakness began manifesting I released my hold, picking her up after licking the small puncture wounds, my saliva healing them, leaving no marks or scars. 
To assure she received care, I took her to the nearest hospital and deposited her on the steps without anyone noticing. 
As always, I used hypnotic suggestion to erase her memory and leave her with a pleasant dream.
During the wee hours of the morning, I tended to enjoy the calls of the birds and the chirping of the crickets to help relieve the burden on my mind. 
Not a soul roamed the streets near the bridge where I liked to sit and write poetry or read a book. 
In the midst of the silence, a horrifying shriek caught my attention, almost startling me. 
My pupils narrowed to those one might see in a viper or a cat. I let my body dissipate into the form of a black mist, hovering over the city in search of the source of the scream. 
I found it in the shape of the body of a mangled man. 
The whites of his eyes consumed most of the portion of the glossy orbs in his skull, mouth gaped open mid-scream. 
I knelt before him, my own brows furrowed in frustration at the recognition of the familiar puncture wounds on the man’s throat. This cannot be. No other has hunted here in centuries. 
The disturbing find made something clear. 
Many of my kind preferred not to hunt in one place occupied by another of higher status, or in another’s territory for that matter. We changed due to the growing number of human hunters who would kill any of us they came across.
Despite the city’s size, my reputation often kept others out of my hunting grounds, for which I remained grateful. 
This new kill had been malicious.
If I allowed such behavior to continue, it could draw the attention of the hunters or the local police to my home. 
Whomever the responsible party, I needed to locate them and have a word with them or kill them if necessary.
My eyes closed, a heavy sigh drawing up from within my lungs. I placed my fingers over the man’s eyes, using a gentle touch to close them. “Forgive whichever of us did this to you. You did not deserve to die in such a horrific manner.”
Searching through the pockets of his trench coat, I located his identification card and vowed to send some money and roses to his family. 
Sounds of sirens and the calls of the corner watchmen announced the arrival of the authorities. I left them the man’s wallet so they could inform his family of their loss. 
I lurked in the shadows listening to the inspectors scrutinizing the scene.
“Bloody mystery, it is. This is the second mangled body we found this week. One has to wonder if we might be witnessing the birth of another blighter of a serial killer.” One of the inspectors scratched his head beneath the dome shaped hat. 
I recognized him as Bertrand Abrams, a well-known officer and one of the only men who aided Holly during her visits to town. 
From his looks, one would expect him to hail from Scotland. A bushy mustache and stringy hair with the consistency of sheep’s wool held the color of fire. Dimples set into high cheekbones and a double chin made me smile. A portly belly betrayed his affinity for too many scones and perhaps Scotch. 
He had been wrong. This death held no mystery. I merely needed to find the one responsible before it resulted in too much of a personal dilemma.
Following the release of the corpse to the medical examiner, I took the form of black mist and drifted back to Raven Hollow.
The beginnings of my night would be haunted by dreams of a past filled with love, vengeance and pain. 
It would be filled with shining auburn locks and eyes the color of the fresh leaves of spring.

II. Annabelle
London, Summer 1565
I stood in the shadows of the balcony in a room full of people in London’s upper class, a glass of champagne in my hand, my eyes following the path of a young woman as she drifted from group to group—her strawberry lips plump and perfect for a summer night’s kiss. I fantasized about what it might feel like to taste her lips beneath the moonlight.
At times I caught the woman glancing at me, a shy smile on her face. 
Beneath the ornate feline mask, I caught eyes colored with facial shadow, half-lidded with as much desire as I felt welling up within me. The glances and flirting gestures occurred so often through the night I could take no more and approached her. 
The woman covered her face with a frilly, cream fan, gesturing her head towards the opened window panes leading to the granite balcony.
The satin curtains danced in the warmth of the breeze, their soft whooshes unheard by the gossiping guests as the woman moved through them. 
With immortal grace, I glided through the bodies, refusing advances from bourgeoisie ladies whose breasts struggled to remain hidden behind their laced corsets. 
When I reached the young woman, she stood staring out at the lavish gardens below. My eyes never left her face, entranced by her porcelain skin almost shining in the moon’s light.
Below, gurgling water echoed from the fountain in the middle of the stone pathway, surrounded by beautiful flowers blooming, permeating the air with sensual smells.
“Greetings, my lady.” I took her silken gloved hand and placed a kiss on the back of her knuckles. My hazel eyes locked on her bright green gaze.
We appeared to be studying one another. The sounds of the party faded into nothingness the further we drifted into our own world.
Thoughts of what she might be thinking ran through my mind along with concerns I often held during such encounters.  Did she fall victim to my wiles? My natural seduction or did she feel a natural attraction?
A brief sense of ache pushed at the walls of my beating heart. I forced the thoughts away. It could not be. If my seduction did indeed affect her, she would not have teased me as much as she did. Attraction would have been instant as it had been with those other women from the party who shoved their large bosoms in my face as I walked by.
“To you as well, sir,” She replied, gesturing a slight nod. 
Her bright smile set my heart ablaze with the desire. I gathered my will and requested her to dance with me, an offer she agreed to, never letting go of the mischievous tease of a grin lighting her lips. 
I led us to the ballroom where I proceeded to guide her through the most graceful dance. My hand held firm around her tiny waist while her frilly dress followed each majestic spin with the rhythm of the music. 
During a dip, I ventured to ask her what her name could be. 
The woman giggled, fanning herself and requesting some fresh air in light of so much dancing. I obliged her and guided her back to the balcony. 
In the distance, I could hear the bubbling sound of the water cascading in the fountain. All around the smell of flowers drifted in the cool summer breeze. To give her a rest, I helped her sit on one of the marble benches, joining her.
I repeated my request to know her name. 
She pushed one of the loosened curls of her bronze hair away from her face. Her green eyes threatening to delve into the depths of my soul. “I am Annabelle Price. May I ask your namel, my Lord?”
“Jonathan Holloway. It is my greatest pleasure to make your acquaintance, Ms. Price.”
Annabelle giggled. “Annabelle, please. To you as well, Mr. Holloway.”
As she had done with me, I corrected her to use my first name. 
Little had I known that night would lead to more meetings in the near future only to end in a tragedy which would begin my descent into the darkness of vengeance.


Light tapping followed by Holly’s voice calling out to me through the closed door caused me to groan, rising in bed and calling to her to give me a moment. Immense pressure threatened to tear my eyes from my skull as I lumbered over to the rack in the corner of the room where a black, silk robe hung. 
I put on the robe, taking in the tangled sandy mess of shortened hair in the mirror before staggering over to the door, opening it.
As usual, Holly managed to make herself look beyond beautiful despite the early hours of the day. Her bouncy honey-blonde curls sat at the top of her head in a formal bun, her cream dress and green overcoat glistening with the light of the sun. Plump cheeks, colored with a slight hint of blush drew up in a deep-dimpled grin.
“Good morning,” She greeted.
Rubbing my eyes, ignoring the annoyance niggling my mind, I returned her greeting. “Holly, you know I am not a morning man. What could you possibly need so early?”
Holly pursed her lips, her blue eyes displaying irritation. “Well, that’s rude. I wanted to have breakfast together like we used to. Were you out late again?”
I nodded. 
My body ached from fatigue, the muscles heavy and throbbing with want to go back to bed.
When she continued to plead, I sighed and asked her for some time to allow me to get a bath and join her downstairs.
Despite my belief to the contrary, Holly’s dimpled grin grew wider, eyes shining with excitement. 
It made me regret all of those mornings I sent her away, choosing to sleep until after sunset.
Holly placed a kiss on my cheek, thanking me, prancing off like a deer through a field of grain back down the stairs. 
I returned to my room to procure some clothes for myself and mosey into the bathroom where I ran a hot bath, letting the warm water fill the tub and ease my aching body. I added some of the scented oils and foreign bath salts I purchased during one of my rare visits to the bustling London market. 
They eased the stress and lingering pain, allowing me to relax into a peaceful state of mind. My head lulled back to stare at the ceiling as I thought about the dream recounting the time I met Annabelle, the woman I loved more than my own life. The woman I watched helplessly murdered with my own eyes. 
I remembered the crimson streams of blood, the life leaving her eyes as she reached out to me, gurgling out my name before she fell to the ground. 
Never before had I felt such pain. Such loss.
Not now. I cannot allow myself to drift into despair. Not when my daughter waits for me. I rose from the bath, dried myself with one of the soft cotton towels. 
I dressed to join Holly in the kitchen, stopping by my dresser to look at a small, ornate box. I opened it to find a necklace and a ring, sighing at the memories they held. Its bronze hinges creaked when I closed the lid and left the room to go downstairs.
Holly sat at the table, standing when she saw me, moving like the wind to prepare me a plate containing a full English breakfast and a cup of tea with cream and sugar.
Holly joined me, her head turned away towards the table, hands twiddling in her lap.
I opened the paper she got me and proceeded to read, ignoring her since I knew the behavior to mean she had something she wished to ask. 
I sighed, unable to handle her less than subtle attempts to get my attention. “What is it? I know you have something you wish to say,” I asked, lowering the paper.
Biting her lower lip, Holly whimpered. “I wondered if you would be okay with me attending a dinner party with one of my best friends. I know how you are about me going out after dark without you.”
Knowing what lurked in the shadows and our affinity for young men or women, I often forbade Holly from roaming the streets after sunset. 
Seeing the look of desperate longing on her face proved holding my resolve more difficult the longer she did so. I gave in, making her promise not to leave her friend’s house alone or at all, provided she complete her chores both in the house and outside of it.
With more vigor than I would have liked, she repeated “yes” and “thank you” so many times I lost count. 
“Oh! That reminds me. The groundskeeper is doing wonderfully with the gardens,” Holly said with glee.
My eyes never left the paper, particularly one story involving the man from last night. “You hired a groundskeeper? I take it he has no fear of this place’s reputation then?”
Holly pushed the paper down to capture my gaze with hers. “Of course he is but I promised him decent pay so he’s willing to overlook it.” She sauntered around me, wrapping her arms over my shoulders. 
“I worry for you being alone so much. Why must you be such a recluse? I know you still hurt for Anna but--”
“That will be enough.” I said. My voice a tone not to be questioned. “As far as anyone knows, I do not exist and I am more than fine with it. Finish your chores. I have a delivery for you to make before you leave. As always, be discreet.”
Once again, Holly’s lips pursed. She huffed, took the dishes to the kitchen and prepared to go about her daily business. 
I retired to my study to ponder the story of the man’s murder and Inspector Abrams’ mention of another mangled corpse. 
It soon became obvious, what with the memories of Anna resurfacing and my mind’s endless pursuit of answers, that sleep would remain elusive.
Knocking on the door interrupted my thoughts. Holly threw it open, almost allowing it to slam against the wall. 
“I almost forgot, I think Inspector Abrams’ son has taken a fancy to me.”
Oh dear. I thought. “And do you find yourself attracted to him?”
She shook her head.
“Then there is no need to worry. Let him down easily but be polite. The inspector has done much to dissuade the general public from their thoughts about you.”
A thick silence lingered in the air. 
“I heard another poor person was murdered,” Holly finally said. She hesitated at the last word, her voice barely a whisper.
I kept my focus on the spire of Big Ben above the treeline.
“So I can put my heart at ease, it wasn’t you, was it?” Holly asked.
“No, dearest. I do not kill unnecessarily. Now, go finish your chores and enjoy your evening. I will be out late tonight and will be checking on you.” I grinned at the look of defiance on her face.
With a sigh, I lowered my head. Somewhere in my daughter’s heart, she still feared me, seeing me as a monster

About the author:
Iona Caldwell is the lover of all things arcane, folklore, nature and magic.
She is the author of the British Occult Fiction, Beneath London’s Fog set to be published by FyreSyde Publishing October 2019. Her second title, Hell’s Warden is forecasted to release in February of 2020. When she’s not busy weaving worlds of the arcane and dark, she’s spending time out in nature. An avid lover of books, Iona claims her biggest inspirations are H.P Lovecraft, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman and Edgar Allen Poe.

She believes storytellers should tell the stories they want to tell. As such, most of her titles are stand-alone novellas she hopes will leave her readers immersed in magical worlds.

She is also an extremely active book blogger who will review primarily horror, suspense, supernatural thriller, mystery, and occult/gothic fiction.

Author's Giveaway


Bea LaRocca said...

I had previously purchased this book but haven't had a chance to read it yet. I am looking forward to it though.

Stephanie LaPlante said...

Sounds like a great book.

Maria Katie said...

WOW this looks amazing, love the cover and the title.

lildevilgirl22 said...

the cover is eerie

Victoria Alexander said...

Sounds awesome and I love the cover!

Amy Woolard said...

I am blown away by what I have read about this book! The cover is awesome!!

Dan Denman said...

I like the book cover. This sounds mysterious and chilling.