The Interspecies Poker Tournament, Case 27 of The Roshaven Files, by Claire Buss is a humorous fantasy novella following the adventures of Ned Spinks and Jenni, a prequel to The Rose Thief. If you loved Terry Pratchett's Discworld, you'll love Roshaven.
Ned Spinks, Chief Thief-Catcher, has a new case. A murderous moustache-wearing cult is killing off members of Roshaven’s fae community. At least that’s what he’s been led to believe by his not-so-trusty sidekick, Jenni the sprite. She has information she’s not sharing but plans to get her boss into the Interspecies Poker Tournament so he can catch the bad guy and save the day. If only Ned knew how to play!
‘As I was trying to tell you fifty million times, he’s killed Kevin! I don’t know why that is so difficult for you to comprehend but there it is – dead as a dodo – and all we’re getting is persecution for being loud! Kevin is dead. Where is the compassion? The sympathy? The cake?’ The chief was so indignant that his jowls quivered.
‘Cake? I can ring for some cake if you like, if it would help.’ Lady Shillot hovered helpfully.
‘If you wouldn’t mind, Ma’am,’ replied Ned. Then he did a double take. ‘Do you speak Brownese?’
‘Oh no. That’s not one of my languages, I’m afraid. Daddy didn’t think we should learn anything irregular.’
‘So ‘ow did you know ‘e wanted cake?’ asked Jenni.
‘They always want cake, those things. Poor Cookie is in a dreadful state, always having to bake. She never gets to do much savoury.’
The door to the drawing room opened and the butler appeared. Ned could tell he was the butler because he looked very disapprovingly at everything, including Lady Shillot.
‘Ah, Jenkins. Could you bring us some tea and cake? There’s a good chap.’
‘As you wish, Ma’am.’ The butler retreated silently. Ned wondered if they’d actually get any refreshments and if they did, how long it would take before they arrived.
‘What are you going to do about it then?’ A small voice demanded.
Ned tried to get back to the murder in hand. ‘Tell me exactly what happened.’
‘We’ve had a new arrival. It’s not unusual. Brownies come and brownies go. It’s all part of cake-up. With there being so many bakers in the city, it’s our duty to keep them on their toes and continue to check residencies for any new tasty slices. Why, only the other day Aggie improved on her cinnamon twist. She needs brownie approval to declare that, you know?’
Ned nodded in agreement. His waistline was all too aware how great Aggie’s cinnamon twists were.
‘So we had this new brownie – name of Arnold – and he wasn’t that taken by the fruit cake we had. I thought to myself then, he was unusual. Fruit cake is the centre of the universe, you know?’ The chief waited for Ned to nod in agreement. He didn’t.
‘He asked a lot of questions, did Arnold. Why this and why that. He spent time with everyone and was always looking closely at everything as if he was trying to take a picture with his mind or something.’
‘How does that relate to the murder of Kevin?’ asked Ned.
‘Well, can you see Arnold here?’ retorted the chief.
Ned shrugged helplessly.
‘He’s not. He disappeared shortly after we found the body inside the salad bowl! The salad bowl!’
The other brownies had been listening intently and at the mention of the salad bowl, they became very agitated.
‘Brownies don’t like salad, Boss – say it’s devil food.’
‘I’m quite partial to a seasonal leaf,’ piped up Lady Shillot
A Bite of... Claire Buss
Q1: How much of you is in your hero/villain?
My hero’s are Ned Spinks, a cynical thief-catcher in need of good boots and a penchant for cake, and Jenni the sprite, an extremely powerful fae who pongs strongly and has a strong Cockney-ish accent. It’s true that I always seem to need new shoes and I do like cake…
Q2: What time of day do you write best?
I write best when I get five minutes to get stuck in. I struggle with the adage of write every day because I can never guarantee being able to sit down and write at the same time each day. I tried getting up at 5am to write. That lasted less than the five seconds it took for me to turn off my alarm. I often end up staying up late just in an effort to try and shoehorn everything in, not necessarily writing. Plus if the muse is not with me, I can’t write anything at all.
Q3: Are you ticklish? If so where?
I have ticklish feet but be warned, you take your life into your own hands if you try to tickle them. I have a wicked roundhouse attack that’s completely involuntary. Plus I’m a master at getting my own back when you least expect it. Best to avoid antagonising me (cracks knuckles) (would crack knuckles if could crack knuckles).
Claire Buss is a multi-genre author and poet based in the UK. She wanted to be Lois Lane when she grew up but work experience at her local paper was eye-opening. Instead, Claire went on to work in a variety of admin roles for over a decade but never felt quite at home. An avid reader, baker and Pinterest addict Claire won second place in the Barking and Dagenham Pen to Print writing competition in 2015 with her debut novel, The Gaia Effect, setting her writing career in motion. She continues to write passionately and is hopelessly addicted to cake.
You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and her own Website, follow her on her blog and join her Facebook Group.