Tuesday, November 17, 2020

A BITTER FEAST Redux and a Little Armchair Travel

DEBORAH CROMBIE: A BITTER FEAST, the 18th Superintendent Duncan Kincaid/Inspector Gemma James novel is out in paperback today!!

And never have I wished more for a little bit of magic to transport me to another time and place! When the book came out in hardcover last autumn, I was already missing the Cotswolds. This part of England, encompassing parts of Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, and Worcestershire (like the sauce), was one of the first places I ever visited in the UK, and those green rolling hills and golden villages cemented my lifelong love of everything English. The Cotswolds are idyllic, they are the Shire, they are "the green and pleasant land" of Blake's Jerusalem.

And the Cotswolds also seemed like the perfect place to set a mystery. But first I had to find the perfect village! This took me one research trip, then I had to go back twice more to really immerse myself. 

What a sacrifice that was! Not.

On that first trip, I chose a village I remembered from that very first Cotswold visit with my parents, Lower Slaughter. How could I resist the name? And there's an Upper Slaughter, too. The name doesn't mean what you might think, however, but is derived from "slough", referring to wetlands. The River Eye, a tributary to the Windrush, runs through the center of the village. (And aren't those names right out of The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings?)

So, if a year ago I was already pining for that green and pleasant land, it at least seemed within reach, a plane ticket away. I could imagine having afternoon tea at the fabulous Slaughters Manor House in Lower Slaughter. (Drooling...)


Or having a drink in the cozy bar of the Red Lion Inn in Long Compton. (One of my favorite pubs anywhere.)

Or walking through a beautiful English garden.

Now that all seems like a dream!

What to do??

Open the pages of the book, of course, and transport myself. I think we need a better phrase than "armchair travel," because that sounds so dull compared to the magic of visiting another place and time through a book. Suggestions, anyone?

And, REDS and readers, what favorite place would you revisit, if you could wave your magic wand?

In the meantime, you can travel with Duncan and Gemma to Lower Slaughter on a beautiful autumn weekend, eat amazing food, smell the English roses, and even try some Cotswold Dry Gin!

Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his wife Detective Inspector Gemma James have been looking forward to a relaxing weekend getaway in the beautiful Cotswolds. But after a tragic accident and unexplained deaths, things in the country take a deadly turn…

Duncan, Gemma, their children, and their friend Doug Cullen are guests at Beck House, the family estate belonging to Melody Talbot, Gemma’s trusted detective sergeant, in the picturesque village of Lower Slaughter.  The centerpiece of the weekend is a posh charity luncheon catered by rising local chef Viv Holland, a Glouscestershire native freshly returned from London. Attended by elites and critics, the event could make Viv a culinary star. But when things go terribly wrong, the detectives are pulled into the investigation, and each new piece of information makes it clear that the killer has a connection with Viv’s pub—or, perhaps, with Beck House itself.

New York Times bestselling author Deborah Crombie is a native Texan who writes crime novels set in the United Kingdom. Her Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series has received numerous awards, including Edgar, Macavity, and Agatha nominations, and is published in more than a dozen countries to international acclaim.

Crombie lives in North Texas with her husband, German shepherds, and cats, and divides her time between Texas and Great Britain. Her latest novel, A Bitter Feast, is now available from William Morrow in paperback.  She is currently working on her nineteenth Kincaid/James novel.

 


76 comments:

  1. What a perfect idea! I’m grabbing my copy of “A Bitter Feast” from the bookshelf and going on a novel journey so that I can enjoy it all over again . . . .

    If I could wave a magic wand and revisit a place, I’d go back to Hawaii. We had a lovely vacation there, and it would be wonderful to repeat it . . . .

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    1. Me too, Joan. I'd go in January or February when there are whales swimming around all of the islands and all you have to do is look out at the ocean to see them.

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    2. Judy, one of the things we really enjoyed doing while we were in Hawaii was taking a swim with the dolphins at the hotel. You don’t really swim, but you do get up close and personal with the dolphins . . . an amazing experience.

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    3. We did that, too, on a early morning kayak/snorkeling trip with a small outfitter on Maui. The dolphins were still circling the bay and as we slipped off of our kayaks, they came over to inspect each one of us. It was thrilling!

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    4. That all sounds wonderful! I've never been to Hawaii...

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  2. Congrats on the paperback release!

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  3. Time travel is traveling through time, so we could call it Book travel or Story travel. I’m sure the creative writers here can come up with a better term. Oh, there are too many places I want to revisit to pick just one. Great news on the paperback release.

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  4. Was just there last week with Gemma and Duncan on reread. Congratulations on the paperback release, Deborah.

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  5. Congrats on the paperback release. I would go back to Paris.

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    1. Me, too, Dru!! I've been reading a lot of things set in Paris this year.

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  6. I loved this book, Debs. Even though I've never been there, I want to visit Sheila Connolly's County Cork Irish cottage, because I feel like I know it through her pictures and stories about it. And her daughter said I should go for a retreat once things open up again!

    The Cotswalds look perfect, too.

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    1. Oh Edith, I feel the same way about County Cork! Just a few days ago I was lamenting the fact that there will never be another County Cork mystery. I loved those, and the characters, and most of all the setting, so much!

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    2. Yes, Susan. It was bittersweet reading Fatal Roots, because I knew it was the last.

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    3. I've only read the first book, and I loved it. I will read the others, but with a twinge of sadness. You can tell how much she loved that place.

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  7. Congratulations on the paperback release, Debs!

    I miss seeing the Cotswalds in real life but if I had a choice, I would go back to San Francisco. This is the first year since 2007 that I have missed an annual trip there. I would have stayed in SF for a few days if Bouchercon had occurred face-to-face in October since I would have flown into SFO.

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    1. It's such a special place, Grace. I love it, too.

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  8. I'm game to spend time with Duncan and Gemma wherever they find themselves--even on a cold, rainy night in Russell Square. I'm not sure where I would like to go back to--maybe the mountains of North Carolina, or the pink shores of Bermuda? But I can certainly think of new places I'd like to explore, like New England, and original England, for that matter. Congratulations on the paperback release.

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    1. All good choices! And, yes, even cold rainy London is appealing now.

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  9. Congrats on the pb Debs! you know I loved that book! Yes, England, Ireland, Scotland, Iceland, France, New Zealand, Denmark...I am so eager to get back to traveling...

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    1. I read a book set in Copenhagen recently, and now Denmark is on my list, too! It's books that pave the way for our real life adventures!

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  10. Congrats and looking forward to your next book. Paris and the Dordogne (our postponed 2020 trip), Greece, Iceland, and then we'll return to London and visit Scotland.

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    1. Margaret, five years ago we were in the Dordogne, and we discovered a part of France like no other we'd even experience. I hope you can make that trip next year.

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    2. When I learned that one of my ancestors came from the Dordogne ,I had no idea where it could be but I was curious to discover it and visited in 2013. I really enjoyed this part of France and I wish you could go.

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    3. I don't know that part of France. What should I read to get acquainted?

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    4. Inspector Bruno, Chief of Police, by Martin Walker

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    5. Read the Inspector Bruno books by Martin Walker

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    6. I can't believe I haven't read these, Ann. I have the first on my to-read shelf but it keeps getting bumped. Must read!!!

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  11. Congrats on the paperback. I want to take the Hogwarts Express through England. I was watching something last night, looking at the English countryside dotted with lakes (I don't know where it was set) and thought it would be lovely to travel through the landscape by train.

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    1. Whenever I see a Harry Potter movie--and I watched them all a few months ago--I always want to take the train through that country. To me that landscape looks like Scotland north of Edinburgh, as you go up through Perth towards Pitlochry. It is the most beautiful scenery.

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  12. This morning I got up wondering how soon I could legitimately go back to bed! I bought a heated mattress pad that arrived over the weekend plus some high end sheets, and I'm in heaven. Maybe since I'm not going anywhere this year, I think I can indulge myself on linens!

    If I could be anywhere right now, I guess it would be in Texas. I now haven't seen my children since last October, and it's hurting my heart. My son -- Christopher -- and his family all have covid but no one is very sick, on the down hill slope I think. They all get tested again in a couple of days. The hardest part is the quarantine with three active little boys. Still the nurse in me wants to be there making chicken soup and cupcakes and rice pudding and cookies and grilled cheese sandwiches and pots of tea.

    If I could go on vacation, I'd return to France -- no surprise there. This time I think I'd stay in Paris for a month. I want to sit en terrasse with a cafe creme and a croissant and watch people go buy. I want to have magnificent meals and great wines and dacquoise aux poires for dessert.

    But instead I'll crawl into my wonderful bed with a wonderful book and dream.

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    1. Looks as if lots of us want to be in Paris. I propose we bring Debs' book and form a book club, for those evenings in a sidewalk cafe, lots of wine and lots of good thoughts and great friends.

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    2. I'm in!!! I really want to be in Paris, too, Ann. Sorry to hear the Texas family has Covid. Some of Rick's family is sick, too. Crossing fingers here.

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    3. Just found out our neighbor is positive. I haven’t been around her but Julie took our turkey over to the freezer. This is the neighbor who lost her husband in March. What a crap year for her

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    4. Oh, gosh, that's awful, Ann. And you and Julie be extra careful!!!

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  13. Beautiful pictures and memories Debs. Congratulations for the paperback of this fabulous book !
    I loved visiting the Cotswolds and revisit it through books. I would gladly return there and to the Scottish Highlands .
    I feel privileged to be able to travel through the world and through the times while reading.

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    1. Oh, the Scottish Highlands, Danielle. I want to go back there, too. I should pull out my copy of Now May You Weep!

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    2. And my single malt scotch! One sniff is enough to transport me straight to Scotland!

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  14. Traveling on my own doesn't really appeal to me, even though there are a few places I would like to revisit, or even some new places. But I do miss Gemma and Duncan so it's great to know I can revisit them any time. The descriptions of places are wonderful in those books and so is learning about something new, whether it is whisky making or life on the canals in a narrowboat.

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    1. Thank you, Judi. There's are some of my favorites, too. If books are like children and you're not supposed to pick favorites, I'm in trouble!

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  15. Congratulations on the release of the paperback of A Bitter Feast, Debs. Not only do I love my hardcover, but that book was one of my very first Audibles and the narration is amazing. Narrators who can change their accents and their voices really make books come to life. I mostly listen to books I've already read. It's really easy listening.

    Vacation. Going on vacation. There are so many places I'd hoped to travel with Irwin while we still can walk and climb and paddle. I'd return to Glacier National Park, to Scotland, to Nova Scotia, to San Francisco, to Acadia National Park or a dozen other spots in Maine. I'd tour France and I'd tour England, not just London. I'd love for Irwin to see the Greek Islands. Anyway, these days I travel by book, and I thank all of my favorite authors for defying time and space to bring me along.

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    1. I'm so glad you discovered the books, Judy--and the joy of audio books. And I think you especially could use a bit of book travel about now!

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  16. I have barely traveled outside the U.S, which is why having to cancel this year's planned trip to Britain and Ireland was such a heartache. But in terms of re-visiting, New Orleans is a real favorite of mine. The French Quarter, sure, but also the lovely old homes in other parts of the city, including some now converted to restaurants. And oh my, the food! Another favorite that I haven't seen in years is Rocky Mountain National Park --in the middle of summer, so that even the highest mountain passes are open with no snow on the blacktop. (There is ALWAYS a mound of it by the side of the road!)

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    1. Susan, I love New Orleans, too, and it is my daughter's favorite place in the whole world. What's your favorite New Orleans book?

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    2. I was a pretty big fan of Julie Smith's Skip Langdon series.

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  17. I loved A BITTER FEAST! And I am in comfort-rereads mode...
    Yes to a trip on the Hogwarts Express through England. Followed by restaurant hopping in Paris.

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  18. Still one of my favorite covers! Congrats on the pb edition! The cover seems to capture the warmth of place--so incredibly enticing! You feel like if you open the book, you'll step straight into that village.

    Right now, I'd like to visit New Zealand, because I've been on a LOTR/Hobbit kick--and the behind-the-scenes shots of the countryside are even more incredible than the movies.

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    1. Flora, my brother lived there for a while and I always thought we would go, but we never made it. It is on my bucket list, though.

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  19. My husband and I use to tour on our motorcycle. My favorite ride ever was the ride from Buffalo Wyoming to Ten Sleep Wyoming. We were on our way to Yellowstone. When we were in Buffalo it was raining. We stopped to fill up with gas. The attendant said it won't be raining at the top. I thought "sure!" We were starting our ride into the Big Horn Mountains. You know it wasn't raining when we got to the top. The ride was magnificent I was exclaiming "wow" , "oh my gosh" through out the ride. I loved the boulders. We ended the end of the ride through the Big Horns in a small town called Ten Sleep where we stopped for lunch. We took a different route through the Big Horns on our way back. It was to Cheyanne. When we went passed Buffalo on our way home, I could seen the Big Horns off in the distance. I kept my head turned that way (was a passenger) until they were out of sight. Goodbye Big Horns! Would love to return for that ride again but this time it would be in a car since I am now older and my husband has passed.

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    1. This sounds magnificent! Thanks for sharing it!

      DebRo

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    2. What a wonderful description, Lynn. What an adventure that must have been!

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  20. Having read the book, these photos are amplifying my already lovely impressions from your descriptions, Debs. What a beautiful place. Congratulations on the new edition!

    Ann, I hope your son and his family recover swiftly and fully. How awful for all of you. I totally get that feeling of helplessness.

    Imaginary travel has a lot to recommend it right now. Plus, no airplane seatmates elbowing you, or hogging the armrest. No dreary standing in line at the security checkpoint or customs. No schlepping bags hither and yon. When we travel in our minds we can skip straight to the good parts.

    If I could I would go where much-missed family members are right now: Michigan, Portland OR, Wales, and even Indiana.

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    1. I'll take Wales, Karen! Although I do wonder if we will ever feel the same about international travel after this year...

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    2. We had a trip all planned to Wales, England, Scotland, for this past summer.

      We make plans and God laughs.

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  21. So many congrats! I miss travel so much, but yes, opening a book is an excellent solution for the meantime . . .

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    1. Thank you, Sarah. Are you working on another Irish book? I know I've been spending way too much time with Google Maps these days, trying to research virtually.

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  22. Today's New York Times has a great article titled "How to Pretend You Are in Paris Tonight." Lots of good suggestions for those of us who long to go (or go back) there. I'd love to go back there but even more, I want to go to London again, and Dublin and the west of Ireland. And so many more places.

    Congratulations on the paperback! A Bitter Feast is one of my favorite Gemma and Duncan stories. I think I will treat myself to the audio version.

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    1. Thank you, Chris, and I do love the audio version! And thanks for the heads-up on the NYT piece. Going to look that up now!

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  23. Love this book so much!!! I’ve been so bummed out, I’ve started having afternoon tea. A nice hot cup of Yorkshire Gold with some biscuits (cookies) or whatever other sweet treat I can scrounge. It’s the little things. Thanks for taking us to the Cotswolds, Debs!

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    1. Jenn, that photo I posted really is the afternoon tea from Slaughters Manor House. Can you imagine eating all that luscious food? But right now I'll settle for an afternoon cuppa and raspberry star cookies from Trader Joe's...

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  24. When the Covid shutdowns first began, I envisioned having time to get caught up on my reading. Unfortunately, I found that I couldn’t concentrate. It was easier to read books of essays. During the summer I started doing more reading and I’m now back to my usual reading schedule. Most of the time, though, it’s lighter fare. Today’s blog post is inspiring me to revisit my favorite books: comfort reading in places I’ve already visited in print! And it’s free! So, Debs, I plan to pull out A Bitter Feast and revisit my favorite people in a place I feel as though I’ve been to. I don’t know when I will feel comfortable getting on a plane or train again, but my bookshelves hold a lot of possibilities right now

    DebRo

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    1. Deb, I've been doing much comfort reading these last months, so am way behind on new titles. But aren't we lucky to be able to revisit beloved books and the places in them?

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  25. Looking through the photos for this piece yesterday gave me a very bad case of whatever you call it when you are terribly homesick for another place. The Red Lion Inn is actually in Warwickshire, quite near the Cotswold Dry Gin distillery, but it was my model for Viv's pub in Lower Slaughter.

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  26. Oh, Deb, right now I'm so looking forward to a trip to Lower Slaughter with Gemma and Duncan. It sounds like the perfect antidote for a cold, grey, day with snow expected, but not having the nerve to fall!

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  27. Deborah, happy paperback birthday! I loved the book when I borrowed it from the library.

    The Cotswolds is among my favorite places to visit. I remember when my Oxford class visited a home in the Cotswolds. The elderly lady who owned the house gave us a tour. She mentioned that the house has been in her family for 500 years. I was surprised because I thought that the primogentive law meant that only men inherit the house? How do women inherit in England?

    This was years before the law changed in England recently.

    Which places would I like to revisit? I would love to revisit London, though I am not sure with the Brexit thing. I loved Oxford and Cambridge. Scotland is my favourite! I visited Wales once and would love to visit again. Scandinavia is another favorite and I would love to revisit Scandinavia.

    Diana

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  28. Right now I'm dreaming of sitting in front of Cafe St. Regis on Ile Saint Louis having lunch and a glass of wine with Donald. Maybe next year. Books about Paris? I have a list: http://www.meanderingsandmuses.com/search?q=My+Paris+Reading+List

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    1. Thanks, Kaye!! Checking out the reading list now!

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    2. thanks for your Paris reading list, Kaye. I spent a college year there and it's forever in my heart. I'll save your suggestions for my TBR file. Also suggest Mark Pryor's Paris series. He gets the city so darn well.

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  29. For U.S. travel I'd go back to Charleston in a flash. I'd still love to go back and see more of Scotland. Such a beautiful place! And I could easily explore more of London. Unfortunately I've never made it to the countryside. Years ago we drove ourselves in southern Spain and it was wonderful. I could easily return to Ronda and Jerez de la Frontera. And an overnight at least to Gibralter. I've wonderful memories of being there with Frank and my deceased youngest sister. India is mind boggling and I'd love to see more of it too. I've been to a few countries in Central America and the Caribbean. I enjoyed them while I was there but have no itch to go back for more.

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  30. Here's the link to the How to Pretend You're in Paris Tonight article:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/17/travel/paris-vacation-at-home.html

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  31. Congratulations, Debs, on the paperback release of A Bitter Feast. It was such a wonderful read, and made me decide that I had to visit the Cotswolds whenever I finally get to England. The photos you've posted are so enticing, too. I so want to visit that pub.

    As much as there are places in this country I'd love to revisit, like Key West (waving at you, Lucy), my sights are set on new adventure. England is my #1 choice of where to go when this pandemic is over and travel is safe again. Of course, I do so look forward to traveling wherever the next Bouchercon or other mystery/crime conference is held to see all the wonderful friends who have helped me stay sane during this time.

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  32. Testing, testing.... I have tried this twice. New laptop is being stubborn....

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  33. I've swum with dolphins in Mexico twice. I'd most like to go back to the north coast of Devon, which I fell in love with many years ago. I was supposed to return there three years ago with an English friend, but I landed in hospital that week. And the next plans were squashed by the pandemic.

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  34. I haven't had many thoughts of traveling since the pandemic hit, but today on NPR I heard about Malta and it sounded so interesting and wonderful it whetted my appetite and belief that one day I will actually be able to travel again. First up, though, will be visiting family and friends here in the US (Mpls, Bend,OR, Palo Alto) that I have felt cut off from in person.

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