Tag Archives: Minotaur Books

A day in the life with Edith Jackson by Tessa Arlen

a-death-by-any-other-nameThe Lady Montfort series set in England in the early 1900s features amateur sleuths Clementine, the Countess of Montfort and Edith Jackson, her housekeeper.

Edith Jackson is a senior servant to the Earl of Montfort at his gracious Elizabethan country house Iyntwood, second-in-command in a servants’ hall of fifteen resident servants. Although Mrs. Jackson, aged thirty-five, is unmarried she is given the title of Mrs. out of respect. She is a handsome woman, not given to too much chatter and sometimes a little unbending as to the rules, but with a well-developed if rather wry sense of humor. A gifted organizer with a flair for making any grand occasion elegant, in this day and age she would make a very successful living as an event planner. In 1913 she is simply a housekeeper.

Today is Saturday and Mrs. Jackson’s day begins at half past six as twenty guests, accompanied by their maids and valets, will be arriving in time for tea at five ‘o clock for a shooting party. After breakfast Mrs. Jackson supervises the final preparations for their arrival. Each room in the house must be immaculate and welcoming, the food exquisite and every detail of their guests’ comfort assured. At eleven o’clock she does a tour of the guest wing to make sure that fresh flowers have been placed in all the bedrooms, that they are stocked with the latest copies of the Tatler, the Daily Sketch and Country Life, writing paper, cigarettes and Vichy water. She checks the guest list against the name cards that are placed on each door before she climbs the backstairs to the fourth floor of the house and the servants’ quarters to check that all is ready for the visiting servants – three to a room for this busy weekend!

Back belowstairs she meets with the butler, Mr. Hollyoak and the cook, Mrs. Thwaite, to run through the menus once again for the next three days. An abundant breakfast will be laid out in hot chafing dishes on the sideboard of the large dining room for male guests, while trays are taken up to women guests in their rooms. After a hearty breakfast the sportsmen will set off for a day’s shooting to be joined by their wives for luncheon.

Mrs. Jackson arranges for luncheon to be served in the pavilion by the lake at one o’clock each day. It will be taken down in a wagon, well wrapped up in hay boxes and blankets to keep the soup hot. Game pie, cold chicken or salmon, and salads will be served with fresh fruit and cheese and one of Mrs. Thwaite’s exquisite puddings.

At five o’clock everyone one will be back at the house, ravenous from a day in the fresh air, for a lavish tea in the library: a variety of tiny sandwiches, hot scones with strawberry jam, Victoria sponge and fruit cakes, and little trays of brandy snaps filled with cream. Mrs. Jackson reminds the housemaids to keep the fires going and to tidy every room in the house as soon as it has been vacated.

The biggest challenge that faces the staff is dinner –timing is everything and Mrs. Thwaite’s delicious food must be faultlessly presented. The footmen are drilled on the menus, their white gloves and livery inspected. Mrs. Jackson and Mr. Hollyoak discuss which china to use –Sevres, or the Royal Doulton? Once again Mrs. Jackson checks her pantry inventory: is the fish sent up from Billingsgate perfectly fresh? Are there enough oysters? A haunch of venison is carried in. Cream and butter is delivered from the estate dairy and the hall boy is sent to the ice house for more ice. Wagons have been arriving all morning in the kitchen courtyard with fresh vegetables and fruit from the kitchen garden. Amid the bustle of final preparations Mrs. Jackson is everywhere at once!

With no time for lunch she is on her way to the kitchen garden to meet with the gardener to choose flowers for the house before she returns to the servants’ hall for a quick cup of tea. And then with the help of the first and second housemaids, Agnes and Elsie, she rolls up her sleeves and for the next three hours they arrange the fresh blooms in urns and vases of evergreens to be carried away to the morning room, drawing rooms, the great hall, the library, and the large dining room for the table. Mrs. Jackson makes a final inspection before she goes upstairs to report to Lady Montfort that all is ready.

Lady Montfort, dressed to receive her guests, is waiting for her. With three discrete murder inquiries successfully solved between them, their relationship has grown over the years from that of mistress and servant to one that we might call friendship. Lady Montfort knows her guests will be well taken care of and that their every need will be anticipated. And who knows what will happen with all these people in the house? If a body turns up in the library Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson will put their heads together and with discretely phrased questions, Mrs. Jackson below stairs, and the intuitive Lady Montfort upstairs, they will certainly piece together the puzzle!

You can read more about Edith in A Death By Any Other Name, the third book in the “Lady Montfort” mystery series.

Building on the success of her last two mysteries in the same series, Tessa Arlen returns us to the same universe full of secrets, intrigue, and, this time, roses in A Death By Any Other Name. The elegant Lady Montfort and her redoubtable housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, investigate a murder among a group of amateur rose-breeders while the idyllic English summer days count down to the start of WW1.

When Mrs. Jackson receives a visit from a cook who believes she was an indirect witness to murder from a poisoned dish of breakfast kedgeree Lady Montfort promises to do what she can to clear the cook’s name, and contrives an invitation to Hyde Castle, the home of a self-made millionaire, to investigate a murder of concealed passions and secret desires. With the help of the invaluable Jackson Lady Montfort sets about solving the puzzle surrounding the death of the rose society’s most popular member and discovers a villain of audacious cunning among a group of mild-mannered, amateur rose-breeders.

While they investigate, the headlines bring news of the continuing conflict in Prussia following the assassination of the heir to the Austrian empire. As each day brings more threatening news and the very real fear that Britain will be drawn into war Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson must race the clock to solve the mystery before Britain declares on Germany.

Brimming with intrigue, Tessa Arlen’s latest does not disappoint.

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Meet the author
Tessa Arlen is the author of the Lady Montfort mystery series. Her first book Death Of A Dishonorable Gentleman was a 2016 finalist for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. The latest in her series: A Death By Any Other Name releases March 2017. As the daughter of a British diplomat Tessa had lived in or visited her parents in Singapore, Berlin, Bahrain, Beijing, Delhi and Warsaw by the time she was sixteen. She and her family live on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Connect with Tessa at www.tessaarlen.com.

All comments are welcomed.

A Death By Any Other Name is available at retail and online booksellers.

A Day In The Life With Piper Prescott by Gail Oust

curried-awayI am woman, hear me roar. I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan. Song lyrics and catchy slogans have become my philosophy ever since I divorced my skirt-chasing, ambulance-chasing hubby of twenty-some years. Hi! My name’s Piper Prescott, and I’m the proud owner of Spice It Up! in Brandywine Creek, Georgia, a town so small you practically need a magnifying glass to find it on a map.

It isn’t always easy being me. I used every red cent of my divorce settlement to purchase a building dating back to Prohibition. The original building burned to the ground when a still exploded in the basement setting fire to half the town. Folks still bemoan the fact, our town got little press since the event coincided with the St. Valentine’s Day massacre in Chicago. I’ve hit a few bumps in the road since opening day, but I’m happy to report my little shop and I are doing just fine these days, thank you very much.

One of my favorite ways to draw customers into Spice It Up! is by hosting cooking demonstrations. My very first one wasn’t exactly a rip roaring success but it was memorable. No doubt about that. Folks are still talking about how I ended up downing the wine instead of adding it my sauce. But I like to think I’ve learned from my mistakes. Doug Winters, local veterinarian, gourmet cook, and my sorta boyfriend, has agreed to show everyone how to make spicy chicken curry. It’s hard to hold people’s attention, however, when sirens start blaring and emergency vehicles barrel down the street. Was I the only one who noticed the coroner’s van? I wondered.

And that was only the beginning of trouble with a capital “T.” You see, my best friend in the whole wide world, Reba Mae Johnson, had made a perfectly innocent remark about wanting a certain someone dead. Naturally, it didn’t take long for hunky police chief, Wyatt McBride, to get wind of this. When the “certain someone” turns up deader ‘n skunk, the spotlight of suspicion falls on Reba Mae. What kind of BFF would I be, if I didn’t help a friend in need? So, I took out my sleuthing skills—much to McBride’s chagrin—and did everything I could to find the real killer and prove Reba Mae’s innocence.

Curried Away is the fourth book in the Spice Shop mystery series, published by Minotaur Books, December 2016.

Piper Prescott, proprietor of Spice It Up!, has persuaded Doug Winters, the mild-mannered vet she’s been dating, to demonstrate Indian cuisine at her shop. But before Doug’s presentation of classic chicken curry is completed, Ned Feeney, local handyman, bursts in with news of a murder.

Sandy Granger, the director of a local production of Steel Magnolias, was found strangled in the third-floor balcony of the Brandywine Creek Opera House. Sandy, it seems, had not endeared herself to cast or crew. Complaints about her ran the gamut from her management style to her lack of people skills. Everyone connected with the production falls under suspicion, including Piper Prescott’s BFF, Reba Mae Johnson, who made it well known how unhappy she is that she was cut from the cast.

When the spotlight for the dastardly deed shines on Reba Mae, Piper rushes to her friend’s defense. Who among Sandy’s detractors was angry enough to wrap a silk scarf around her neck―and pull tight? Will Piper succeed in solving the case before she becomes the killer’s encore performance? And will she ever learn just how to prepare the perfect curry? As delicious as it is charming, the latest entry in Gail Oust’s mouth-watering Spice Shop Mysteries is sure to delight both old fans and new.

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About the author
Friends often accuse Gail Oust of flunking retirement. While working as a nurse/vascular technologist, Gail penned nine historical romances under the pseudonym Elizabeth Turner for Avon, Pocket, Berkley, and Kensington. It wasn’t until she and her husband retired to South Carolina that inspiration struck for a mystery. Hearing the words, “maybe it’s a dead body,” while golfing with friends fired her imagination for the Bunco Babe Mystery series originally published by NAL. In conjunction with Beyond the Page Publishing, the Bunco Babe series has been republished in digital format as the Kate McCall Mysteries complete with new titles and a whole new look. Gail is currently writing the Spice Shop Mysteries for Minotaur/St. Martin’s. When she isn’t reading, writing, or sleeping, she can usually be found on the golf course or hanging out with friends. Connect with Gail at gailoust.com.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a $20.00 Amazon gift card. The giveaway ends December 21, 2016. Good luck everyone!

A Day in the Life of Miss Euphemia Clatchie by Catriona McPherson

the-reek-of-red-herringsI have been the sole proprietress of The Three Kings Hotel at Gardenstown, in Aberdeenshire, since the passing of my dear father. I have welcomed all manner of people with ready hospitality (although the public bar and lounge bar are closed, as is only fitting for an establishment run by a single lady, and I do not offer meals to non-residents, or luncheon to residents, who are better picnicking out in the fresh air) but I have never seen such peculiar individuals as the brother and sister who arrived yesterday evening.

They say they are brother and sister. I am too nice-minded to question it. Mrs. Gilver has heavy, dark hair and olive skin and Mr. Osborne has tawny hair and freckles. Their rooms are on different floors of the house, of course: Mrs. Gilver in big, front room with the view up the hill and Mr. Osborne in the bachelor’s quarters on the attic floor. If I had any doubts about my guests’ morals I would show them the door, but I keep an ear cocked for burglars (and a fire poker under my bolster) as do all householders in these distressing days, and last night brought no creaks upon the stair.

I was affronted by news of the dog, when it broke upon me. I keep a clean kitchen and have never had an animal in there, beyond what I could trap or poison as soon as I saw signs. Mrs. Gilver seemed at first to be of my mind, assuring me that the beast – “Bunty” is its name – would not be sleeping there. Then – if you please – I learned that she expected the hound to spend the night in her bedroom! In my best bedroom, scratching my linoleum with its claws and shedding those black and white hairs all over the good candlewick bedspread and the nice cushion I have added to one of the chairs, for sumptuous comfort.

Needless to say, I met the thing when I took myself down to the kitchen at dawn this morning to start the kettle for tea and soak the porridge. It had introduced an aroma but nothing worse. I let it out into the yard and looked away.

There was little rest for me after that. I heard a bath running. A bath! On a Tuesday morning, no less. And so I had to stoke up the kitchen range to replace the hot water before it was all frittered away, leaving me with a porridge pot to scour cold, which takes so much extra soap.

Then, after a fine breakfast of not only hot porridge but a piece of toast each too, slathered in quite an ounce of my best butter, what do they come clamouring for but a packet of sandwiches for luncheon! And this after they had sent for extra milk and sugar on account of using it up in the porridge like the Southerners they are. My father ate a pint of salt-water-porridge every day of his life and I am glad he is not here to see what things have come to.

I shut the door on their backs, at the cost of two rounds of meat-paste sandwiches and a flask of tea, at ten o’clock and took myself up to see what disarray they had left in their bedrooms. I have had guests before who are used to a maid and drop their clothes on the floor, their damp towels in armchairs. I must say, Mrs. Gilver is tidier than some. As instructed, she had filled pails with her bathwater instead wasting it, and she slung her flannel and towel over the rail to air. She did not make her bed, but she folded her nightie, such as it was – no more than a wisp of silk. I noticed that she had taken the second blanket from the top shelf of the wardrobe and thrown it on the bed. As if my house is cold! When all the warmth of the sitting-room fire comes up through the floor right to this very room!

And as for him! Mr. Osborne had gone around every blessed chamber on the attic floor, taken every blanket from every cot, and piled them onto his own. The room was as stuffy as any I ever entered. I shuddered to think of him baking away under five blankets, not to mention smoking that nasty pipe, and I opened the dormer wide to the good clean December air, lest we all take ill.

I had been going to make a kidney pie for their suppers, but I could not contemplate what rich fare would do on top of such overheating, so I think I shall stew a flank of mutton and use up the cabbage, which will be fine with a good long boiling.

I do not know what they are doing here in Gardenstown. As a hotelier, I am bound to offer warmth and welcome, but I will not be party to debauchery.

The Reek of Red Herrings is the fifth book in the Dandy Gilver historical mystery series published in the U.S. by Minotaur Books, December 2016. Note: Overall, there are actually 12 books in the Dandy Gilver series that are available in the U.K.

On the rain-drenched, wind-battered Banffshire coast dilapidated mansions cling to cliff tops, and tiny fishing villages perch on ledges that would make a seagull think twice. It’s nowhere for Dandy Gilver, a child of gentle Northamptonshire, to spend Christmas.

But when odd things start to turn up in barrels of fish―with a strong whiff of murder most foul―that’s exactly where she finds herself. Enlisted to investigate, Dandy and her trusty cohort, Alec Osborne, are soon swept up in the fisherfolks’ wedding season as well as the mystery. Between age-old traditions and brand-new horrors, Dandy must think the unthinkable to solve her most baffling case yet in The Reed of Red Herrings.

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About the author
Catriona McPherson is the author of eleven novels in the Dandy Gilver series, featuring Dandy Gilver, her sidekick Alec Osborne, and Bunty the Dalmatian, set in Scotland in the 1920s and 30s. They have won Agatha, Macavity and Lefty awards and been shortlisted for a UK Dagger. The series is currently in development for television, at STV in Scotland. Catriona is a past president of Sisters in Crime and is still as Scottish as a plaid haggis, despite having lived in northern California since 2010. Connect with Catriona at www.catrionamcpherson.com.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of The Reek of Red Herrings. US entries only, please. The giveaway ends December 16, 2016. Good luck everyone!

My Musing ~ The Reek of Red Herrings by Catriona McPherson

The Reek of Red Herrings by Catriona McPherson is the fifth book in the “Dandy Gilver” historical mystery series. Publisher: Minotaur Books, December 13, 2016.  Note: Overall, there are 11 books in the “Dandy Gilver” series published in the U.K.

The Reek of Red HerringsOn the rain-drenched, wave-lashed, wind-battered Banffshire coast, tiny fishing villages perch on ledges that would make a seagull think twice, and crumbly mansions cling to crumblier cliff tops while, out in the bay, the herring drifters brave the storms to catch their silver darlings. It’s nowhere for a child of gentle Northamptonshire to spend Christmas.

But when odd things start to turn up in barrels of fish―with a strong whiff of murder most foul―that’s exactly where Dandy Gilver finds herself. Enlisted to investigate, she and her trusty cohort, Alec Osborne, are soon swept up in the fisherfolks’ wedding season as well as the mystery. Between age-old traditions and brand-new horrors, Dandy must think the unthinkable to solve her grisliest case yet.

I love how this book was set-up to keep me engaged in all facets of this intriguing drama. The multi-plot storyline led me on various deadly encounters within the narrative that was visually descriptive. At times I stumbled over the language, but it added to my understanding of what was going on and by the end, it felt comfortable. The mystery was well-planned with twists and turns that captured the essence of the participants and each move taken by Dandy and Alec took us closer to our quarry. Catriona writes with great aplomb bringing a vivid interpretation of 1920s Scotland that enriched the presentation of this solid whodunit. This was an enjoyable read with a satisfying outcome.

FTC Full Disclosure – I received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from the author.

My Musing ~ Die Like an Eagle by Donna Andrews

Die Like an Eagle by Donna Andrews is the 20th book in the “Meg Langslow” mystery series. Publisher: Minotaur Books, August 2016

Die Like An EagleMeg is Team Mom and Michael is coach of their twin sons’ youth baseball team, the Caerphilly Eagles. Meg tangles with Biff Brown, the petty, vindictive league head. On opening day, Biff’s lookalike brother is found dead in the porta-potty at the ball field. So many people think Biff’s scum that it would be easy to blame him, but he has an alibi–and Meg suspects he may actually have been the intended victim.

With Die Like an Eagle, readers can look forward to another zany Meg Langslow mystery–this one filled with the spirit of America’s pastime and Donna’s eagle eye.

Like Meg Langslow, the blacksmith heroine of her series, Donna Andrews was born and raised in Yorktown, Virginia. She introduced Meg to readers in her Malice Domestic Contest-winning first mystery, Murder with Peacocks, and readers are still laughing. This novel swept up the Agatha, Anthony, Barry, and a Romantic Times award for best first novel, and a Lefty for funniest mystery.

I don’t know how Donna does it, but she always delivers a wonderfully-crafted whodunit with a catchy avian title that factors in the theme of her stories. In this one, the favorite pastime of baseball takes center stage as once again, Meg finds another body and it’s these jovial jaunts that bring humor to how this all plays out in the end. Once Meg and her family get involved, the antics are hilarious and intertwined with the solving of the murder creating a well-balanced drama.

The author did a great job in providing us a field of suspects and it was fun watching it all play out until there was only one person left on base. I love how all the characters play pivotal roles that enhances the telling of this tale where the narrative is superbly done and the dialogue is engagingly snappy. The part that put a big grin on my face was the ending with Meg and her boys. A great read and I look forward to more adventures with Meg and her eccentrically quirky family.