Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Dressing Up with Susan Shea

INGRID THOFT

Wouldn't you love to take a trip to the French countryside?  Visit with the locals.  Dine on cheese and wine while admiring the landscape.  You can with the added bonus of a cracking mystery if you read "Dressed for Death in Burgundy," the latest from Susan Shea.  Her main character, Katherine Goff, is an expat living in the small town of Reigny-sur-Canne in this second installment of her French countryside series.

Susan is here to give you the scoop on her new book!


SS: I don’t know about you, dear JRWs, but I rarely have an opportunity these days to dress up: long dress, serious jewelry, high heels. I miss it. Used to be, my sweetie and I would dress (he rocked a tux) at least a few times a year and I loved those evenings. These days “dressing up” means leaving the jeans and trainers at home.

But what I miss most is the over-the-top parties where we were invited – no, instructed – to come in costume, and I don’t mean Hallowe’en vampire teeth or Stars Wars outfits. I’m talking about full Elizabethan lady-in-waiting attire with swishing satin skirts and pearl headdresses, or flimsy 1920’s Flapper chemises, page boy bobs, and long cigarette holders.

Have you had the fun of going to a costume shop (do they still exist, I am just wondering?) to browse through Marie Antoinette’s bustiers or try on a Russian Empress’s furs? Practice using a fan with the flirtatiousness of a geisha, or look in the mirror at Paul Revere’s wife with her mobcap? The last time I went full costume was at a party that must have been 15 years ago and, yes, I went as an Elizabethan Lady, my sweetie as a rough character who might have been her stable boy.
All this was on my mind when I visited the Musee du Costume in Avallon, France for the first time and had the inspiration for the murder at the heart of my second French village mystery, "Dressed for Death in Burgundy." The proprietor, whom I fictionalized in the story, has spent decades scouring French flea markets and antique stores to gather thousands of articles of clothing, accessories, and costume-focused art.

The Museum occupies a multi-storied town house on a quiet side street in the town, and Madame has so many costumes that she and her two grown daughters rotate the entire house’s exhibits at least once a year.  She’s getting older, she apologizes, and since she turned 90, it’s a bit harder to showcase a different era. As I explored the salons and display cases, I longed for an excuse to wear a slimming Edwardian dress (think Downton Abbey), or the sheer black stockings with the spiders traveling neatly up the back of the leg, or the elbow length, pale blue kidskin gloves…I mean, really! Too gorgeous, so evocative of a more glamorous time.


Maybe we should plan a full-out costume party
, a chance to be anyone from a masked Venetian countess to a woman pirate. We could rent a ballroom, hire a small orchestra, and dance with equally attired gentlemen ‘til dawn. Who would you choose to be for that evening? I have dibs on Veronica Lake in the shimmering, silvery gown.


Do tell, Reds and Readers:  Do you have occasion to dress up?  Have a favorite fancy outfit in the depths of your closet?

Susan is giving away a copy of her latest to one lucky reader!  Just comment to enter.

"Dressed for Death in Burgundy"
After finding herself mixed up in a murder investigation the previous summer, Katherine Goff’s life simply has not been the same. Her husband has been in the U.S. recording a new album, the Burgundy region locals are finally starting to see her as a real neighbor, and Katherine has even started helping out with “tourist” excursions. It seems she’s finally found her place in the small community of Reigny-sur-Canne.
But when Katherine stumbles across a body in the local museum during a tour, she finds herself caught up once again in a whirlwind of gossip and speculation. When the police zero in on her friend Pippa as a suspect, Pippa and Katherine team up to find the real killer and clear her name.

However, the more clues they discover, the more the real killer wants them off the trail. When Katherine and Pippa start receiving threats, they must decide what they are more afraid of―the police getting it wrong, or possibly becoming the killer’s next targets.

Find out what happens next in the second installment in the French countryside murder mystery series the New York Times calls “a pleasant getaway.”

DRESSED FOR DEATH IN BURGUNDY is Susan Shea's fifth mystery and the second in her French village mysteries. Her first series featured a San Francisco professional woman drawn into art-related misdeeds. Susan is on the national board of Sisters in Crime and is a member of Mystery Writers of America. She spent twenty-five years in the not-for-profit world before beginning to write full time. She lives in Novato.




49 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your new book, Susan. It sounds like an intriguing mystery, and I’m looking forward to finding out how Katherine and Pippa track down the real killer.

    Alas, there are no fancy dress-up occasions on my calendar. Nevertheless, I’ve held onto a couple of my favorite outfits from the days of dress-up banquets at the annual space science education conference . . . .

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    1. I have to ask, Joan, did attendees ever wear space-themed outfits?

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  2. Congrats on the new book!

    As for the question of dressing up, I'm probably the complete opposite of those who do like to have occasion to dress up.

    Not only do I despise having to dress up, I actively do my best to avoid going to or being invited to anything that would require me to wear something besides the regular pants and T-shirt outfit I wear about 99% of the time.

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    1. I hear you, Jay. What we need is a costume party that calls for interesting T-shirts! You know: tie-dyed, or political messages, or messages about evolution!

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    2. I have a T-shirt that says "I Speak Fluent Sarcasm".

      I used to have a T-shirt that said, "If you woke up this morning, it's because Jack Bauer didn't kill you."

      I'm going to a Star Wars party tomorrow night in honor of May The Fourth. Cosplay is encouraged, but I'm going in just a Star Wars T-shirt. A friend of mine is going dressed as Han Solo.

      I used to get a catalog filled with shirts that had crazy sayings on them. My particular favorite was "333...I'm only Half Evil".

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  3. Yes, to costume parties! Yes, to costume museums! And yes to a book with those elements! Such fun.

    One of the most entertaining evenings of my life was in the summer of 1979, at a costume party. The theme was "20's, 30's, and 40's", which was a blast, and allowed for many creative costume opportunities. (Five women dressed as the Dionne Quints.)

    My date and I (later my husband) both took advantage of the then-current trend for safari type clothing, which we both had in our closets. He was W.D.M. "Karomojo" Bell, the Great White Hunter (complete with an Aussie-style hat), and I was a glamorous Faye Wray, wearing a friend's pith helmet with a scarf around it.

    Hank is the dress-up queen around these parts, though.

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    1. I have a pith helmet too. My sweetie gave it to me to celebrate my getting the ED post at the Institute of Human Origins in the 90s. (They work in Africa.) I've never incorporated it into an outfit, though.

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  4. This is now on my library list! Congratulations to Ingrid Thoft on winning the Spotted Owl!!!

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  5. Susan, the new book sounds lovely.
    what I've noticed is how museums are more recently mounting major fashion retrospectives.
    As for dressing up, I'm terrible at it. Truly awful. Terrible at costumes. Too complicated and uncomfortable. My daughters are brilliant at it... which dates back to when we refused to buy store-bought costumes at Halloween.

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    1. I think there's more appreciation these days for the creativity and workmanship that goes into making clothes, as well as the role clothes play in history. I would love to see the exhibit of Princess Diana's clothing at Kensington Palace.

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  6. Thanks for telling us that, Gram! And congratulations Ingrid! Tell us all about it!

    As for dressing up, yes I love to, and happily Jonathan is a good sport. We have been Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey, and Dumbledore and Bellatrix Lestrange, and Sam Spade and Brigid OShaunessey. Oh and Rocky and Bullwinkle!
    So, Susan, absolutely! Let’s plan! And eager to read your new book

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    1. Would have loved to see you as Bridget OShaunessy, Hank! Total glam, I'm sure. Maybe a mystery fiction themed costume party?

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    2. Susan, I could pull that off. I could go as Spenser. His outfit should be relatively easy. :D

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  7. Dress up? only out of necessity (weddings, Cincinnati Opera). Costumes? Fringed leather vest, bell bottoms, and a tie dyed tee shirt.

    Congratulations on your new release.

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  8. Welcome Susan and congrats Ingrid! We have just seen My Fair Lady--and oh the costumes were astonishing and made me yearn for a place to wear such a thing. Susan, wondering how much time you're forced to spend in France for research on these books??

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    1. Lucy, it was so hard, but someone had to do the research. Actually, the new book is set in the two dark, cold, rainy weeks before Christmas and I spent that much time in Burgundy in 2016. It was essential. I learned so much about how Christmas is - and isn't - celebrated, and the weather is just as I describe it in DRESSED.

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  9. I have to tell you, I could so get used to dressing in a tux - which I recently did at both the Edgars and Malice Domestic. It takes more time to get ready, but that only makes it feel even more like an "event."

    As you know, Susan, I really enjoyed Dressed for Death in Burgundy and I hope that more readers discover both this book and the first one in the series.

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    1. Kristopher, you looked terrific in the photos!

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    2. Kristopher, you were born for tuxes!

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    3. Kristopher, if I'd been able to pull off going to Thrillerfest this summer, the only part of the show I was dreading was the awards banquet where I'd have to dress up.

      I saw your pics from the Edgars and Malice Domestic, better you than me. I look like a prisoner in fancy duds.

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  10. Susan, welcome to Jungle Reds. I remember meeting you in person at Malice and at Sisters in Crime events. You always wear beautiful clothes. I think there are still a few costume shops. I am not sure if you can buy or rent a costume from the San Francisco Opera.

    Yes, I have a great long dress that I wear to formal events like the gala. This dress fits me like a glove and it feels as if it is custom made for me. Actually I bought it off the rack at Nordie's. The designer is RL.

    Read your first French countryside mystery novel and I look forward to reading your second book.

    Diana

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    1. Aw, thank you. Let me tell you a secret: my wardrobe is about 50% consignment purchases! Hope you enjoy DRESSED, which one advance reader reviewer hated because, well, it was winter, not her idea of France at all.

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    2. Your comment reminded me of someone in the Midwest making a snarky comment about why I was so pale, considering I was from California, while my midwestern cousin had a tan. LOL . My family explained that I got the fair skin gene from one grandparent and my cousin got the olive skin gene from another grandparents.

      Look forward to reading DRESSED. I think I will enjoy the book.

      Diana

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  11. Susan, you looked gorgeous in that costume! I used to love dressing up. John and I gave costume parties early in our marriage and most recently went to a Halloween gathering as Lady Georgie and an aging seducer , complete with hair in center part and long cigarette holder. And I've just been formal over the weekend for the Edgars and Agathas...it's fun.

    I'm looking forward to your Book Passage party on Sunday!

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    1. Rhys, you always look splendid, but I'd give anything to see John as an aging suitor with a part in the middle of his hair!!

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    2. I had quite a good laugh thinking of John as an aging seducer. He's such the gentleman that it must have been a great acting job.

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  12. I love to dress up since there are very few occasions anymore which require this enjoyment. In the past we would dress up every weekend, now everyone is very casual. Congratulations on your wonderful book.

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  13. Novato! My daughters went to High School in Novato --home of the fighting hornets. Thanks for a memory jolt, Susan (and welcome to JRW's)

    Since i retired, I have not had many opportunities for formal wear. About the closest I come to a costume is wearing an 'ugly sweater' during the Christmas season. I think the idea of cosplay sounds fun, and would like to be a part of that if there is a senior citizen category.

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    1. Coralee, the northernmost tip of Marin County was a revelation to me and after 24 years in Sausalito, I love it here.

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  14. Dressing up was so much fun in the old days. Anywhere we went we would dress up and feel so special. Movies, restaurants, parties, and house parties. Those were the days believe me. Now everyone dressed like schlubs and it is disgraceful.

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    1. When I go to the opera these days, I'll occasionally see some young woman dressed up wonderfully, but often her date is in - at best, and not always - a suit. Haven't seen a tux in ages, which is a shame. Some men look wonderful in them.

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    2. I remember when we went to the opera with young professionals, all of us dressed up, including men wearing tuxedos and we were sitting next to a group of people wearing jeans. I think these jeans wearing people got last minute deals for empty seats that were not sold.

      Diana

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  15. Susan, congrats on the new book! I can't wait to find out what Katherine and crew are up to! A costume museum is such a great setting.

    You look gorgeous in that costume. I, however, am in the Hallie camp. "Oh, no, don't make me dress up!" Although if I really had a proper costume it might be fun. I love hats, so something with a great hat. Suggestions, anyone?

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    1. And I don't know how to wear hats unless they're the warm wooly ones for the dead of winter in Burgundy. The British passion for those big, oddly perched numbers amazes me: How do they keep them from sliding off their heads? LOL!

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  16. The most beautiful version of dressing up I can remember was when we were on a cruise ship, which had a large group of Japanese passengers. For the formal night (which we did not participate in!) the Japanese women were all wearing the most gorgeous kimonos and wooden sandals. Their hair and makeup were perfect. It was quite a sight!

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    1. Ingrid, that sounds like one of those moments you remember long after. Lovely.

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    2. It was so beautiful, Susan, and it was fascinating to see how alluring the women looked without showing any skin!

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  17. I rarely dress up these days, especially since I work from home most of the time. I did have to drag out a nice dress and buy shoes for the Agatha banquet at Malice last weekend, though.

    I'm not much on costumes, but I'd wear one of those fancy period dresses to a themed dinner.

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Mary, for me, the fun of wearing period costumes is the fantasy experience it creates of what it was like for a woman in those times. There was so much material to drag around in the Elizabethan dresses, and the 1920s flapper dress I wore somewhere else back in the day required such perfect posture...It made me appreciate our un-corsetted, laid back styles!

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  18. I hate dressing up. If I could go through life wearing jeans and a T Shirt every day, I'm be completely thrilled.

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    1. You and Jay are on the same page, Mark!

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    2. Yep, I'm on Mark's side in this discussion.

      And Ingrid, much to my mother's chagrin, you are right.

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  19. There don't seem to be any occasions to dress up these days. I did put together a Victorian outfit a few years ago for a themed wedding. The hat is perfect for Derby Day.

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  20. Susan, I loved the first book in this new series. What a setting! I hope to be reading Dressed for Death in Burgundy within the week.

    I just don't get dressed up much these days. I go to a Broadway series locally, and my accompanying two friends and I do get a bit dressed up for it, but even that seems pretty casual anymore.

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    1. I always like to dress up a bit when I go to the theater, Kathy. It seems respectful to the performers!

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    2. Kathy and Ingrid, Yes, dressing up 'a bit' seems to be it most of the time now. When I was working at a university, I had to have several long dresses and lovely accessories for black tie business (fundraising) events. Now, Hank Phillippi Ryan's famous high heels remind me that wedge heels are the highest ones I can wear. Boo hoo. I liked getting dressed up!

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  21. I do like to get dressed up in a costume and go somewhere fun like the Renisainse Faire that would be so much fun. When I lived in the Bay Area they had them all the time up near Novato or north but my kids would never want to go I think it would be a blast. Someday I am going and i will dress up my scooter also that will be fun. peggy clayton

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