What characters read says a lot about them. In my Penny Brannigan mystery series set in North Wales, Mrs. Lloyd, the former postmistress in Llanelen, fancies herself a lady, so naturally, that’s her magazine of choice. She takes her copy of The Lady with her to the hairdressers or to pass the time when she’s riding the bus into Llandudno for a spot of shopping. And on a memorable, snowy night in A Killer’s Christmas in Wales, she sought comfort in its pages as she waited for a suitor who never arrived.
Her favourite articles are anything about royalty — she found a recent article on what’s in the Queen’s handbag especially interesting — and the advertisements for domestic help. She loves the idea that the owners of great houses still advertise in The Lady for married couples to work as cook/chauffeur. And since Florence Semble came to live with her as a cross between a cook/housekeeper and companion, Mrs. Lloyd feels she’s almost earned her place in ladydom.
Over the years, she’s noticed that the magazine has changed to be in tune with contemporary life and to appeal to younger readers. But at the same time, it has stayed true to its core group of established readers by including articles about the traditional things they value: the British way of life, the role of women in society, modern etiquette, conservative fashion, time saving tips, television programs like Call the Midwife and so on.
And while she loves the magazine, and in fact subscribes to it so she won’t miss an issue, and occasionally dips into Country Life, Mrs. Lloyd doesn’t read books. Her lodger, Florence, however does read books, but she can’t afford to buy them so she’s a great patron of the local library, and has become friends with the librarian, Jean Bryson.
As for amateur sleuth Penny Brannigan herself, she loves to curl up with a good mystery. Police procedures are good, but nothing too violent. At the other end of the spectrum, she’s not one for cozy quilting type books set in a Maine B&B, either.
But in Slated for Death, when she couldn’t sleep, the librarian offered her a nice, boring history of farming practices in the former USSR.
Reading probably plays as much a role in my characters’ lives as it does in yours!
The Marmalade Murders, #9 in the Penny Brannigan mystery series set in North Wales, is published April 24 by St. Martin’s Press.