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A Deadly Measure of Brimstone (Book 8)

Perthshire 1929 and the menfolk of the Gilver family have come down, between them, with influenza, bronchitis, pneumonia and pleurisy. Dandy the devoted wife and mother decides it is time to decamp; Dandy the intrepid detective, however, decides to decamp to the scene of a murder she would dearly love to solve.

The family repairs to the Borders town of Moffat, there to drink the sulphurous waters straight from the well and to submit to the galvanic wraps and cold salt rubs of the splendid Laidlaw Hydropathic Hotel.
But all is not well at the Hydro. The Laidlaw family is at war, the guests are an uneasy mix of old faithfuls and giddy upstarts, and the secret of the lady who arrived but never left cannot be kept for long. And what of those drifting shapes in the Turkish bath?

Just steam shifting in the air? Probably. But the Hydro was built in the lee of a Gallow Hill, and in this town the dead can be as much trouble as the living...

 

        Book Club Questions  (minor spoilers - beware!)

  1. Is Dandy’s decision to take her family to the hydro practical or selfish? What do you think of Dandy as a wife and mother generally?
  2. Some of the ghosts in this book are based on real Moffat folklore and some I made up. Can you take a stab at which are which? (You can check by Googling.)
  3. The menus, on the other hand, are all for real – discovered in household management manuals of the day. What do you think? Why wasn’t everyone the size of a bus?
  4. How far would you say Dr Laidlaw is a victim of her time? Have things changed for girls and boys since she and her brother were growing up?
  5. The baths at the hydro are based closely on the Harrogate Turkish baths, which are going strong. But most of the more outlandish “water + electricity” shenanigans have been consigned to history. Do you think the spa treatments and complementary procedures in vogue today are more sensible?
  6. Was Grant’s subterfuge justified or do you think her infiltration of the mediums’ gathering was disrespectful to their beliefs?
  7. The Great Crash is only very lightly touched on in this book. Do you think a historical novel should have more history? Less, perhaps? Does that change the further back in time we go?
  8. Have you ever had an experience best described as supernatural? Do you think there’s a real ghost in this book?

 

Buy it

"McPherson is a master of dialgoue, understatement and slightly twisted humor."

– San Francisco Book Review

“The method of death must be unique and the denouement is thrilling ... the sense of place is spot-on."

 - Country Life  (pick of the year)

”... richly, gloriously, wonderfully off-the-wall."

– Manda Scott, best-selling author of the Rome series

“Dandy is likeable and endearing; she is clever and brave without being superhuman ... a new favourite writer to add to the to-read list." 

– Historical Novel Society