I’ve been really stumped for ideas to come up with for a blog post or a newsletter lately. Mainly because I’m using all my creative energy and inspiration for the final edit/polish I’m currently doing on A Wreath of Lilies (out 10th November, lest we forget – all too soon for my comfort right now).
And these are the things I’ve realised about my story so far:
There are too many people with a surname beginning with P
There are too many people with a first name beginning with S
As always with my books there are just – too many people. Soooo many people…
Things happen in the story that have already happened.
Things happen before they happened?????? How does that even????????????????? Yes I don’t know either.
One chap’s wife changed name halfway through the book. My sympathies go out to the family in question.
One dead body was dead so often in so many places, she/he must have been a triplet… Maybe even a quintuplet. (Note to self, a story about quintuplets would be awesome, if rather complicated.)
I’ve got more criminals than crimes.
I’ve got more police officers than criminals.
Did I mention I have too many characters?
My main protagonists have accidentally reversed their ages by a year. I wish I could do that IRL.
I found my characters using jargon and slang that wasn’t around in that era.
The police are using technology that wasn’t around in that era.
If they all stopped drinking tea and gazing at one another, the crime(s) would get solved three days earlier.
Pretty sure it will end up being okay though. Keeping everything crossed.
Quick sneaky peek:
Closer to hand, Dee was startled out of her thoughts by a man suddenly saying, ‘Ah, we meet again!’
Turning, she saw Clive Barton’s smiling face and she responded with a friendly, ‘Mr Barton, how nice to see you again. I’m here with Miss Marriott,’ gesturing as she spoke.
He nodded, looked disappointed, and murmured, ‘Excuse me, ladies.’ He went off and she saw him settle himself in a seat near the back of the room.
‘He’s too old for you,’ Miss Marriott said in a stage-whisper, taking Dee by surprise. Why was everyone so interested in her love-life? Although in Mrs Padham’s case, perhaps she had become so bitterly opposed to anyone having a love-life after she herself had been abandoned. Dee wondered vaguely why Mrs Padham’s husband Henry had left her. Perhaps she had nagged him the way she nagged her guests.
‘My goodness, I should think so,’ she said vehemently to Miss Marriott’s remark. ‘Not that I’m looking anyway.’
‘Taken, are you?’ Miss Marriott’s eyes bore into her, on the alert for any kind of response. Dee thought she may as well admit it.
‘I see.’ Miss Marriott’s smile was triumphant.
It seemed likely, certain even, that there would be further questions later. But now, with the room packed and a number of people standing at the sides and at the back, the woman at the front stood neatly to attention at the table and rapped on the wooden surface with a teaspoon from the cup and saucer in front of her.
‘They get tea, I notice,’ Miss Marriott whispered resentfully. Dee simply nodded.
‘Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to this open meeting to discuss the proposal to move the graves from the existing burial site to a new position at the north end of the village. I am Cynthia Miles-Hudson, head of planning at Northeast Essex council. On my right, is the Honourable…’
‘There’s nothing honourable about Fast Eddie Windward!’ someone yelled from the back. ‘He’s as crooked as they come!’
I’m giving in to the long-suppressed urge to share a scene from the new murder mystery I’m currently working on. It will be called A Wreath Of Lilies – you may well have seen me banging on about it already. This will be the second book of my new-ish 1960s series featuring Dee Gascoigne as a private detective. If you haven’t already seen it, you can find out more about book 1 – A Meeting With Murder – here.
Here’s the blurb-type thing (which may change…)
On her first ‘official’ investigator case, Dee Gascoigne is off to the village of Hartwell Priory, where locals are up in arms over the proposal to dig up the deceased ancestors buried in the local cemetery in order to make way for three hundred new houses.
As if things aren’t tense enough, a group of hippie-like ghost hunters arrive and hold a seance. A message from beyond the grave seems to indicate that a grave has been forgotten.
Or was it just an illegal burial?
This book will be out in October, and like all my books, will be available in eBook form, paperback and large print paperback, from Amazon, and regular-print paperback only from ‘other’ online retailers and libraries. Here’s a sneak peek, in case you’re interested, hope you enjoy it.
Dee Gascoigne was the only person in the train carriage. She had a newspaper in case she got bored, as it was a long, slow journey to Hartwell Priory, a village close to the North Essex coast. And if the newspaper was not enough, she had a novel in her handbag – the Agatha Christie book that she had wanted to read for some time and that she’d been given by her cousin Jenny as a birthday present. Next to the brand new copy of A Caribbean Mystery was the envelope Monty had given her. She had better not lose it. It contained some cash to pay for her expenses, and a couple of sheets of paper that outlined her new ‘case’. She used the word in her mind, and it thrilled her to the core – she was actually on a case. In addition to these she had a letter of introduction and a handful of business cards so that she could be confident in the face of any challenge to her – call it what it was – nosy questioning.
If there was something that could be called a ‘gift’ in Dee’s character it was her ability to ask far too many questions, and it was pleasing to know that these could now be asked officially on behalf of Montague Montague of London, legal services.
Only yesterday, Thursday September 2nd 1965, Dee had been sitting in Monty’s office, hoping almost against hope it had seemed, that he could help her.
It had been practically six months since she had left – or been asked to leave – her job as a modern languages teacher at a very nice school for very nice young ladies. Since then she had found herself at a loss over what to do with her life.
Then, in the Spring, she had been sent off to the seaside to convalesce after an illness and had stumbled into a murder mystery exactly like those she so dearly loved to read. (Here she glanced with fond anticipation at the little bit of the cover of A Caribbean Mystery that she could see nestling in the top of her open bag). She had helped her dratted sort-of cousin, Inspector Bill Hardy, to clear up the mystery, risking her own life and limb to do so, but was the man grateful? Not at all. ‘Keep out of police business in future,’ he had growled at her at her mother’s birthday party, grabbing her arm in a vice-like grip and steering her away from the celebrations where she had been enjoying a lively discussion with her aunt, his mother, who also loved to ‘dabble’ in mysteries. He had a bloody cheek, Dee fumed to herself.
Anyway… Where was she? She had lost herself in the midst of feeling angry with Bill. She certainly wasn’t going to think about how handsome he had looked in his formal dinner suit, nor about how much she liked the way his dark hair crinkled behind his ears and at his neck now that he was wearing it a little longer as many young men did these days.
She had been out of work for some months now. Oh, she had been invited to several interviews for positions at other schools, but it always came down to the same thing: she just didn’t want to go back to teaching.
Yet what else could a recently separated woman do? People were so sniffy about the idea of a woman leaving her husband. It was this scandalous action on her part that had cost her the job in the first place.
And then, seemingly from nowhere, when all hope was lost and the money she had borrowed from her parents was dwindling to a pitifully tiny amount, dear, dear Monty had asked her brother Rob to get her to come and see him.
‘I’ve got something in the way of a job idea that might interest you,’ M’dear Monty had wheezed at her across his vast oak desk. Eighty if he was a day, and about to start his fifth retirement, Monty’s legal expertise had saved Dee’s family on more than one occasion.
She had been all ears. Could he really be serious? She held her breath waiting to see what he said. Even if it was a typing job, she’d have to take it. Not that she could type, not really. But she could no longer pretend that she wasn’t desperate. Her pride – that thing that goeth before a fall – was now in tatters.
‘Most law practices engage investigators to find out things for them. To carry out research, or to go to speak to people, that sort of thing. Montague’s is no different. But the fellow I have been using for the last two or three years has – er – shall we say – found it advantageous to his health to quickly move to South America. Therefore I now have a vacancy.
‘Dear Rob has kindly given me full account of your exploits down in Porthlea – delightful place – in the spring, and I think you could be just what I’m looking for. I know your inquiring mind, (nosiness, Dee told herself) and that you are an intelligent woman. Resourceful too, (crafty, Dee amended) and I know that I need have no doubts whatsoever about your moral integrity.’
She was on the point of speaking, but he held up a hand to halt her. He added, ‘Oh I know this is rather new to you, M’dear, but I feel you have a certain bent for investigating. In any case, I need someone right now, and if I may be blunt for a moment, you need the money. Can I persuade you to give it a try? If it doesn’t suit you, M’dear, no harm done on either side. What do you say?’
Well, what could she say?
‘My goodness, Monty dearest, I’d love to!’
And so here she was, on a painfully slow train that seemingly stopped at every rabbit hutch and milepost, heading to a place she’d never even heard of: Hartwell Priory.
She knew it was a tiny place, barely more than a halfway point between the busy port of Harwich and the city of Colchester in the county of Essex. She was to find her way to a guesthouse and rent herself a room for the week. Monty seemed to think it could take her several days, perhaps a whole week, to find out the things he needed to know.
She had money for her expenses, and the promise of ten pounds in wages, whether she was successful or not. Oh, she prayed she would be. The last thing she wanted was to let Monty down after his kindness.
The guard peered at her through the window of the connecting door to the next carriage. He’d already clipped her ticket and was checking to see if any new passengers had boarded into her carriage. They hadn’t of course, it had been almost an hour since she’d seen anyone other than the guard.
The business cards Monty had so clearly had printed before he even knew what she would say, stated simply: Miss Diana Gascoigne, Associate, Montague Montague of London, legal services. And the letter of introduction, was exactly that, short, to the point, impossible to quibble with or gainsay:
‘To whom it may concern,
I confirm that Miss Diana Gascoigne is an associate of this company, Montague Montague of London, legal services, and that she is employed by myself and under my instructions.
The Honourable Montague Montague QC, Bart.,’
The connecting door opened. Dee glanced up. The guard, a young man in his twenties, said,
‘We’ll be there in two minutes, miss. Watch your step getting down, it’s quite a drop to the platform.’
‘Do you need help with your suitcase?’
‘Oh no, that’s quite all right, thanks.’ She beamed at him.
He blushed and left, and Dee closed her handbag with a snap, got up, grabbed her raincoat and hat, and hefted her case down off the luggage net and began to make her way to the corridor. The train slowed and the long narrow platform appeared beneath the window.
She had arrived.
So are you hooked? You can pre-order the eBook here, or just leave yourself reminders everywhere to order the paperback, hardback or large print paperback when they come out, around the same time as the eBook – sorry ‘actual’ books are not available yet for pre-order, only the eBook.
Grateful thanks for the image go to Shutterstock and more especially, Agalaya:
Book 8 of the Dottie Manderson mysteries: hitting virtual shelves near you in December 2023
This week, I thought I’d share another sneaky scene from the new Dottie book that I am currently working on. I’ve already posted one scene on here a couple of months back, and so to prove that I am actually working, I thought I’d share another. ;D
So here it is…
Sir Nigel always ensured that Lady Matilda Cosgrove – one of his oldest and dearest friends – had the Ormulu Room whenever she came to stay. In fact, he rather counted on it, because otherwise he’d have to invite fewer guests or get them to share their rooms. Very few of the other guests would feel comfortable surrounded by so much ornate, gilded wood coupled with a rather dark marble. Lady Matilda liked the room. As far as Sir Nigel could tell, she was the only person in existence who did like the room.
It was a quarter to seven on a Saturday evening in June when Lady Matilda sat at the vast gold and dark brown dressing-table and allowed her maid to dress her hair in what they both deemed to be the most becoming fashion for a lady in her late sixties. They were deep in conversation about which gown Lady Matilda had worn to a certain affair in the Spring of 1881, when there came a tap on the door.
Salt, Lady Matilda’s maid, set down her comb and perfume bottle and turned to the door to state, ‘Come,’ with as much dignity as her ladyship herself.
The door opened. A timid little red-headed maid stood on the threshold looking extremely nervous.
‘Well?’ demanded Salt. She was a fierce protector of her ladyship’s privacy.
‘Begging your pardon, my lady,’ the young woman began, ‘but Sir Nigel’s compliments and would it suit your ladyship to place your jewellery into Sir Nigel’s safe for the evening? There’s been two break-ins on this square in the last week, and Sir Nigel doesn’t want to run any risks with your ladyship’s valuables. In fact, I’m to go to all the ladies – and the gentlemen – and take their valuables down to his lordship’s safe.’
She accompanied this information with a kind of bobbing curtsey, all the while nervously wringing her hands. Lady Matilda thought she was rather a sweet little thing.
‘And what is your name, my dear?’ demanded her ladyship.
‘Eliza, ma’am. Eliza Smallwood. I’m new in this establishment.’
‘Well, Eliza Smallwood, I should be most obliged if you would take my jewellery case to Sir Nigel at once and thank him for his good sense and kind thoughts. Salt, give the child the case. But make sure ot keep out what I need for this evening, obviously, won’t you.’
‘Yes, my lady.’
Salt extracted several glittering items of great value. Once Lady Matilda had nodded her approval, the case was locked up again, the tiny black key slipped into Salt’s pocket, and the case was handed to the young maid.
She gave another little bob and clutching the jewellery case to her as if her life depended on keeping it safe, she said, ‘Thank you, your ladyship. I’ll take these to Sir Nigel directly. Good evening.’
The door closed behind her, and Salt and Lady Matilda resumed their discussion relating to the precise colour and fabric of the gown worn on the evening of the Royal Gala over forty years earlier.
It was not long before the bell rang for dinner, and Lady Matilda descended the grand staircase to meet the other guests for a pre-dinner aperitif.
Sir Nigel greeted her with a beaming smile, taking both her hands in his and kissing first her left cheek then her right in his usual warm manner that Lady Matilda found delightfully Continental.
She lost no time in thanking him again for his invitation to stay for the weekend whilst George was overseas on his usual ambassadorial duties. As always, she offered her compliments on the charming Ormulu Bedroom, which had, she said, a rich glamour that one didn’t see everywhere. She asked after his health, heard with patience of his sciatica and stiff knees – she was herself a martyr to her knees, and promised to let him have Salt’s remedy for the relief of the discomfort – then she remarked,
‘It was so thoughtful of you to send up that sweet little girl to fetch my jewellery. I shall feel so much happier knowing my grandmother’s diamonds are safely locked away. These robberies are such a worry.’
He stared at her for a second or two too long, and she immediately divined that something was amiss. But before she could quiz him about it, the door was flung open and Salt ran in, tears streaming down her face, causing everyone to turn and stare, drinks halted halfway to their mouths.
She wailed, ‘Oh my dear lady, I’ve just found out. There isn’t any such maid as that Eliza girl in the house. And she’s gone off with all your valuables!’
And indeed she had. She had practically run down the back stairs with the jewellery case in her arms, knowing she had only a minute or two to make her escape. The side door was still ajar, and unseen by anyone, she slipped outside, pulling off her cap and apron and throwing them onto the grass, then she hopped into the waiting car at the end of the drive.
It sped off before anyone in the house had even realised there had been a robbery.
Welcome to my part of the blog tour to celebrate the publication of Val Penny’s Hunter’s Blood: A DI Hunter Wilson Crime Thriller.
About Hunter’s Blood:
DI Hunter Wilson never has just one problem to solve.
Three elderly women he knows have died in mysterious circumstances. Hunter appears to be the only link.
A little girl goes missing on a cold winter’s night. When his team discovers cocaine hidden at the farm where she was living, the search becomes even more urgent.
Why did the women die? And what did the child witness?
Hunter must find the answers to these questions to ensure his family and his city are safe.
About Val Penny
Val Penny has an Llb degree from the University of Edinburgh and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer but has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store.
Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories, nonfiction books, and novels. Her novels are published by SpellBound Books Ltd.
Val is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and their cat.
My thoughts on Hunter’s Blood:
DI ‘Hunter’ Wilson has his hands full with family matters. His elderly aunt wanders out of a hospital, she is found suffering from shock and raving, full of odd stories of evil people hurting her on the hospital ward.
Meanwhile a group of friends get together for a weekend house party and amid tensions between the different guests, end up searching for a missing five-year-old. More than one person has a secret, and there is a claustrophobic sense of each of them watching one another.
Then we have Linda’s story as she lays waiting for help to reach her inside her boss’s van which has come off the road and turned over. why is the new owner of the company so particular about his vans?
Hunter’s Blood is full of twists and turns as these three apparently unrelated incidents gradually converge. We begin to see the strands of the stories intertwining and overlapping one another until gradually a new picture forms and it’s up to Hunter and his team to put the pieces together and find a ruthless killer.
But who would want to kill three frail elderly women? And more importantly why?
This book had me studying each character in turn, thinking, ‘Was it you?’ ‘Or you?’
At times grim and shocking, nevertheless this is a satisfying read.
SOCIAL MEDIA LINK – You can find Val Penny on these social media platforms:
I thought I’d already shared this, but I can’t find it anywhere, so here it is, a sneak peek of the opening scene of chapter one, possibly for the second time. (and sorry, too, it’s a bit long…)
Book 8 of the Dottie Manderson mysteries finds Dottie fed up with waiting and all the fuss, and just wanting to get on with being Mrs Detective Inspector William Hardy. She and her mother and her sister all want different things, and Dottie thinks, ‘It’s my wedding, it should be how I want it!’ An unexpected invitation could be just what she needs. How wonderful it will be to get away to a weekend house party and forget all the worries of organising a wedding!
Of course William, like all husbands-to-be everywhere has no interest whatsoever in the problems of the right kind of lace or the perfect place setting. In any case, he’s got a special kind of investigation going on, one that means bringing a good friend to justice, stretching his loyalty to his profession almost to breaking point.
Dottie Manderson was already fed up to the back teeth with parties. Admittedly, she thought, one expected parties in June. And just lately life had been nothing but. Tennis parties, tea parties, afternoon dancing parties, mid-morning tea parties, dinner parties, drinks parties in the evening, it was endless. And now, socialising in London was giving her a sense rather too much like continually stepping over graves—those of dead friends as well as dead relationships. Wherever she went, dragged along by her mother or her sister, or her mother and her sister, to various events in so many houses and gardens, she was continually running into people she either knew, or had heard of through other acquaintances.
This evening was a case in point. They were at the Sir Nigel Barrowby’s lavish Tyne Square townhouse for dinner and dancing. Dottie hid behind the same half-glass of white wine she had been clutching for almost two hours and looked about the room.
Over there by the fireplace, hanging on the arm of a man with a military moustache, was Anabella Penterman nee Wiseman of the New York Wisemans, married to Dottie’s almost-beau Cyril Penterman less than a year and a half ago, and yet now if the gossip columns were correct, the couple were very publicly living separate lives, and divorce seemed to be on the cards. The woman had glanced at Dottie four times now, though only managing a polite smile the first time, every other occurrence accompanied by a bright hard stare. Dottie noted that the woman had lost a lot of weight, and her left hand held no rings.
Then, on the opposite side of the vast drawing-room was the Honourable Peter St Clair St John giggling rather childishly, in Dottie’s opinion, with a couple of really quite young girls.
‘Far too young for him,’ Dottie murmured out loud.
‘Oh definitely, dear,’ replied a woman standing a few feet away. She drew a little closer, saying in a low tone, ‘I don’t know what their parents are thinking, introducing them to that wolf.’
‘Is he a wolf?’ Dottie turned to face her companion, a blonde woman in her early thirties, immaculately turned out. Dottie felt a slight flash of recognition but couldn’t quite reach at the woman’s name. ‘I always found him a bit dull, if I’m honest. And only ever interested in himself.’
Belatedly she wondered again who she was speaking to. It wouldn’t do to say that to a close relation.
‘Well, absolutely. His only interest in his life has always been himself. A thoroughly tiresome younger brother, I don’t mind telling you. But once he gets a girl to himself, he’s all hands, from what I hear.’
Too late Dottie recognised Christiana St John Milner, the widow of the Milner empire since her husband, the Honourable Sebastian Wilcott Milner had passed away under what Dottie had always regarded as odd circumstances during an avalanche when out skiing with friends in the Swiss Alps just–what–surely it was barely six months ago, Dottie thought, yet here was the young widow in a daring dress of figure-hugging gold lame, not a single sign of mourning about her.
Catching Dottie’s glance at her dress, Christiana smiled and held out her hand. ‘I don’t think we’ve ever been formally introduced, though I’ve seen you at a number of events over the last two or three years. Christiana, please.’
Dottie shook her hand. ‘Dottie Manderson. Just Dottie.’
‘Not Manderson for much longer, I hear,’ Christiana said.
‘No, that’s true. Not for long now. The wedding is in August.’
‘Lovely. And am I right in thinking that he’s not one of our lot?’
Dottie tried not to be offended. She’d heard this a lot in recent weeks, and should really have become used to it. But still, it grated.
‘He works as a police officer, I expect you mean,’ she said, carefully keeping her tone neutral.
Christiana looked mortified. Her hand came out to just touch Dottie’s arm. ‘Oh, I’m so sorry. Please don’t think I meant…’ she sighed. ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it quite the way it may have sounded. Oh this is a terrible start to a friendship. I’m not a snob.’ Looking into her glass, she said softly, ‘Believe me I know all too well how hard it is to find a good man. And when one is lucky enough to find him, one thanks one’s lucky stars and refuses to let go.’
‘I’m sorry too,’ Dottie said. ‘I’m afraid there have been a number of critical comments, and I’m feeling rather on the defensive. William’s family had an estate but unfortunately it was sold a few years ago to cover—er—’
‘Death duties?’ Christiana suggested helpfully.
Dottie gave slight shake of the head and a wry smile. ‘That. And debts.’
‘Ah! Well, there are plenty of those amongst the so-called upper-crust And even the aristocracy, as we both know. I can look around this room and tell you who is solvent and who hasn’t got the proverbial penny to bless himself with. Let’s start with my idiot brother. Broke,’ she smirked at Dottie, ‘Definitely not got a penny to his name. I’m so glad you didn’t fall for him.’ She discreetly pointed out two other men and a woman and said, ‘Broke,’ for each of them.
Dottie was astonished. Christiana was right. These four people were four people who Dottie would have practically gone to her grave believing to be financially stable, solvent. Inadvertently she took a gulp of her horrid wine. She grimaced ad swallowed quickly.
‘But my father is thinking of going into business with Lord Dalbury and his friend Milo Parkes. They’ve been having talks all week at Father’s club.’
Christiana looked concerned. ‘Oh my word, no! Please warn your father to get out whilst he can, they will bleed him dry!’
Dottie nodded. ‘I’ll tell him. Thank you for the tip. It’s astonishing isn’t it. As you say, one takes everyone at face value, and we make assumptions based on what we see.’
‘Which prompts me to ask, Dottie, what do you think of my dress?’
‘Oh it’s lovely!’ Dottie didn’t even have to stop and think about that.
‘It’s actually an old one of my mother’s. Yes, really, it’s more than twenty years old. She had some beautiful gowns and coats and things. Furs. Some of them were terribly expensive, and my brother wants to get rid of them. Sell them. He needs the money.’
Dottie said nothing, wondering—or rather suspecting she might know where this was leading.
‘I’m having a house party next weekend. I know it’s horribly short notice, but I was wondering if you’d do me a huge favour. I was hoping you might know a few people who would be interested in buying Mother’s things. I don’t want them going to just anybody, but if they were people you could recommend, I might not mind too much. I don’t want it to feel like village jumble sale with everyone pawing over my mother’s things. But if I can help Peter, I feel I have to do so, he’s so wretchedly clueless. Could you spare me a weekend to come and visit, and bring your lovely fiancé, of course, and if you could just go through Mother’s things and tell me what might fetch some cash, and who might be interested… there aren’t many ‘names’, Mother went rather her own way in fashion, although there are some Carmichael and Jennings items you might be interested to see. Well, perhaps you’ll think about it and let me know. You can telephone me, I’m on Belgravia 139.’ She grabbed Dottie’s arm and said in an urgent tone, ‘Do say you’ll think about it, please. This means so much to me.’
‘I will,’ Dottie promised, and had only time to repeat these words as the music suddenly began, and a young man came to ask Christiana to dance.
As you may know, I’m working on the first book of a new series. It’s another cosy mystery series featuring a female amateur detective. The series is to be known as the Miss Gascoigne mysteries, and Diana ‘Dee’ Gascoigne is the detective. It will be released on the 30th September, and the Kindle version is available to pre-order. The paperback and large print paperback will be published shortly after the eBook.
If you have read any of the Dottie Manderson mysteries set in the 1930s, some of these names may sound familiar. Dee Gascoigne is the baby Diana who is born at the beginning of The Last Perfect Summer of Richard Dawlish. Now it’s 1965, and Diana is almost 30, recently separated from an abusive husband and still carrying a not-very-secret crush for her not-quite-cousin Bill Hardy, detective inspector, and eldest son of Dottie and–you’ve guessed it, William Hardy from the Dottie Manderson mysteries. (SPOILER!!! They do get together, don’t despair!)
In A Meeting With Murder, Dee has just lost her job due to the scandalous fact that she plans to divorce her husband–divorce was still a very big issue in the 1960s. Next, following a bout of bronchitis, Dee goes off to the seaside to recover. Of course, even in a small village, or perhaps because it’s a small village, there are malign forces at work. Dee, like her Aunt Dottie, feels compelled to investigate, and perhaps start a whole new career for herself.
Here’s a short extract from A Meeting With Murder: Miss Gascoigne mysteries book 1.
I hope you like it!
Dee had a leisurely afternoon. She took another walk around the village, marvelling that she didn’t happen to meet anyone, considering the place was so small but well-populated. She had afternoon tea with Cissie in what was rapidly becoming a ritual, one that she would miss a great deal when she finally returned to London.
That evening, Dee looked at the two letters yet again, mulling over them long and hard. She knew them by heart now. Not that there had been much to learn, both were short and direct.
The first one, in the usual style of cut out words or single letters from magazines or newspapers, said simply, ‘Your seCREt shame will NOT be a secret much lONger.’
The second, more recent one, said, ‘Your bAstard cHILd will pay for YOUr sin.’
The word bastard had been made up from several sections of type: the b was a separate letter, then the Ast were together, presumably formerly part of a longer word. The next a was a single letter again, then the final two letters, rd, were once more part of the same word, and likewise, the YOU of your was formed of a word in capital letters with an extra r added to the end.
On the one hand, it was laughable that anyone would think this was still a scandalous secret in the modern era. But on the other, Dee remembered what Cissie had said to her when she first explained about the poison pen letters. It must have been a shock, Dee decided, for Lily to open the envelopes and find these letters inside. To think that someone who knew her, someone familiar to whom she no doubt spoke on a regular basis, had composed these spiteful notes.
Dee sat for a long while pondering the letters. At last, she put them away, neatly folding them and slipping them into the zipped mirror pocket of her handbag for safe keeping.
The next morning she was up bright and early, had her breakfast, and humming along to a song on the radio, she tidied the cottage and got ready to go out to meet her brother’s train, eager to see him, eager to tell him everything she’d learned. She came out of the dim house into bright sunshine, and walked directly into a man going past the cottage.
Then as he gripped her arms to steady her, and helped her to stay on her feet, she saw who it was.
‘Oh!’ she said, covering her sense of shock by becoming angry instead of flinging herself into his arms. ‘So Scotland Yard finally turned up, did they? A bit late in the day.’
The tall man in the smart suit—surely a little too smart for ordinary daywear, especially in the country, Dee commented to herself—took a couple of steps back, clearly as shocked as she was at having literally walked right into her as she came out of the front door of the cottage as he and the other man with him were walking by on their way from the railway station to the pub.
Just looking at him was enough to set her heart singing, much to her annoyance. Meanwhile he was frowning down at her with what was known in the family as the Hardy Frown, his dark brows drawn together over long-lashed hazel eyes that were just like his mother’s.
‘What the hell are you doing here anyway? You’d better not be interfering in my investigation. I’m not like my father. I don’t allow private citizens to meddle in official police business.’ He was holding his forefinger up in a lecturing manner.
‘Oh shut up, Bill, you’re so bloody pompous,’ Dee said and stormed off.
‘I take it you know that lady, sir?’ the sergeant asked, eyes wide with curiosity, following the lady as she went.
‘You could say so, sergeant. Listen to me. On no account are you to tell that woman anything about this case. Don’t give her documents to read. Don’t accidentally leave your notebook lying around for her to ‘just happen to find’ and snoop through. Don’t answer any of her questions, or tell her our line of questioning, or anything about our suspects, or just—anything. She comes from a long line of nosy women. Do you understand me, sergeant?’
‘Ye…’ the sergeant began.
‘Because if you do any of those things, believe me, I shall make your life a living hell.’ Hardy caught himself and stopped. Then added, with just a hint of a smile, ‘Not that I don’t already, I expect you’re thinking.’
‘Oh sir, as a mere sergeant, I’m not paid to think.’ Sergeant Nahum Porter risked a grin at the inspector.
Stifling a laugh, Hardy said, ‘I’m very glad to hear it. Now come on, we’ve got things to do.’
This week, I want to share with you the third in a series of three mystery/crime-genre blog tours to celebrate new books. This week I was honoured to be asked to take part in the blog tour for Marsali Taylor’s new novel The Shetland Sea Murders.This worked very well for me as I’d been planning to read some of Marsali’s work for quite some time.
Here’s a little bit of what her book is about:
Marsali Taylor returns with the ninth gripping mystery in her Shetland Sailing Mystery series.
While onboard her last chartered sailing trip of the season, Cass Lynch is awoken in the middle of the night by a Mayday call to the Shetland coastguard. A fishing vessel has become trapped on the rocks off the coast of one of the islands.
In the days that follow, there’s both a shocking murder and a baffling death. On the surface there’s no link, but when Cass becomes involved it is soon clear that her life is also in danger.
Convinced that someone sinister is at work in these Shetland waters, Cass is determined to find and stop them. But uncovering the truth could prove to be deadly…
Other reviewers said:
‘Definitely the best of the Cass Lynch series yet!’ 5* Reader Review
‘The beautiful descriptions of Shetland life, traditions, it’s landscape and even language bring everything to life.’ 5* Reader Review
‘This series gets better and better’ 5* Reader Review
‘A beautifully written story, with descriptions so vivid you can smell the sea and beautiful countryside.’ 5* Reader Review
‘The perfect lockdown read for anyone who longs to be back on the sea.’ 5* Reader Review
As I said, I’ve been aware of Marsali’s books and planning to read them for some time now. So this was my first experience of this series, and I wasn’t too sure what to expect.
I was a bit worried to begin with because of the boating stuff. A lot of the story takes place or a boat, or has information to do with boats or things like weather and tides etc. I’m a confirmed landlubber. I like to be on a boat, on a nice sunny day, when all I have to do is stand on the deck and daydream, I’m not a ‘storm’s a-coming, haul in the mainsheet’ kind of boater… So I was concerned I would either find the references to boating or shipping or whatever it is (please excuse my ignorance) too complicated or well, boring, actually. But I’m happy to report that when the boating bits became ‘hardcore’ – towards the end of the book – I was gripping my lines and staring into the mist like a true-born shipping type person. It was tense, let me tell you. And I was right there in the midst of it with the spray on my face, hanging on to every word.
This is an absorbing mystery, and chock full of a sense of place. The story is set, as the series title and this book’s title suggest, in and around the Shetland Isles. Everything is described with affection and an attention to detail that just brings it to life. It also helps that there is a glossary of Shetland linguistic phrases at the back of the book. There is also history, and Girl Power.
The story is also an immersive experience. As the events of the story unfold, you as the reader are drawn into not just the minds of the characters but their lives and relationships too. When you’ve finished, there is that time lapse sense of unreality when you look up and realise you’re not out on the ocean or on a Shetland isle, but in your sitting room snug at home.
I give this book an unhesitating five stars. Highly recommended.
You can find out more about Marsali Taylor and her work on her website:
Here’s a bit of what it’s about, then I’ll tell you what I thought.
Incarcerated in the gloom of a Highland asylum, a young mother finds illicit love. And death.
Kate Sharp’s family is a mystery. Her mother, Ellen, disappeared into the shadows of Craig Dunain psychiatric hospital when Kate was a child. When her grandmother dies, Kate is desperate for answers. What were the circumstances of her mother’s life and death? Who is her father?
Kate’s not the only one trying to uncover the truth. The remains of two bodies with murderous injuries have been found buried in the forest next to the former hospital.
And someone else is searching for answers, and he will stop at nothing to find them.
As the tale of Ellen’s tragic unravelling unfolds, the secrets that led to her death are exposed, along with the shocking truth about Kate’s father.
Unaware of the danger stalking her, Kate continues her search.
Will she find the answers? And can she save her own life?
If this was on a popular online store, I’d give Unravelling five stars.
First of all let me just say, I’m not very good with writing reviews – I tend towards the brief, so I’m trying to be more expansive here.
I read it in three sittings: session one was out of mild curiosity – was this a book I felt I could get into, was it the kind of the thing I would enjoy? I find it hard to take part in a blog tour if I haven’t genuinely engaged with the material – I don’t want to lie to my readers. So I quickly read the opening 30 or 40 pages.
The second reading session was a panicked, ‘Eek I almost forgot and there’s only four more days until my post is due out…’ so I read another 50 or so pages, thinking, I like how this is unfolding, I’m definitely intrigued, I’m confident I am going to love this book.
The third sitting, with 250+ pages to go was one of those, ‘I don’t care how long it takes, I am not putting this book down for anything except Rege-John Page or Theo James.’ I mean, I was hooked.
Reader, I devoured it.
And this is my conclusion:
Unravelling by Helen Forbes is an engrossing, claustrophobic psychological thriller. It was tense at times, and sorrowful. The insights into serious mental illness were so emotive, and I admit I blubbed. It was compulsive too – as I said, I just hadto read on, I had to know.
The ending was swift and satisfying, and hopeful.
For me, I felt that Kate’s story was in a way a – not redemption exactly – more a second chance for Ellen. I can’t explain (words are my job too! Rolls eyes.) It was the pay-off that we the reader got after the long personal journey of self-discovery of both Ellen and Kate.
I enjoyed the style. To begin with I was a little confuzzled by the shift in points of view, but got used to it, you can identify the narrators easily enough. I think it was a bold move to separate Kate’s story into two halves and put Ellen’s story in the middle. I’m not sure I’d have made that choice myself, but I think it works, though when I came back to the second part of Kate’s story I had to quickly ‘revise’ what had happened in the first part. But I think it worked, and as I say, I was hooked – it was definitely an unputdownable, engrossing read, and I highly recommend this book!
Do check out Helen Forbes’ website – link here – to find out about the DI Joe Galbraith books, also set in Scotland, and about the author herself.
You can also catch up with Helen and all her news on the following social media:
And please review the book if you love it – let other readers know what’s good! You don’t have to write an essay – just a quick comment of ‘Loved it’ or ‘highly recommended’ – it’s okay to be brief, because every little helps as they say. Thanks!
Hold everything! EBook NOW available to pre-order (paperback will be released at the same time)
This is an update on the progress of Dottie Manderson book 6 – The Spy Within. Like most of my posts about new books – it begins with an apology. I know, I know in a rash moment of optimism and craziness I said ‘coming Summer 2020’. Even as I said it, my fingers were crossed and I was telling myself, ‘But Summer can be any time between June or August, right?’
But you know, guys, look at what the rest of 2020 has been like. I’ve got a good excuse, haven’t I? Probably the best I’ve had so far. Therefore I’m pleased – though slightly worried – to announce that I plan to release The Spy Within ‘some time’ in October this year. That’s not long! (Note to me: Oh heck, that’s really not long! Argh!) I’m sorry it’s late, but it’s been a tough one. I know I say that about all of them.
To begin with, for some reason it was really, really long. I waffled far more than usual. So I’ve had a lot of tightening up to do. And I had too many strands of plot to juggle. (Sorry about the mixed metaphor). I’ve therefore had to cut loads out, constantly asking myself, ‘Yes that’s fine, but does it really tell us anything new?’ ‘How does it get us further forward?’ It’s quite hard to cut out a scene you love but which deep in your heart, you know serves no purpose at all. I have a document which is all outtakes. Not as funny as the ones you see on TV, that’s for sure, and getting longer every day.
The Spy Within is another crossroads story. Dottie is faced with some new and demanding situations, and of course uses her genuine love of people to find out the truth behind certain rumours and to ferret out answers to help William. We are going to find out a bit more about William’s background, meet a couple more of his family, enjoy quite a few afternoon teas (always high on my list of priorities), and finally the Mantle will come together, a year after the case in which it first featured. (The Mantle of God: Dottie Manderson mysteries: book 2.)
If you are Team Gervase, get ready for some hard truths to be revealed. And – hint, hint – to see your fave wiped off the slate. Sorry about that. Sorry not sorry. Haha.
If you are Team William, get ready for things to finally start going your way. (Less of a hint, more of a massive nudge.) You might need chocolate, wine or your preferred indulgence/support for emotional scenes.
Chapter One is the only part of the book fully revised and currently not surrounded by warning signs, men in hard hats, and scaffolding, and if you’re bored enough tempted, you can read it here. Hope you like it.
It’s that time again. I’m working on a new book, the next in the Dottie Manderson mysteries series set in the 1930s and featuring an amateur detective Dottie Manderson. The new book is to be called The Spy Within and I plan and fervently hope to release it in July(ish) of this year.
In case you haven’t heard of these books, I published the first in the series, Night and Day in 2015, and it’s been followed by The Mantle of God, Scotch Mist (a novella), The Last Perfect Summer of Richard Dawlish (sorry about the long and unwieldly title of that one, at home we call it Dickie Dawlish for short, even though Richard hated his name shortened) and last year, The Thief of St Martins came out.
The main character is Dottie Manderson, obviously, she is the one the books mainly are about, and although she isn’t always the one who solves the mystery, she is nevertheless habitually embroiled in the action. Dottie is only 19 in the first book and ages gradually through the series. In the one I’m writing now, The Spy Within, she is almost 21. She is from a well-to-do family and after leaving her ladies’ college at 18, she worked more or less full time as a mannequin (model) for a Mrs Carmichael at her independent fashion warehouse, Carmichael and Jennings, Exclusive Modes, in London. Dottie lives with her parents, and has a married sister, Flora. Dottie and Flora are very close. George, Flora’s husband, adores Dottie almost as much as his wife does, she is very much his sister too.
Unfortunately the books aren’t quite stand-alone. That is to say, there are ongoing story-lines that progress through the novels. I wish I’d though about that a bit more carefully when writing them because with book 3, Scotch Mist being a novella, and therefore cheaper to buy, people often buy it and then haven’t got a clue what’s going on. I really must revise it with a bit more explanation to help those who dive into the series at book 3. Still, we live and learn, I guess! Hopefully I won’t do that next time around.
So what’s new for The Spy Within?
Well, those who have read the books up to this point will be aware that Dottie has been seeing a ‘gentleman’ by the name of Gervase Parfitt for a couple of books. Sadly in the last book, he let her down rather badly by not supporting her when she needed him most. Oh, Dottie had such hopes for Gervase to begin with. But he seems to be not quite as nice as she’d thought, and there’s a rumour going round that he’s likely to be substituted.
If you’re Team William, this could be music to your ears.
William Hardy, police inspector and all-round good guy (most of the time) has been in the background for a while now, and if you’ve loved all the flirty looks and romantic thoughts, then prepare to enjoy some more. It’s Valentine’s day in 1935, and love is in the air. I think. Or is it? You’ll just have to wait and see.
In other news, the Manderson’s maid, Janet is at last tying the knot with police sergeant Frank Maple in this book. They’ve been walking out together since the first in the series. Don’t expect any tears, it’ll be a happy day for all. And it’s about time they made things all above board, because as Dottie said in The Mantle of God, ‘I wouldn’t mind if they did any actual walking out. And how Mother hasn’t caught them, I’ll never know. From what I can make out, they spend all their time indoors.’
So that’s about all I can say at the moment. If I’ve piqued your curiosity, please take a look at a draft version of Chapter One here. Just bear in mind, I might change it a bit by publication day, and hopefully I’ll remember to tidy it up and make it a bit more succinct. I hope you enjoy it.
All that I need to do now is to say a huge thank you to my family and friends and some wonderful, loyal, encouraging and amazing readers who say nice things that cheer me up when I’m down and keep me keeping on. Thank you all. XXX