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A Plague of Hearts by Patrick Whittaker

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A Plague of Hearts by Patrick Whittaker
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Ebook Synopsis

The truth about what happened when Alice fell down the rabbit hole...

On an otherwise normal day in Wonderland, the Knave of Hearts is arrested by the secret police. Outraged by what he believes to be an injustice, his valet, the March Hare, sets out to free him. Along the way he attends a mad tea party, witnesses the death and resurrection of the Queen of Hearts and uncovers a terrifying secret that could destroy not only his world, but ours too.


Excerpt:

A sad fact: without his make-up the Knave of Hearts looked ordinary. Not even his sequined pyjama top and matching fishnet stockings could provide enough pizazz to lift his appearance above the mundane.

To be honest, he never looked his best first thing in the morning, but on this occasion his glamour level was at an all-time low.

The March Hare handed him a bathrobe. Accepting it with a grunt of thanks, the Knave carried it over to the large wall mirror which dominated one corner of his bedroom and stood in awe of his own reflection. It never ceased to amaze him that such a slight figure could survive life’s tribulations relatively unscathed. He searched his eyes for some clue to his continued existence, some hint of hidden strength. As always, it eluded him.

He flicked impulsively at his kiss curl. Dandruff erupted and fell like a flock of disgraced angels. He farted. ‘Behold the Wind God,’ he muttered. ‘Was ever a man so flatulent as I?’

The March Hare thought probably not, but refrained from saying so. Having been a valet all his adult life, he knew when to leave a question unanswered.

Lifting the lid off the breakfast trolley, he poured a cup of industrial strength coffee.

The Knave knocked it back in one.

His valet shuddered. ‘Your taste buds - ’

‘Are entirely my own affair. Don’t nag. I hate it when you nag.’ The Knave spoke in rich, saccharine tones which disguised his original accent - pure Black Marsh with its hard vowels and soft consonants. His acquired voice had served him well during the years he had lived and worked at the Palace of Hearts. It had protected him from the palace bullies - aristocrats who would think nothing of beating any other man - or woman - to a pulp.

He was effeminate. Almost everyone who knew him called him a poof. There was nothing to be gained from inflicting pain on such a person - no proof of virility, no evidence of manliness.

The Knave’s one official duty was to misbehave. His contract bound him to three practical jokes a week and as much wicked banter as the situation demanded. It was a job he did well and with flair. But he had to keep his eye on the thin line between witty repartee and coarse ridicule, satire and insult. It was a hard balance to achieve and the Knave had chosen his tools with care.

Beneath the fishnet stockings and silk gym slip which had become his trademark, lay a shrewd mind that knew few men would

take offence at remarks made by someone who was wetter than an old maid’s hanky. Or appeared to be.

The Knave threw his cup on the bed and farted again. ‘What’s that noise?’

‘You,’ said the March Hare. ‘You botty-burped.’

‘I meant the noise outside. It sounds like a plebs’ convention.’ The March Hare went to the window, pulled aside the curtains.

Three storeys below, a group of workmen in the palace gardens argued over what colour to paint the rose bushes.

It was the height of summer and the gardens were a model of controlled exuberance. Hedgerows cut across each other with geometric precision, their tops trimmed as severely as an army crew- cut. The lawns were held within strict boundaries by cobbled pathways and flamboyant flower beds; here and there, fountains captured rainbows in plumes of sparkling water.

‘They’re preparing the croquet lawn,’ said the March Hare. ‘Today sees the start of the Queen’s croquet tournament,’

‘Oh dear. How tedious. I shall spend the day at the races. There’s a filly I rather fancy for the 3.15.’

‘Would you like sandwiches made up?’

‘I think not. Champagne and chocolate should do it.’ ‘Milk or plain?’

‘My dear March Hare, utter the word plain in front of me again, and I shall have you made into a pyjama case. I want my chocolate pink and steeped in cherry brandy. I want it encrusted with sherbet and laid upon a bed of Turkish delight. I want it oozing calories and potential heart disease. Just ask the Chef for my Race Day Special. He’ll know what you mean.’

Slipping on his bathrobe, the Knave stepped over to the breakfast trolley and examined its contents. Toast, grapefruit and marmalade. ‘You don’t honestly expect me to consume this crap, do you?

Remove it and fetch me something less healthy. A bowl of liquorice perhaps. And see to it that my palate is never again threatened with such insipid blandness.’

At that moment, there was a knock on the door, as sharp and certain as a full stop. Before either of them could ask who it was, the door opened and a Penguin walked in. Despite the clemency of the weather, he wore a raincoat, buttoned from top to bottom and held in check by a leather belt. The formality of his manner made the jaunty angle of his trilby seem contrived.

He smelt of trouble.

‘Excuse me,’ said the March Hare, adopting a tone imbued with quiet indignation. ‘But you can’t come waltzing in here like that.