Farewell, My Cuckoo: A Birds of a Feather Mystery
by Marty Wingate
About the Book
Julia Lanchester must defend her love nest from an invasive species: her boyfriend’s sister. And then there’s the little matter of murder . . .
“The cuckoo comes in April and sings its song in May. In June it changes tune and July it flies away.”
Wedding bells are ringing in the small British village of Smeaton-under-Lyme. Julia Lanchester’s second-in-command at the local tourist center is finally getting married, and the lovebirds are giving Julia and her live-in boyfriend, Michael Sedgwick, ideas about their own future. But before anyone can say “Will you,” Michael’s flighty older sister, Pammy, crashes the party, fresh off a breakup and lugging all her worldly possessions around with her in a tangle of plastic bags.
Before long, Julia’s cozy cottage starts feeling more like Pammy’s bachelorette pad. To keep herself from going cuckoo, Julia throws herself into her pet projects at work—until death disrupts her plans. First a body is found on the estate. Then the police discover that Pammy was the last one to see the man alive. And soon Julia gets the feeling that if she ever wants her home—or her boyfriend—back, she’ll have to get to the bottom of this mystery, even if it means breaking a few eggs.
The Ensemble Cast
I am not sure I could write a standalone book, because I am so fond of the cast of characters that weave themselves in and out of each story in a series. Names lightly dropped in one book can become prominent in another, while a character deeply involved before fades to the background next time. For some authors, this may require consider planning, and for others – including me – I discover whose story it will be as I write. Often, it’s just as much a surprise to me who might step up to be a Person of Interest.
Of course, I don’t mean that in the “prime suspect” sort of way – or then again, maybe I do. When writing mysteries set in a village – as I do in Farewell, My Cuckoo, number four in my Birds of a Feather series – it’s easy to fall into the trap of killing off its residents until readers begin to take note of the dramatically dropping population. This may be called the Cabot Cove syndrome – after our dear Jessica Fletcher – but it can also be applied to much-loved and long-running television programs, particularly Midsomer Murders. It’s a convention we accept because we love the books and the programs.
With Farewell, My Cuckoo, we’ve had a chance to get to know many of the key figures in the village of Smeaton-under-Lyme. Julia Lanchester, the protagonist and manager of the Tourist Information Center (TIC), is naturally is front and center, with her boyfriend Michael Sedgwick not far behind. Julia’s father, Rupert – the Indiana Jones of ornithology – can either be an important character as he was in The Rhyme of the Magpie, book one, or the background expert on birds.
In the first three books, Nuala Darke, who runs the tea room in the village, has been a provider of fabulous cakes (chocolate is Julia’s favorite), but in Cuckoo I began to wonder – what are Nuala’s hopes and dreams? She’s in her sixties, lithe like a dancer, and a bit shy. In Cuckoo, I discovered you can push mild-mannered Nuala only so far.
In Magpie, I made reference to the wool shop, Three Bags Full, with its engaging window display of toy ewes sitting atop piles of cardigans, and I mentioned Lottie, who runs the shop. In book two, Empty Nest, I introduced Willow Wynn-Finch, Lottie’s niece and Julia’s intern at the TIC. We still don’t even see Lottie, but Willow plays an important part in the secondary story line.
Here in Cuckoo, Lottie steps to the forefront, and I find her a fascinating woman. We also see Willow in another light, and understand just why aunt and niece get along so well. And yes, it all plays into Julia solving the murder.
Sometimes in an ensemble cast, it’s necessary to figure out why a local character doesn’t appear in a particular book. Alfie the rook was most definitely the star of Every Trick in the Rook, number three in the series. Everyone loved him so much – and hoped that he would return – that I feared I might have to start another series called Alfie Solves a Murder. What was I to do in Cuckoo?
I had already set Farewell, My Cuckoo in June before I realized I could use the timing to solve the dilemma. Rooks, as most birds do, molt. And during the time they drop their feathers and grow a new set, they’re quite likely to keep out of sight as much as possible. And so, in Farewell, My Cuckoo, we learn that Alfie is keeping himself to himself while he molts. Thanks for that excuse, Alfie – I owe you one.
About the Author
Marty Wingate is a Seattle-based writer and speaker who shares her love of Britain in her two mystery series. The Potting Shed books feature Pru Parke, a middle-aged American gardener transplanted from Texas to England, and Birds of a Feather follows Julia Lanchester, bird lover, who runs a tourist office in a Suffolk village. Marty writes garden articles for magazines including Country Gardens and the American Gardener. She is a member of the Royal Horticultural Society, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Crime Writers Association. She leads garden tours to England, Scotland, and Ireland, spending free moments deep in research for her books. Or in pubs.
Marty Wingate’s captivating mysteries can be enjoyed together or separately, in any order:
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Marty-Wingate/e/B001JS1AIS
April 9 – Babs Book Bistro – GUEST POST
April 9 – View from the Birdhouse – SPOTLIGHT
April 10 – Blogger Nicole Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
April 11 – Reading Reality – REVIEW
April 12 – Readeropolis – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
April 13 – Teresa Trent Author Blog – SPOTLIGHT
April 14 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT
April 15 – Varietats – REVIEW
April 16 – Back Porchervations – REVIEW
April 17 – Mysteries with Character – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
April 18 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW
April 19 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT
April 20 – Laura’s Interests – REVIEW
April 21- Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW
April 22 – Cozy Up With Kathy – GUEST POST