A Writers Writer – Nicola Upson’s Mystery Series – Featuring Josephine Tey

It has been some time since I wrote about the author, Nicola Upson’s series of mystery novels. They feature Josephine Tey, (25 July 1896 – 13 Feb. 1952) a Britain’s golden age of crime writing author.  I invite you to take a moment to read the earlier post.

I have finished yet another in this well written and researched series: London Rain. Josephine Tey returns in this sixth installment of Nicola Upson’s series that unfolds in 1930s London as England prepares to crown a new king in prewar England. As an avid reader of the series, I feel Josephine Tey has no better friend than the author, Nicola Upson, who portrays Tey in a respectful, thoughtful manner. She handles Tey’s private life, which was guarded carefully, more openly in the series but through the eyes and heart of a soul mate.

If you are an addicted cozy and classical mystery reader as I am, you will enjoy further information about Josephine Tey to enhance your reading. Tey’s mystery novels are classics of their kind, deftly constructed with strong characterization and a meticulous prose style. Six of the novels feature as their main character the slightly built, dapper Inspector Alan Grant, a gentleman police officer with independent means. Inspector Grant is one of the first Scotland Yard detectives to be introduced to the mystery writing genre, making his debut in 1929 in The Daughter of Time (1951).

Playing a role in the setting of the series is The Cowdray Club at 20 Cavendish Square, London – a professional Women’s Club of which Josephine Tey was a member. She also visited the Costume and Theatre Design Group, known as ‘The Motleys’ at their studio workshop off St. Martin’s Lane where she encountered many members of the acting profession and where characters in the novels abide.  I highly recommend this well-written series. Rather than saying, it was raining in Piccadilly, I love this: “The evening had settled into a half-hearted drizzle, and the roar of daytime Piccadilly died a little as the centre of the West End made its transition from a life of work to a life of pleasure.”

Josephine Tey was a pseudonym used by Elizabeth MacKintosh, a Scottish author best known for her mystery novels. She also wrote as Gordon Daviot, under which name she wrote plays, many with biblical or historical themes.



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A Writers Writer – Alan Bradley -The Flavia De Luce Series

“I’d been spending so much time sitting halfway down the stairs that I was beginning to feel like Christopher Robin”   Flavia from I’m Half Sick of Shadows

Flavia De Luce  lives in a dilapidated old mansion in the English countryside with two older sisters who are rarely nice to her and with a distant father who spends his days immersed in his stamp collection. Flavia, an eleven year old brilliant, motherless, chemistry-obsessed, poison-loving young girl is at the heart of these books and in each one,  she solves a murder. She also comes closer to understanding the larger mystery in her life: who her mother, Harriet, really was.

Bradley’s first Flavia book was published when he was 70, and it was the first novel he ever wrote and was my introduction to one of my new favorite authors and a cast of characters I throughly enjoy and you will too. Bradley’s story is a writers fantasy come true.  In early 2007, Bradley entered the Dagger contest by submitting fifteen pages about a girl now named Flavia de Luce. These pages, which took only a few days to write and several weeks of polishing, became the basis of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Bradley set the book in England despite having never been thee. In June 2007, two judges from the contest contacted Bradley’s agent in Canada to express interest in publishing the proposed book; they also inadvertently informed him that Bradley was the winner of the competition. A bidding war ensued, and on June 27, 2007, Bradley sold Orion the rights for three books in Britain. After the award ceremony, Bradly spent seven months turning the submitted fifteen pages into a full-length novel. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie was published in the UK in January 2009 and in Canada in February 2009.

I have finished (out of order) my second book of the series and find Bradley’s writing, his descriptions, and the irresistible, 1st person voice of this young girl, a remarkable addition to my reading life. This is not a precocious child that is a pain in the…….but a interesting child that is perceptive beyond her years. No giving away of the mysteries, but in cozy-fashion the stories do not dwell on the bloody crime, but on the cast of possible suspects. I highly recommend this setting filled with good humor and exceptionally  well written mysteries. Check with Amazon who was running a great price the last time I looked on both  books mentioned here. ENJOY!

Order of the Series

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag
A Red Herring Without Mustard  
I Am Half-Sick of Shadows
Speaking From Among the Bones
The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches
The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse
As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust
Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d
A Grave’s a Fine and Private Place


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Giving Books for Christmas 2017 – Part 2

I have read three of author Beatriz William’s books that feature the daughters of the Schuyler family. In each of these novels, one of the sisters comes forth as the main character and moves the tale of this complex family along. The supporting cast in each of the books is equally well drawn. I love this author. In fact, when a quotation on the back cover of The Secret Life of Violet Grant suggests this novel is a good beach book, I was highly offended believing that a beach read is supposed to be frivolous.  Ms. William’s writing is much more than a beach book suggests; she is a fine writer who is a consummate story-teller providing historical details that are well researched and enrich each book.

“The Secret Life of Violet Grant,” begins in 1964 with college graduate Vivian Schuyler working to become a writer at a popular magazine. One day she receives a battered suitcase that belonged to her Great Aunt Violet Grant who disappeared in Germany in 1914 and was thought to have killed her husband and ran off with her lover. Or did she? Need I say more to peak your curiosity?

Along The Infinite Sea: In the autumn of 1966, Pepper Schuyler’s needs to take care of herself and the baby she carries—the result of an affair with a married, legendary politician. She discovers a rare vintage Mercedes and is involved with its restoration where she sells it at auction. The car’s new owner, Annabelle Dommerich, has her own secrets: a Nazi husband, a Jewish lover, a flight from Europe, and a love so profound it transcends decades. As the many threads of Annabelle’s life before the Second World War stretch out to entangle Pepper in 1960s America, and the father of her unborn baby tracks her down to a remote town in coastal Georgia, the two women must come together to face down the shadows of their complicated pasts.

In “Little Tiny Thing,” “Tiny” Schuyler is married to a politician on the rise. She spends the summer of 1966 at her husband Frank’s family summer compound with her mother-in-law, who rules the roost, a father-in-law who is determined that his son will be president, and various other relatives. Two weeks before Tiny marries Frank, she meets a man at a diner and, after a violent holdup takes place, she and this mystery man became more than friends.

Beatrix Williams has created a world in which the Schuyler family connects us with a past when women were expected to marry, raise a family, and support a husband’s career. Here is what happens to a few of these women who have a problem with that script.






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Giving Books for Christmas 2017 – Part 1

It’s the time of the year when we love to give books and I have some I want to recommend to you for giving, but first things first…..I have finished a sequel to my first novel, Greening of a Heart, which had good reviews and many book club appearances. The new book will be published in 2018. I hope you will read Greening yourself, and give it to others for Christmas so they are introduced to some of the characters who come forth in the new book. Let me read to you from the beginning of the first chapter to give you a feel for the story that follows.

Here is the cover of the book and the blurb about it.

When the Bishop insists that Martin Winchester take a sabbatical from his parish to restore his depleted energy and regain his spiritual focus, his wife Hannah is left on her own for the first time in years. Her new found freedom gives her an opportunity to reflect on her life. Retreating into the newly-renovated vicarage garden in the Cotswold’s village of Burford, Hannah not only wants to escape the demands of her role as the vicar’s wife but to reinvent herself. Lives begin to change after Henry Bernard arrives in Burford to solve a family mystery. Not only Henry, but a young artist, an electrician and his entrepreneur wife, the new owners of the Bay Tree Inn, and a dying spinster, all embark with Hannah on an unforgettable summer as their lives intertwine in unforeseen ways. If you like the novels of Rosamunde Pilcher (The Shell Seekers, September) you will enjoy Greening of a Heart.

Buy Greening of a Heart through Amazon, NOOK, or the Apple iTunes Store.

Don’t have an e-reader? You can read the book on your computer. Click on highlighted text to download a free Kindle application for your PC or Mac.


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Seeing the New Movie…Murder on the Orient Express

Click Here to watch a brief trailer for the movie, Murder on the Orient Express

Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi 


I love a good movie, don’t you? I was delighted that the new Agatha Christie movie was making an appearance in our Rocky Mount, NC movie theater. Murder on the Orient Express has a great cast, is beautifully filmed, but I am conflicted when writing about the overall impression of the movie. I wouldn’t want you to miss it, but I wonder if you won’t agree that Kenneth Branagh leaves a lot to be desired as Poirot and that this brilliant cast comes off flat and passionless.  It’s a great mystery, and you may remember begins with Hercule Poirot arriving at the Tokatlain Hotel after catching the Taurus Express from Aleppo in Syria traveling to Istanbul. Once there, Poirot receives a telegram prompting him to return to London. He instructs the concierge to book a first-class compartment on the Simplon-Orient Express leaving that night. The train is fully booked, and Poirot is able to secure a second-class berth with the intervention of his friend M. Bouc, a fellow Belgian who is a director of the train line.  Here then is the setting for a murder with all the passengers as suspects, and a crime to be solved.  See the movie and let me know what you think.

With the new movie release, let us tip our hat to Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, Lady Mallowan, (15 September 1890 – 12 January 1976,) English crime novelist, short story writer, and playwright.  She is best known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections, particularly those revolving around her fictional detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Murder on the Orient Express was published in 1934.


Book Jackets for this famous mystery








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Judging a Book by its Cover – Andrew Davidson – Artist and Illustrator

Andrew Davidson

I have already written about Andrew Davidson in an earlier post. I hope you will take a moment and Click Here to read it. Because I finished another in the Jacqueline Winspear, Maise Dobbs Series,  A Dangerous Place, which is set in Gibraltar with a civil war taking place in Spain, I wanted to mention the series and illustrator, Andrew Davidson once again. The book covers of Andrew Davidson drew me to  Maise Dobbs, an interesting historical mystery series. I highly recommend these novels to you. I prefer to start at the beginning of any series, and in this case, the times, characters and settings change and build upon themselves.

I left a comment on Jacqueline Winspear’s Goodreads author page asking her about Andrew Davidson. This is what she wrote back, which I appreciated. I hope you share my interest in Book Jackets and the artists who introduce us to authors and their stories.

Jacqueline Winspear Thank you for this question – I love Andrew’s work, for he is both an artist and a craftsman. Those covers are actually wood engravings. Andrew was first commissioned by Penguin for the paperback covers of MAISIE DOBBS and BIRDS OF A FEATHER. When I moved publisher, everyone loved the covers so much, his work became a feature of each book. It was fairly early on that I was asked to come up with some image suggestions for one of the books – I think it was PARDONABLE LIES, so Andrew and I emailed back and forth, with me sending photographs etc (he always reads the manuscript too), and since that time he has always managed to depict a cover in almost exactly the way I see it. I am extremely fortunate that my publisher, Harper Collins, encourages this collaboration, as writers often have no say regarding cover art at all. There is another aspect to the work, and that is the huge contribution of the Creative Director, who takes Andrew’s image and then pulls it all together with the colors chosen for title and text, and the layout. Archie Ferguson is the invaluable linchpin – he’s the overall “designer” of the covers. Then they go to various people within the company for comment – but there are very rarely changes.



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A Writers Writer….Author Tom Rachman -The Imperfectionists

I am never without a book, I read every day, though more often than not propped up in bed after 11:00 PM. A great book can last until two in the morning. Recently, I needed a quote for the other blog I write, Mainstreetrockymount.com – a two part series about The Rocky Mount Telegram newspaper. Some research led me to a quote I liked, but who was Tom Rachman and what was this novel, The Imperfectionists? I certainly didn’t want to quote someone who turned out to be an embarrassment to my literary sensibilities. The blurb was intriguing, so much so that I bought the book…free shipping Amazon Prime!

Upon arrival, it had to wait while I finished a Peter Robinson mystery, one of his many that always deliver. Robinson can teach a writer a thing or two about describing a character as they arrive on the scene. Never borrowing a stereotype, like she had nice brown eyes, he writes fresh descriptions that tell you something up front about the character you are going to spend time with. Coming to the end of Robinson, I took up with Tom Rachman who was born in London and raised in Vancouver. He graduated from the Columbia School of Journalism and has been a foreign correspondent for the AP, stationed in Rome and worked as an editor at the International Herald Tribune in Paris. He lives in Rome. And can he write…..

The Imperfectionists (2010) is Rachman’s debut novel that follows the private lives of the reporters, editors, and executives of an international English-language newspaper in Rome as they struggle to keep it and themselves going. Each chapter reads like a short story as the characters are brought forward. Fifty years and many changes later, the paper founded by a millionaire from Atlanta resides in a dingy office with stains on the carpet. Nothing about the editor, the lazy obituary writer, the financial officer, a freelance writer that makes up news in order to get noticed, disappoint for they are but a few of the compelling, interesting, funny, pathetic, brilliant people I wouldn’t have missed for the world. I can’t say enough positive things about this story, this writer, this experience of entering Rachman’s world of journalism fictionalized by an author with credentials that make this a delightful, authentic read. I’ll leave you with a quote that particularly amused me.

“Nigel, an attorney-at-rest since they left D.C. more than two years earlier, thrives on this life: reading nonsense on the Internet, buying high-end groceries, decrying the Bush administration at dinner, wearing his role of househusband as a badge of progressive politics. By this hour, he’s normally fulminating: that the CIA invented crack cocaine; that Cheney is a war criminal; that the September 11 attacks were conceived by agents of Big Oil. (He talks a lot of shit about politics. She has to smack him down intellectually once a week or he becomes unbearable.) This evening, however, Nigel is restrained, “Good day?” he asks.”     I can’t resist adding one more quote…

“For many, especially those in remote locales, the paper is their only link to the greater world, to the big cities they left, or the big cities they have never seen, only built in their minds. The readers constitute a sort of fellowship that never meets, united by loved and loathed bylines, by screwed-up photo captions, by the glorious corrections box.”



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The Launch of a New Blog – The Best I’ve Seen in a Long Time

I have lost track of how many blogs I have looked at over the years, especially during the month of April every year for the AtoZ Blog Challenge; a thousand blogs would be a conservative guess. In order to return to a blog, I have a high standard. The presentation must be easily readable, uncluttered, an attractive presentation, content well written, posts not to long and interesting! I highly recommend this beautifully presented blog with a young professional woman approach to life, health, clothes, travel. I hope you will share this with the women in your life who will be interested. This is a brand new launch as well presented as I have seen. It is obvious that first class creativity has gone into creating this blog. A sure winner in the blogging world.


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Never Under Estimate a Trip to the Library To Make Your Day – Donna Leon’s latest – Earthly Remains

I arrived at the Braswell Public Library in Rocky Mount, NC to do some research on the ZB Bullock family and their Renaissance Revival home built in 1927. If you love architecture like I do you might enjoy reading this post.  When I was ready to leave, I thought to check the new releases that are conveniently shelved near the entrance to the library. There to my delight were TWO new books on my Want to Read List: Deborah Crombie’s, Garden of Lamentations and  Donna Leon’s Earthly Remains, the twenty-sixth novel in this fabulous mystery series set in and around Venice. I felt like I’d won some lottery money with this good fortune. I left the library, books in hand, plus my research notes with a giddy-up in my step. (Here is the link for the Review of the Crombie book.)

Over time I have come to consider the intelligent and capable Police Commissioner, Guido Brunetti as one of my most interesting and likable friends who waits for me on the pages of Leon’s books. Brunetti and the ensemble of characters never fail to deliver a satisfying mystery that I find addictive.  Each case reveals another facet of Venetian life. Brunetti reports to a self-serving Vice-Questore Patta, while inspector Vianello is at his side helping to solve the crimes. There is the all-knowing and well-connected Signorina Elettra, Patta’s secretary, who provides endless information she should or should not be looking into on her computer.



Earthly Remains is another well-written mystery.  During an interrogation of an entitled, man suspected of giving drugs to a young girl who then died, Brunetti acts rashly, in trying to protect Vianello who is about to act out in anger against the man under interrogation. In the fallout, Brunetti realizes that he needs must get away from the problems of his work.

When Brunetti is granted leave from the Questura, his wife, Paola, suggests he stay at the villa of a relative on Sant’Erasmo, one of the largest islands in the laguna. There he intends to pass his time rowing and reading Pliny’s Natural History. The recuperative stay goes according to plan until Davide Casati, the caretaker of the house on Sant’Erasmo, goes missing following a sudden storm. Brunetti feels compelled to investigate and understand what happened to the man who had become his friend. I’ll leave it up to you to discover the rest of the story.

More information about Donna Leon and police commissioner Brunetti

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Garden of Lamentations – The Newest Deborah Crombie Mystery

My interest was peaked the moment I discovered that one of Notting Hill’s private gardens was part of the setting in London for Deborah Crombie’s latest 2017 book. Having already done some research myself on London’s Garden Squares for the latest novel of my own, I was doubly interested in how Crombie used the garden in the story. She never fails to deliver a well-written mystery with an on-going cast of characters that you care about. As usual, I had no idea who “done it” until all was revealed in Garden of Lamentations. Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James are drawn into separate investigations that will keep you up reading later than you intended. As avid readers, we really never mind when good writing and a setting we can’t get enough of takes over our lives for a few days. This latest book will not fail your expectations of a Crombie mystery.

FYI: I thought you might like the benefit of my research to add to your enjoyment of this read. Garden Squares have long been a feature of London. A few, such as Trafalgar Square, were built as public open spaces, like the squares found in many cities. Most, however, were originally built as private communal gardens for use by the inhabitants of the surrounding houses. This type of space is most prevalent in central London, but squares are also found in the suburbs. Some of these gardens are now open to the public, while others, for example around Notting Hill, are still fenced and private. In this latest mystery, Cornwell Gardens in Notting Hill is private and should limit the list of suspects.

The making of residential squares fell into decline in the early twentieth century, one of the last notable such squares having been designed by Edwin Lutyens for the suburb Hampstead Garden. Numerous squares were in danger of being used as building sites. This was banned by the London Squares Act of 1931. Since 1998, numerous squares and other private gardens have been open to the paying public due to an initiative by Caroline Aldiss. This is called the “London open Garden Square Weekend” and takes place on the second weekend in June. The event is organized by the London Parks and Garden Trust and made possible by many volunteers.

This year you can explore 230 private, secret and little-known gardens across 27 London boroughs over one special weekend. Gardens range from the historic and traditional to the new and experimental and include private gardens, roof gardens, community allotments, gardens belonging to historic buildings, institutions, cafés, schools and shops. One ticket gives access to numerous gardens across the weekend. Read this new mystery, and imagine meeting me at the Open Garden Square Event in June. I WISH!

Open Garden Squares Weekend is on 17-18 June 2017.

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A Writers Writer – Jeffrey Archer – The Clifton Chronicles


“If you make a deal with a fool, don’t be surprised when they act foolishly.” – Jeffrey Archer, Only Time Will Tell

“The worst moment of any campaign is waiting for the sun to rise on the morning of the battle”
― Jeffrey Archer, Only Time Will Tell



In a twenty-four hour time period, I started and finished Jeffrey Archer’s first book in the Clifton Chronicles Only Time Will Tell. Once I started, I couldn’t put it down, It didn’t hurt that I was tucked up in bed trying to get over the ‘syndrome’ that Lewis Grizzard named….Elvis Presley is Dead, and I’m Not Feeling So Good Myself.  As a reader, you know how great it is to find an author like Archer who writes books for the likes of me. Well controlled, I enjoy a story with many characters that I quickly came to care about, with changing points of view, additional historical background, and of course, great writing. This is a family saga that begins with Harry Clifton as a young boy, surrounded by a group of adults together with a mother, who is willing to sacrifice for her bright son, they see that he receives a proper English education. If your reaction is…nothing original here, keep reading!

It was what I found on Wikipedia about the author, Jeffrey Howard Archer, that was like discovering the Archer Chronicles. I don’t want to give the book away or tell too much about the questionable life of Jeffrey Archer, but it will make you shake your head. Here are some bullet points. +Member of Parliament (1969–1974), but did not seek re-election after a financial scandal that left him almost bankrupt. +After a revival of his fortunes from the royalties of his best-selling novels, he became deputy chairman of the Conservative Party (1985–1986) before resigning after another scandal, which would lead to the end of his career in elected office. + He was made a life peer in 1992. +His political career ended with his conviction and subsequent imprisonment (2001–2003) for perjury and perverting the course of justice, which followed his second resignation. These are only a few of the misdeeds during Archer’s life, yet, his writing career touts 330 million copies sold worldwide….give or take.

There was one piece of information on Wikipedia that I found amazing because it involved Rupert Brooke, who is important to me. In 1979 the Archers (who don’t exactly have a traditional marriage)  purchased the Old Vicarage, Grantchester, a house associated with the poet Rupert Brooke.  (“There is no wind and no sun, only a sort of warm haze, and through it the mingled country sounds of a bee, a mowing machine, a mill and a sparrow. Peace! -Rupert Brooke) Every summer, they host a lavish garden party in the grounds of the Old Vicarage to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Archer’s life may be stranger than fiction, but it has informed a remarkable literary career.

Clifton Chronicles
• Only Time Will Tell (2011)
• The Sins of the Father (2012)
• Best Kept Secret (2013)
• Be Careful What You Wish For (2014)
• Mightier Than the Sword (2015)
• Cometh The Hour (2016)
• This Was a Man (2016)

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Way Beyond Your Childhood Paper Dolls Clothes

When I was a little girl, I loved to play with paper dolls. With a blunt pair of scissors, I would set about cutting the clothes from the page in the paper doll book, occasionally cutting off a tab that helped hold the clothes on the doll. In thinking back, it was a harmless way to learn from a mistake. There is a new generation of paper craft people playing paper doll clothes in a creative way. They make beautiful dresses out of lovely papers, add embellishments, and place them on cards or tags, and other creative projects.

7a6099f4d746e88d17fc88435f92ba1fThere is another reason I am enamored with these beautiful miniature creations. I have imagined an alternative career choice for a darling granddaughter, Miss Kelsey M. When she was growing up, she used to design clothes on a sketch pad. She has always had an eye for fashion experimenting with her own wardrobe from an early age. When I saw these amazing little jewels, I knew Kelsey M. could work her magic with  this paper craft.  I’m sharing Pinterest images (Artists unknown) to prove that paper dolls have come a long way since I was using blunt scissors.

This post is dedicated to Miss Kelsey M.















Take a minute and check out this video-How to Make an Origami Dress   

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