Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Pulp and Fabulous Tag Lines

I love classic pulps novels, especially the Dell 25c paperbacks. They all have such fabulous cover shots and many have fabulous tag lines. Eric Beetner over at Criminal Element shares this passion and has he has written a great post about these old novels and some fabulous tag lines. 

Here are a few of my favorite covers and tag lines from my own collection: 

"A marriage tainted by the devil's brew of suspicion...and death! 

"The mystery of a strangler who never left a clue."

"He didn't want his killer caught!"

"There was a raging fire and a murderer in the house."

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Rebirth of All My Children

Today marks the re-birth and return of two popular soap operas - All My Children and One Life to Live. Both we're cancelled by in 2011 and sold to a company called Prospect Park who is now giving these shows new life on the Internet.  

I grew up watching All My Children after school, and although I hadn't watched as faithfully as an adult and I was sad when the show ended.  I irrationally thought that the city where the soap opera takes place -- Pine Valley -- should always exist just in case I felt like returning.  Besides, I had big plans to watch it again when I retired - even though this is at least a couple of decades away. A lot of my friends who watched the show growing up felt the very same way. But wanting Pine Valley to exist is not enough to keep a show on network television. But maybe having a smaller group of hard core fans who watch a show daily is. 

I'm excited about this re-boot for a variety of reasons, but the number one reason is that I want to see Internet only specialty shows succeed. Like Netflix original programming, it offers new ways for viewers of cult shows that don't have super huge following to stay on the air (thank you for the Arrested Development reboot). It gives specialized, loyal audiences what they want, while putting writers and actors to work.  Hopefully everyone wins a la Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog. 

The re-booted shows will be 30-minutes, shorter than the hour the shows claimed on network television in 2011 but the same length that they started out with when they originally made their debut decades ago.  They both have a mix of long-term characters and actors and fresh new faces.  Prospect Park has done a great job of getting the stars out there to promote the launch. I hope they can sustain the momentum. 

Both soaps will be available starting today on HULU, HULU plus and iTunes. Here's Cady McClain who plays Dixie on All My Children telling fans how to get "their stories on the Internet." 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Little Dose of Sixties Spy Camp

I came across these fabulous lobby cards for the 1967 spy thriller, The Venetian Affair at Henry Road in Los Angeles.

The movie starred Robert Vaughn, Boris Karloff and Elke Summer, among others, and was meant to capitalize on Vaughn's popularity as the Man from U.N.C.L.E. in TV series. The trailer below is full of sixties spy camp that would make Maxwell Smart proud.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Bones: Identifying the Mystery Skull

The Smithsonian Natural History Museum has a great online interactive exercise that puts you in the position of an anthropologist trying to identify a skull found in an archeological dig. Called Mystery Skull Interactive, you compare the newly discovered skull to those found before to help determine what time period it's from. It's part of a bigger online human fossil exhibit that will make you almost at good at identifying human remains as Temperance Brennan on Bones. Well almost. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Around the World with Agatha Christie

In 1922 Agatha Christie and her husband, Archibald Christie, embarked on a ten-month journey around the world. Her grandson worked to compile letters, essays, newspaper articles and photos from the voyage so he could share them with the world. The result is this fun book for every Agatha Christie fan, The Grand Tour, Around the World with the Queen of Mystery, Agatha Christie. 

I was given this book at Christmas, but I've only just now had a chance to dig in.  It covers Agatha's visits to South Africa (where they got stuck when a railway strike turned into a "young" revolution), Australia (loved the chocolate factory), New Zealand (woollen factory visit and beautiful vistas), Honolulu (surfing), Canada (tea at the Empress) and occasional comments about the sea bits in-between. 

It's a must have for any serious Christie fan, or actually anyone who wants to travel the world. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

It's been a great week for fabulous books. I just finished reading Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.  It's a story combining old world books with new world things like Google, taking a page from books like Carlos Ruiz Zafon's Shadow of the Wind, but making it it's own. 

On Robin Sloan's own website, he describes the book as, 

"This is a novel about books and technology, cryptography and conspiracy, friendship and love. "
If you love the intersection of books, knowledge and technology, or even a good story of friendship you will like this book. 

My words here don't do it justice. Just go pick it up.  Plus, it's got a great title. What's not to love. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mad Men Marketing, Las Vegas Style

"Craps is the game for red-blooded HE-men and SHE-woman!"

There is something special about the many legends of Vegas in the 40s-60s. It's a combination of great music, desert heat, a wild west attitude and of course, the proximity of so many vices. (Those are some of the many reasons why I like the CBS show Vegas with Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis so much, but I digress.)

Built in 1948, the Golden Nugget is one of the oldest casinos in Las Vegas. I recently came across this vintage Golden Nugget Gaming Guide which was printed a mere two years after it opened. It's a little starter guide to inform the new gambler of the day. Since casinos were a relatively new thing in the middle of the desert, the casino owners felt a little education could bring new people to gambling. It's Mad Men marketing, Las Vegas Style. I can hear Don Draper making the pitch now...

It's a happy little booklet that clearly explains what you need to know to get started. And it even reminds us that slot machines are nick-named "one-armed bandits." That little phrase is more truth in advertising than in most ads today.  It's a fun little glimpse into the past. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Blood Oranges: It's What's for Dinner

Blood orange and kale salad

Blood oranges seem to be everywhere in California right now - restaurants, farmers' markets, restaurants and I love them so it's the perfect time to indulge.

Despite the rather graphic name (when you cut into them you can see why they are called blood oranges) they are super sweet and delicious. They are great to serve any time and work especially well for murder and/or zombie theme parties (although I never seem to be able to find them at Halloween which is a pity). 

Blood oranges are native to the Mediterranean but are also grown in California. In Southern Italy they are often served fresh for dessert. The red color comes from anthocyanin which develops naturally in the oranges with hot days and cooler nights. 

The photo above is of a blood orange, kale salad with almonds and blood orange vinaigrette and here's the recipe:

3 cups kale, torn away from the spine (discard spine)
a sprinkle of almonds for crunch

Blood Orange Vinaigrette
1/2 cup blood orange juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1 small clove garlic, minced
lightly season with salt and pepper

The dressing works well on other salads as well. 

Sanguinelli Blood Orange

Monday, April 22, 2013

Hollywood Speakeasy: The Roger Room

This year, Mystery Playground is visiting speakeasies all over the country to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition this year. Our latest sojourn took us to The Roger Room in West Hollywood, California. My friends, Paula of Henry Road fame and Elizabeth, graciously accompanied me. 

The Roger Room is a great little hideaway tucked behind the facade of a psychic shop near the Beverly Center, and we saw no palm readers once inside. Their motto is, "The Best of Everything and Nothing but the Best," and we found that to be true. 

The menu featured some great drinks with fun names...

Death in the Afternoon

- Pernod Absinthe and Champagne (you have to love licorice to like this one.)

Flim Flam

- Bombay Dry Gin, Cynar Artichoke Liqueur, Luxardo Maraschino, Sambuca Molinari rinse, up

but our favorite was the...

Four Aces

- Svedka Vodka, Basil, Green Grapes, Lime Juice, Canton Ginger Liqueur, rocks

All the drinks were handmade, with fresh ingredients. 


The Roger Room does not serve food. There is a nice handmade chili/burger place about a half a block away that we loved. It's called The Addiction Bistro.

The Roger Room is located at 370 La Cienega Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA about a block or two away from the Beverly Center.   There are no signs that say The Roger Room, since the facade is dressed up to be that of a fancy psychic. 

There is limited street parking available and there are a few nearby garages. 

What Are Speakeasies?

Speakeasies were essentially secret bars that sprang up when the United States outlawed alcohol in 1919. 

Most speakeasies were housed in unmarked locations, many required a password to get in and some may have even moved from place to place to stay ahead of the law. Many think the name came from patrons being told to "speakeasy" or to lower their voices so no one suspected they were serving alcohol. 

Today, there are many modern speakeasies that retain some of these traditions. Usually they feature fresh ingredients in their food and drink, and though the secrecy is no longer needed, many are in discreet locations that lack signage. Some even require passwords.

You can read about Mystery Playground's other speakeasy adventures here

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Bletchley Circle

Starting tonight, PBS stations around the country will start airing the three-part mini-series, the Bletchley Circle, a story about "four seemingly ordinary women who become unlikely investigators of a strong of grisly murders in post-war London."

What makes this story sound so interesting is that these characters served as code breakers during the war at HQ Bletchley Park, the British National Code Center.  According to the backstory, their code breaking work helped shorten the war for the Allies, which was true for the real people who worked at Bletchley.

The real Bletchley Park National Code Center is located fifty miles north of London. Code breaker fans  who aren't traveling to London soon will want to check out the website, which is filled with code breaking information treasure.

The preview for The Bletchley Circle is above. Even with all of the Sunday night competition, I plan to watch.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Robert Lewis Stephenson's The Swing

April is poetry month and here is another one of my favorites - this time one of my favorites from childhood - The Swing by Robert Louis Stephenson. It still makes me happy to read it and hear the swing going back and forth with the lines. 

Stephenson is probably best known for Treasure Island, Kidnapped and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde which is about as far away from The Swing as you can get.

The Swing

How do you like to go up in a swing,
   Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
   Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
   Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
   Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green,
   Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
   Up in the air and down!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Game of Thrones Recipes

Game of Thrones has joined forces with Inn at the Crossroads (the official Game of Thrones food blog) to share Westrosi and Dothraki recipes appropriate for any Game of Thrones viewing party.  

Where else can you find recipes for Hot Pie's Dire Wolf Scones or Medievil Dornish Cream Cakes? It's a really fun site with lots of GOT party ideas.  You might want to finish eating before the show starts though...just a thought. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Murder at Rosamund's Gate

Today we have an interview with Susanna Calkins, author of A Murder at Rosamund's Gate, a mystery novel about a seventeenth century chambermaid who is accused of murder. I asked Susanna questions about how she did her research. Not only did I learn about her research, I also learned about seventeenth century murder ballads...read on. 

A Murder at Rosamund's Gate is set in seventeenth century England. How did you do your research and what was your favorite part about doing the research?
Great question! I started doing research in this time period (the 1660s) when I was a graduate student in history at Purdue University. I was fascinated by this time period—the mad gaity that accompanied the return of King Charles II (and the end of the dour Puritan rule), the plague, the great Fire of London, as well as the great religious tensions between the established Anglican church and all the dissenting religious groups (such as the Ranters and Quakers).  I loved learning all about it!  I had the opportunity to work in London (serving aboard the Golden Hinde, a 16th century museum ship dry-docked in the Thames), in Southwark, which helped me get a feel for the city.  And once I started delving into how mid-seventeenth communities dealt with murder and violent crime, it raised a lot of questions for me that I really wanted to answer.

How did your research help you develop your protagonist, Lucy Campion?
As a social-cultural and gender historian, I’ve always been interested in how ordinary people lived their lives.  In particular, I had several questions that informed the creation of Lucy: Who would really care if a female servant were murdered?  Who would do everything she could to bring that murderer to justice, even after the authorities had given up?  And, what kind of resources would have been available to an uneducated servant to discover the identity of a murderer? In Lucy, I wanted to create a strong female character who would question the world around her, without giving her an overly modern mindset.

Was there a story you encountered in your research that you didn't include in the book?
Yes! In my research I came across a funny story told by the famous diarist, Samuel Pepys.  Apparently, on Valentine’s Day, there was a tradition that a man had to give a gift to the first woman he saw that morning, regardless whether that woman was his wife, mistress or servant. In Pepys’ rather dissolute household, a number of women would vie to be the first he’d see—a fact he seemed to quite enjoy. Originally I included my own version of this story in ROSAMUND, but unfortunately it did not make the final cut.

Are there any photos you can share from your research?  The images I’ve included are examples of the murder ballads that the public would buy for a few pennies and pass around to their families and neighbors. They’d even paste them on the walls, as a form of decoration.

Citation for attached ballads: The downfall of William Grismond: or, A lamentable murder by him committed at Lainterdine in the county of Hereford, the 22 of March, 1650, with his woful [sic] lamentation. 

Synopsis of A Murder at Rosamund's Gate

For Lucy Campion, a seventeenth-century English chambermaid serving in the household of the local magistrate, life is an endless repetition of polishing pewter, emptying chamber pots, and dealing with other household chores until a fellow servant is ruthlessly killed, and someone close to Lucy falls under suspicion. Lucy can’t believe it, but in a time where the accused are presumed guilty until proven innocent, lawyers aren’t permitted to defend their clients, and—if the plague doesn't kill the suspect first—public executions draw a large crowd of spectators, Lucy knows she may never find out what really happened. Unless, that is, she can uncover the truth herself.

Determined to do just that, Lucy finds herself venturing out of her expected station and into raucous printers’ shops, secretive gypsy camps, the foul streets of London, and even the bowels of Newgate prison on a trail that might lead her straight into the arms of the killer.

An excerpt of the book can be found here. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Charlaine Harris Signed Bag Giveaway

In honor of the VERY last Sookie Stackhouse novel, we are giving away another book bag signed by the one and only Charlaine Harris. To enter, all you have to do is comment below about what you'll miss most about Sookie.

The contest will close at 9:00 pm PST on Monday, May 7th. The very day this book hits the shelves.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Seriously Sloppy Sleuths: The Best and Worst of TV Detectives

Flynn and Provenza of The Closer
They’re even better when they’re bad.

We can’t all be perfect all of the time, and let’s face it, flawed characters are eminently more interesting, but there is a difference between a character who is deeply flawed and a character who makes mistakes to move the story along.
Let’s examine a few cases in-depth:
Flynn & Provenza, The Closer & Major Crimes
Quite a partnership, these two can be quite good at their jobs, but when they blow it, they really blow it. Like the time where they were arguing about where Provenza kept his gun in front of a suspect who then grabbed the gun.  Or when they lost all the evidence in a case because they wanted breakfast. Or my personal favorite: when they found a dead body in Provenza’s garage and left it there because they were already late for skybox seats at the Dodger game.
Verdict: Flynn & Provenza mistakes are always a joy to watch.

Sheriff Emma Swan, Once Upon A Time
There are many people in Storybrooke, Maine who are not qualified for their jobs (Jiminy Cricket as a psychiatrist for one) but Emma Swan sure got that sheriff job fast and has managed to keep it. Still, one would hope that she would apply reasonable amounts of rigor to a murder investigation, but time and time again she makes mistakes I don’t see a real sheriff making, like when she accepted the phone records of a murder suspect from a former newspaper reporter rather than calling the phone company directly. Or when she sent a new employee, with no police experience, to look for a potential dead body by herself in the woods.
Verdict: While I love watching this show, I am not impressed with Emma’s detective skills.

Stana Katic as Kate Becket in Castle.
Kate, you should know bringing Castle as back up is like bringing a knife to a gun fight.
Detective Kate Beckett, Castle
This one I will admit is a little unfair. We wouldn’t have a show if the fictional Mayor of New York hadn’t blessed best-selling mystery writer Richard Castle’s shadowing of Kate. And I love this show. Love the characters. Love the premise. Love it when Castle figures out who the bad guy is. But sometimes I just have to wonder why:
  • Beckett never even tries to call for backup
  • It doesn’t faze her to walk into serious crime scenes with Castle unarmed and untrained
  • She allowed Castle to carry her away from Captain Roy Montgomery like a sack of potatoes right before the Captain sacrificed himself. Seeing her flail about in his arms just didn’t ring true to me.
Verdict: I still love this show.

Have you seen any sloppy TV detective work lately?

This story originally appeared at Criminal Element. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Buyer Beware, Brancusi and Audrey Hepburn

We have a guest post today from Diane Vallere, author of the cozy mystery, BUYER BEWARE, about her inspiration for the book and insider secrets from her eight years as a luxury department store buyer.  The author is also giving away free copies of the book and a $25 Book Depository gift card. Instructions on how to enter can be found at the bottom of the post. 


This post is supposed to be about the research I conducted for BUYER, BEWARE, the latest book in the Style & Error Mystery Series. Trouble is, having worked as a buyer for about eight years, I lived through a large portion of the research and have nothing to show for it except for an outdated resume. I would have loved to distract you with photos of factories, showrooms, and handsome designers, but, alas, those photos don’t exist. I have ridiculously few photos from the mid-nineties to the mid-oughts. (Those that I do have are of my cat, who is no longer with me, but lives on in the character Logan.)

So instead, I’m going to dazzle you with a combination of insider information, the inspiration behind this particular story, and, because I sometimes have trouble focusing, a squirrel.

1.The mystery in BUYER, BEWARE surrounds a fictitious collection of designer handbags. In real life, handbags have become status items on par with precious jewelry! Unbeknownst to many clients, one luxury handbag brand includes microchips in their bags so they can verify authenticity and aggressively take down knockoff artists. For real!

2. The reason BUYER, BEWARE opens with a caper is I wanted to pay tribute to one of my favorite movies, How To Steal A Million.

I liked the idea of a planned theft, coordinated by people who could pull it off, but not for reasons of greed or illegal financial gain. The fake statue was designed by Milo Puccetti, a student of Constantine Brancusi. That was inspired by the statue Bird in Space, housed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Having grown in in Phillly-adjacent Reading, Pennsylvania, I often went to the museum and admired the exhibit. Who knows—it might have been the same day I ran up the steps out front and imitated Rocky Balboa. (The name Milo is a nod to THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH, one of my favorite books).

3. Samantha Kidd lives in this house:

Coincidentally, I lived there too. A few years ago it was listed for sale and I considered setting up an appointment with the realtor to check it out (I didn’t). I wonder if the new owners know what a gem they have?

4. Getting back to handbags, can you believe one vendor “auditions” new factories with ghost orders? Handbags are produced and checked for quality and consistency over a period of several seasons. Even harder to believe: regardless of how good the resulting product is, it never sees the light of day. Instead, it is destroyed. A crime unto itself.

5. BUYER, BEWARE is set in a fictionalized version of Reading, Pennsylvania, where I grew up. Once I decided to fictionalize it, I knew I had the opportunity to use re-landscape the city to my needs. The vendor showroom in this book, mentioned as being in a renovated building on Penn Street, is in the old Pomeroy’s department store, which, in reality, closed in 1957 and was subsequently turned into a bank. I have a soft spot for retail establishments that no longer exist.

6. One highly coveted collection of crocodile bags maintains a price structure almost 30% less than other bags made of the same materials. Why? The company is excused from export tariffs because they employ many locals and are not affiliated with the drug trade. The lower cost is passed along to the consumer. Still, the bags are in the several thousand dollar price range!

7. The scenes between Detective Loncar and Samantha are some of my most favorite. I admit, my first attempts to write a homicide detective character were pretty far off-base. It wasn’t until I attended a class on Interrogation Techniques taught by a former homicide detective that I realized my fantasy-land police were an insult to the boys in blue. But I was inspired. I rewrote the interrogation scene in DESIGNER DIRTY LAUNDRY and incorporated some of what I’d learned. When it came time to put the polish on BUYER, BEWARE, I realized how much fun I could have with the interaction between Detective Loncar and Samantha—and I did.

8. The rumored waiting list for the Hermes Birkin bag is pretty much that—a rumor (or maybe better called an urban legend?). Spend any time in one of the luxury retailers in Beverly Hills and you’ll start to think they’re issued to anyone who moves to the zip code 90210! And just a few weeks ago two Birkins became part of a mystery all their own: along with pieces of precious jewelry, they were stolen from a house in the greater Philadelphia area. There is often inspiration in the news.

9. There is a ridiculous amount of information about squirrels on the internet, and, even more ridiculous are the one million plus stories that include the words “squirrel” and “handbag.” I don’t have that kind of time—do you?

Diane Vallere's Bio:
I grew up reading both Trixie Belden mysteries and Vogue magazine and learned how to spot a counterfeiting ring and accessorize a wardrobe. When it was time to find a career I headed out to the mall...and nine years later was a buyer for one of the top luxury stores in the country. But while Paris, Milan, and New York satisfied my appetite for fashion, my passion for creativity went unfed. Now I sell fine apparel by day and uncover crimes of fashion by night, in the form of mystery writing. I still love accessories, only now some of them are accessories to murder.

Buyer Beware Synopsis:

Out of work fashion expert Samantha Kidd is strapped, until the buyer of handbags for a hot new retailer turns up murdered. When Samantha is recruited for the job, it comes with a caveat: sheís expected to find some answers. The police name a suspect but Samantha's convinced the label doesnít fit. With patent determination and a tote bag of tenacity, she turns to a sexy stranger for help. As the walls close around her like a snug satin lining, Samantha must get a handle on the suspects, or risk being caught in the killer's clutches.


You can enter to win a copy of Samantha Kidd's Guide to Sleuthing in Style, a paperback or ebook of Buyer Beware by Diane Vallere or a $25 Book Depository gift card, by clicking here, and going to the Cozy Mystery Book Review webstie.  There will be four winners.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Sherlock Gets Into Hot Water, But Can He Cook?

Sherlock Holmes in Hot Water teacup
Poor Sherlock, in hot water again!
“Now, look here, Mr. Holmes, it’s half-past eleven now and I am going back right away to my hotel. Suppose you and your friend Dr. Watson, come round and lunch with us at two.”  —The Hound of the Baskervilles
When I think of Sherlock Holmes, I imagine him almost anywhere but the kitchen. And yet, there are at least three Holmes inspired cookbooks out there in the world ready to help you create a fabulous Sherlock-inspired book club meeting or themed dinner party.  If you inhale, you can smell the Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding.
The recipes range from Fried Ox Eyeballs (no thank you) to Asparagus Soup with Pale Ale (yes, please) and thankfully none of these books pretended that Holmes cooked any of these meals. They do suggest that he might have eaten a great many of them.

Ready to play Mrs. Hudson? Lets’s have a look at the books.
The Sherlock Holmes Cookbook
Tea, gentlemen?
#1 The Sherlock Holmes Cookbookby Sean Wright and John Farrell
Published in 1976, the book features a sensible approach to preparing British food from the Victorian era, while connecting actual menus to specific stories. It also has excellent cartoons of Holmes and Watson dining.
Menus are laid out by adventure such as:
The Adventure of the Devil’s Footmenu,  featuring:
  • Crab Stearndale, a la Devil’s Foot
  • Crazy Brothers’ Devils Root Foot Sauce
  • Radix Pedis Diaboli Eggs (deviled eggs with a snappy title)
 “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches menu, featuring:
  • Toller’s Gin Alexanders
  • Rucastle’s Roast Beef Sandwich
  • Violet’s Chestnut-Brown Sauce
This is my favorite of the three books. Even if you don’t feel like cooking, you can be transported to a Victorian kitchen in seconds.

#2 Dining with Sherlock Holmes: A Baker Street Cookbook by Julia Carlson Rosenblatt and Frederic H. Sonnenschmidt
This book was first printed in 1976 as well and reprinted again in 1990.  Recipes are divided into different eating occasions in Holmes life, such as “Breakfast at Baker Street,” “On the Chase,” and my personal favorite, “The Horrors of a Country Inn," which breaks out meals by the name of the Inns where Watson and Sherlock dined.

Dining with Sherlock Holmes and The Sherlock Holmes Victorian Cookbook
A plethora of pleasures for the starving Sherlockian
#3 The Sherlock Holmes Victorian Cookbook: The Favorite Recipes of the Great Detective and Dr. Watson
Published in 1977, this book is laid out by type of dish – soups, salads, meats, etc, Story quotes appear at the top of each recipe. Rather than support a notion that Holmes was interested in food, the quotes reinforce how focused he was on the case at hand. The quote that appears under the recipe for Bohemian Scandal Pickled Eggs from A Scandal in Bohemia is below. You can see how little it has to do with the recipe.
“I lent the ostlers a hand in rubbing down their horses, and I received in exchange two-pence, a glass of half-and-half, two fills of shag tobacco and as much information as I could desire about Miss Adler…”
And if we can get Holmes to stop thinking about Miss Adler long enough to eat his soup, I suggest you try this recipe from The Sherlock Holmes Victorian Cookbook. The credited source for the dish is “Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management” (1861), but it looks hip enough to me to appear on the menu of a cool microbrewery eatery today – although I can’t think of another time that I ever added sugar to soup.
Asparagus Soup with Pale Ale
Serves 4-6
2lb lean beef, diced
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp butter
5 cups beef stock
1 cup pale ale or beer
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried marjoram
½ tsp dried mint
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 bunches asparagus stalks
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Dust the beef with the flour. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, and cook the meat until it browns on all sides. Add the stock, ale, and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 30 minutes.
Add the marjoram, mint, and spinach. Bring to a boil again, then reduce the heat. Cut the top 3 inches from the asparagus stalks, and chop them into bite-sized pieces (the remainder of the stalks can be saved for vegetable stock). Add the asparagus tops to the soup and simmer until they are tender (4-5 minutes). Stir in the sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Even though these recipes aren’t found in the text of the Holmes stories, it is fun to get to know Sherlock through the food of his time period and an excellent way to create an unforgettable meal.
Now that we’ve sorted out the party food, it’s time to decorate. What would you suggest?