Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Natural Fit - Empty Nest: A Birds of a Feather Mystery by Marty Wingate

If you love Laura Childs, Ellery Adams, or Jenn McKinlay, don’t miss Marty Wingate’s charming Birds of a Feather series! InEmpty Nest, Julia Lanchester’s life is interrupted by a murder most foul—and a killer who’s watching her like a hawk.


Publication Date: December 1st, 2015

If you love Laura Childs, Ellery Adams, or Jenn McKinlay, don’t miss Marty Wingate’s charming Birds of a Feather series!

InEmpty Nest, Julia Lanchester’s life is interrupted by a murder most foul—and a killer who’s watching her like a hawk.

Manager of a tourist center in a quaint British village, Julia Lanchester finds herself with more ideas than time. Her boss is the Earl Fotheringill himself, but apart from him, she doesn’t mix well with the aristocracy. Unfortunately, toxic mold forces her from her cottage and into one of the earl’s countless spare rooms at the Hall. She tries to get a handle on her overload of work, while she finds herself arguing with dinner guests, chaffing at the sudden interest the earl’s son has in running the estate, and missing her new beau, Michael Sedgwick.

Her life goes from bad to sinister when Julia discovers poisoned sparrowhawks on the expansive estate grounds. And soon after, she finds one of the Hall’s visitors murdered—felled by the same poison. While simultaneously both spooked and angry, she still can’t keep herself from snooping, and dragging Michael along into her investigation. But will she find the culprit before her own wings are clipped?

Birds and Mysteries – A Natural Fit

You’ve seen that magpie or crow eyeing you from the treetop as you walk by, and you wonder what he’s thinking about, because he is mostly certainly thinking about something. Wild birds fascinate us and so we stalk them, track them, watch them – and they put up with us.

In Empty Nest, the second in my Birds of a Feather mysteries, I choose to feature sparrow hawks, a predator bird in Britain that has seen ups and downs to its population, mostly due to pesticide use through poisonings – both unintentional and intentional. Sparrow hawks deserve their place in nature, even though I – and my main character, Julia Lanchester – prefer not to focus on their diet, which consists of cute small birds and mice. 

But it isn’t only sparrow hawks in Empty Nest – there are also blackbirds, robins, bramblings, pied wagtails, sparrows, finches, and more. I want to bring the world of British birds to you, and I love to weave in the delights of birdwatching as I weave the mystery.

Julia isn’t one of those “twitchers,” whose goal in life is to rack up as many species on their “seen” lists as possible. That would be her friend Gavin Lecky – the fellow who wears black leather, has a stubbly beard, and a single earring in the shape of a hovering kestrel. No, instead, Julia prefers the birds of gardens, woods, and fields – as do I – and so here I’ve included a few of our favorites that can be found in or near any British garden.

Blackbirds – Americans who travel to Britain will find a bird that is about the size of the American robin, that sounds like an American robin, and scoots along the ground just like an American robin. So why is it black? Blackbirds and American robins are both thrushes – they are close relatives, and that’s why they act so alike. American robins (some birders would like us to call them American thrushes) have a red breast, but blackbirds are all black. Americans hear the robin’s call at dusk – practically nighttime, but in England that would be the blackbird you hear. Go and listen to the Beatles’ song Blackbird and you’ll understand.

Robins – So, if a robin is a blackbird in Britain, what’s a robin? It’s a little bird, smaller than a sparrow, with an orange-red head and breast. Robins are curious things, and will hop down a branch to watch you in the garden. They are often called Britain’s favorite bird.

Pied wagtail – This little guy never stops. You can find him on lawns, in fields, even on sidewalks. He walks or runs along the ground, and every time he stops, his tail wags up and down. Pied wagtails are black-and-white, quite distinctive and delightful.

Goldfinch – The American goldfinch is a sweet little thing, flitting around the feeders in the backyard. In Britain, the goldfinch is a bit chunkier and quite showy. They have bold gold markings on their wings and a red face. Goldfinches are easy to watch in the garden, because instead of flitting around at the feeder, they prefer to settle down for a long meal.

Green woodpecker – Yes, it’s green, with a red head and that long beak for picking out insects. But green woodpeckers don’t feed in trees as other woodpeckers do, they feed on the ground, hunting for ants, the staple of their diet. They aren’t easy to spot – in Empty Nest, Julia’s boyfriend goes off to film green woodpeckers, thinking it’ll all be finished in an hour. Julia knows better – she knows he may be out in the field all day and never get the green woodpeck on film. 

You never know with birds – you can expect one thing and get something entirely different. They are mysterious that way

About the author:
Marty Wingate is the author of two previous Potting Shed mysteries, The Garden Plot and The Red Book of Primrose House. Her new Birds of a Feather Mystery series debuted with The Rhyme of the Magpie. Wingate is a regular contributor to Country Gardens and other magazines. She also leads gardening tours throughout England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and North America. More Potting Shed and Birds of a Feather mysteries are planned.

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