Welcome to my blog !

Featured

Why Mysteries? Why Winchester? And why, for that matter, a blog at all?

I love mystery stories.  I also love history and historical novels, so it’s no surprise I now write Victorian mysteries.  Why Winchester? It’s a lovely place, the ancient capital of King Alfred’s Wessex – it’s a perfect setting for my books.

Continue reading

Fun in February

I haven’t been idle in February!  On 15th February I judged a short story competition for the Southampton Writers’ Circle and had a very nice evening with them. There were some intriguing pieces of writing and I found it hard to decide between the top three so I was glad to find I could award Winner, Highly Commended and Commended!

~

17th February I turned up on this blog  Bloggers come up with questions that make you stop and think just why you like this, or do that, so it’s always an interesting exercise.novelist.http://lifeofanerdishmum.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/getting-to-knownicola-slade.html?m=1

49e2b-nickynewofficialpicture

 On Getting To Know… today I am welcoming author of the Harriet Quigley Mysteries and Charlotte Richmond Investigates series, Nicola Slade.

You originally wrote a romantic comedy when changing from children’s book to adult books, but you now write two mystery series. What was it that drew you to this genre and prompted you to make the change?

My mother and grandmother were voracious readers so I was always surrounded by books.  I was brought up on mostly Victorian novels and the classic mysteries of the Golden Age: Margery Allingham, Patricia Wentworth, Dorothy L Sayers and to a lesser degree Agatha Christie. It’s the puzzle element that appeals to me in those classic mysteries – who did it, why and how – and working through the various suspects to find the murderer. I love that aspect as a reader and as a writer.

Do you have a favourite character that you have written so far?

My Victorian sleuth, Charlotte Richmond, is my favourite. I’m very fond of Harriet Quigley, my contemporary retired headmistress sleuth but she’s slightly scary after her years as a top headmistress and is comfortable in her own skin. Charlotte is much more vulnerable and has to contend with the problems of being a young widow in the 1850s as well as with the difficulties that arise in a murder case. She has a slightly shady background and comes from Australia, which makes her a curiosity in mid-Victorian England. I’m passionate about history and it’s certainly much easier to set a mystery before the days of forensic science, fingerprints and the internet!

Do you have a set routine or schedule that you like to follow when you’re writing?

Not really, it’s more a case of ‘when the spirit moves me’. I do tend to write mid-morning to mid-afternoon, rather than the classic thing of dashing off a thousand words by breakfast time! Sometimes I’ll lose myself in the story though, and emerge dazed after a long writing session.

When you’re not writing, what would we find you doing?

Chatting and meeting friends is what my family would say! And poking in charity shops and second hand bookshops because a friend and I were antiques dealers in a small way, some years ago, and the urge to check out the date stamp or maker’s mark never leaves you. I love going to castles and stately homes and I read a lot, as well as painting.

You are also an artist and do some wonderful paintings (I love your hares, in particular Hare Flight). Are you a natural artist or is something that you worked on to become?

Thank you! I have a ‘thing’ about painting hares! I did Art at O Level and could always draw, but it wasn’t till my children were older that I started going to art classes. When the teacher retired we set up our own art workshop and hold an exhibition every year. I’m strictly amateur but it’s fun to do and our group is now quite well-known locally. My latest mystery ‘The Art of Murder’ is about an art group, but not – I hasten to add – about the one I belong to!

Have you always known that you wanted to be an author?

I think I was about six when I understood that books came out of people’s heads and decided that’s what I wanted to do. I had some children’s short stories published in my early twenties, then put my creative energies into raising a family, after which I wrote stories for women’s magazines until my first novel, Scuba Dancing, was published.

Harriet Quigley is an older main character than in a lot of books, which is good to see. What was the reason behind choosing to write an older character?

It all stems from my first publisher, Transita Ltd, who published Scuba Dancing. They featured older heroines – from forty-five and upwards and Harriet arose from that idea. The classic lady sleuth tends to be ‘of a certain age’, Miss Marple and Miss Silver, for example, and if you think about it, an older woman is likely to have more time to observe and investigate than if she’s holding down a full-time job. My Victorian heroine, Charlotte, has time on her hands because she’s a lady, but she does have other restrictions – it’s not easy to run away if you’re wearing a crinoline!

You enjoy travelling and have lived in some lovely places, do you have a favourite place that you have visited?

We had a few days in Fiji that were magical – coral islands, palm trees and so on, I’d love to go back one day. Our son and his family live in Sydney and we did a trip to Tasmania which was fabulous; besides seeing the family, Australia has the added bonus of letting me do research for my Australian heroine!

Do you have a favourite author?

I love the novels of Charlotte Yonge, a Victorian best-seller, and I’m particularly fond of her novel ‘The Pillars of the House’. I also love Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels and recently, I’ve discovered Jodi Taylor’s The Chronicles of St Mary’s books and can’t wait to read the next.

What can we look forward to from you in the future?

My previous publisher ceased trading a year ago so I’ve been wondering which direction I should take. I’m currently revising a contemporary novel which has historical echoes, a kind of time-slip novel, and I’m about to send it to my agent. Besides that, I’m two-thirds of the way into a cosy mystery set in 1918 which is great fun to write, though whether a publisher would like it remains to be seen. There’s always self-publishing which is something I might explore in the future.

Thank you so much to Nicola for taking the time to answer all my questions, it’s been wonderful having her on my blog today.

~

18th February saw the Deadly Dames invade Portsmouth in their latest extravaganza: Nemesis with Knitting Needles – discussing whether the female of the (detective) species really is more deadly than the male. http://promotingcrime.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/the-deadly-dames-at-portsmouth-bookfest.html (I really, really must learn not to freeze in terror when I see a camera!)portsmouth-2017-dd-group

~

Finally, earlier in the month the Resident Engineer and I escaped to the Mediterranean for a week in Majorca, which is where we spent our honeymoon a very long time ago. The place had changed a bit and the weather back then, which was in January, was a bit less spectacular as this time, although it was 20 degrees on the coast, we actually had one day of snow in the Tramontana Mountains.( Proof below! It didn’t last long and the locals claimed it was one of only two days in February that usually has snow.)

majorcasnowcropped2-164

?

Winter Weather, Then and Now

I’ve shamefully neglected my blog, mainly because I tend to hibernate during January, huddling indoors and wishing I was somewhere warm; I only emerge when I need to go shopping for food. Last January though, we went to Liverpool for what I insisted on calling a romantic weekend though the Resident Engineer said it was a research trip to the archive of the Maritime Museum to check out a 1950s circuit diagram for an electric pump made by a long-defunct company. I went along for the ride but he does this kind of thing for fun and this was to do with one of the charities he volunteers for – in this case the Edwardian waterworks. (Photo Liver Bird, Wikipaedia)

liver_bird_liverpoolI’d only been to Liverpool once, back in the 70s when we had two small children and the Engineer did a six month stint of working during the week in Liverpool. In the summer holidays his boss suggested we should all go – I think it was his idea of a reward for me for not making a fuss! I don’t remember much about it but I do remember hauling a 5 year old and a 3 year old round Speke Hall because I still hadn’t cottoned on to the fact that a passion for old houses doesn’t gel with having small children. The Safari Park was a better bet.

Last year’s trip was great. Our hotel was a monument to decayed grandeur. Our room was 30’ long by 20’ wide (I measured it) with an imposing fireplace and walls painted in the pink of old ladies’ corsets, picked out with gold twiddly bits. There was a huge radiator that only came on for a couple of hours in the early evening and the bathroom was large and chilly, with an avocado bath and with green Formica surrounding the wash-basin. There was no heating in there and you could perch frostily on the loo and hear the wind howling through the secondary glazing. However, I loved the place and the food was excellent. Liverpool was lovely too, and I completely fell for the Maritime Museum so we had coffee and lunch there before doing the Ferry Cross the Mersey. Guess what tune they played on a continuous loop? (Photo: Mersey ferry, Wikipaedia)mersey-ferry

To take my mind off winter weather I’ve been checking out the kind of weather our ancestors had to endure, courtesy of http://booty.org.uk/booty.weather/climate/wxevents.htm (A brilliant site.)

AD341: Britain: SNOW – up to 15 feet deep lay 6 weeks.

AD1149/50: Severe winter: the first authentic report of the Thames being frozen solid – the frost lasted from December to March and the frozen river was crossed on foot and on horseback. Very intense cold began 10th December 1149 and continued until (at least) February 19th 1150.The Thames was frozen over at London Bridge and supported loaded wagons. (Pic. this later frost fair in the 1680s. Wiki pic)frostfair

AD1564/65: Severe, prolonged frost (set in 7th December 1564). The court of Elizabeth I indulged in sports on the ice at Westminster. Football & other games were also played on the ice. (In the depths of the Little Ice Age, this would not have been too unusual; the reason the event is noted is because the Queen & Court were involved: it would have been an impressive sight!) Pic: Queen Elizabeth too busy at her coronation to think about skating. Wikielizabeth_i_in_coronation_robes

1946/47 – in living memory this one: ‘Mean temperature below 0 degC for 9 weeks. Bulldozers were diverted from bomb clearance to snow clearance. Ice-breakers had to be used in the River Medway  & ice floes were reported in the lower Thames & its Estuary. There were severe losses to agriculture; 2 million sheep died, and the frosts destroyed much of the late potato crop. The aftermath was equally severe, with widespread burst pipes, local flooding as snow melted: winter of extreme misery.’

And now for something not actually very different at all…

Eye witness weather history comes from ‘Small Talk at Wreyland’ 1st ed 1918, by Cecil Torr who quotes from his father’s Victorian diaries. (Wreyland is in Devonshire).

‘Like many others of his time my grandfather was certain that the climate had improved and he thought he saw the cause. He writes to my father on 9th March 1845: Until within the last twenty years our winters were much colder than since, but I never knew such hard freezing as this.

22nd December 1850 attributing the mild weather to ‘the better stage of cultivation of the land draining off the cold stagnant waters that lay about in all directions in my youth.’

‘2nd February 1851: ‘Not a flake of snow fell on the Forest of Dartmoor in the month of January, not the oldest man living on the Moor recollects the like before.’

‘2nd March 1862: The old people say there never was a February without snow.

Finally, some more (almost) eye-witness testimony for history buffs. Cecil Torr (1857-1928) says his father took him as a child to call on a very old man who ‘gave me an account of the beheading of King Charles I as he heard it from somebody who was an eye-witness.’ (Engraving: Charles I execution. Wikipaedia)execution_of_king_charles_i_from_npg

Another time young Cecil visited yet another elderly gent ‘whose great-aunt was told by an elderly lady that she had witnessed the Fire of London when she was about ten years old.’ (Pic: Great Fire of London, Wikipaedia)

The past may be another country but most years you’d need your hat, scarf, gloves and wellies to go there.

Christmas won’t be Christmas without…

…the Christmas Day Downton Abbey Special (to paraphrase Jo March in ‘Little Women’.) dabbeylogoI’ve been watching the entire story, plus Christmas Specials, over the last couple of months (for the umpteenth time) and I’m now half way through the last series, with the 2015 Christmas Finale saved for sometime on Sunday. I’ve loved every single minute of it, even when Mr Bates, the valet, morphed from a chubby but charming stranger with a secret, into a creepy misery with a line in emotional blackmail and a tendency to loom and menace in dark corners. The rest of the inhabitants of the fabulous Gothic palace were terrific and I miss them; I’m hoping there really will be a film – and I want to be the Dowager Countess when I grow up…   cousin-violet

Failing the miraculous return of my favourite tv programme on Christmas Day here are some more books you’d probably rather not find in your stocking – but might have if you’d been around in the early 1900s.  A couple of years ago I shared some of the more exciting blurbs from my collection of Victorian and Edwardian novels – similar vintage to these (Picture: a tea towel from the Bodleian shop)bodleian_tea_towel

The first three are advertised in the back of a book published in 1909 – you can tell they’re not going to end well…

WO2 by Maurice Drake  ~ A sensational and exciting story of present-day illicit sea-faring. To explain the character of the forbidden trade would be to tell too much; enough that international politics are concerned… An exciting yarn of the sea and its scoundrelism(sic)…

Led into the Wilderness by  ~ William E Bailey John Martin, the hero of this story, is a missionary in a rarely visited island in the East. Here he is ‘tempted of the devil’ and falls. First he yields to a craving for drink and then to allurements of another kind in the person of a beautiful island girl….

Passions of Straw by Evelyn F Heywood  ~ The poignant tragedy of a young woman who, proud, beautiful, ambitious, finds herself wedded to a cynic and a roué. Her husband, having shattered her happiness, finally succeeds in drawing their only child into the whirlpool of his idle, vicious life…

And finally, a cheerful little book advertised in the back of a book published in 1912 – possibly not a forerunner for One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Thankfully things have moved along – a bit – since then. (Below: A diagnostic tool of the era)phrenologyhead

The White Thread by Robert Halifax  ~ A book which is practically certain to arrest a serious consideration, both lay and medical. Tilly Westaway herself – the lovable, human little heroine with her secret maternal longings and her desire to ‘put everything right for everybody’ – makes a curiously moving appeal all the way. But it is the vast shadow in the background – the menace of the ever-absorbing, ever-expanding lunatic asylum ward – which will remain in one’s mind long after the book is laid down…(I bet they’re right about that last sentence, it sounds a morbid little tome…)

holly

On the other hand, here’s a book that would cheer anyone up, containing as it does a stalker, a vandalised Porsche, lots of dead insects, a blood-filled fish pond, and a host of other seasonal delights… the-art-of-murder-final-image

Have a Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year (hopefully, in my case, without further adventures involving patios, broken bones and broken heads…)

The Crown – and my latest book in paperback

the-crown-image

Having got a free trial of Netflix I’ve binge-watched The Crown, the story of the Queen and her reign. The series has had rave reviews and the second ten instalments are currently being filmed. As series 1 takes us up to the mid-1950s I imagine Netflix are rubbing their hands at having lots more decades to work on.

It’s really, really good, as long as you don’t mind the occasional cavalier fiddling with historical facts and you can go along with the necessarily imagined private conversations between the Royals. Imagined, of course, because the Queen is famously reticent as are most of her family. I was brought up in a staunchly monarchist household and I remain convinced that a constitutional monarchy is the best form of democracy – recent election results elsewhere tend to agree. However, this isn’t a political blog so I’ll shut up.matt-smith-as-prince-philip-and-claire-foy-as-queen-elizabeth-in-the-crown-850x560

As the Queen Claire Foy has come a long way from Little Dorrit and Adorabelle Dearheart of the Discworld’s ‘Going Postal’ and from her pouty Anne Boleyn in ‘Wolf Hall’. In fact, she’s excellent, remote but human, qualities which aren’t easy to combine. Watching several episodes at a stretch I’ve found myself enunciating far more clearly and being rather queenly with my vowels, not to mention trying to sit up straight!

Matt Smith is also good as Prince Philip although he’s nowhere near as good-looking. For anyone who only knows the prince as a very, very elderly man, it’s a shock to see photographs of him in his youth – described by someone as a ‘Viking god’ – and not far off the mark if you look at this:youngprincephilipMy squabble with the programme is that the writers have made Prince Philip petulant and pouting which seems very unlike what is actually known about him. Angry and frustrated yes, but not whining and sulking. It’s interesting to remember that Prince Philip had an appalling upbringing – abandoned by his father and with his mother committed to a mental hospital, passed round the family and encountering tragedy at the age of 15 when his sister was killed with her family in an air crash. No wonder he once signed a visitor’s book as ‘Of no fixed abode’, and no surprise he grew up tough and self-sufficient. The photo below shows a wary, watchful little boy.littleprincephilip

John Lithgow who, to me, will always be Dick from Third Rock from the Sun, is terrific as Churchill; not an impersonation but the essence of the character, and his scenes with the young Queen are very well done. The scene where he confronts the truth of Graham Sutherland’s portrait of him – which he loathed and which Lady Churchill destroyed – is both painful and touching.sutherland

If you get the chance, do watch it – I’ve read reports by younger people who say they’d never imagined the Queen and Prince Philip as young people!

~

Finally, the paperback of The Art of Murder is now available online – the third outing for Winchester’s Harriet Quigley, retired headmistress and amateur sleuth! nickypaperbacktaom

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Art-Murder-Harriet-Quigley-Mysteries/dp/1539047385/

(The photos are all from public sites so I hope nobody objects!)

My Favourite Things

(Chatting to Annette of Sincerely Book Angels blog – the place to find excellent reviews of books people like to read! Find her here: http://sincerelybookangels.blogspot.co.uk/)

Food Savoury and sweet:
I like a proper roast beef dinner with all the works and one of the few puddings that never lets me down is a pavlova. Even if it collapses you can just pile cream and fruit on top and hide the mistakes!

Drink

I drink gallons of tea but it has to be ‘proper’ English tea, not fruit or herbal or Earl Grey. And not what my Granny called ‘shamrock tea’ ie made with only three leaves¬

Film

Roman Holiday because I saw it with my mum when I was quite young and Sense & Sensibility (the Emma Thompson one) because it’s pretty well perfect. And it has Alan Rickman – can’t ask for more!

Book

A very old one, ‘Pillars of the House’ by Charlotte M Yonge, published in 1873. I was brought up on her books and I love them and when we moved to Hampshire I was thrilled to discover that she lived all her life about three miles down the road from me.

Author

That’s a hard question, I have dozens. Charlotte Yonge, as above, and Angela Thirkell. Newest best author is Jodi Taylor whose ‘Chronicles of St Mary’s’ series is right up there too.

Character

Too hard! Felix Underwood from the Yonge book and Mr Markham from Jodi Taylor’s books

Song

When the Carnival is Over by The Seekers

Holiday destination

Years ago we had a few days’ stopover in Fiji. It was magical and we did a short cruise round the islands. There was white sand, a coral reef, blue sky and a turquoise sea and I remember thinking that at that moment I was completely happy.

Animal

Cats. We’re between cats at the moment.

Person

I’d probably better say it’s my husband!

Place to write

In my untidy study
Season

I love to be warm but I have a Christmas Eve birthday and there’s something about winter and all that anticipation.

Tradition

Still with the Christmas theme, we always have a Chinese takeaway here in the early evening of Christmas Eve, for the whole family

Inspirational quote

I’m not sure I have one but when it comes to romance I quite like quoting my late mother’s slightly cynical: ‘Don’t waste time looking for a knight in shining armour, find one whose armour isn’t too rusty, and polish him up to suit.’

Thing in the whole world

Has to be my family, of course, but also history and all things historical.
Thanks to Annette and her Book Angels for a chance to work out what actually are my favourite things!  http://sincerelybookangels.blogspot.co.uk/
In other news – I’m getting over my accident pretty well, thanks for all the concern. And the paperback of The Art of Murder will be out soon – I’ll blog about it, of course!

A FREE BOOK – DOWNLOAD IT TODAY!

I thought the paperback edition of The Art of Murder would be the next excitement but I was wrong. My new publisher, Endeavour Press, has it on offer as a FREEBIE from first thing today, Monday, 24th to Friday, 29th October. Bargain!the-art-of-murder

I’m not used to this, my previous publisher didn’t go in for this kind of thing and when the first book Scuba Dancing came out eBooks hadn’t arrived so you didn’t get free promotions. It’s all new and slightly terrifying, so much so that Liv (younger daughter) has now set me up on Twitter @nicolasladeuk and I have practically no idea what to do with it. Time will tell.

Anyway, the publisher has asked that I plug the free download all over social media so I’m doing my best, even though – as a nicely brought-up Englishwoman of a certain age I’m cringing to think of shouting: Download my Book. Now! (The saving grace is that as it’s a freebie it’s not actually touting for a sale, so slightly less pushy.)

The book features a couple of Winchester’s most historic places. This is Wolvesey Castle, photo from English Heritage’s website. A fascinating place, much loved by Harriet!

WOLVESEY: OLD BISHOPS PALACE Aerial view 26506_021

WOLVESEY: OLD BISHOPS PALACE Aerial view 26506_021

The other place that gets a mention – and a visit by Harriet and Sam – is the tiny church of St. Swithun-upon-Kingsgate. Not to be missed on a visit to Winchester.stswithuns

Do download the book while it’s free (24th-29th October) and if you like it, please tell your friends and maybe add a review to the lovely ones it’s collecting so far:

‘I spent a pleasant rainy Sunday morning in bed being chilled by the absolutely nasty – and yet so realistic – village characters Ms Slade populates her books with. Cousins Harriet and Sam are delightful amateur sleuths, however, the well drawn characters who share a weekend art school with them are not so nice. Secrets and motives abound and I didn’t figure out “whodunit” before the denouement. If you enjoy classic British crime fiction the Harriet Quigley books will be sure to provide you with an enjoyable read.’

‘If you love a good murder mystery with an Agatha Christie feel, you’ll love this book.’

 ‘If you like the type of mystery that has a group that come together at a venue, including a killer and lots of suspects, you will enjoy this book. It is a cosy mystery, but not silly with it. I did enjoy it, and read it through quickly as I really wanted to see what was happening. It was a little different and the characters certainly made you feel some emotion.’ 

 ‘I’ve always loved this style of writing. Fast flowing with many different characters. Each one with a different tale to add to the growing mystery. If you are like minded with a need to be creative you may think twice about joining an art group, after reading this brilliant book. It is one thing to wield a paint brush, while being creative on an art weekend, but to be plotting murder, well that’s a masterpiece.’

‘Having read the previous Harriet Quigley Mystery, I had high expectations of this novel. All I can say is that they were surpassed, I love the characters of Harriet and Sam, they work well together and have a believable, non-romantic, relationship. Drawn into the story and wanting to know ‘whodunit’ I read this in one sitting – which meant I didn’t put the book down until the early morning! Still my lack sleep was well worth it and I cannot recommend this author highly enough.’

In other news, I’m recovering from the accident I described in my last post. Walking without crutches unless I’m out somewhere crowded, in which case I like to have a crutch handy – it makes people give me a wide berth and hopefully they won’t knock me over! The concussion is a lot better and I’m reading again, which is a relief!a 

Whoops!

The Art of Murder had only been out for a couple of weeks, and I was gearing up to do more promotion, when I managed to fall off a patio and end up in hospital for ten days with concussion and an emergency hip replacement (of what had been a perfectly good hip!) people-on-crutches-clipart-walking-crutches-vector-yh9hzq-clipart

(That’s a free clip art picture – it says! hope that’s right)

Scroll forward a couple of weeks and I’m coming along, walking – mostly with crutches but sometimes without (if there’s someone nearby for reassurance). The bang on the head seems ok and the hospital let me out after daily ‘obs’ so they were happy. It’s just slowly, slowly, from now on for a couple of months.

While in hospital I had family and friends a bit worried because not only was I refusing chocolate (!) but I couldn’t be bothered to read. Both serious symptoms in my case. What I didn’t realise was that the concussion was playing tricks and yes, the hospital food wasn’t brilliant, but it probably wasn’t dowsed in sugar as I insisted it was. Not sure how that explains turning my nose up at chocolate though!

After a week I began to think I might feel like reading and felt a slight tingle – bit like Matthew in Downton Abbey when he realised his paralysis wasn’t permanent. My tingle led me to reread The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelley which was as lovely as I remembered. After that I reread the final Discworld novel, The Shepherd’s Crown, and now I’m pottering happily along, rereading old friends, though not tackling anything new.

I need to get back to promoting The Art of Murder soon and will be looking for any blogger who loves English cosy mysteries and who might like to read mine – set in Winchester and with lots of history and a few messy, murderous bits!

The paperback will be the next excitement and then I hope I’ll be back to normal.

If anyone reads Harriet Quigley’s third adventure and fancies putting a review up on Amazon, that would be lovely – but I really just hope people will enjoy it.  Had some nice reviews so far, including this short and sweet one: If you love a good murder mystery with an Agatha Christie feel, you’ll love this book.’the-art-of-murder

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Art-Murder-Harriet-Quigley-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01LZ4I4PB?ie=UTF8&psc=1

 

 

THE ART OF MURDER

the-art-of-murderFinally, after my previous publisher ceased trading, here we are again and this time with Endeavour Press. The Art of Murder is the third book to feature retired headmistress, Harriet Quigley, and her faithful, if long-suffering, clergyman cousin, Sam Hathaway. Set in Hampshire, as are all my books, this rather messy murder takes place in the heart of the city of Winchester and there’s plenty of local history and nods to real historic sites.

‘A weekend art course at an upmarket B&B near Winchester’s historic cathedral is bound to be relaxing and fun… 

But not when man-crazy Linzi Bray, Chairman of the local art group, is in charge and the house is full of people who loathe her.
Accidents start to happen – in a ruined castle, in a fast-flowing river, in a peaceful garden.
There’s a stalker – or is there?
And there are far too many dead insects, as well as a vandalised Porsche and a pond full of blood.

It’s not the first time former headmistress, Harriet Quigley, and her cousin, the Reverend Sam Hathaway, have been embroiled in a mystery, but this time they’re baffled at the “spiteful game” that seems to be being played.

And then somebody else dies and the games all stop.’

‘The Art of Murder is perfect for avid crime mystery fans – with festering secrets, potential motives and the opportunity for sweet – or spiteful – revenge.’
It’s out as an e-book now and will be followed soon by a paperback which will be fun – haven’t had one of those for a while!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Art-Murder-Harriet-Quigley-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01LZ4I4PB

It’s only £2.99, so do try it! And if you like it, tell your friends – any Amazon reviews will be gratefully received.

 

 

A Tale of a Toad and a Train (& Richard Armitage)

richard armitage1(We’ll get to him in a minute but for the time being he’s just there as decoration.)

We have a model railway in our garden. ‘Doesn’t everybody?’ I (probably) don’t hear you cry. Not only that, we also have a model village.

I blame the Resident Engineer’s father who once concocted a plan with his Best Man to buy adjacent semi-detached houses so they could knock the attics through and have a massive railway layout. Inevitably, his son went in for the full Hornby but when he reached sixteen he sold his entire collection; he thinks he bought a tennis racquet with the proceeds.

Over the years the Engineer’s gradually bought new engines and track and so on, and tried, but failed, to get our children and grandchildren, (and me), enthusiastic about it. When we moved to Hampshire he decided to build a new layout and very few people believed me when I told them we had a twelve foot stretch of railway track running the length of our bedroom. Nor did they believe me when I said the track went through a hole in the wall, followed a loop in the attic above the garage, and returned to our room. Only those who know him well had no trouble in accepting this, particularly when I mentioned that in winter the hole in the wall was blocked up with a pair of socks.20160730_110847

After a few years I went on strike and insisted that a railway in the bedroom wasn’t acceptable so it was moved to the attic and abandoned until he had the idea of building a garden railway. The track now circles round the conservatory, crosses the (very small) pond via a purpose-built viaduct, follows the line of the path until it reaches the rockery which it meanders round. A recent development sees the track crossing the paving stones to join a new stretch that will eventually climb up another viaduct (no water under this one) and into the shed through a train/cat flap. When inside the shed, only the Engineer knows what mysteries will be performed. Lest anyone thinks I just poke fun at him and his trains, I can tell you that the track is 0-16.5 and the whole is a model narrow gauge railway. See? I do take in some of it.

As for the village, that’s my preserve – it started as a joke and is composed of more-or-less 0 gauge-sized buildings though that’s not a requirement. My criteria for purchasing are less exacting – most of the buildings started life as ceramic biscuit barrels in M&S and other stores, along with some stoneware buildings, the first of which was made by Duncan (our eldest) in Pottery class at school. Almost all of the buildings have come from charity shops and the animals that inhabit the village must have been genetically modified because a lot of them are nearly as tall as the buildings. (The Engineer is too laid back to be obsessive about it all and I still think it’s funny.) Since an oak tree landed on the village in an April storm 20160328_081841there’s been some renovation and rebuilding and the village is now sitting comfortably on its tasteful Astroturf village green. At Christmas, if I remember, there are lights strung round but so far I’ve resisted the suggestion from a daughter that we have a tape of carol singers playing, speeded up to suit the Borrower-sized villagers. (Not that we have any left, not since the nativity scene was ruined and Baby Jesus was washed away in a sudden downfall.)20160730_110911

Anyway, there’s still the toad. More complicated electronics are being invented/installed/cursed so the inside of the station is full of wires and plugs and things. It was also full of ants until recently; they colonised it and filled it with their recycled earth, which is when the toad moved in. We’ve always had at least one toad in the garden so I was delighted when it turned out he was living in the station until the Engineer lifted the building up and found one stuck toad! The innards (of the electronics, not the toad) had to be dismantled and one mildly irritated toad decanted into the crocosmia by the pond. We haven’t seen him lately so I suspect he’s still sulking under a stone somewhere. Pic: Front and back views – stuck toad.

20160718_141716
20160718_141643The railway was reopened a year or so ago – after years of neglect – when the Engineer’s birthday happened to fall on August Bank Holiday Sunday. (Can you believe that when I met him he had no idea his birthday was the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth? Unlike Richard Amitage who has the same birthday and knows all about it because he was named after Richard III.) And here he is again – just because – sometimes it’s nice to have wall-to-wall Richard Armitage.

richard armitage1

Some Henges and a New Book

Yesterday we had a day out to Stonehenge, about 50 miles from here. The first time I visited was when I was about eight and on a school outing and we ate our sandwiches sitting on the stones lying around on the ground. The next time was not long before the Resident Engineer and I got married and you could still get up close to the stones. Not this time; not since the late 70s when it became clear that the ancient site couldn’t cope with the increased visitor numbers.

It’s nicely done though; the visitor centre works well and as members of the National Trust – and English Heritage – our cards let us through quickly, though it was a good job we were there quite early. A Saturday in July is probably not the most intelligent time to visit and we were glad to be leaving at midday when we saw the crowds and the fleets of coaches. Still, a mile and a half walk from the centre to the stones was worth it (shuttle bus back); peaceful apart from birdsong, lots of wild flowers and bees and butterflies – none of which we could identify. The stones are fenced off, but not officiously so, and you get an amazing view as you wander round, along with a commentary on your headphones.20160709_114638

(I could have bought a tapestry cushion in the shop but thought better of it, at £50, see above)

As we went in search of a pub lunch elsewhere – the visitor centre was extremely busy – we came across a sign to Woodhenge, less well-known than its stone neighbour. (It’s  bigger than it looks in my photo)20160709_144909

‘Woodhenge is an atmospheric Neolithic site close to Stonehenge. Probably built about 2300 BC, it was originally believed to be the remains of a large burial mound, surrounded by a bank and ditch almost completely destroyed by ploughing. Aerial photography (in the 1920s) detected rings of dark spots in a crop of wheat, and today concrete markers replace the six concentric rings of timber posts which are believed to have once supported a ring-shaped building. There is evidence that it was in use around 1800 BC.  It is possible that the banks and ditches were used for defensive purposes in addition to its ceremonial function.’ (English Heritage)

Unlike most things, it’s free to visit and – surrounded by fields and trees – it’s a peaceful, yet atmospheric spot. Well worth a visit.

And now for the very nice news. The third book in my contemporary cosy mystery series, starring Harriet Quigley, Blood on the Paintbrush, is to be published by Endeavour Press. Not sure when but sometime within the next twelve months, according to the contract! As I blogged earlier, I was wondering what to do with this book with the departure of Robert Hale Ltd, so it’s great to be able to say it’ll be out as an ebook first, followed shortly by a paperback. This will be a welcome novelty after all those hardbacks which are beautifully-made but extremely difficult to sell!

Blood on the Paintbrush: A weekend art course at an upmarket B&B near Winchester’s historic cathedral is bound to be relaxing and fun. Isn’t it?

Not when Linzi Bray, chairman of the local art group, is in charge and the house is full of people who loathe her. Accidents start to happen – in a ruined castle, in a fast-flowing river, in a peaceful garden. There’s a stalker – or is there? And there are far too many dead insects, as well as a pond full of blood and a vandalised Porsche.

It’s not the first time former headmistress, Harriet Quigley, and her cousin, the Reverend Sam Hathaway, have been embroiled in a mystery but this time they’re baffled. ‘It’s so amateurish,’ complains Harriet. ‘Phone calls, anonymous letters, somebody lurking in corners, it’s like some spiteful game.’

 Game or not, there’s a death, but is it murder? And then somebody else dies and the games all stop…

 As always in my books, you get bits of Winchester history, including a scene in this little beauty which featured in a famous Victorian novel!  St Swithun-upon-Kingsgate Church - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: