Meet me in Westport, County Mayo

I’ve been dreaming of gathering Star O’Brien fans together for a trip to County Mayo, Ireland and a visit to many of the places in the series. But alas travel to the Emerald Isle is still not recommended by the CDC. So since we cannot make a trip to County Mayo right now, I have to settle with sharing some of my research photos and a snippet of a scene from the first book in the series: Death on Clare Island: A Star O’Brien Mystery.

Today I’m visiting Westport and invite you to have a virtual coffee or tea at Curry’s Cottage, Bakery, and Tea Room. It’s one of my favorite places and a must go to whenever I’m in County Mayo. Here’s a link to their Facebook page and a some pictures I took when we were there in 2019.

Star and Lucia (one of the characters in Death on Clare Island) have a hot chocolate in Curry’s when Star meets the teenager Here’s an excerpt from the scene:

“Why don’t we have a cup of coffee?” I said, nodding toward Curry’s green window sashes.

She nodded, shifting the books in her arms, and turned into Curry’s narrow door. Then she walked toward an empty table and placed the books on a chair. I offered to get our drinks while she waited. She wanted a hot chocolate.

After a few minutes of warming our hands on the hot mugs and taking our first careful sips, I asked again, “So why don’t you tell me what’s going on?”

She removed the stocking cap and pushed her blonde hair behind her ears.

“Nothing. Nothing is going on. Matthew promised to give me a book about the history of women and art. I don’t know why, but I thought I might still get it. Perhaps his sister, umm….” Her voice faltered as the words ran out.

“What, Lucia? You thought his sister might be at the apartment?”

She shrugged. “I didn’t know. I thought if I hung around I’d see someone. But then I saw you and I got scared.” She punctuated the sentence with another shrug.

I sat back in my chair and pushed my mug away to the side to clear the space between us. “So what is it you’re afraid of? What else do you know about Matthew, and what happened on Clare Island? You know that Sharon Dawson is dead, don’t you?”

“Yes, I heard it on the radio. I can’t. I don’t know anything about it, though. She and Matthew fought a lot. That’s all I know for certain. That and the fact that I just want to be an artist and get away from that island.” Her eyes brimmed with tears as she looked away from me to her pile of books.

Was she telling me the truth, or was she putting on a dramatic act? Teenagers—it’s hard to size them up. Their emotional range often changes within a few minutes.

I decided to treat her more like an adult than a teenager.

“Lucia, you realize that if you know anything, you’re in danger. There’s no doubt now with Sharon’s death that there’s a killer at work here. Don’t you think it would be wise to tell someone if you have any knowledge about her and Matthew?” I paused, waiting for these ideas to sink in.

“I don’t know any more than what I’ve already told you,” she snapped back. Then she reached for the stocking cap and pulled it down over her hair again. “My parents don’t want me speaking with you or anyone else about Matthew.”

“Why not, Lucia? What are you hiding? Were you planning on meeting someone in Westport?” I had to rush my questions since she was obviously preparing to bolt.

She stood up, grabbed her books, and tossed some euros on the table. “I have to go or I’ll miss the bus back to Roonagh Quay, and my parents will worry.”

I nodded. I wasn’t going to learn anymore from her now. I hoped to God she was telling the truth about not knowing anything further about Matthew and Sharon.

Her eyes pleaded with me, I noticed.

For her sake.

Do you know about Tochar-Phadraig and Saint Patrick?

If you’ve never heard of Saint Patrick and the Pilgrim’s Path (Tochar-Phadraig in Irish), then you need to head over to Mairead’s Irish American Mom website and read my guest post today:

I’m grateful and thrilled to be on Mairead’s award winning web site. The site is filled with lots of information about Irish culture, history, and literature. There are also many wonderful Irish recipes. I hope you enjoy my guest post.

A Spud Recipe for St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner.

Photo by Hayley Catherine on Unsplash

You may be thinking of making corned beef and cabbage. But have you considered your potato side dish? Well, look no more because I have a “champ” for you to make. Yes, that’s right there’s a potato dish called “champ”. It is also called “poundies” (I wonder why?) and brúitín in Irish.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Some of my earliest memories are of my mother making champ for my brother and I. We still lived in the Bronx at that time. We’d sit at the kitchen table and my mother would place this huge bowl of mashed potatoes in front of us. In the middle of the potato mound, she’d make a big well and fill it with butter. Yum! I loved getting the part of the mashed dish with all the melting butter swirling through it!

Champ is easy to make. The recipe calls for scallions, potatoes, butter, milk or cream, salt and pepper. My mom never used the scallions; she just added a generous knob of butter. When I don’t have scallions on hand, I use finely diced white onions (there’s always one in my refrigerator). You will find lots of recipes on the internet for champ. If the recipe doesn’t mention adding the onion or scallion to the milk or cream (which you will want to warm), then I recommend doing so. The flavors will enhance the milk/cream. And, of course, when I can, I use Kerrygold unsalted butter (lots of it).

So, give champ a try. I think you’ll love it.

What is your favorite mystery podcast?

Reading is still my number one favorite pastime. But when I’m on a long walk or in a doctor’s office waiting room, I love to put in my earplugs and listen to an interview of a mystery author.

Photo by Melanie Pongratz on Unsplash

I recently discovered a search engine for podcasts that you might not know about: This is a neat website that allows you search for podcasts by subject, title, or author.

One of my favorite podcasts features interviews with the authors who write mysteries: “It’s a mystery podcast” hosted by Alexandra Amor. Another which features author interviews is “The Cozy Corner with Alexia Gordon”:

Maybe you prefer to listen to podcasts of actual mystery novels such as some of the classics like Agatha Christie. Then you might want to try The Classic Tales Podcast:

So tell me, what is your favorite podcast?