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Murder Among Friends

Our Book Discussion on: "A Deadly Measure of Brimstone" by Catriona McPherson

Author Catriona McPherson with "A Deadly Measure of Brimstone" cover

Murder Among Friends (MAF) met in our Group Study Room this month and successfully inaugurated Skyping with an author there! And what a fun session it was! Author Catriona McPherson delighted members with her droll sense of humor, animated presence and lovely Scottish accent. The group diverged a bit this month (due to lack of adequate copies of her backlist—a royal shame) we had read the current book in her Dandy Gilver series, A Deadly Measure of Brimstone. Since we normally start with the first book in a mystery series by an author, Catriona went the extra mile for us and supplied a quick character study of the main characters featured throughout the series. (Patti supplemented this list with a sheet specifically about characters just in this book. Both sheets are up under the blog page called Cast of Characters: for Catriona McPherson’s bookA Deadly Measure of Brimstone”.)

The group complimented Catriona on her spot-on ear for the slang and self-expression of this era that characters demonstrate and how it really enhanced the sense of being in that time frame. We also talked about the time frame itself: the “Period between the Wars”. Catriona related how hard the First World War had hit the UK and how they were justifiably reluctant to get into another war of that scale. AS a result there’s a kind of nostalgic lull to the time between the wars, as well as a growing sense of tension. Catriona told us that she’s very aware that as time is going by in the series, the inevitability of the Second Word War looms – and she’s very reluctant to have Donald and Teddy facing enlistment. We also talked about it being a valid concern that the tone of the series would also need to change, and would that be something we’d want to see in the series? ( I think we ended up more or less saying that we’d follow Catriona and Dandy anywhere!)

Catriona also shared details about how she goes about researching the stories, and had been wanting to do a story set in a hospital and also one using a hotel. By using the hydro spa, she got to do both in one setting. She mentioned researching Smedley’s Hydro among other sources. Click here to go to an article Smedley’s Hydro (circa 1920). She also believes that all the treatments mentioned in the story were available at hydros during this time. We all agreed with Catriona that taking a mud bath in mud that had just been used by someone else would be almost as distasteful as a sulfur mud-bath in the contraption Mrs. Addie used. We let Catriona know that while Skyping with her, we were also toasting Mrs. Addie, Dandy and herself with some fudge – doubling for Scottish tablet, which was a key clue for Dandy and Alec in solving the case. Click here to go to a genuine Scottish recipe for tablet.

In the area of all things Scottish, Catriona also shared with us the deep fears and strict faith that many small sea towns in Scotland share. She told us how the function of the best man and (best) maid of honor were to confuse the devil so he couldn’t find the bride. They also take it a step further and have a worst man and a worst woman to extend their chances of keeping the bride. Another such tradition from that area is to douse a bride in fish parts and other noxious things to drive away the devil from stealing the bride. Can you imagine American bridezilla’s putting up with that?!

Stephanie got a surprise when Catriona asked specifically if she was in the room. Catriona went on to say how impressed she was that Stephanie had undertaken reading all 9 other Dandy books before reading our discussion book (the 10th in the series). Stephanie told Catriona that she absolutely loves the series and is stunned how each book just gets better and better.

Reluctantly we said our thanks and goodbyes to Catriona who made a room full of fans. We also extended our congratulations on her Edgar-nominated stand-alone thriller: The Day She Died. (Click here to go to the library's copy of the book.) The Edgar winners will be announced at the Edgar Awards Banquet on April 29th. Here’s hoping she wins!!

To go to Catriona’s website click here. To go to Fantastic Fiction's list of all her books, click here.  And to see all our library holdings for Cationa's books, click here.


More fun links:

Curious about the town of Moffat (where there really was a Hydro spa_ click here. Learn even more about the notorious William Burke and William Hare by clicking here.  Want to check out the inn where Hare once stayed? Click here to go to the Black Bull Hotel! What does an Astrakhan coat look like? Click here. What color are gooseberries? And what do you think of them as an eye color (like Olivia's in the story)? Click here and learn about some treats use gooseberries as well!

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