As I’m a little otherwise occupied at the moment, I have a real treat for you. I’m totally delighted to welcome author Virginia King today as my guest, with her review of Madam Tulip by David Ahern. Over to you Virginia…!
As the author of the Selkie Moon Mystery Series, I’m always on the lookout for a new mystery series with a difference – to read both for pleasure and inspiration – and it’s been a delight to discover the quirky world of Madam Tulip.
As Anne said herself when she reviewed my book The First Lie:
“Quirky” and “bizarre” aren’t words you’ll often find in the descriptions of books I choose to read, but I’m 100% happy to recommend this book to anyone who usually shares my taste in books.
I think the same sentiments, with plenty of “quirky” and a little less of the “bizarre”, also apply to Madam Tulip.
Suspense, mystery, action, a little romance and lots of laughs
Out-of-work actress Derry O’Donnell is young, talented, a teeny bit psychic … and broke. Spurred on by an ultimatum from her awesomely high-achieving mother, and with a little help from her theatrical friends, Derry embarks on a part-time career as Madame Tulip, fortune-teller to the rich and famous. But at her first fortune-telling gig – a celebrity charity weekend in a castle – a famous rap artist will die.
As Derry is drawn deeper into a seedy world of celebrities, supermodels and millionaires, she finds herself playing the most dangerous role of her acting life. Trapped in a maze of intrigue, money and drugs, Derry’s attempts at amateur detective could soon destroy her friends, her ex-lover, her father and herself.
Madame Tulip is the first in a series of Tulip adventures in which Derry O’Donnell, celebrity fortune-teller and reluctant detective, plays the most exciting and perilous roles of her acting life, drinks borage tea, and fails to understand her parents.
Fans of humorous mystery writers Janet Evanovich and Carl Hiaasen will love Madam Tulip.
Madam Tulip is the first book in what promises to be a refreshing new mystery series. In this blend of mystery, suspense, humour, a whisper of the supernatural and a hint of romance, Irish writer David Ahern deftly combines different elements to spin a tale that will have readers enchanted.
In a genre overloaded with predictable plots and tired twists, Madam Tulip is a breath of fresh air. Instead of the usual over-rehearsed routines, Madam Tulip’s encounters are anything but usual, creating a whole new mix of humour and drama.
Starving out-of-work actress Derry O’Donnell has to find a way to pay her rent and feed herself. Over a few drinks with one of her larger-than-life friends – expect to meet a few of them along the way – she cooks up a scheme to use the psychic abilities that she occasionally uses to entertain friends, to transform herself into fortune-teller-for-hire Madam Tulip. What could possibly go wrong? Maybe … everything?
One of the things I love is when a book leads me into a world I know nothing about. Ahern’s background in the theatre makes him a reliable guide as Derry takes us behind the scenes of: a seedy theatre that’s seen better days; the wardrobe room where its resident characters shoehorn Derry into her new ‘skin’; the glittering castle brimming with starlets where Madam Tulip performs her first gig; and the sights and smells of urban and rural Ireland.
Add to this the clever but cryptic clues that spring from Derry’s psychic insights, creating glimpses into the dark motives lurking below the surface. Then there’s the social depth as characters from different classes collide – the opposing pulls of their obsessions and peccadilloes give the story its momentum.
Derry’s interactions with her dissolute but loveable father produce dialogue at its unpredictable and hilarious best. In fact both Derry’s parents are forces to be reckoned with, and her attempts to deal with them and keep them apart is a delightful thread full of tangles and knots.
The characters are quirky, the writing is witty, the dialogue funny and the mystery of how the rap star met his death remains elusive as the clues mount. Suddenly being Madam Tulip is no longer fun and Derry might be out of her depth. As her life begins to unravel, Ahern manages to keep an almost perfect balance between the entertaining mayhem that’s his signature and the mounting tension of the mystery.
If I have a criticism it’s that the build-up of clues was a little too long, but these concerns are swept away by the rush of adrenaline when the final scenes arrive. Even then – as imminent death threatens – circumstances still inspire humour from characters we’ve come to know, maintaining the book’s unique flavour till the end.
All loose ends are tucked away, but Ahern has sprinkled some tantalising crumbs that will have readers reaching for the next book in the series, Madam Tulip and the Knave of Hearts.
Many thanks Virginia – what an excellent review! Thank you for choosing to share it here on Being Anne…
About David Ahern
David Ahern grew up in a theatrical family in Ireland but ran away to Scotland to become a research psychologist and sensible person. He earned his doctorate and taught in major Universities but could never explain to his granny why he didn’t own a stethoscope.
Finding the challenge of pretending to know things exhausting, David Ahern shaved off his beard and absconded once more, this time to work in television. He became a writer, director and producer, creating international documentary series and winning numerous awards, none of which got him free into nightclubs.
For no particular reason, David Ahern took to writing fiction. Madame Tulip wasn’t his first novel, but writing it was the most fun he’d ever had with a computer. The second in the Madam Tulip mystery series, Madam Tulip and the Knave of Hearts, was published in autumn 2016. He is now writing the third Madam Tulip adventure and enjoys pretending this is actual work.
David Ahern lives in the beautiful West of Ireland with his wife, two cats and a vegetable garden of which he is inordinately proud.
About Virginia King
When a voice wakes you up in the middle of the night and tells you to write a mystery series, what’s a writer to do? That’s how Virginia King came to create Selkie Moon, after a massage from a strange woman with gifted hands was followed by this nocturnal message. Virginia sat down at the keyboard and waited until Selkie Moon turned up. Soon she was hooked, exploring far-flung places full of secrets where Selkie delves into psychological clues tangled up in the local mythology.
Before Selkie Moon invaded her life, Virginia had been a teacher, an unemployed ex-teacher, the author of over 50 children’s books, an audio-book producer, a workshop presenter and a prize-winning publisher. These days she lives in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney with her husband, where she disappears each day into Selkie Moon’s latest mystery. Bliss.
You can download a taste of the Selkie Moon series with the free prequel, a 60-minute adrenalin rush, Laying Ghosts.