Thursday, 8 May 2014

The Day She Died by Catriona McPherson

published 2014






[Jessica runs a church Free Clothing Project]

Dot … was in a talkative mood… she had set up her ironing board across the doorway, trapping me in the office so she could talk it all out to me…

“Embezzlement, backhanders, bribes, gangsters.” She was ironing, and as she pressed down hard on a coat collar, a cloud of steam billowed up and hid her face. If she’d cackled, she could have got cast in Macbeth.

“In other words, you’ve no idea,” I said. “Gangsters? In Dumfries?”…

The door opened and a pair of police in uniform walked in. I girded my loins, squeezed past the ironing board, and went to face them.

“We are a confidential service, officers,” I said, smiling but speaking very firmly. “You’ll need to speak to Father Tommy Whelan over at St Vince’s and just between you and me, he’ll make you get a warrant. But since you’re here, what am I saying no to, today?”

Because it wasn’t the first time – or the tenth either – that the cops would be looking for someone right down hard on their luck and think we’d love to help them. I suppose, to give them their due, one of the reasons to suddenly need new clothes and shoes in a hurry is if you’ve got blood or whatever all over your old ones, but it would take a brass neck to walk into some drop-in clinic dripping with murder blood and ask for a clothing project voucher.





observations: Catriona McPherson is adored on this blog for her Dandy Gilver books, and she also gets a high approval rating for her productivity – the Dandy books have been appearing at the rate of one a year, and she also has time to fit in the odd standalone. Bravo Catriona, and please keep it up for your legions of fans. (New Dandy mystery coming in July I am glad to say.)

The setting for this one - just published - couldn’t be more different: modern-day, in a Scottish town, amongst people suffering from the recession and working in, or using, charity shops.

As ever, McPherson can make you laugh at the worst of times, and perhaps has to write modern books because she couldn’t get this line into a historical: 
He put his hands round his shoulders and started rocking, not back and forward but side-to-side. I’d never seen anyone do that before; it looked like Stevie Wonder’s sit-down dancing.
And I liked the connection between the nun and Jessica’s ultra-religious mother: They ‘would have got on like a house on fire, if only each of them didn’t sum up the other one’s hunch that Satan still walked among us.’

The plot is as outrageous and imaginative as ever, and although every reader must be yelling at Jessica (and there are some very clever clues using her name) about some mighty bad decisions, you can always trust the author to be ahead of you on that. Yes, some of it is hard to swallow, but it’s well worth it.

I did want NOT to use a historical photo, to mark the differences in this book, but it is very difficult to find a non-depressing picture of a modern charity shop. The black and white picture, from the Cornell University Library, shows the Westchester County Thrift Shop in 1921 (from a lovely series of photos, one of which was used on the blog before).The other is a Russian photo of ‘charitable distribution’ from Wikimedia Commons.

12 comments:

  1. Ironing this week, embroidery last week........this is a proper site for hard-boiled, noir, house-keeping types. Oooh - almost too excited to ask, (trembly fingers and too many typos..........slow down I exclaim breathlessly) but when will you be featuring sock-darning, or have I already missed it?

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    1. Would you rather we featured GARDENING? I can see I'm not going to convince you, but this is rather a noir-ish book, very good on a creepy atmosphere and an element of danger...

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    2. Moira, I'm loathe to swear on my own blog, let alone others, but you've missed the prefix from my hobby of the moment...BL**** GARDENING!

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    3. No argument from me - those two words definitely go together.

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  2. Moira - I love McPherson's wit; I really do. I'll admit I haven't tried her standalones yet, but this one does sound fun. And the setting seems interesting to me actually; I've volunteered at a charity shop, and they definitely have their own atmospheres.

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    1. Yes, I think charity/thrift shops don't feature nearly enough in books - they're good for atmosphere, and you would think plot devices. McPherson does well to use them I think.

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  3. I love Catrona's books, Dandy as well as the stand-alones. In fact I interviewed her for my blog last year and she was a delight to interview. So pleased there's a new one soon. :)

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    1. Thanks Gabi - I just went over to your blog to take a look, and really enjoyed the interview with Catriona McPherson. Nice to meet another fan...

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  4. Well, I'm sold - will have to get some of these books - OK, details of the right 'jumping on' point Moira - or do I just start at the beginning? Thanks.

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    1. Given your reading interests, Sergio, you maybe should start with this one, a modern standalone. The historicals are wonderful, and they aren't what they sound like - I think some people assume they're rather twee, Downton Abbey-type books, with the posh aristo investigating. In fact, they're so much better than that, but you might be better coming to them from the moderns - if you like this one, move on to Dandy!

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  5. I have an earlier stand alone novel by McPherson: As She Left It. Haven't read it yet. This one sounds interesting. Someday.

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    1. I keep thinking I must get round to that one, so I'd be interested to see your review when you do read it!

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