Tuesday, May 31, 2016

London Rain by Nicola Upson

Kerry Hammond, who recently came back from London, is reviewing the latest book in an historical fiction series written by Nicola Upson. The series features fictionalized adventures of the novelist, Josephine Tey.

Nicola Upson writes a wonderful historical series featuring Josephine Tey, the pseudonym of real life Scottish author Elizabeth Mackintosh. She published several mystery novels, a few non-mystery novels, and several plays during her lifetime.

London Rain is the sixth and latest book in the Josephine Tey mystery series. It was released in the United States on March 29, 2016, by Harper Collins Publishers. I am a follower of this series and can’t wait to get my hands on each book as it is published. You can read my review of one of Nicola's other books, The Death of Lucy Kyte, matched with the perfect drink for our Friday Drinks with Reads series.

The year is 1937 and the coronation of King George VI is about to take place. The BBC is creating a radio adaptation of Tey’s play Queen of Scots and Josephine is in London for the production. During the coronation and under cover of all the pomp and circumstance, famous news broadcaster, Anthony Beresford, is shot to death. Another murder is discovered, that of his mistress, not far from the studio where they found Beresford’s body. Tey’s friend, Detective Chief Inspector Archie Penrose of Scotland Yard is on the case and Josephine is there in the thick of things to help.

Upson unravels the story at a perfect pace. Just when you think you know what happened, you realize that there is more to the story. In Upson’s novels, Tey holds center stage in both her personal and professional capacities, allowing the reader to get a feel for her professional accomplishments as well as her private life and its struggles. These novels are, in a word, engrossing. Upson re-creates the world in which Tey lived in such a vivid way as to transport the reader straight to London in the 1930s. The author blends just the right amount of fact with fiction, and I specifically enjoy all of the mentions of the people Tey worked with, including director Alfred Hitchcock—who directed a movie based on one of the author’s early Inspector Grant novels.

A bonus is that if you enjoy reading about Tey in Upson’s series, you can then read the books the real Tey wrote throughout her career. I am partial to the Inspector Grant series.

This book was provided to Mystery Playground by the publisher. The review is fair and independent.

Mystery Playground is on twitter @mysteryplaygrnd or find us on Facebook. Follow Kerry on Twitter @kerryhammond88.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Oscar Wilde Omelettes

This memorial day we're having a little fun with Oscar Wilde omelettes. Janet formerly of our Portland and Salt Lake City Offices found this wonderful cheddar cheese named for Oscar Wilde from Jana Foods. Their motto for the cheese,

"The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it."

So we stopped resisting the temptation and made omelettes. The only way to make omelettes is one at a time.

Here's the recipe:

  • Two farm fresh eggs
  • 1/4 cup Shredded Oscar Wilde Cheddar Cheese
  • Two sliced asparagus spears -for never ending youth and vitality
  • Cubed ham as desired
  • Three sliced mushrooms, sautéed
  • A little olive oil

Make sure your asparagus and mushrooms are sliced and your ham is cubed. 

Sauté the the mushrooms in a little olive oil, then you set them aside. 

Crack open your eggs into a bowl, and mix with a fork as if you were making a scramble. 

Put a little olive oil into the pan and heat it. 

Once the olive oil is hot pour in the eggs. Then carefully place all of your omelette ingredients on top of the eggs.

When the eggs are done, slowly fold the omelette in thirds over itself. 

And then you are done. Carefully take the omelette out and plate it. 

And once you eat this omelette, you'll always be young. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Death Wears A Beauty Mask by Mary Higgins Clark

Sharon Long is here to review Death Wears a Beauty Mask, a collection of short stories by the prolific and fabulous Mary Higgins Clark. The publisher is Simon and Schuster. 

No one can doubt that Mary Higgins Clark's career has been long and esteemed. Her books have sold more than a 100 million copies in the United States alone. Being a big fan (I've read most all of her books), I was pleased to discover this short story collection which not only includes Mary’s first short story, Stowaway, but also nine other tasty morsels of bite-sized fiction.  

Higgins Clark began writing the story that lends its name to the book, Death Wears a Beauty Mask, as a novella in 1972. After she was 50 pages in, Mary put this story aside to write Where Are The Children. She discovered this story again in 2015 and finished it. The trick was being able to write as if she was still 1972, but she pulled it off. I'd loved the premise of the story -- it's about a model, her sister and how dangerous and deadly cosmetics can really be. And that was about dangerous cosmetics in 1972, imagine how dangerous they can be now. 

Another one of my favorite stories in the book is called, The Tell-Tale Purr. It's is a spin on the Tell-Tale Heart as only Mary could do.

Of course, no collection of short stories by Mary Higgins Clark would be complete without an Alvirah and Willy story. The Cape Cod Masquerade once again has Alvirah and her famous sunburst pin in the middle of trouble. Will she get her confession? You'll have to read the book to get the answer. 

I enjoy short stories and these are some of the best that I have read. I absolutely loved this collection, I mean it’s Mary Higgins Clark. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Alice Through the Looking Glass

With the debut of Disney's Alice Through the Looking Glass last night, it seems that Alice merchandise is popping up all over, not just at the Disney Store. 

Harveys seatbelt bags has a wonderful line of Alice and Cheshire Cat handbags. 

Here's a set of Alice in Wonderland paper plates, napkins, and cups

Love these flower pots.

And even nail polish from Opi. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Drinks with Reads: Susanna Calkins and Gin Iced Tea

Laura Brennan is here matching Susanna Calkin's new book with the perfect drink. Laura produces a podcast called Destination Mystery where she interviews mystery authors of all subgenres. There are show notes, full transcripts and monthly book giveaways. Check it out at DestinationMystery.com.  Because life’s a mystery… but finding a good book doesn’t have to be.

A Death Along the River Fleet is Susanna Calkins’ latest Lucy Campion mystery, and one of her best. The series is set in the 17th century, a time of fire and plague and tremendous social upheaval as the survivors set to rebuilding London. 

It was also the time of the Enlightenment, and new ideas find footing in the changing social landscape. Lucy Campion started out as a chambermaid, but she was able to follow her talents and passion to be accepted as a printer’s apprentice. She also has the respectful ear of several of her “betters,” including the magistrate she once worked for as a maid, a police officer, and a doctor, all of whom value her insight and dedication. 

In this fourth outing, Lucy discovers a woman alone on a bridge. A woman with no memory of who she might be. A woman covered in blood. But helping this woman unravel the mystery of who she is and how she got there becomes a whole lot more difficult when a dead body is found nearby. 

If you like historical mysteries, you are going to love this series. By day, Calkins is an historian, so the research is meticulous. Each book looks at a different aspect of society in the 17th century; A Death Along the River Fleet takes on the medical practices of the day as well as the stigma certain illnesses could bring. While the stories are rich with detail, they never get bogged down or turn into a history lesson. Instead, the writing transports you to another age -- and the mystery keeps you turning the pages.

A Death Along the River Fleet takes place in London, and what could be more British than a cup of tea? Ah, but then I discovered that gin was introduced into England during the 17th century, right about the time the Lucy Campion series takes place. Combine the two and you have the perfect drink with this particular read.

Gin Iced Tea 

Strongly brewed black tea, such as orange pekoe or Darjeeling
3 oz of gin
A teaspoonful of sugar (more to taste)
Lemon slices and wedges
Fresh mint

Fill the cup 2/3 of the way with ice.
Add lemon slices, stuffing them between the ice cubes. Squeeze a wedge or two of lemon juice into the cup and put a final wedge on the rim as garnish.
Add the gin.
Throw in a few sprigs of mint.
Stir the sugar into the hot tea to help it dissolve.
Carefully pour the sweet, hot tea over the ice cubes to fill the glass. Stir gently.

Drink up!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Monster Cookies

It's Thursday! And we're speed crafting this week, making these adorable blue monster cookies in record time. What's speed-crafting? It's making something quick and easy and mostly foolproof. 

This is a super easy and fun craft. And I have to say these were a "monster" hit with both children and adults. 

Here's what you need:

  • Slice and Bake Sugar Cookies from the grocery store (yes, you can make them from scratch, but we're speed crafting so here's the short cut.)
  • Wilton's candy eyes with eyelashes - I found these at my local grocery store, but they have them at Michaels
  • Blue pre-made icing (yes, you can use food coloring on homemade icing as well)
  • Chocolate colored sprinkles

Step One:
Slice and back the cookies. Ice them with the pre-made blue icing. 

Step Two:
Add the eyes and the sprinkles as you see them in the photo. 

And your done! And kids love them. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Mysterious London: Midnight Apothecary

Last year Kerry Hammond traveled to Ireland and she blogged about her adventures on Mystery Playground. You can revisit her travels, which included a trip to the Trinity College Library and a walk through James Joyce’s Dublin HERE. This year Kerry visited London and would like to tell us about all of the literary, and sometimes non-literary, things she experienced. Join us each Wednesday, until she runs out of stories, for a recap of her trip.

At Mystery Playground, we love cocktails. We pair books with them (see Drinks with Reads every Friday) and we visit speakeasies to experience these wonderful concoctions as people did during Prohibition. While in London, I took advantage of my impeccable timing to attend this year’s opening day of Midnight Apothecary, a pop-up cocktail bar located on the Brunel Museum’s rooftop garden.

We spent a wonderful night with other cocktail lovers in the garden, next to a fire pit, roasting marshmallows. Since the bar opened in 2012 it has been serving handcrafted cocktails on weekends in this beautiful, fairytale location. Their website says it all:

“Imbibe exquisite alcoholic prescriptions infused with herbs and flowers from the garden or foraged nearby.”

We were prescribed A Bloody Rosemary and Dare to Pear. Both were delicious.

To top off our night, we were treated to a private visit to the Brunel Museum’s underground chamber, which is the actual Rotherhithe Shaft, a circular shaft that was created to help build a tunnel under the River Thames. It was so heavy that its own weight was all that was needed to allow the shaft to sink to the bottom, omitting the need to dig down and remove sand and silt as they used to in order to build a tunnel. The shaft is now fitted with a staircase to allow visitors access to this marvel of engineering.

The best part, other than the tasty cocktails? There was a book involved. Yes, Midnight Apothecary owner, Lottie Muir, has written a book. The book is called Wild Cocktails from the Midnight Apothecary: 100 Recipes Using Home-grown and Foraged Fruits, Herbs, and Edible Flowers. She even autographed a copy for me. I think it will come in very handy for my future cocktail creations.

Check out Kerry's last London post. You can also follow her on Twitter @kerryhammond88. You can find Mystery Playground @mysteryplayground.