Tag Archives: Catriona McPherson

A day in the life of Ali McGovern by Catriona McPherson

I start the morning with lemon in hot water, a probiotic yoghurt and some almonds. There’s no use a beauty therapist having dog-rough skin from bacon butties and too much coffee. Then it used to be the gym, but gym membership was one of the first things to go. After my Vogue subscription but before the shift to supermarket own-brands.

Now I push the couch back, put the coffee table up on its end and do a twenty-minute work-out with Davina McCall. Or in theory, I do. But the couch is heavy and the coffee table’s always laden. It’s been a while, if I’m honest. And I’ve started having a Pop-tart for breakfast too.

But my beauty regime is unchanged: I wash my face with plain water and a rough flannel, I spritz it with rose-water and I dab on a bit of SPF 15. All before my shower. In the shower, I exfoliate, I pumice, I brush with a bristle brush, I work my loofah toward the heart. Sometimes I think I’m trying to wipe myself out, one dermal layer at a time.

My hair gets washed once a week. That’s plenty so long as you don’t fiddle with it. Or work in a coalmine, I suppose. It’s all the touch-touch-touching with dirty fingers that makes hair greasy – nothing to do with your scalp oils, And it’s the same thing with spots and bad skin. People are always touching their faces. No wonder winter colds do the rounds. As a beauty therapist, I’ve trained myself not to touch my mouth, eyes, nose or ears with my fingers. And I haven’t been ill in ten years.

Once I’m dressed for the day – in white tunic and trousers, comfy clogs and no jewellery – it’s a bit of a blur. I’m lucky if I can grab an apple and slice of cheese at lunchtime. A single appointment is half an hour – lashes, brows, half-leg waxes – and then the full-waxes, mani-pedis and facials are all double appointments. My book’s full and I don’t like to let people down.

Except, look what just happened. I slipped right back into the past, to when Face Value was my pride and joy, when I had a book of regular clients and no time for lunch. Truth is, my whites are put away in vacuum bags and my products are oiled to keep them fresh, clingfilmed and packed in the dark. I thought it would only be for a month or so. I keep meaning to open them up and check them. They’re probably drying out, oxidizing. They’re probably useless by now.

So let’s try that again. I do look for jobs. I look at Indeed.co.uk online, and I even go to the Job Centre sometimes, even though it is hands-down the most depressing place on earth. Worse than a hospital ward. Worse than the visiting room in an undertaker’s. I imagine. And it’s nice to be home when Angelo gets in from school. He’s too cool to talk to me, of course, but if there’s a sandwich made, he’ll eat it. And they do say it’s not quality time that matters, don’t they? It’s just time.

Time.

It heals. That’s another thing they say. And they’re wrong. They’re idiots. Time doesn’t heal anything. It just passes and – sometimes – it tells.


You can read more about Ali in House. Tree. Person., a novel of suspense.

The body found in a muddy grave across the street is just the latest horror threatening to tear Ali McGovern’s life apart seam by seam. She knows Angelo, her brooding teenage son, is keeping secrets. She fears he’s in danger, too. But her new job at the psychiatric hospital, the job her husband pushed her into, is using up everything she’s got every day. She can try to ignore the sounds that surely can’t really be there. And she can try to trust the doctors, who can’t be as dark as they seem. But can Ali hold herself, her life, and her family together without getting blood on her hands?

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About the author
Catriona McPherson is the multi-award-wining and best-selling author of the Dandy Gilver mysteries, set in Scotland in the 1930s, and six modern suspense thrillers, for which she has been Edgar and Mary Higgins Clark shortlisted. House. Tree. Person. (UK: The Weight Of Angels) is her twentieth novel. Catriona lives in northern California. Reach out to Catriona at catrionamcpherson.com.

All comments are welcomed.

My Musing ~ House. Tree. Person. by Catriona McPherson

House. Tree. Person. by Catriona McPherson is a novel of suspense. Publisher: Midnight Ink, coming September 8, 2017

A year ago, she was happily married, running her beauty salon, raising her son, living in her dream house. Now Ali McGovern’s dreams are slipping away and all her old ghosts are rising.

A job at Howell Hall, the private psychiatric facility nearby, seems too good to be true. Why have they employed her? How can they afford her? And what are they hiding? When a body is discovered in a shallow grave on Ali’s first day at work, it feels like one last horror. But it’s just the beginning of her descent into a nightmare world she never imagined existed, far too close to home.

With a well-defined plot, this riveting drama had me engrossed in all the minute details in a book that I could not put down. The angst, the intrigue, and the suspense all came together in the visually descriptive narrative that placed me in the center of all the action. The tightly deep twists that you know is coming but don’t see until it hits you is what I liked about this story, where every factor, every character, every movement is pivotal in how well this tome was told. The palpitation of my heart couldn’t control the gripping desire I had to see how this would end and boy did it ever. The author has a way with bringing complex characters, engaging dialogue and trepidation in a psychological state of being where nothing is as it seems, but when it is all said and done, you have an intensifying thriller that leaves you wanting more. And the title of the book, well-played, well-played indeed.

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FTC Full Disclosure – I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

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.

A Day in the Life of Jude Hamner by Catriona McPherson

Quiet NeighborsI know as soon as I wake that I’m not in London. The silence is broken by a single car – maybe a farmer in his Landrover, delivering a sack of feed. I hear it coming on the only road that snakes through the fields, between stone walls. I hear it passing my cottage and then listen till it fades to perfect quiet again.

Then I’m up, throwing the curtains open, letting the watery winter sunlight in. My windows are so pristine. No traffic to send up exhaust fumes to coat them . And my floors are so smooth under my feet. No grit gathers there to make my soles itch.

I always thought the countryside was dirty – animals and mud – but when I peg out a line of tea towels and watch them twitch and billow in the thin wind that blows off the sea . . . I feel the pure clean rightness of being here and it fills me.

Even when it’s threatening to rain, like today, I can dust, mop and vacuum the whole place, two rooms up and two rooms down, in the hour after breakfast before work. Sets me up for the day like a tonic.

Round at the bookshop, I draw on the good the tonic has done me. I’m done with Biography – at last! – and ready to tackle Homecrafts and Cooking. People are pigs. How hard is it to have a selection of different sizes of clear plastic bag to pop over your open cookbook while it sits on the worktop beside your chopping board? How can anyone stand to have the pages splattered and crusted like that? And why do they think a stranger might buy their crusts and splatters secondhand?

I wipe and wipe and wipe. Sometimes I chip at the pages with the blade of a knife. Occasionally, I give up and smuggle one into the recycling, when Lowell’s not looking. Because of course he’s worse than anyone! Polishes his glasses on his hanky, rinses out his coffee mug under the cold tap in the toilet, puts his toothbrush – not at the bookshop but I can’t stop thinking about it – puts his toothbrush, bristles down, on the sink. The bathroom sink where he washes his hands after . . . I have to stop thinking about it.

Like I stop myself thinking about the money I touch when a customer comes in and buys a book. I take the fiver in my hand and caress the spit of the person who counted it out with a licked finger and the nose of the person before that who scratched while they were waiting for their change and the germs of the one who keeps money in a pocket with the tissue they use to stifle their sneezes and the sweat of the one who put it in her bra or down his sock.

And then the customer holds out a bag of toffees and asks if I want one. If I want to unwrap a sweet with my radioactive hand covered in spit and sneezes and sock juice.

“No, thanks,” I say and try to smile.

“Health nut, are you?” says the customer. “There’s nothing in toffee to hurt you, you know. Typical London.”


Quiet Neighbors is the author’s fifth suspenseful standalones published by Midnight Ink, April 2016.

It’s the oldest bookshop in a town full of bookshops; rambling and disordered, full of treasures if you look hard. Jude found one of the treasures when she visited last summer, the high point of a miserable vacation. Now, in the depths of winter, when she has to run away, Lowell’s chaotic bookshop in that backwater of a town is the safe place she runs to.

Jude needs a bolt-hole; Lowell needs an assistant and, when an affordable rental is thrown in too, life begins to look up. The gravedigger’s cottage isn’t perfect for a woman alone but at least she has quiet neighbours.

Quiet, but not silent. The long dead and the books they left behind both have tales to tell and the dusty rooms of the bookshop are not the haven they seem to be. Lowell’s past and Jude’s present are a dangerous cocktail of secrets and lies and someone is coming to light the taper that could destroy everything.

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About the author
Catriona McPherson is the author of the multi-award-winning Dandy Gilver series of preposterous 1920s detective stories set in her native Scotland, and a strand of also-quite-award-winning darker contemporary standalones. The Child Garden is a 2016 finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark award and Quiet Neighbors (with starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and Kirkus) came out nine days ago. Catriona lives on 20 scruffy acres in northern California with a black cat and a scientist.

Connect with Catriona at catrionamcpherson.com, @CatrionaMcP and on Facebook.

Giveaway: Leave comment below for your chance to win a print copy of Quiet Neighbors. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end April 22, 2016 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

All comments are welcomed.

A Day in the Life with Gloria Harkness by Catriona McPherson

The Child GardenFrom the minute I open my eyes, my day builds to the moment I walk in his room. Nicky.

I feed the cats, Dorothy and William Wordsworth, and let Walter Scott the Labrador out for a run in the farmyard, then it’s a quick wash in my spartan bathroom and off to work across the valley.

I love my job. I’m a registrar, there at the sweetest and sharpest moments of people’s lives: when they choose their baby’s name; when they plight their troth; when they come to tell me someone they love has gone.

Of course, all we registrars enjoy the weddings: the beautiful dresses, the unfortunate hats, the kilts as camp as a row of tents. And who can resist the babies? We wait with held breath to hear the names. We never judge. No, it’s Glen in the regional office who judges. We out in the branches just enter our bids . . . for craziest name of the week, the month, and the year. I had a pair of twin called Tancred and Ulrika a while back. I won Schnapps and a manicure.

But the work that’s most important is when we register a death. That’s when I know I can make a difference. A kind word from me might be the only bright moment in those long dark days of grieving.

At five o’clock, the forms are logged, the system is backed up, and I shut the office. My pulse is quickening, there’s a skip in my step – I’m going to see him soon. Nicky.

The care home is the only other house anywhere near me. It’s why I live where I do. I look after the cats and the elderly dog for Miss Drumm and she lets me have it rent-free. So I can be there every night, spend every evening with him.

My boy. My beautiful boy. Nicky is his name. He has soft dark hair and soft pale skin. He’s tall and very slim and just the sight of him makes me happy. I chat to him, tell him about my day. I put salve on his lips where his breathing tube chafes him and I take off his friendship bracelets and massage his wrists in case they’re itchy. But mostly I read to him. I read Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses. It’s our special book, full of poems like ‘Night and Day’

“Garden darkened, daisy shut,
Child in bed, they slumber,
Glow-worm in the highway rut,
Mice among the lumber.”

Poems that make Nicky’s life seem safe and cosy. It’s harmless. It comforts me.

Soon enough though, it’s time to leave him. I give him magic kisses – one on each eye to send him to sleep, one in each hand to keep – then I square my shoulders to face Miss Drumm in the room next door. She’s pushing ninety, completely blind, uses a wheelchair, and she’s made up of equal parts pepper and carpet tacks. She’s my best friend.

‘What’s the news from the land of the living, Gloria?” she asks me.

“President Obam-”

“Not that kind of news,” she barks. “What’s afoot in the village?”

“Well, I booked a wedding today. Two lovely boys who’ve been together ten years.” Miss Drumm snorts. She hasn’t a romantic bone in her body. “And Mr Mortimer died.”

That’s more like it. A death is news she can get her teeth into.

“Gerald Mortimer? What carried him off then? He was barely eighty.”

“He went to a nightclub in Glasgow and snapped a vertebra break-dancing.”

Miss Drumm rewards me with a smile and lies back on her pillows. “Ah well,” she says. “It comes to us all. It’s coming to me, Gloria, and I’m beginning to feel ready.” She takes off her spectacles and closes her blind eyes. “Run along,” she says. “Let me rest now and I’ll see you tomorrow just the same.”

“Just the same,” I echo, as I always do. It’s our blessing to each other, like Nicky’s magic kisses. We’ve been saying it for ten years.

But tonight, for the first time, we’re wrong. By the time I see Miss Drumm again my careful little life, so precious to me, will be upside down and inside out. Someone is coming, out of the past, to change everything.


You can read more about Gloria in The Child Garden, published by Midnight Ink.

About The Child Garden

Eden was its name. “An alternative school for happy children.” But it closed in disgrace after a student’s suicide. Now it’s a care home, the grounds neglected and overgrown. Gloria Harkness is its only neighbor, staying close to her son who lives in the home, lighting up her life and breaking her heart each day.

When a childhood friend turns up at her door, Gloria doesn’t hesitate before asking him in. He claims a girl from Eden is stalking him and has goaded him into meeting near the site of the suicide. Only then, the dead begin to speak—it was murder, they say.

Gloria is in over her head before she can help it. Her loneliness, her loyalty, and her all-consuming love for her son lead her into the heart of a dark secret that threatens everything she lives for.

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GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by noon eastern on Tuesday, September 15 for your chance to win a print copy of The Child Garden. (US entries only, please.)

About the author
Catriona McPherson writes the Agatha, Macavity and Alexander winning Dandy Gilver detective series, set in her native Scotland in the 1930s. The Child Garden is the latest in her strand of Anthony-winning and Edgar-nominated standalones. Catriona immigrated to America in 2010 and lives in northern California where she writes almost full-time (except for being Sisters in Crime president).

Visit Catriona at www.catrionamcpherson.com.

My Musing ~ The Child Garden by Catriona McPherson

The Child GardenThe Child Garden by Catriona McPherson is the latest tale by the award-winning author. Publisher: Midnight Ink, September 2015

Eden was its name. “An alternative school for happy children.” But it closed in disgrace after a student’s suicide. Now it’s a care home, the grounds neglected and overgrown. Gloria Harkness is its only neighbor, staying close to her son who lives in the home, lighting up her life and breaking her heart each day.

When a childhood friend turns up at her door, Gloria doesn’t hesitate before asking him in. He claims a girl from Eden is stalking him and has goaded him into meeting near the site of the suicide. Only then, the dead begin to speak—it was murder, they say.

Gloria is in over her head before she can help it. Her loneliness, her loyalty, and her all-consuming love for her son lead her into the heart of a dark secret that threatens everything she lives for.

I love a book that when the ride was over, I wanted to stay over and the journey lingered within my soul until I finally closed the door. What a great read that kept me engrossed in all the narrative and details that the author presented in this riveting drama that once I picked up, I couldn’t put down until the last sentence was read. Catriona love of the mysteries is evident in all the books that I had the pleasure of reading. Looking forward to what’s next in her repertoire.

A Day in the Life of Keiko Nishisato by Catriona McPherson

Come to HarmToday I will prevail. Today I will eat rice and miso for breakfast, take the bus to the university, study hard for eight hours and return to my flat to read academic papers in the evening.

When I came to Edinburgh from Tokyo, it never occurred to me that anything would get in the way of my silent, solitary, studious existence.

But already I can hear feet on the steps outside my appartment. It’s Mrs Watson, from the fruit shop next door, with another armload of produce. I forgot today is market day.

“Mooli!” she cries, waving giant radishes at me. “Shit-tacky mushrooms! Look at this I found. What is it? It’s got Japanese writing on it so it I bought it for you.”

‘Chinese, I think, Mrs Watson,” I say. “But thank you.”

And while she’s there fluttering around in my kitchen, trying to pack the food into my overstuffed refrigerator, I hear the rumble and thump of Malcolm on the stone floor of the passageway.

“I’m making a pork pie, Keiko,’ he says when he arrives in the kitchen doorway, filling it. His butcher’s apron is already rusty at the middle. I look away. “Come down at lunchtime, when I’ve got the jelly poured in and it’s chilled. You’ll love the jelly, like you told me.”

It’s true; I did. I told him that gelatinous textures were very dear to Japanese palates and since then he has tried to remember every bouncing, wobbling foodstuff Scotland ever knew.

“I’m not sure I’ll be here at lunchtime, Malcolm,” I say and then regret it as he bows his head, letting that long hank of hair fall across his face.

“I’ll slice you a wedge and make a picnic,” he tells me.

“Yo! Keeks!” Fancy is here. My best friend in Painchton – and so in all of Scotland – comes tumbling in and sits herself down at the kitchen table. She has dropped off her little girl at school and is making the most of the half hour before work. “Looks like a party,” she says. “Hiya, Mabel. Hiya, Malc. Good thing I got extra.”

She pushes a bag across the table top towards me. I recognise the logo of McLuskie’s the Bakers and also recognise the transparent patches where the oil from the pastries has seeped into the paper. I sniff. Savoury.

“Smells like my very own mixture,” Malcolm says. “Pies?”

Fancy nods. “Pies, Keeks,” she says. “Mutton pies. Scotland’s contribution to world health. Stick the kettle on.”

“You really shouldn’t . . .” I say. “There’s no need . . .”

“I’m only here to remind you about the community quiz tonight,” says Fancy. She’s taking the pies out of the bag and handing them round.

“I’m doing a hog roast,” says Malcolm.

“I’ll get my big pot out and make a nice potato salad,” Mrs Watson adds. “I can do tatties for fifty in my big pot.”

“Thank you,” I say, defeated again as I knew I would be. “You are all so kind. Thank you.”


You can read more about Keiko in Come to Harm, published by Midnight Ink.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on May 18 for the chance to win a print copy of COME TO HARM. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Winner will be notified within 48 hours after giveaway closes and you will have three days to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. Make sure to check your SPAM folder.

Meet the author
Catriona McPherson writes the Agatha, Macavity and Bruce winning Dandy Gilver series, set in her native Scotland in catriona the 1920s. A DEADLY MEASURE OF BRIMSTONE won a third Bruce at Left Coast Crime in Portland this year. In 2013 she started a strand of darker (not difficult) standalones. The first, AS SHE LEFT IT won an Anthony award and the IndieFab Gold for Mystery. THE DAY SHE DIED is currently on the shortlist for an Edgar. Since 2010, Catriona has lived in California with a black cat and a scientist and is proud to be the 2015 president of Sisters in Crime. Visit her at www.catrionamcpherson.com.

A Day In the Life of Jessie Constable by Catriona McPherson

The day she diedMornings can be kind of cloudy. Every night I tell myself I’m not going to open any wine. Still, mornings can be kind of cloudy. Quick shower, mug of tea and out the door in time for work. I walk unless it’s really hammering down which – in Dumfries – is quite often.

Work’s good. My life’s not what I thought it would be when I was a child drawing pictures of the house with the four windows and me in a pink dress and one of those cone hats with the veil hanging off it, but work’s okay, especially if it’s Dot’s shift. She brings scones and mothers me. If it’s Steve he brings nothing and he reads the depressing bits out of the newspaper too.

And it’s nice to be the boss. I’m not the big boss – that’s Father Tommy up at the admin offices, although he would say the big boss is higher up even than that. Not that he shoehorns it in all that much – for a priest – and if I remind him that God isn’t a checkbook signatory he just laughs at me.

But I’m the manager, doing God’s work every day except Thursday, handing out free clothes and shoes to the destitute and desperate of this scruffy wee town. And not like Sister Avril does it, either. She could turn the milk with the look on her face if likes of anyone comes in with more than two kids (or more than one tattoo).

We sort the donations every morning. Clean and practical (hardly any), practical but needing a wash (in the washing machine we bought with the marathon money), impractical but posh enough to bung on eBay (more and more of this all the time and I’m getting dead good at the descriptions too – vintage, retro, classic, timeless; I never knew there were so many words for old clothes).

Then there’s the rest of it. We’re the Dumfries Free Clothing Project, with a massive clue in the name, and still we get toasters and plant pots and lampshades left outside the front door when we’re closed. Once, someone jammed a headboard right into the doorway. Dot’s kind – she said they were trying to make sure it didn’t get damp if the rain came on, since it was one of those padded velvety ones. But it was wedged right in and we had to call a joiner to saw through it before we could open up for the day.

So we’ve got tons of new stuff – baby clothes (Dot calls them Layette) and undies (Dot calls them small things) – bought with the eBay money and we set it all out as nice as we can, like a proper shop. Still, by the end of eight hours spent with people who’re having the worst day of their life – and sometimes for the thousandth day running – you can get quite stressed out sometimes.

I can anyway. Dot puts on the coat that matches her shoes – navy and navy, wine and wine – and the scarf in toning shades that flatter, and goes back to Drew and the Corgi and the bungalow. Steve goes to his Open University night class and for yet another hour of sociology and macro-political perspectives on nano-political choices in the blah blah blah.

Me? I go to Marks and Spencer’s foodhall, where everything costs a bomb but I never meet any of the clients (because everything costs a bomb) and try not to buy any wine, or think about the past, or the future or – basically – anything. Then I get a DVD at the library and I go home and I shut the door behind me and high five myself in the hall mirror for surviving another one.

I’ve been doing it for nearly four years now. I thought I’d be doing it for at least four more. But then came the day she died. And that changed everything.


You can read more about Jessie in The Day She Died, published by Midnight Ink. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

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Meet the author
Catriona is the author of the Dandy Gilver detective stories set in Scotland in the 1920s. The series has won a Macavity, a Left Coast Crime award and an Agatha.

catriona Last year she began a new strand of contemporary stand-alones. The first – AS SHE LEFT IT – was one of Kirkus’s top 20 mystery/thrillers of 2013 and was shortlisted for the Calamari award at Left Coast Crime Monterey. THE DAY SHE DIED is published by Midnight Ink on the 8th of May 2014 and has already been called “a tour de force, a creepy psychological thriller that will leave you breathless.” (Kirkus starred review)

Catriona was born in Scotland but moved to northern California in 2010. In previous lives, she worked as an incompetent bank clerk, a passable library assistant and a useless and miserable university professor but is now a full-time writer, rookie warm-climate gardener, good plain cook, scratch baker, dumpster-diver-extraordinaire and the current vice president of Sisters in Crime.

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