Friday, June 7, 2013

Murder Must Advertise and the Perfect Cup of Tea

Every Friday this summer at Mystery Playground we are featuring a guest blogger who will recommend a fabulous summer read and a matching drink. We started last Friday with Mystery Playground's entry - The Sunset Breeze and Lou Berney's Whiplash River, which brings us to today...

Our first guest blogger is the fabulous Catriona McPherson author of the Dandy Gilver series and a new stand alone, AS SHE LEFT IT. 

Here is Catriona's book recommendation and drink...

In my perfect summer, I'd re-read the oeuvre of a beloved writer, start to finish, the way James Smythe is currently re-reading Stephen King, from Carrie onwards. But Stephen King is quite a time-commitment and he's still writing (in fact, he just published a crime novel.) Doorstops. So I recommend someone dead and not too prolific, like Dorothy L. Sayers, with eleven novels, three volumes of short stories and then the bonus of Jill Paton Walsh's three continuations. 

And what would you drink, curled up with Murder Must Advertise? For the authentic feel of a chilly British summer, what else?

I'd love to suggest The Five Red Herrings, the Sayers set in Galloway where I lived for fifteen years before moving to California, but it's her weakest novel of all L with five interchangeable characters and some Star-Trek-tastic Scottish dialect. 

So instead I'm going for Murder Must Advertise from 1933. It's a cracking story, and interesting point in Wimsey's development and gives a deliciously sordid glimpse of the coke-addled underbelly of high society. 

Also, it's got a workplace setting -- quite unusual for the British Golden Age - and a richly realized one at that. Sayers worked in advertising and all her inside knowledge is on display here. If you love Mad Men...well, you've got a fifty-fifty chance of liking this book. But if you love period settings, this is a belter. 

How to Make the Perfect Cup of Tea

(First, here’s how to make a woefully inadequate cup of tea and produce misery and homesickness in a transplanted Brit.  Give her a cup of warmish water, a wooden box of green, black and herbal teabags in which the one with orange in has tainted all the others, and a slice of lemon.)

  • Boiling water Boiling. With bubbles popping on the surface.
  • One black (aka English breakfast) teabag
  • A wee drop full-fat (aka whole) milk.
  • A spoonful of white sugar (optional)

(Note of interest to mystery fans: the best teabags are Yorkshire Gold, made by Taylor’s of Harrogate.  Harrogate is the town where Agatha Christie re-appeared after her time-out in 1926.  It’s also where the biggest UK crime-writing festival is held every year.  This July I’ll be listening to Ruth Rendell and then strolling up the road to Taylor’s “Betty’s Tearoom” for the finest cuppa in the world.)


Put a teabag in a china mug with a white interior while the water comes to the boil.  Pour the boiling water onto the teabag.  Dunsh it around with a spoon until it’s as strong as you want it.  Add milk to taste.  Add sugar if required.  Put teabag somewhere annoying if you live with another person.  (If you live alone you could put it straight in the compost.)  


Advanced: there is a fancier way to make tea – warming a pot, using loose leaves, keeping spare hot water over a little camp stove and filling dainty cups over and over again.  No one actually does this every day.  Although – ahem – if you have the equipment  . . . 

Catriona's lovely Agatha Tea Pot from Malice Domestic


  1. Catriona - Thank you for a great book & drink reco. I never knew Yorkshire Gold was the best tea and now I will have to try it.

  2. Both the book and drink sound fabulous. And I love that beautiful teapot. I hope it's kept in a place of honor.

  3. Thanks for the info on tea making, and of course on Dorothy Sayers. It's rainy and dreary in NYC today...the perfect atmosphere for a cuppa. Wish you were here to share one.

  4. I drink a "real" cup of tea every morning and miss it when I'm away from home. Love your recommendations for reading. And the little piece of Agatha Christie lore.

  5. It's a personal view - some misguided souls would say otherwise - but the boiling water thing is key.

  6. Love the book recommendation and tea instructions. What a great idea of a Friday blog too!