Rosie’s Reviewers #RBRT Madam Tulip And The Bones Of Chance by @DaveAhernWriter #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Barb, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading Madam Tulip And The Bones Of Chance by David Ahern


My Review: 5 stars out of 5 for Madam Tulip and the Bones of Chance

I don’t watch TV. I don’t even own a television. But if I did, I imagine waiting for a new episode of my favorite series each week would feel a bit like reading the next Madam Tulip. Certainly all the ingredients are there. You have your (attractive of course) young actress, Derry O’Donnell—permanently broke and scratching for the next job in the Dublin theater scene, consistently dating the wrong flavor-of-the-week, while waiting for The Big Break.

Derry’s supporting cast includes her mother Vanessa—successful American art gallery owner, artist’s agent, and force of nature. Vanessa is divorced from (but still agent to) Derry’s father, Jacko—famous Irish artist whose painting skills are second only to his ability to gamble (and lose) money. Then there are Derry’s acting friends, Bella (black, Belfast-born actress with catch-phrase ‘Say No to Negativity!’), and Bruce (gay ex-Navy Seal, actor, computer expert, and total eye-candy). [note: and in case you didn’t get the gay part, his remarkably prescient parents did, in fact, name him “Bruce”.]

As with favored TV shows, the point is here is not the actual mystery that needs to be solved each week/book, but the way Derry’s character and those of her friends develop and change over the course of each episode. Each episode begins with Derry trying to avoid a day job that involves the phrase, “And would you like fries with that?” or even worse, working as her mother’s Personal Assistant. (“Life as Vanessa’s P-anything would be like being trapped inside a hall of mirrors with a shopping list written in hieroglyphics.”) Derry’s only marketable skill—some psychic abilities which for the most part are both unreliable and fairly useless—lead to the birth of Madam* Tulip, celebrity psychic and fortune-teller. (*That’s Madam without an “e”, because she’s not married to Monsieur Tulip.) 

But Madam Tulip, in her two previous outings, has shown an unfortunate tendency to stumble over crimes and dead bodies, while pitching Derry into life-threatening situations. So when a figure from one of those narrow escapes offers a no-audition role in a movie (at almost Hollywood rates!) being filmed in the Highlands of Scotland, Derry stuns her acting friends by turning it down. Bruce is particularly overcome.

‘No…?’ he said, but couldn’t utter the actual word. Bruce’s pathological fear of auditions was well known to his friends. Remarkably, a man who thought exiting a submerged submarine while carrying a full load of limpet mines a hoot, was terrified to the point of nervous collapse by the prospect of an audition. Now his face shone like that of a saint glimpsing the promised land. The very idea that auditionless casting existed somewhere in the universe promised to change life’s whole complexion.

When the movie company not only offers to change Madam Tulip’s name, but also to cast Bruce, Derry reluctantly agrees. In barely related subplots, her parents also head to Scotland to open a gallery (Vanessa) and recoup his finances with an exhibition (Jacko). This allows for plenty of snide Irish/Scot comparisons (‘Scotland seemed to consist of countless miles of nothing at all…’), and even more snide American/British comparisons (‘But, being half Irish, Derry knew that when someone laments the fact they would soon be buried under the sod, the statement was to be filed under the general heading of weella, weella, wallya or, alternatively, ochone, ochone, ochone. Such lamentations were mostly about the tune, not the words.’). Of course, there’s plenty of obligatory kilt-ogling, and Derry’s developing attraction to both the local millionaire castle owner, and to the delicious Scottish accents of his estate manager, Rab, especially with his ‘Aye’ of agreement.

Derry breathed out as quietly as she could. A small but distinct and unambiguous tingle had developed at the nape of her neck. Could she try one more time?

‘Did you say an estate manager was called a factor here?’

‘Aye,’ answered Rab, gloriously.

Without adding spoilers, I think it’s fair to say the movie shoot doesn’t go well. Derry manages to get through the scene that gives the book its name, in which her character, a gypsy fortune teller, throws some prop bones and reads portents into their runes. Only…in her hands, the bones take on a sinister life of their own, bringing a vision warning of impending doom. A shaken Derry finds herself under attack from the media, maneuvered into giving a seance at the castle as Madam Tulip, shot at, and in peril.

As with many cozy mysteries, the character development, banter, and growing relationships with supporting characters are far more fun than the actual plot. That’s actually a good thing because the bad guys’ identities are telegraphed early on, but it doesn’t matter. Derry and Bruce stumble from one clue to the next, Madam Tulip’s psychic gifts illuminate the motives, and Derry is once more in the villains’ crosshairs. Meanwhile, Derry continues to choose the wrong guy for romance, her parents continue to battle, and Bruce continues to save everyone (while obsessing over his next scene).

I loved the descriptions of the settings, from Ireland to Scotland, and especially the Highlands (“An island-studded sea sparkled, blue and other-worldly. The water was stunningly transparent, so clear you could see a dark band of weed stretch out under the swell for a hundred yards before the sea bottom dropped away and the colour changed to a deep azure. A heather-covered hillside, golden red, rose steeply inland.”)  Later, Derry rides the train used for the Hogwarts Express, “…sweeping around a curving viaduct thrown casually across a broad heather-covered valley of breathtaking beauty.” She’s right. I’ve ridden that train and the scenery is stunning (although I’ve never seen red heather…).

But my favorite part was the relationship between Derry, her parents, and her friends. As with any good series, this just keeps getting better and better. Without it, this would be a much lesser book, but I don’t hesitate to give five stars and say that I can’t wait for the next book. Maybe poor Derry will have a nice date at last.

Book description

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.

A millionaire banker, a film producer with a mysterious past, a gun-loving wife, a PA with her eyes on Hollywood, a handsome and charming estate manager—each has a secret to share and a request for Madam Tulip.
As Derry and her friend Bruce race to prevent a murder, she learns to her dismay that the one future Tulip can’t predict is her own.

Madame Tulip is the third in a series of thrilling and hilarious Tulip adventures in which Derry O’Donnell, celebrity fortune-teller and reluctant amateur detective, plays the most exciting and perilous roles of her acting life, drinks borage tea, and fails to understand her parents.

About the author

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.

David Ahern

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