Today we welcome back to the blog our good friend, Lucy Burdette. Lucy’s here to celebrate the release of Scone of Contention, the eleventh book in her Key West Food Critic Mystery series.
Here’s the blurb
A murderer’s out to spoil Hayley’s honeymoon in national bestselling author Lucy Burdette’s eleventh Key West Food Critic Mystery.
Key Zest food critic Hayley Snow and her groom, police detective Nathan Bransford, chose Scotland for their long-delayed honeymoon, hoping to sightsee and enjoy prize-winning scones. But their romantic duo swells to a crowd when they’re joined by Nathan’s family as well as octogenarian Miss Gloria.
Nathan’s sister Vera takes the women on a whirlwind tour of some of Scotland’s iconic mystic places as research for a looming book project. But the trip takes a deadly tartan turn when a dinner party guest falls ill and claims she was poisoned. And then the group watches in horror as a mysterious tourist tumbles to his death from the famous Falkirk Wheel, high above the Forth & Clyde canal.
Vera and her friends deny knowing the dead man, but after observing their reactions to the fall, Hayley is not convinced. With one person dead, a second possibly poisoned, and the tension among Vera’s friends as thick as farmhouse cheese, Hayley fears her long-awaited honeymoon might end with another murder.
Far away from home, surrounded by unfamiliar faces, eccentric characters, and a forbiddingly gorgeous setting, Hayley must call on all her savvy to keep a killer from striking again and then escaping Scot free.
Take it away, Lucy!
I don’t believe I’d ever paid much attention to the concept of thin places before we traveled to Scotland in 2019. I like this description by Eric Weiner, found in the New York Times: “It’s not clear who first uttered the term “thin places,” but they almost certainly spoke with an Irish brogue. The ancient pagan Celts, and later, Christians, used the term to describe mesmerizing places like the wind-swept isle of Iona (now part of Scotland) or the rocky peaks of Croagh Patrick. Heaven and earth, the Celtic saying goes, are only three feet apart, but in thin places that distance is even shorter.”
We visited that isle of Iona, absolutely staggering in its lonely beauty, along with Glencoe, in the highlands of Scotland, famous for a bloody massacre that occurred in a peaceful village. The ruins of a home on the site of this massacre are said to be very thin, with some visitors experiencing the presence of the people who had lived there. I was disappointed not to feel that, but Robin, one of the friends we made on the trip, definitely did. She described it this way: “At first, maybe because I was alone on that walk, I felt that I was walking on sacred ground. I was sensing the quiet spirits of those who had gone before. I had no feelings of fear or panic at that point. It was almost like they were explaining that this was where they lived and worked and raised their families. I felt a sense of sadness yet quiet acceptance from these spirits that echoed in the whispering of the leaves. It was emotionally overwhelming and a memory that will always remain with me.”
I knew that I wanted to weave the theme of thin places into A Scone of Contention, the 11th book in the Key West food critic mystery series—as much of the book takes place in Scotland. If you follow this series, you might immediately recognize two characters who would connect with thin places, tarot card reader Lorenzo, and Miss Gloria, Hayley’s beloved octogenarian neighbor. But I couldn’t bring the whole Key West gang on this trip—it was supposed to be Hayley and Nathan’s delayed honeymoon! In the end, they enthusiastically invited Miss Gloria to go with them. In the following snippet, they are newly arrived guests in the home of Nathan’s sister, Vera, and her husband in St. Andrews. This scene takes place on the first night of their visit.
I heard a soft tap on the door.
Miss Gloria’s elfin face appeared.
“Everything okay?” I asked.
“It’s beautiful here, isn’t it? I can’t wait to see more of the countryside.” She paused, plucked at her topknot of white hair. “But I am a little worried.”
I patted the bed beside me. “About what?”
She crossed the room and perched on Nathan’s side of the bed. “It might sound silly. But I didn’t realize that Vera’s husband is a Campbell. I never asked you their family name.”
“And that’s a problem because…?”
“Because my mother’s people were McDonalds.”
She stopped speaking, as though that was all I needed to know. But it explained nothing to me.
“Say a little more about that?” I suggested.
She heaved a troubled sigh. “My ancestors lived in the Highlands, in Glencoe where we will be going with Vera, I’m sure. It’s well known for being a thin place. And many of those same people were massacred by the Campbells. William’s people.”
She looked so distressed that I needed to understand. Clearly, I should have been reading more Scottish history. “And how long ago did all this happen?” I asked.
“In the 1600’s. But they wiped out most of the clan. And we have long memories. I still sense that loss right here.” She pressed her hand to her chest and I could almost feel her heart pounding like a little bird.
“I can imagine how distressing that bit of history would feel,” I said.
Though in truth, I couldn’t quite imagine getting that upset about something so long ago. On the other hand, I didn’t know the details of the massacre, and I was a lot younger than Miss Gloria. More concerned with the here-and-now, than my ancestors’ lives. This was likely a failing of my own.
“Let’s get a little rest. We’re both exhausted. And then we can figure out what to do when we’re fresh.” I reached over to give her a hug.
Though honestly, what was there to do? Demand reparations from our host, Nathan’s brother-in-law, for what his ancestors did four hundred years ago?
I hope you’ll enjoy this visit to Scotland. I sure did love writing it!
Readers: Have you visited a thin place? Have you had the experience of making a connection with spirits from another time in such a place?
New Jersey born Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib is the author of 19 mysteries, including A SCONE OF CONTENTION, the latest in the Key West series featuring food critic Hayley Snow (coming August 10, 2021 from Crooked Lane Books.) Bronze medal-winning THE KEY LIME CRIME is the tenth book in her Key West food critic mystery series. Her books and stories have been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. She’s a past president of Sisters in Crime, and currently serving as president of the Friends of the Key West Library.