Friday, August 19, 2022

"The Orphans of Mersea House"

USA Today best-selling author Marty Wingate writes The First Edition Library series set in Bath, England, about the curator of a collection of books from the Golden Age of Mystery. Book one, The Bodies in the Library, concerns murder among an Agatha Christie fan-fiction writing group, and in book two, Murder Is a Must, an exhibition manager is found dead at the bottom of a spiral staircase. Wingate also writes historical fiction: Glamour Girls follows Spitfire pilot Rosalie Wright through both the physical and emotional dangers of the Second World War. Wingate writes two further mystery series: the Potting Shed books feature Pru Parke, a middle-aged American gardener transplanted from Texas to England, and the Birds of a Feather series follows Julia Lanchester, bird lover, who runs a tourist office in a Suffolk village.

Wingate prefers on-the-ground research whenever possible, and so she and her husband regularly travel to England and Scotland, where she can be found tracing the steps of her characters, stopping for tea and a slice of Victoria sponge in a café, or enjoying a swift half in a pub.

Wingate applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Orphans of Mersea House, and reported the following:
On page 69 of The Orphans of Mersea House, we find Olive, housekeeper at the boardinghouse, and eleven-year-old Juniper, newcomer and ward of the owner of the house, in the bathroom. Juniper wears metal calipers on both legs from a bout of polio when she was quite young and needs assistance. Olive rings Margery, the owner, about adaptive equipment and Margery agrees.

The Page 69 Test works for Orphans, and that surprised me, because at first glance I thought, “Okay, it sort of works.” But the more I thought about it, the more I could see what it revealed. You’d think authors would know everything about what they wrote, but we can surprise even ourselves occasionally.

The book is set in 1957 Southwold, a small town on the coast of Suffolk in England. On page 69, we see the beginning of a change of power, of sorts. Margery, owner of the boardinghouse, is the boss, but when Olive tells her what they must do—bring someone in to adapt the toilet for Juniper’s use—she goes along with what Olive says without question. We see a bond forming between Juniper and Olive. We see the matter-of-fact way Juniper approaches the obstacles set in front of her by her physical limitations, and we get a glimpse of how self-reliant she has learned to be. We see her immediately begin to think of a solution to the problem at hand, and we learn that she is handy with a pencil and paper, too. We also catch a glimpse of Casper, odd jobs man in town who says he has already heard about Margery’s ward, even though she’d only arrived that morning. Small towns, you know.

On page 69, we get a feel for Juniper, Olive, and Margery, and we see elements of their characters that will propel the story forward.
Visit Marty Wingate's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Librarian Always Rings Twice.

The Page 69 Test: The Librarian Always Rings Twice.

Q&A with Marty Wingate.

--Marshal Zeringue