Friday, May 31, 2013

Murder in the Monastery with Lesley Cookman Book Tour: A Day In The Life of Libby and Fran

It’s an ordinary day in Steeple Martin, a quiet village in a corner of Kent, England. It’s almost as quiet in Nethergate, an old fashioned seaside town a few mies away, although this is the beginning of the holiday season and a few early visitors are already on the beach opposite Fran Wolfe’s Coastguard Cottage on Harbour Street. Balzac, her black and white long haired cat, is sitting on the deep windowsill watching them.

In Libby Sarjeant’s garden, under the cherry tree, Sidney the silver tabby is stretched out, pretending not to watch the blackbird hopping from branch to branch above his head. Libby herself is standing in her conservatory staring at the almost finished painting on her easel and wondering, if she could get it finished this morning, if that could be the excuse to drive down to Nethergate in time for lunch with her best friend Fran.

The trouble is, Libby’s bored. There have been no mysteries to solve, no adventures to get involved in, and there’s nothing going on at the Oast Theatre, where she acts and directs.  Ben Wilde’s family own the theatre, and The Manor which sits next to it, and he will be there all day, working in the estate office.  So, she rolls up her sleeves and gets on with it.

Later, she loads the painting, another small watercolour view of Nethergate Bay, into the back of the car, and hopes it’s dry enough. She drives down Allhallow’s Lane in the bright May sunshine and turns into the high street, where she parks outside the Pink Geranium, the restaurant owned by her friends Harry and Peter. Harry, the chef, can be seen inside, and she gets out of the car and taps on the window.

Having booked in for dinner that evening, she waves at Bob the Butcher, standing in the doorway of his shop, gets back in the car and drives off towards Nethergate.

From the top of the hill, she can see the whole of the bay, with the brooding Dragon Island in the middle and the red and white painted lighthouse over to her left on the very tip of the point. Down the hill she steers the little car, past The Swan Inn at the bottom, and turns left into Harbour Street, where she finds a parking space not far from Guy Wolfe’s shop and gallery. She delivers her painting to Guy, then walks the few yards to Coastguard Cottage, where Fran is waiting for her.

At the other end of Harbour Street sits The Sloop Inn, next to the Blue Anchor café and opposite the tiny harbour. The two tourist boats, the Dolphin and the Sparkler bob gently at anchor, while their captains, George and Bert, sat outside the Blue Anchor and Mavis serves them tea.  Libby and Fran sit outside The Sloop and order fresh crab sandwiches and wave at George and Bert. After lunch, they stroll down to Lizzie’s tiny ice cream shop and buy huge cones of freshly made vanilla ice cream, and leaning on the railings overlooking the beach, eat them watching the holiday makers.

Libby accompanies Fran back to Coastguard Cottage, where she says hello to Balzac, then, back to the car and back to Steeple Martin.

The village high street is even quieter than it was this morning. Parking the car opposite Number Seventeen Allhallow’s Lane, Libby sees Sidney watching from the window of the sitting room. As soon as she opens the front door, he shoots out between her legs, off up to the end of the lane and the woods.

A cup of tea at the kitchen table, a quick tidy up, then a pre-dinner drink when Ben arrives.  A little later, a stroll down to The Pink Geranium, where Guy and Fran are already waiting for them, sitting on the sofa in the window, a bottle of red wine on the table before them. Libby’s son Adam, who helps out in the restaurant occasionally, somes forward in his long white waiter’s apron and gives Libby a kiss on the cheek and the menu. Harry waves from the kitchen, and Peter strolls in to join them.

An ordinary day in Steeple Martin and Nethergate. But tomorrow – who knows?

Murder in the Monastery - Cover
About Murder in the Monastery:
The eleventh book in the Libby Sarjeant series of British murder mysteries which features a retired actress as the female sleuth and are based in the picturesque village of Steeple Martin.

Libby Sarjeant is invited to look into the provenance of a jewelled Anglo-Saxon reliquary which has appeared on a website. The nuns at St Eldreda’s Abbey are curious, as it apparently contains a relic of St Eldreda herself. Libby’s friend Peter obtains permission to mount a play based on St Eldreda’s story in the ruins of the original monastery called, naturally, Murder In The Monastery. And then, inevitably, a real body is discovered, and Libby and her friend Fran find out that this is not the first.

Lesley Cookman - Author Photo
About Lesley Cookman:
Lesley started writing almost as soon as she could read, and filled many Woolworth’s exercise books with pony stories until she was old enough to go out with boys. Since she’s been grown up, following a varied career as a model, air stewardess and disc jockey, she’s written short fiction and features for a variety of magazines, achieved an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Wales, taught writing for both Kent Adult Education and the WEA and edited the first Sexy Shorts collection of short stories from Accent Press in aid of the Breast Cancer Campaign. The Libby Sarjeant series is published by Accent Press, who also publish her book, How to Write a Pantomime, with a foreword by Roy Hudd. Lesley is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers’ Association. Links to their sites are listed below.
Lesley’s pantomimes are published by Jasper Publishing.

Purchase from Amazon.
Connect with Lesley Cookman: Website | Twitter | Facebook

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Review: Death and the Courtesan by Pamela Christie

Currently Reading
Blurb: Pamela Christie's sparkling historical mystery goes beyond the modest drawing rooms of Regency London in the company of the city's most esteemed and scandalous courtesan. . .

Since the age of sixteen, Arabella Beaumont has been happily employed as a highly paid woman of pleasure. True, respectable ladies of the ton would never deign to call at Lustings, her delightful home. Then again, Arabella has no desire to make dreary small talk and sip tea when she could be enjoying the company of amusing, intelligent, and extremely generous gentlemen.

But while Arabella's admirers are legion, she also has enemies. A paper knife stolen during one of her salons was discovered near the body of a former rival. Arabella was entertaining her wealthy benefactor on the night of the murder, but the engaged duke can't provide the alibi she desperately needs. It falls to Arabella and her resourceful sister, Belinda, to clear her good--or at least innocent--name. Utilizing all the talents in her arsenal, the irrepressible Miss Beaumont will endeavor to catch the real culprit, before the hangman catches up to her. . .

My Review: If you love mysteries and Regency romance, have I got a book for you!!! Arabella Beaumont is one of the wittiest, spunkiest amateur sleuths I've encountered in quite some time.

In the opening scene our heroine, a highly paid courtesan, is enjoying a leisurely breakfast in bed, planning an upcoming trip to Bath where she hopes to catch a glimpse of Jane Austen, when she discovers shocking news in the paper. A former friend and rival, Euphemia Ramsey, has been found murdered with Arabella's monogrammed letter opener! (The insignificant item that caused the estrangement between Arabella and Euphemia, a ruby glass elephant, ends up playing a pivotal role in the outcome of the story.) Death by hanging is most certainly in Arabella's future unless she can track down the real killer, and thanks to her protector and sister/fellow courtesan Belinda, she's given a month to do just that. When a famous courtesan turns to the man who wants her hand in marriage for help, the Rector of Effing ("That Effing church! Those Effing choirboys!"), Regency London just may never be the same again.

All I could think while reading this book was what a wonderful PBS British mystery series it would make. I can hardly wait to see what deliciously naughty adventures await Arabella in the next book!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher with the request for a review.

Tara Thursday: I'm a Lucky Girl

Hey everybody, it's Tara! I have an exciting announcement to make...starting today Thursdays will be all about my favorite topic - ME!!! And why shouldn't I have my own column??? I am the tortie on the blog header, after all. What I want to know is what took Mommy so long to ask me!

But I can't complain too much, I have it pretty good around here. As a matter of fact today I want to talk about how lucky I am. That might sound kind of strange coming from a kitty with as many medical issues as I have, but the truth is, if Mommy hadn't adopted me 6 years ago I probably wouldn't be here today. She loves me so much and makes sure I get everything I need. I've been diabetic and on insulin for two years now; since August of last year I have been on 4 different medicines for my heart problems; and I take a powder to prevent those awful urinary tract infections that hurt so much and an immunity-boosting supplement to slow the progress of whatever is growing on my spleen.

Look at my medicine box...all of this for one little kitty...

I really think a guardian angel was looking out for me the day Mommy saw me at the shelter and fell in love with me at first sight. Many people would have given up on me long ago. Nine months ago we never thought we would still be together today; the doctors are even amazed by me.

I call it the power of love.

Note from Mommy: I'm the lucky one.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Q&A with Pamela Christie, author of DEATH AND THE COURTESAN

(June 2013 / Kensington / Trade Paperback Original / ISBN: 978-0-7582-8640-6) 

What was the biggest challenge you faced while writing DEATH AND THE COURTESAN? 
Solving the mystery. Because ireal life, I like to leave the mysteries unsolved. Once I was in a pet store comparing the prices on chicken feed blends while a Mynah bird in a cage on my left appeared to be studying me with great interest. Suddenly it said, “Hi, Pam!” I couldn’t believe I’d heard that. So I pretended that I hadn’t. But the Mynah stuck its beak through the bars and said, “HI, PAM!” again, slowly and loudly, so I that couldn’t possibly ignore it. My roommate heard it on the other side of the store. She came over, with her eyes the size of saucers 
“Did you hear what that bird said?” she asked.  
“Oh, God. You heard it, too? I thought I was merely having a psychotic break.””  
“What are you going to do?” she demanded. 
“What do you mean?”  
“Well, it’s pretty agitated. I think you need to answer it, don’t you?”  
The Mynah was bobbing up and down on it’s perch, staring at me and flapping its wings. “Hi,” I muttered, feeling like an idiot. It stopped bobbing and cocked its head to one side.  
“So,” it said, conversationally. “How ya been?”  
Come on, Margie,” I cried, grabbing my roommate“We’re getting out of here!”  
And as we ran for the door the bird called after us, “THAT’S NOT VERY NICE!”  
Was I scared? Yes, indeed, but it’s not what you think. I was afraid that if I’d stayed to ask the owner about it, I’d have received some rational explanation, like “Oh, yeah. My wife’s name is Pam.” Of course, there might have been an even bigger mystery. He could have said, “I know. That bird’s uncanny! Whoever comes in here, total strangers, whatever, he instinctively knows their name.” But odds were that the answer was much more prosaic 
And, as I’ve said, I like to preserve a little mystery. 

Why do you write about England?  
Because I don’t live there. When I lived in Africa I wrote about Hollywood. When I moved back to LA I wrote about Africa. In Alexandria, Virginia, everything reminded me of Seattle. Now I’m in Seattle and I write about England. 

What’s the best writing advice you ever got?  
In the back of my mind, whenever I write I hear my metaphysical literature professor, saying –  and you have to imagine this with an East Indian accent –  “I cannot tell you what literature is. But I can tell you what it is for. The dual purpose of literature is to teach and delight.” Professor L. was a brilliant man. I never got to know him personally, but I was great friends with another professor, who used to drink with him on a regular basis. They must have made an interesting couple: he was quite a small man, and she was this big, horsey woman. One night, she told me, when he was quite sloshed, he turned to her and slurred: “Tell mee jokes...vith a sexual connotation.” Then he slid from his bar stool to the floor, and Anne carried him to the car in her arms, looking, I imagine, like the Mortimer Snerd of Calcutta. 

How do you stimulate your imagination?  
I’m visual, so looking at pictures of the places I’m writing about really helps to center my prose. I also like to find faces that look the way I picture my characters. 

Describe one perfect moment in your life.  
Following a personal tragedy in the 1980’s, I wanted the comfort of my family around me and went home to California. My mother was absolutely wonderful. All I wanted at the time was to walk and walk and walk in my favorite public gardens. We went to the Huntington and the Arboretum, and on New Year’s Day, we went to Descanso. The gate to the instructional center, which is usually locked, was wide open. I used to take classes there as a child: vegetable gardening, pond life, terrarium construction. There was a secret pond on the property that I had always loved and had not seen in over 20 years, owing to the locked gate. You have to understand how important this place is to me: whenever I’m stressed out, or unable to fall asleep, I picture myself on that pond, lying in a canoe, endlessly drifting through the flocks of water birds and gazing up at the clouds. And on this day, when I needed it most, there was suddenly access to this lost world. As Mom and I made our way down the pond, you probably won’t believe this, but a sunbeam broke through the cloud cover and illuminated two chairs, placed right at the water’s edge! We sat on them, filled with awe, as more sunbeams broke through, lighting up the green water to a depth of several feet. And suspended there, we saw 7 turtles – all different kinds and sizes, hanging motionless, with their necks stretched out underwater in the golden light.  

What is your earliest memory? 
When I was a toddler my parents both worked, and I spent my days at the home of my Mexican Babysitter and her husband. They had a wonderful house, with a big parrot in a cage on the front porch, and strings of peppers and garlic bulbs. Every room painted a different color. I loved it there, and I adored Mimi and Jose, but every day after lunch, I was placed in a crib in the blue bedroom to take my nap. And on the nightstand was a Dia de Los Muertos figure, a skeleton, draped in blue like the Virgin Mary. At the bottom of the eye sockets (can this even be right?) there were two red light bulbs, that shone with palpable evil in the darkened room. I would scream and scream when they left me alone with this thing, but I didn’t yet know how to say “Take that away!” Or even “I’m scared!” The Cottas just assumed I was resistant to napping. So they let me scream myself unconscious. And this went on, every week, 5 days a week, for, I don’t know...6 months? It kind of fascinates me now...I’m told I was only 1 ½ when this happened. Why would a baby be frightened of a skeleton? Babies don’t know about death. Do they? 

What sort of people do you find the most difficult to bear?  
People who mess up the balance of life by forbidding all negativity. You have to have both: good & evil, politeness and rudeness. If everything was hearts and flowers all the time, we wouldn’t have any good stories.  

What are you working on now?  
Volume 3 of 10 in the Arabella Beaumont mystery series. In this one, the hare-brained Constance has unwittingly provided pornographic pleasure to paying voyeurs with Lady Ribbonhat’s footman. And because she conducted her affair at The Palais de Beautay (‘So much more than a beauty salon!’) the evil Madame Zhenay is blackmailing her. Arabella would dearly love to leave Constance to her fate, but she will be out £46,000 if she does, and her new courtesan club has to be paid for!  

Visit Pamela Christie online at: 

Pamela Christie lives in Seattle and teaches English.  


Arabella Beaumont, courtesan parfait, is widely held by the bucks of Regency London to be the most desirable creature on two legs...or off them. She lives well and does as she pleases –  an altogether agreeable arrangement – until her rival is discovered in a pool of gore, stabbed with Arabella’s monogrammed paper knife!  
Though she has a month to discover the real murderer, Arabella is almost certainly going to swing for this, because it’s riot season, and the prince regent feels that a celebrity execution would be just the thing to mollify those mischievous mobs!  
Will she triumph, despite the obstacles? There seems to be quite a lot of them: adverse publicity; the vindictive Lady Ribbonhat; a wicked little nephew, and Arabella’s useless friend, Constance, who advises her to wear men’s trousers to her hanging so the gawkers won’t be able to look up her dress for free. Well, at least it was good while it lasted.