Sarah’s friends are left to deal with the aftermath of her disappearance, including questions about the dubious provenance of her antiques which threaten to crush the business she’s brought back from the brink of failure.
Sarah struggles to reunite with her father while continuing the search for her mother, unaware that England’s violent colonial past has followed her to the present, putting herself and those she loves in danger. From the remote shores of New Zealand, through India’s hill-country stations and onto the streets of Victorian London, Sarah must determine whether family bonds are strong enough to reach across the centuries.
The Last Letter is peopled with reticent soldiers, conniving clergymen, fanatical collectors and commission-hungry auctioneers, taking you on a spectacular journey through time.
About the author
Kirsten McKenzie has worked on and off in her family's antique store since she was a toddler, where she has gone from being allowed to sell 50c postcards in the corner of Auckland’s iconic Antique Alley, to selling $15,000 Worcester vases.
A Customs Officer for fourteen years, in both New Zealand and England, she revelled in fighting international crime, before the bright lights of TV took over and appearances on 'Shortland Street', 'Spartacus', 'Power Rangers' and numerous other productions took over.
She is now a full time author. Her first novel, 'Fifteen Postcards', was published in May 2016. A sometime writer for The Spinoff, she has also had short stories and pieces of poetry published in print anthologies. Kirsten is currently working on her third and fourth novels concurrently, and lives in Auckland with her husband and two daughters.
Except From The Last Letter
‘No, I only want inkwells which are Victorian or earlier, and I’d prefer sterling silver, but I’ll look at anything slightly unusual.’ His black top barely holding in his enormous girth, the man was creating an effective blockade of the aisle. The young girls wanting to sift through the collection of old vinyl records had already asked to get past a couple of times, before the tallest rudely pushed by, handbag bouncing off his bulging side.
He grunted, whether from annoyance or escaping gas as his belly slapped against the counter, Patricia Bolton couldn’t tell.
She looked vaguely around the shop, trying to identify where on earth inkwells might be kept.
‘Um … probably best if you have a look in those,’ gesturing towards a series of cabinets filled with every type of Victorian and Edwardian sterling silver objects, including a few pricier pieces of Georgian silverware.
Again he grunted. ‘Where’s Sarah then? She usually sorts me out,’ he asked impatiently.
Sarah Lester’s closest friend grimaced. She was tired of having to explain that she was filling in at The Old Curiosity Shop, while Sarah was having some time out. At least, that was the answer Patricia gave the customers. For the police it was a different version but, then, the reality was very different.
She painfully recalled the last time she’d seen her friend; handing over the katar, an Indian knife, to a representative from Christie’s, before she’d vanished. Sarah hadn’t been at the auction house to witness an horrific murder, when a young auction clerk had been gutted in front of Patricia, a roomful of onlookers and Internet viewers worldwide. The weapon used had been a second katar, the twin of the one Sarah had consigned to Christie’s to sell on her behalf. A veritable nightmare for the audience, not to mention the Christie’s public relations team.
Which left Patricia Bolton here. Trying to run her own semi-successful clothing design business, and keep Sarah’s antique shop solvent in her downtime. Although she was making a fortune on that front. A hundred and thirty-two pounds today, and on a weekend too. She was far better suited to selling clothes than she was at selling other people’s stuff.
Patricia wrinkled her nose at the back of the obese man now shuffling towards the silver cabinets, jersey threatening to give way with every lumbering step. She whipped out the well-thumbed copy of the Miller’s Collectables Price Guide, scanning the index for inkwells: Staffordshire inkwells in the shape of greyhounds on cushions; travelling inkwells; a grotesque stoneware inkwell in the shape of a mask; and something called a Wemyss inkwell shaped like a heart.
‘Bloody hell,’ she muttered, aghast at the prices quoted. ‘Two hundred and sixty pounds for that! Looks like something I painted at school.’
‘Did you say something, love?’, the walking heart attack asked her, followed by yet another grunt, this time as his girth toppled over a tower of ephemera, only tidied that morning to be less of an obstacle.
Inwardly groaning, she shook her head, and continued flipping pages, furthering her antique education within the incredibly disorganised confines of The Old Curiosity Shop.
‘There’s nothing here for me today. Just tell Sarah I was in. Needs some tidying up round here, getting a bit hard to move round,’ he suggested as he eased his way past the centre tables, although his bulk was more the problem than the state of the aisles. Patricia would be the first to admit that she had been defeated by the insurmountable clutter and crates filling every corner, but being obese was easily as hazardous as the precarious piles of stock.
For what seemed like the hundredth time that hour, she checked the clock, waiting for her boyfriend to come rescue her from the purgatory to which she’d submitted herself.
Andrew Harvard was due any minute to take her away from this repository of dead people’s treasures. Senior Specialist, Costumes and Textiles at Christie’s, he had stood by her through it all: the auction fiasco; Sarah’s disappearance; the unrelenting attention of the police; and various antiquities organisations curious about the origins of the treasures Sarah had consigned to Christie’s.
Patricia had become so thoroughly fed up with the number of collectors coming into her clothing shop to ask when The Old Curiosity Shop would be reopening, that she and Andrew had organised limited opening hours, now prominently displayed on the cluttered window. No new stock was coming in; that was where Patricia drew the line. She’d sell, but she wouldn’t buy.
The media attention generated by the murder had done nothing but bolster Christie’s reputation, and that of The Old Curiosity Shop, which had been inundated by macabre sightseers and serious collectors alike, all looking for hidden treasures within the muddled aisles.
With a sigh, Patricia slipped the price guide back into its slot on the shelf behind her, and left the counter to pick up the mess of papers scattered on the floor by the obese man. She was barely paying attention as she hurriedly shoved them on top of a nail box full of napkin rings she’d used to stack them in the first place.
She picked up several postcards and old letters, held together by a corroded bulldog clip, its rust marks staining the edges of the postcards, rendering them almost worthless. She threw them on top of the pile, failing to notice who they were addressed to.