You heard it here first…

So, who do you fancy for this year’s Orange Prize?

For the last two years, Buckinghamshire reading groups have successfully predicted the winner. Last night it was the turn of Princes Risborough Library to host the discussion and at the end of the deliberations, the book with the most votes was…

THE OUTCAST by debut novelist Sadie Jones.

We’ll find out whether they’ve got it right again on 4th June. In the meantime, I’m grateful to the library staff and readers for a thoroughly enjoyable evening.


OK, even Buckinghamshire reading groups don’t get it right all the time! Congratulations to

ROSE TREMAIN, who won with THE ROAD HOME, and to

JOANNA KAVENNA who won the Award for New Writers with INGLORIOUS.

Broken Harmony

Just finished Roz Southey‘s delightful debut, ‘Broken Harmony.’ It’s a mystery tale set amongst the musicians of 18th-century Newcastle upon Tyne. Naturally, these purveyors of artistic joy are riddled with rivalries and petty jealousies, and before long their clashes lead to more sinister goings-on. To add to their troubles, the whole town is whispering with spirits who are in a position to know useful information but are annoyingly reluctant to part with it.

Anyone remotely involved with the making of music will recognise the characters with a wry smile – particularly the amateur ‘who bit his lip in concentration as he carefully played every note just fractionally flat.’ Hm. I fear I have not only met, but also been that person on several occasions…

There’s a familiar tension between the underpaid and under-appreciated professional who finally snaps, ‘You can’t even read music!’ and the enthusiast who retorts, ‘Who needs to? Music’s in your hands, and in your head, and in your heart!’

Despite the freshness of the musicians’ plights, the historical setting is utterly convincing – thus proving the value of ‘write what you know’ – Southey is a musicologist and the book is set in her local area.

There’s a fine twist at the end, too. I didn’t see it coming, but it’s well set up and makes perfect sense of what has gone before.

Roz Southey is one of the authors who will be appearing at Crimefest in a couple of weeks’ time.

Hail, Caesar!

Or perhaps not? Researching for the books frequently raises the question of exactly HOW we know what we think we know about the past. Apparently a new bust of Julius Caesar has just been found in southern France (new to archaeology, that is. Old by any other standards.) On the other hand, Mary Beard suggests we may want to think a little more deeply about how we know who it was…

While greater minds than mine ponder this, I’ve been updating the diary page. More events in September and October.

Mystery notes

There are advantages to growing older (yes, really!) but the decrease in memory capacity is not one of them. Now that most of the library visits are over I’m trying to catch up with work, and yesterday picked up a new reference book I hadn’t yet found time to look at. Inside were helpful notes – in my own handwriting.

In between further assaults on the ‘to read’ pile (now nearing three feet high, but possibly I’ve read some of them already) I’ve spent the last few days scowling at the laptop screen, drinking coffee and checking emails every 5 minutes. This is euphemistically known as ‘writing’, something editors like to know is in progress but which doesn’t make for fascinating blog posts. So, feeling the blog had been somewhat neglected of late, I turned to the scribbled list of emergency ideas for Things to Write About.

Third in the list (below ‘treading grapes’ and ‘on being pirated’, which may appear here shortly) was another mystery. What in heaven’s name did ‘Saved by a plastic chicken’ mean?