Gooseberry: The Case of the Thieving Maharajah

The time had come to own up to my past. I’d been thinking about how best to present it, and it seemed to me that what was called for here was a judicious mixture of remorse, honesty, and diffidence.
‘Though it shames me to say it,’
remorse, ‘there was no swifter, slipperier pickpocket in all of London,’ honesty, ‘than…well, me, miss—your humble servant—Octavius Guy.’ Diffidence dispensed in a generous measure.
Mrs Blake burst out laughing.
‘Please, Mrs Blake, it’s true.’
‘Gooseberry, you really mustn’t joke.’
‘I’m not joking, miss.’
‘I don’t believe it for a moment!’
Mr Bruff gave a cautious lawyer’s cough that managed to get everyone’s attention. ‘He’s telling the truth,’ he said quietly, and shot Mrs Blake a meaningful look.
‘But this is Gooseberry we’re talking about! Our Gooseberry! He’s no thief!’
‘If he’s telling us the truth, then I think he should be made to prove it,’ said Mr Blake, a mischievous grin breaking out on his face that even his thick, black beard couldn’t hide. ‘I propose a challenge. Gooseberry, come and try to pick my pocket!’
‘Please, sir—I don’t want to pick your pocket.’
‘But I insist,’ he said, stepping closer and closer till there was barely a foot between us. With everyone watching (save for the good Mr Bruff, whose features plainly registered his disapproval), Mr Blake leaned forward so that our noses were practically touching. On reflex, I found myself stumbling backwards, a move that Mr Blake took as a sign of defeat.
‘So much for the swiftest, slipperiest pickpocket in all of London,’ he laughed and, like a performer taking his curtain call, turned and bowed deeply to his wife.
‘Franklin, look,’ she advised him, pointing her finger at me.
Mr Blake looked. His mouth dropped open. He stared, blinking in amazement, at the silver cigarette case in my hand.

1852. With the business of the Moonstone diamond finally laid to rest, Mr Franklin Blake and his wife Rachel are now happily married, living in London, and blessed with a healthy baby daughter named Julia. Mr Blake has taken his late father’s seat in Parliament, and his party’s fortunes are on the rise—in fact they are about to overthrow the coalition government of the day.
But then the inexplicable occurs. Miss Rachel and her elderly aunt are attacked in the street by a gang of feral children, whose only purpose, it seems, is to plant a photographic portrait of a young, rich Indian lad in the old lady’s handbag.
Enter the Blakes’ lawyer’s office boy, Octavius Guy—better known as Gooseberry—who once helped the family bring the mystery of the Moonstone to a close. Join Gooseberry, the fourteen-year-old boy detective, as he and his ragtag bunch of friends descend into London’s Victorian demi-monde and underworld to ferret out the truth, while spending as much of his employer’s money as they can along the way!

Based on characters from Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone. First published in 2014 as a weekly serialization on Goodreads. The posts you’ll find opposite originally appeared on my blog, Writing Gooseberry, and reflect my thoughts, fears and hopes—from the very beginning, when I first considered the idea of penning a Moonstone spin-off—through to the novel’s eventual publication.

Follow young Gooseberry on Twitter @sendforOctavius

Cover photograph by John Thomson
Cover design by Negative Negative
Published by Seventh Rainbow Publishing, London
RRP: US$0.99; UK£0.99

Praise for Gooseberry:


5 of 5 starsSometimes you see a book and just know you're going to love it…An absolute treat for fans of Collins’ novel and a successful novel in its own right.
—Emma Hamilton buriedunderbooks.co.uk LibraryThing Early Reviewer


5 of 5 starsWhen you read a book by Michael Gallagher be prepared for a total immersion—every bit of scene setting, speech, character and historical detail is perfect. I highly recommend this book for fans of The Moonstone who wonder what happened next.
—Chris Keen LibraryThing Early Reviewer


5 of 5 stars…the mystery unfolded at a great pace. You can’t help but like Octavius/Gooseberry/Octopus and his brother Julius and friend Bertha…Very well done.
—CurlyQueL LibraryThing Early Reviewer


5 of 5 starsIf you are a fan of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Wilkie Collins, or George Eliot, you will appreciate this adventure.
—Wismom (Laura in Wisconsin) LibraryThing Early Reviewer


5 of 5 starsThis is a very entertaining story and I liked the way the author used the Palari slang spoken by the lower classes in nineteenth century England.
—I ADAM LibraryThing Early Reviewer


4.5	of 5 starsThis is a lovely cosy mystery...
—Barbara Heckendorn LibraryThing Early Reviewer


4 of 5 stars...One of the most delightful things about Mr Gallagher’s books are the descriptions of the places and development of the characters. I can SEE the streets and places. I love the characters.
Octavius (Octopus, Gooseberry) helps solve a mystery involving a young Maharajah (kidnapped? missing?), the East India Company, the Kohinoor diamond, and various and sundry thieves, scoundrels and a few Royals. Total delightful mystery which moves along at a great pace. The only thing I didn't like is that I finished it too fast.

—M M Plante LibraryThing Early Reviewer


4 of 5 stars...I absolutely loved it! The details and research Michael Gallagher has done to prepare for this book really shines through. I loved the characters (especially Bertha), and details about things like the Thames Tunnel, and the differences between the social classes of the time. Very well written and I am really looking forward to reading more books about Gooseberry!
—Suzy Schettler LibraryThing Early Reviewer


4 of 5 starsI was pleasantly surprised by the story: it’s a fast-moving, rollicking and compelling read, conjuring up the atmosphere of Victorian London and its underworld.
—Barbara Ender Jones LibraryThing Early Reviewer


3.5 of 5 starsThe writing is crisp, period appropriate and very readable. It successfully echoes the style of the Moonstone without slavishly aping it. After reading so many poorly researched Victorian novels recently, it's a welcome change to come across an author who knows the era so well.
—Mina Kelly LibraryThing Early Reviewer