Diamond Tales: A Suitable Gift by Susan Grossey

London. Early 1800s and crime is rife…

an excerpt from
Portraits of Pretence
Susan Grossey

of Pretence
 is the
fourth in my planned series of seven novels and is narrated by
 Samuel Plank, a magistrates’ constableMagistrates’ constables worked in the brief period – only about fifteen years –
between the Bow Street Runners and the establishment of the Metropolitan Police
(in 1829) and their role was to execute the warrants issued by magistrates. Sam,
however, is a more deep-thinking and curious man, concerned about what drives
people to crime, and how to make them reconsider. As Sam performs his duties
under instruction from the magistrate, John Conant, he is accompanied by a
younger constable, William Wilson, who is gradually learning how to curb his
youthful exuberance and mature into a man who thinks before he speaks or acts.

On the
home front, Sam is devoted to his wife Martha. It is their shared – but usually
unspoken – sadness that they have no children, but their love for each other is
plain in every action. Martha, of course, cannot hope to hold any position of
authority in society, but is of inestimable help to her husband when he brings
his cares and concerns home to her. In this novel – which focuses on the
burgeoning trade in French art, both genuine and fake, in the years after the
Napoleonic Wars – Sam has dealings with an expert in French miniatures, a
Monsieur Causon. And on his final visit to Causon’s home, he plucks up the
courage to mention a topic that has been much on his mind and in his heart:
Conant had been right in his estimation of Causon, and as we
were walking towards the door I decided that I too would put my trust in this
man. “Mr Causon,” I said, “my wife and I have been married for twenty-five
“My felicitations, sir, to you both.” Causon stopped and
smiled but looked puzzled.
“I am not a man of lavish display, Mr Causon,” I continued,
“but I love my wife very much. And I saw the great pleasure she took in looking
at that miniature – how she enjoyed having something beautiful to admire. I could
not offer her Elizabeth, the girl in the miniature, but I think it would be
fitting for me to mark the occasion of our anniversary with something,” I waved
my arm to take in the crowded cabinets and walls of the drawing room,
“something of note. You are obviously a man of experience in these matters, and
it would be of great assistance to me if you could suggest…” I shook my head
despairingly. “I know my wife, sir, but I know nothing of this world of
beautiful objects.”
“Then we are a good match, constable, and between us we
shall fix on the right thing.” The Frenchman led me back to the armchairs and
we both sat down.
“Your wife, sir,” he began, “is she very feminine – taken
with pretty little things and dainty items – or more practical in her tastes?” I
stared at him mutely. He tried again. “Her night-dress, let us say: does
it have much lace at the collar and hem?”
I felt myself redden slightly, but I could see the method of
his approach. “A little lace, yes, but Martha – Mrs Plank – places more
importance on the quality of the fabric than on its adornments.”
“Perhaps that is why she chose to marry a constable,” said
Causon. “And it is almost certainly why that constable still values and admires
her so many years later.” He stood and walked over to a glass-topped
cabinet, looking at its contents for a few moments before saying, “Ah,” quietly
to himself and sliding out the drawer. He picked up a small item and brought it
over to me, placing it in my open palm. It was a ring, quite simple and
yet substantial and obviously of excellent quality. Around the plain gold band
were held six coloured stones: two large central ones flanked by four smaller

“It is known as a regard ring,” said Causon. “Each of the
stones provides a letter to spell out the word, so you have a ruby, then an
emerald, a garnet, an amethyst, another ruby, and a diamond. Regard.”
I turned the ring to the light and imagined Martha’s
surprise on seeing it. Causon had chosen perfectly. Regard.
Not as showy or as brilliant as passion, to be sure, but
much more lasting.

© Susan Grossey

* * *

Susan says:

By day I am an anti-money laundering consultant – advising businesses on how to avoid ending up with criminal money – and my obsession with ill-gotten gains has informed my fiction.  I am in the middle – well, four down, three to go – of a series of seven novels set in 1820s London and narrated by magistrates’ constable Sam Plank.  Quite how I will cope when he retires in 1829, I don’t like to think.  I am somewhere between my prime and not a spring chicken any more; I live in central Cambridge with my husband and the tabby Magnificat, and often hide away in the University Library to spend time with Sam.  Outside financial crime, I knit, eat good quality dark chocolate and am a tandem stoker (the back half who does all the hard work).


Follow the Tales…and Discover some Diamonds

3rd December     Richard Tearle Diamonds

17th December     Alison  Morton Three Thousand Years to Saturnalia

18th December      Nancy Jardine   Illicit Familial Diamonds

19th December      Elizabeth St John The Stolen Diamonds

20th December      Barbara Gaskell Denvil Discovering the Diamond

21st December       Anna Belfrage   Diamonds in the Mud

22nd December       Cryssa Bazos    The Diamonds of Sint-Nicholaas

23rd December        Diamonds … In Sound & Song 

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