Category: Cozy Mystery, Paranormal, Crime, Thriller, Mystery, Book Review
A surprise role in a movie takes actress Derry O’Donnell to a romantic castle in the Scottish Highlands. But romance soon turns to fear and suspicion. Someone means to kill, and Derry, moonlighting as celebrity fortune-teller Madam Tulip, is snared in a net of greed, conspiracy and betrayal.
Derry O’Donnell aka Madam Tulip, society fortune teller, has a habit of getting herself into situations she would much prefer to avoid.
As she and her two good friends, Bruce and Bella, mull over the idea of starting their own theatre company Derry’s agent phones with an unheard of proposition—a movie role to be filmed in the Scottish Highlands, with no audition. The problem was that the offer is initiated by someone Derry has no wish to meet again. Bruce and Bella are stunned when they realise Derry has turned down the role.
‘You know, for a minute there,’ said Bella, ‘I thought you said you’d turned them down.’
Bruce guffawed, making the occupants of three tables turn round and stare.
‘I did,’ said Derry
‘Can’t we start this conversation from the beginning, just so I know I’m not losing my mind?’ said Bella. Her face was a mask of the deepest concern. ‘They offered you a role—’
‘—with no audition,’ whispered Bruce reverently.
‘—and you turned them down without even reading the script?‘
From the start the reader is aware things are bound not to run smoothly for Derry. She’s not happy playing Madam Tulip in the movie, feeling it would compromise her alter ego and refuses to consider the role unless the name is changed. Apart from that, it’s a very unusual way for an unknown actor to secure a role. But it seems the film company really want Derry and are prepared to change the name of Derry’s character…and offer Bruce a part as well. It looks like they’re both headed for Scotland.
Meanwhile Derry’s tangled family dynamics are brought into play with her mother Vanessa, organising a show in an art gallery in Edinburgh. She wants Derry to persuade her father, Jacko, to be one of the two exhibitors. Although they’re divorced, Vanessa is still Jacko’s agent and Derry very often finds herself in the role of peacemaker in her parents’ volatile relationship.
David Ahern has created a wonderfully atmospheric adventure for our quirky and inquisitive heroine, not least with the descriptions of Scotland. ‘An island-studded sea sparkled, blue and other-worldly’ and ‘A heather-covered hillside, golden red, rose steeply inland. In the distance, mountains reared up, grey and forbidding.’ I really enjoyed this addition to the series. The diverse and colourful characters, even the secondary, sometimes obnoxious ones, are wonderfully realised and the author’s wry humour lifts the whole narrative. There’s intrigue and danger aplenty with a paranormal touch. At first Derry’s ‘gift’ was just part of her Madam Tulip persona, even if her father was the only one who chose to believe it, but after her terrifying experience with the ‘bones of chance’ things look very different.
Enjoyable and easy to read, the narrative flows well, the plot is convincing with all threads coming together in a satisfying conclusion. I’m really looking forward to seeing where David Ahern takes Derry next.
David Ahern grew up in a theatrical family in Ireland but ran away to Scotland to become a research psychologist and sensible person. He earned his doctorate but soon absconded to work in television. He became a writer, director and producer, creating international documentary series and winning numerous awards, none of which got him free into nightclubs.
Madame Tulip wasn’t David Ahern’s first novel, but writing it was the most fun he’d ever had with a computer. He is now writing the fourth Madam Tulip adventure and enjoys pretending this is actual work.
David Ahern lives in the beautiful West of Ireland with his wife, two cats and a vegetable garden of which he is inordinately proud.