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Talked myself into it: Murder at the Observatory

March 20, 2014

It’s too good an opportunity, so I’m going for it.

Murder At The Observatory

(A Ms Birdsong Investigates: short story)

is on the go already.

The more I thought about it, the more I needed to write it.

I’ve written 3,000 words (so far) of this Short Story which will feature Ms Birdsong investigating.

This will be a stand-alone Ms Birdsong Investigation, not part of the novel I am writing for her –  Ms Birdsong Investigates.

 It wasn’t intended to be a Ms B. story to begin with but as I started writing I felt the location had to be on the Berkshire/Oxfordshire Downs – remote after-all – and a suitable place to build an Observatory; all that space and blackness.

The Vale of the White Horse - Lavinia Birdsong's home on the Berkshire/Oxfordshire Downs

The Vale of the White Horse – Lavinia Birdsong’s home on the Berkshire/Oxfordshire Downs

And if I used the Berkshire/Oxfordshire Downs then I had to include the former MI5 Officer, Ms. B.

After-all, she is the sort of woman who cannot let a good murder pass her by without taking more than a passing interest.

I think it would be pushing it a bit to create two sleuths living in the same area, don’t you?

This short story will be included in my Crime Anthology which I am compiling at the moment and hope to publish in the next couple of months. 

My recent visit to Herstmonceux got me all fired up. 

As we walked up the long road to the Observatory and Main buildings in the pitch black with only a torch and the red glow of the main buildings to give us a sense of direction, I told my companions that this was an ideal setting for a murder.  I guess the germ grew and grew and on Sunday evening I needed to write the first few pages.

My Observatory is loosely based on Herstmonceux but instead of Sussex I am placing my Observatory somewhere familiar; in the Vale of the White HorseLavinia Birdsong’s home following her ‘voluntary’  early retirement from MI5.

Cobweb Cottage where Ms Birdsong lives in Ampney Parva

Cobweb Cottage where Ms Birdsong lives in Ampney Parva – her dream home.

Lavinia Birdsong lives in Cobweb Cottage, not a stones throw from Mercy Farthing’s  rented cottage which is a bit worse for wear.  She has created a wonderful wildflower garden, and has a next door neighbour who employs a young Polish Nanny, Claudia Polanski, who often chats with Mercy over the garden fence as she tends her garden.

 Claudia feeds Mercy’s cat if ever she is away.

Mercy Farthing has cleaned for Lavinia ever since the former MI5 Officer moved into the village and has always been reliable and a hard-worker.

She recently joined a Facebook Group, ‘Star-gazing,’ who are all fans of astronomy and include professional and amateurs in their membership.

Murder at the Observatory - cottage opposite Ms Birdsong in Ampney Parva (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Murder at the Observatory – cottage opposite Ms Birdsong in Ampney Parva (c) Jane Risdon 2014

Mercy Farthing has a regular boyfriend, Lou-Diamond Smith, whose mother is a bit Hollywood star-struck –  hence her son’s name –  and an avid fan of ‘Escape to the Country’.

Ampney Parva is a small rural village in the Vale of the White Horse where Lavinia Birdsong has settled having found herself in need of a bolt-hole away from London and her past life, and those who might seek to find her.

She’s taken to writing novels to pass the time and bases some of her characters on those living locally or in the small hamlets nearby.  Old habits die-hard and as well as keeping her neighbours under a mild form of surveillance,  she continues to keep records of daily events which she writes up each night before going to sleep.

Ms Birdsong is  inquisitive, observant and methodical;  nothing seems too small or too insignificant to be of interest to her and when her gut instinct kicks in, there aren’t any secrets safe from her.

When Mercy Farthing fails to turn up for her Monday cleaning appointment Lavinia’s finely-tuned instincts go into over-drive.

So, at some point in the next couple of months ‘Murder at the Observatory’ will be available as part of a Crime Anthology I hope to be publishing.

I’ve talked myself into writing this story, and I will give you some updates as time progresses and as the date for publications nears.  Fingers crossed.

I’m off to Ampney Parva this afternoon……


From → Blog

  1. Too good a setting to resist, Jane. Looking forward to reading it.


    • Thanks Kelly, it will be part of a compilation of my Crime stories and also a stand alone Ms Birdsong Investigation….Murder at the Observatory. Just thought this story needed to be with her as it is on the Berkshire Downs. How is your writing coming along?


  2. Don’t dilly-dally Jane, get a move on. 🙂


    • I am Laurie, I am. 🙂 How are you? Tests come good I hope 🙂


      • That’s good then Jane. Tests okay, it was what I thought the effects of PTSD. It can cause some crazy stuff to happen with your brain. I’m trying out a new, Melatonin based pill for the depression and sleep problems. I have to take them for a couple of weeks first, not sure about them yet.


        • Sounds horrendous. Sorry to hear of this, not a nice thing to live with. I do hope they work for you and you feel better and can sleep. I have used Melatonin when doing lots of long hauls on top of each other. Helped a lot. 🙂


          • Had it for 43 years Jane at varying levels. I guess getting older doesn’t help with it though. I hope these pills work. I was on some 10 years ago and they sent me crazy at times. -)


  3. Yes Yes Yes! Sounds like an awesome read…I cam’t wait to hear the announcement that it’s ready to buy! And I love the photos…especially the horse. Is it anywhere near the roll right stones? My heroine, steampunk agent Harry Tremaine, (sort of a female James bond in the 1890s) lives near the stones…it would be cool if the horse were also in walking distance. Any road…write faster (iI know, demanding aren’t I 🙂 ) want to buy your mystery!


    • Wow! You are such a star. I shall write as fast as I can. I know the Roll Right Stones, used to pass them on the way to Chipping Norton. Had a look round them once. Yes, the Vale of the White Horse is not too far away, near Oxford and Reading. It’s not in walking distance, sadly, but you could get there by car easily, just head for Wantage then Uffington and there you are. I shall check out Steampunk agent, Harry Tremaine again. The stones are known as the King’s Men and there is a stone called the King’s stone from what I recall. Thanks so much, really appreciate your enthusiasm. 🙂


  4. Jane – Oh, I’m delighted to hear you’re doing this! How marvellous! I am very much looking forward to reading your story when it’s done.


    • Thanks Margot. It sort of grabbed my suddenly and then there was no stopping me….Ms B appears but it is a one-off stand-alone Ms B. She stuck her nose in before I could stop her. LOL.


Please leave a reply and comment - your input is really appreciated. Thanks, Jane

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