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From Natasha Pulley, author of the highly praised The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, comes a story of a great friendship and a treacherous quest in the magical landscape of nineteenth-century Peru:
THE BEDLAM STACKS
In 1859, ex-East India Company opium smuggler Merrick Tremayne is nursing an injury that almost cost him his leg, trapped at his crumbling family estate in Cornwall. In the sprawling grounds of the old house, something is wrong; a statue moves, his grandfather’s pines explode, and his brother accuses him of madness.
So when the India Office asks Merrick to smuggle cuttings from cinchona trees—the source of quinine, essential for the treatment of malaria—from deep within Peru, he knows it’s a terrible idea. The terrain is treacherous and a gang of criminals runs the quinine supply, and nearly every able-bodied expeditionary who’s made the attempt has died. Merrick can barely walk. But against his better judgment, he joins the expedition to the last outpost before the quinine woods: a tiny mission colony on the edge of the Amazon where a salt line on the ground separates town from forest. Anyone who crosses is killed by something that watches from the trees, but somewhere beyond the salt are cinchona, and the way around is blocked.
Surrounded by local stories of lost time, cursed woods, and statues that come alive, Merrick must separate truth from fairytale and find out what befell the last expeditions; why the villagers are forbidden to go into the forest; and what is happening to Raphael, the young priest who seems to have known Merrick’s grandfather, who visited Peru many decades before. THE BEDLAM STACKS is the story of a profound friendship that grows in a place that seems just this side of magical.
Natasha Pulley, the author of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, studied English literature at Oxford University and earned a creative writing M.A. at the University of East Anglia. She lives in Bath, England.