McPherson, Catriona 1965-
McPherson, Catriona 1965-
PERSONAL: Born 1965, in South Queensferry, Scotland; married. Education: University of Edinburgh, M.A., Ph.D.
ADDRESSES: Home—Galloway, Scotland. Agent—Coombs Moylett, 3 Askew Rd., London NW1 3BH, England. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Writer. Previously worked in a bank, then at the Edinburgh City Libraries, Edinburgh, Scotland; University of Leeds, Yorkshire, England, lecturer of English, 1999-2000; Open University, Scotland, tutor.
(As Catriona McCloud) Growing Up Again, Orion (London, England), 2007.
“DANDY GILVER” SERIES
After the Armistice Ball, Constable (London, England), 2005.
The Burry Man’s Day, Constable (London, England), 2006.
SIDELIGHTS: Catriona McPherson is author of the “Dandy Gilver” series of historical mystery novels set in the 1920s. In the first novel in the series, After the Armistice Ball, McPherson introduces the reader to Dandy Gilver, a woman who grew up in the Victorian era but is now living in a changing world of more freedom for women. When the local yearly celebration of the end of World War I, called an armistice ball, is held at the Duffy’s house, the family diamonds go missing. With her children—whom she has ambivalent feelings about—away at school and her unlikable husband working, Dandy accepts an offer from her friend Daisy Duffy to help find the missing diamonds, leading her to uncover dark secrets in the Duffy family and to encounter a murderer.
“Memorable supporting characters . . . plus vivid descriptions of the Scottish landscape enhance a compelling mystery,” wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor of After the Armistice Ball. Sue O’Brien, writing in Booklist, noted that “details of Daisy’s well-to-do lifestyle . . . evoke the time period and a certain class of people.” Rex E. Klett commented in a review in the Library Journal on the novel’s “perfect settings, class peculiarities, wry humor, and seamless prose.”
McPherson’s next “Dandy Gilver” mystery is titled The Burry Man’s Day, named after an annual, ancient Scottish festival in which a local man is dressed in burrs and thorny seeds and then walks through town to deter evil spirits while being given free drinks of whiskey in the process. On a visit to her old friend, Buttercup, in South Queensferry, Scotland, Dandy becomes suspicious when the Burry Man falls over dead during his walk and she finds out that some of the townsfolk think he has been poisoned even though the police have ruled that the death is due to a heart attack. “The Burry Man is the best ready-made character a writer could hope for,” McPherson told Brian Ferguson for an article in the Scotsman. The author continued: “It’s the combination of his disguise, the fact that he’s never alone all day and the number of different people who pour him nips of whisky. He’s made to be the star of a murder mystery.”
“Dandy makes a wonderfully real narrator and protagonist,” wrote a reviewer on MyShelf.com. The reviewer added that The Burry Man’s Day is a “well-researched historical novel that brings the past to life.” Writing in Booklist, Barbara Bibel noted that the mystery features a “lively cast of characters and a strong Scottish atmosphere.” A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote of the book: “Dandy and her friends are charming period pieces who are given an interesting and heartbreaking mystery to solve.” A Publishers Weekly reviewer referred to the book as an “altogether satisfying cozy.”
McPherson told CA:“My three older sisters taught me to read and write long before I went to school—they were always the teachers when we played, and I was always the pupil—so I can’t remember a time before I could write and before I wanted to write stories. I started with pastiches of Enid Blyton fairy tales and went on from there.
“With six full-length stories completed so far, I’m beginning to see that what I come back to again and again is family, love, and secrets. Also, I don’t think I could ever write a wholly solemn book.
“My writing process has been a great disappointment to my scientist husband, who thought that when I gave up academia I would start to wear wispy garments and work in a romantic lair of scribbled notes and inspirational objects, and that he would wake at three in the morning to find me typing by candlelight. In fact, when I’m writing a first draft, I start at nine in the morning, Monday through Friday, write until twelve, take two hours off for lunch and a walk, and then write, edit, or do admin until six. My study is tidier than his.
“My most surprising discovery is how much more like exploration and less like creation writing is than I would have expected. Every time so far, I’ve made a decision to change something big at the end of the writing process (e.g., the identity of the murderer) and found that the book is already set up as though that were going to happen.
“My favorite book is my first—unpublished—manuscript. It’s the one that proved I could sit down at a blank screen and end up with a hundred thousand words of connected prose. Until I had done it the first time it seemed a ludicrous thing to suppose I could achieve, and I’m glad I don’t have that particular worry any more.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES
Booklist, September 1, 2005, Sue O’Brien, review of After the Armistice Ball, p. 70; September 15, 2006, Barbara Bibel, review of The Burry Man’s Day, p. 32.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2006, review of The Burry Man’s Day, p. 757.
Library Journal, September 1, 2005, Rex E. Klett, review of After the Armistice Ball, p. 117.
Publishers Weekly, July 18, 2005, review of After the Armistice Ball, p. 187; August 7, 2006, review of The Burry Man’s Day, p. 36.
Scotsman (Edinburgh, Scotland), July 20, 2006, Biran Ferguson, “Novel Idea Brings Old Custom to Life,” profile of author; July 23, 2006, “Catriona McPherson,” interview with author.
Dandy Gilver Series Web site, http://www.dandygilver.co.uk (December 31, 2006).
Euro Crime, http://www.eurocrime.co.uk/ (December 31, 2006), Karen Meek, review of After the Armistice Ball.
MurderExpress.net, http://www.murderexpress.net/ (December 31, 2006), brief biography of author.
Mystery Scene Magazine, http://www.mysteryscenemag.com/ (December 31, 2006), Molly Adams, review of After the Armistice Ball.