Dress Down Sunday: Weight of Angels, OR House, Tree, Person


new book by Catriona Mcpherson, with different names in the UK and the USA

published 2017



LOOKING AT WHAT GOES ON UNDER THE CLOTHES



House Tree Person 1house tree person 2House tree person 2a


[Ali, a beauty therapist, has applied for a new job at a residential facility, and is meeting various people…]

There was someone in that gazebo. I didn’t stare, but I could tell even from the corner of my eye that they were dressed in night clothes. No one wore pale pink trousers and a pink fluffy mackintosh. Those were pyjamas and a dressing gown, so that was a patient, one of the special needs clients of my so-called wide experience. As I slid the car into a free space between two BMWs, I saw the figure start to move…”Help me!” she yelled. “Get me out of here. You’ve got to help me!”…


House Tree Person 4The door was already opening when I approached and [a] woman came to greet me..
“Ms McGovern?” she said. “Alison? I’m Dr Ferris.”

She was definitely a doctor. She wasn’t wearing a white coat or anything, but there was no House Tree Person 5doubt. She had a soft green jumper on, cashmere probably, and dark green trousers. Not jeans or cords: proper slacks with pressed creases. They hung a perfect quarter inch off the ground, just skimming the toes of brown high-heeled court shoes. She probably wore them all day and claimed they were comfy.


commentary: Catriona McPherson is incredibly productive. Once a year for the past ten years or so she has produced a Dandy Gilver book – each of them beautifully-written and (as they are the best historical crime novels around) I’m guessing requiring a lot of research, especially as McPherson now lives in California. In between times, she polishes off standalone crime thrillers of a very high standard. We don’t know how she does it. But we can still enjoy the results.

I am second to none in my love for Dandy (most recently here), but I very much like the standalones too – The Child Garden was on the blog earlier this year. They are usually set in modern-day Scotland, and in milieux quite different from that of the upmarket Dandy. In this case, Alison and her husband have had serious financial troubles, lost two businesses, and ended up moving to a much smaller house. They are in dire straits, so when Ali is offered the job at a Howell Hall she has to take it - even though her CV has been massaged, and she is not really qualified. She quickly realizes that all is not as it should be at the hall, staff and patients all seem rather strange. Meanwhile, at home she is worried about her son and her husband. And then a body is discovered very close to her house…

The thing is, all those tropes are very familiar from many many books. Who ever goes to work at a medical facility in a big old house and DOESN’T start worrying? But somehow McPherson always has the ability to turn a fresh eye on these plotlines, she uses her magic and translates them into something different and unusual, while still keeping an iron grip on tension and atmosphere. I was busy guessing what was going on, and she kept turning it round and springing new surprises. It is superbly done.

House Tree Person is the US title of the book – in the UK it is published as Weight of Angels. I prefer the US title: it refers to a basic psychological test which is used to great effect in the book, a test which gives Ali all kinds of clues as to what is happening. (Gladys Mitchell’s Mrs Bradley would be proud of her.) And while she is asking questions and trying to get to the truth, Ali goes on with her beauty treatments: makeovers for the patients, and a clear case for looking after anyone, and that it isn’t either superficial or unimportant to make people feel good about themselves.

House Tree Person 3

A nice selection of  cosy pyjamas and dressing-gowns, with very varying levels of happiness, above. The best one was actually an American Girl doll (featured on the blog in various guises in the past):

But I didn’t want to challenge Julia’s humanity, as the book is all about humanity.


The two working-doctor outfits come from Pringle of Scotland, and that is very much somewhere Dr Ferris would shop, I feel.



















Comments

  1. I don't know how McPerson does it, either, Moira. She certainly is prolific. And this one has such an interesting context and premise; I like it! I hadn't thought about a beauty therapist as the main character, so that's interesting, too. Little wonder, with McPherson's writing skill, that you enjoyed it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, a very good book, and I liked the fact that it was a strong crime plot, but had humanity at its heart.

      Delete
  2. Moira: Changes in work attire have been far more marked in the medical profession than the legal profession over the 42 years since I graduated from university. It is rare for me to see a male doctor in a suit any longer. Most are casually dressed in Saskatchewan. But for Fridays it remains uncommon to see a male lawyer not dressed in a suit. Another day for observations on the current apparel of female doctors and lawyers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh good point Bill - that is true here too I think, and I hadn't consciously noted that change myself. But 30 years ago a doctor and a lawyer would have been dressed similarly, and now that would be most unlikely. Excellent point!

      Delete
  3. I did enjoy The Child Garden, but I shall hold fire on any more from her until the pile is under control, which let's face it will probably never happen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed - but when you want a reco for another of her books do consult me!

      Delete
  4. Thank you, Clothes in Books. I'm honoured to be part of your dress-down Sunday!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are honoured to have you, and hope you keep the books coming!

      Delete
  5. Catriona is not only prolific, a great writer, a fab story-teller, but she is without a doubt the funniest human being I've ever met. I just bought some book or other of her that won't be out until next year, and I suspect she has more in the chute. Brilliant author!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A lovely testimonial, and lucky you to have met her, and to have got ahead with the books.

      Delete
  6. This Brit definitely prefers "House, Tree, Person" as a title too....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, I'm rather puzzled by that change...

      Delete
  7. Well,thanks to you I've got some Dandy Gilver books from the internet and I'm enjoying them enormously. 'Catriona Macpherson is incredibly productive'...Oh,dear. It would help a lot if we could somehow make reading quicker and writing slower!

    ggary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh good! And also, sorry about the extra weight on the TBR. It's true what they say: too many books, too little time.
      I have never forgotten Dame Edna Everage tormenting Melvin Bragg at a live Audience show. 'How many books have you written Melvin?... How many people here have read any of them?' (few hands go up) 'Now Melvin can you do us all a favour - stop writing them till we can all catch up.'
      Makes me laugh every time I think of it, and I do sometimes wish some even of my favourite writers would slow down.

      Delete
  8. An alternative title might be "The Big House Murder(s)," since the house is a major factor here.

    If "The Child Garden" deals with murdered children, I'm not reading it. That is a theme that turns me off.

    I loved seeing Dame Edna Everage, who has not been on TV over here for years. She was hilarious.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You'd think there'd already be plenty of books called The Big House Murder, but I don't know of any.
      Yes Dame Edna was brilliant when on form, but don't see her so much now.

      Delete
  9. I finally did read The Winter Ground, the 4th Dandy Gilver book, and enjoyed it very much. I fear that McPherson's standalone suspense books may be too too tense for me but I plan to try some of them anyway. I have Come to Harm.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are very different. Luckily I know what you mean by the sentence 'I have Come to harm', but it could lead to a terrible misunderstanding!

      Delete

Post a Comment