Friday, February 5, 2021

The Safest Way to Travel During a Global Pandemic by VM Burns

Jenn McKinlay: I am desperate to travel! Like seriously so tired of my zip code - I'm cuckoo banana balls desperate. Luckily, today we have VM Burns in the house to help all of us who suffer the travel itch we can not scratch. Take it away, Valerie.


VM Burns: Publishing is slow…very slow. Books that are destined for bookstore and library shelves have to be submitted to the publisher months, sometimes over a year in advance. Little did I know when I first sat down to write, A Tourist’s Guide to Murder, the 6th book in my Mystery Bookshop mystery series, that the world would be in the middle of a global pandemic when the book released. Who could have foreseen that? Nevertheless, I’m going to call it fate, that thing that led me to write about traveling to England. During a time when travel is halted and most people are sheltering in place, many of us need a vacation, an escape.

Genre fiction (eg. mystery, romance, science fiction and fantasy), was long ago labeled “escapist fiction.” That label wasn’t intended as a compliment. In fact, on the fiction hierarchy, literary fiction is at the top of the scale. Whereas genre fiction (sometimes referred to as commercial or popular fiction), falls slightly above bathroom graffiti. Apparently, escaping from reality isn’t considered a good thing in the circles of fiction’s upper echelon. Yet, after all that’s happened in the past year, I can’t think of anything I’d like to do more than escape.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have made a couple of trips to England in the past, but there’s never enough time to see everything. I’ve been talking about making a return trip for at least six years. However, I’ve yet to make it past the shores of the United States. My dreams of visiting the birthplace of Agatha Christie and the home where she escaped for a well-deserved rest after finishing a book started long before international borders were closed and traveling became a life-or-death gamble due to COVID-19. After a decade of working from home and sheltering in place (okay, eleven months but it feels longer), I’m ready for an excursion. Traveling abroad and escaping on a tour is all I can think about. There’s something about being told that you can’t do something that makes you really want to do it. But, alas traveling isn’t safe at the moment. However, thanks to the Internet (and a pressing book deadline), I managed to travel across the British countryside all from the safety of home and you can too.

Readers familiar with the Mystery Bookshop Mystery Series know that Samantha Washington and her late husband, Leon, dreamed of one day quitting their jobs to pursue their shared dream of owning a bookshop that specialized in mysteries. After Leon’s death, Sam did it. She quit her job and bought the building they’d fantasized about owning, and opened Market Street Mysteries. However, owning a mystery bookshop was only one of Sam’s dreams. She also dreamed of writing British historic cozy mysteries. With a lot of help from her family and friends, Sam managed to fulfill both of those dreams. And, in A Tourist’s Guide to Murder, she’s heading to England to research her next mystery.


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In researching this book, I followed a real mystery lover’s tour with only minor deviations. I traveled to London and then across Devon and Dartmoor, through the Cotswolds and Oxford, and all the way to Agatha Christie’s home in Torquay. I followed locations where the women murdered by London’s infamous serial killer, Jack the Ripper, were found. as well as locations that inspired fictional tales from mystery writers like Dick Francis, Dorothy Sayers, P.D. James, and of course, the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie. Thanks to the Internet, pictures, video tours, rereading my favorite Agatha Christie novels and intensive television reconnaissance (that’s what I’m calling it, don’t judge) by watching Miss Marple, Midsomer Murders, and Lord Peter Wimsey, I was able to immerse myself into the mystery lovers’ tour nearly as much as Sam, Nana Jo, and ‘the girls’ (Dorothy, Ruby Mae, and Irma) from the retirement village.

If you’re as tired of sheltering in place as I am, then pick up a book and make your escape. If you’re up for a puzzle, consider a mystery. Follow the clues, sift through the red herrings and make your escape. With luck, you’ll be able to explore the world and figure out whodunit without leaving the comfort of home.





Reds and Readers, what mysteries in other locations are you reading to escape? 
Also, if you could pick one place to research mysteries in Great Britain, where would it be? 







More about VM Burns: 

A Tourist’s Guide to Murder releases on January 26, 2021.

V.M. Burns was born and raise in the Midwestern United States. In addition to the Mystery Bookshop Mystery Series, she is the author of the RJ Franklin Mystery Series, and the Dog Club Mystery Series. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Dog Writers Association of America, Thriller Writers International, Crime Writers of Color, and Sisters in Crime. She currently resides in East Tennessee with her two poodles. Readers can visit her website at http://www.vmburns.com

Agatha nominated author of THE MYSTERY BOOKSHOP MYSTERY SERIES,The RJ  FRANKLIN MYSTERY SERIES, and The DOG CLUB MYSTERY SERIES

FOLLOW HER:

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/v-m-burns

Facebook: https://www. facebook.com/vmburnsbooks/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/vmburns


71 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your new book, Valerie . . . I’m looking forward to finding out how Sam makes out on her research trip . . . .

    I’m afraid that there has been no escaping to new locations with any of the mystery books I’ve read lately . . . .
    If I were researching mysteries in Great Britain, I think I might investigate Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s East Sussex . . . .

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    1. Joan,
      Thanks for commenting. I think East Sussex sounds fantastic. I need to add that to my long list of places to see and things to do when we're able to travel again.

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  2. Oh, Valerie, the trip in your book is exactly the trip I plan to take when travel opens up again and I feel safe. And, I can't believe I haven't read this series yet. Before I typed my reply here, I went and ordered this book. I am usually a stickler for starting a series on book one, but I want to read A Tourist's Guide to Murder so much that I'll have to go back to the start after that.

    If I were to pick one place in Great Britain to research a mystery, it would be the county of Devon because that's where my Boone ancestors lived and one of the reasons I want to visit there, specifically Stoke Canon, near Exeter.

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    1. You beat me to it, Kathy, but I'm going there next!

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    2. Kathy,
      Thank you so much for ordering the book. I hope you enjoy the mysteries. You should be fine with reading out of order.

      There are so many fantastic spots for mystery lovers in Devon. How awesome to look up ancestors and mystery sites at the same time.

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  3. Glad to find another author I can "travel" with. If the pandemic goes on much longer, I will have torn through every book of every Jungle writer and half of their guests. I cannot imagine how I would have managed the last eleven months without mystery writers. Cheers! And good health to you all, always!

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    1. Mary,
      The best part about being at home has been reading. Sadly, I don't feel like I've made a dent in my TBR pile. Just when I think the end is in sight, I find more great books. Good luck with your reading and safe at home travels.

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    2. Yes, the best thing about staying at home is reading and reading books!

      Diana

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  4. I think am fiction is, at its core, "escapist," and I would not be surviving the pandemic at all without my mysteries, thrillers, historical and other genre fiction books! I, too, am aching to travel and revel in books that take me away from my home to new places! Thank heavens for authors who do that!!!

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    1. Kerry,
      I agree. Books are keeping me sane through this pandemic. I'm perfectly willing to escape into books.

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  5. Welcome to JRW, Valerie. Congratulations on your new release. The trip in your book sounds perfect, except we like a little hiking with our travels, so maybe the same areas, different itineraries and no murder.

    This fiction is all I want to read right now. I have been escaping into dozens of wonderful books set in many fabulous places since way before the pandemic began. But, I could go to my own chosen destinations before and now it's strictly travel by book.

    I am adding your series to my TBR list and will begin looking for your books today.

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    1. Judy,
      Thank you so much for the warm welcome and for adding me to your TBR pile. I think hiking (minus the murder) definitely sounds like a good option for real life. Thanks for commenting and I hope you enjoy the mysteries.

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  6. First off, congratulations on your new book Valerie!

    I'm currently reading Carlene O'Connor's Murder In An Irish Cottage. So I'd say that if I was reading to escape it would be to Ireland. The Emerald Isle is the setting for a bunch of mystery series that read.

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    1. Jay,
      Thank you. I think Ireland sounds like a wonderful escape. I've never been there, but I might need to add it to my list.

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  7. VALERIE: A virtual trip via your newest book is a form of escape from home that is most welcome. I have been to the UK a few times for vacation and have already visited some of the iconic spots on my wishlist.

    I love to hike, so somewhere along Hadrian's Wall or the Yorkshire Dales would be great. But choosing a spot to research for a mystery, I would pick either Bath, England or Stonehenge. I don't remember reading any mysteries set in either location.

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    1. Bath - here you go. Peter Lovesey's long series about Peter Diamond. "Mysteries solved by Peter Diamond, a modern-day police detective in Bath." Enjoy!

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    2. Grace,
      I agree hiking along Hadrian's Wall sounds like a great trip. I would love to see Bath and Stonehenge. I can imagine murders set there. Oh, my brain is starting to work on a plot now. Thanks!

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    3. Love Peter Lovesy's Diamond books!

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    4. TRISS: Thanks for the tip about the modern-day Peter Diamond mysteries. I only read Lovesey's Sgt. Cribb historical mysteries set in London in the 1980s and have not read anything more recent from him, so I will check these out.

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    5. GRACE, I think I would like to do research in the English village where my grandfather was stationed during the First World War. I would love to do research in the Welsh village that I visited. It was so beautiful. Not sure about now with the mining again! I would like to do research on the area of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland.

      Diana

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  8. Congratulations on the new book Valerie, and welcome to JRW. Love those poodles on the cover!

    Right now I'm in Tasmania, reading THE SURVIVORS by Jane Harper, walking on a beach and smelling the ocean. I travel vicariously all the time. Before Tasmania, I was in a strange little village in Yorkshire with Dalziel and Pascoe and before that, in Hollywood and then Cornwell -- STRAIGHT UP by C. McCloud. All this from my bed, the land of Counterpane.

    I do actually have a long weekend trip planned the end of next month, driving to Philadelphia to meet my grandson, his adorable wife, and their new baby boy. They are driving up from Raleigh to introduce Finn to his great grandmother! Three of the four of us will have all our shots by then, and my grandson works from home, avoiding all contact with the public. It will be an experience but one worthwhile I know.



    !

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    1. Ann, how exciting! To meet the newest member of the clan! Best of all, to hold that new baby!

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  9. Congratulations on your new book, Valerie. I'll be checking out Samantha and her bookshop.

    I am currently in Millers Kill, courtesy of Julia Spencer Fleming. It's hot summer there at the moment and a lovely escape from the winter deep freeze into which we've fallen here on the Canadian prairie.

    For a trip to the UK, I would choose Scotland and would devise some reason to need to cover both Edinburgh (where I've been) and Glasgow (where I have not yet been), and the west coast beyond. Talk about scenery!

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    1. Amanda,
      Thank you. I would love to do a castle tour of Scotland. I can imagine murders that take place in all of them...oh, no. Here I go again. That might just make it into a book. :-)

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  10. Congratulations on A Tourist’s Guide to Murder ! It contains two things I love : a bookshop mystery and a travel to England.
    I’m all for escaping in books, I do it all the time.
    I also like to revisit places where I’ve been through books. Great Britain have such good places to install mysteries, I couldn’t choose only one.
    Being from Quebec, all of Red’s mysteries ( including commenters and guests) help me to escape in USA, UK and around the world.

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    1. Danielle,
      Thank you. I all about escaping in books too (it's truly the safest way to travel). I also enjoy revisiting places I've read about in books. I feel like I know them because I've read about them. I need to make a trip to the Quebec, too.

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  11. Congratulations on your new book, Valerie! Traveling by book is the only way I've ever gone anywhere outside of this country. But if I could go I would love to go to all the places Ann Cleeves has written about!

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    1. Judi,
      Thank you. YES! I'd love to see the places Ann Cleeves writes about, too. How wonderful would that be?

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    1. Congratulations on the latest release. I am so ready to head to England with Sam and the gang. Count me in.

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    2. Kait,
      Thank you The more the merrier! :-)

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  13. As you have pointed out, "escaping" reality through fiction has become essential these days. I'm not a huge world-traveler, but even I chafe at being told I can't go anywhere right now.

    Right now I'm escaping all over the United States (with a touch of mythology) by revisiting the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan. But I've escaped to England with Debs and Tuscany with Rhys quite recently as well.

    Congrats on the new book!

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    1. Liz,
      Thank you. I keep saying I'm going to read the Percy Jackson series. I've seen a couple of the movies and they seem fun. You can't go wrong with trips to Tuscany or England. Great escapes and great mysteries.

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  14. Congratulations on your new release! I look forward to reading it.

    I would visit Cape Cod to gather visuals and plot ideas for more stories, ditto New Orleans, and then hole up in a flat in London and get to know a neighborhood well enough to write about it. I recently polished up a story set off Kensington High Street in London where we stayed several times. Miss "our neighborhood" so much!

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    1. Oh, Margaret, I miss that neighborhood so much! Kensington High Street, Earl's Court, and Notting Hill are my stomping grounds.

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    2. Margaret,
      Thank you. All of those locations sound fantastic. Cape Cod has been on my bucket list for a long time. My travel list and my TBR pile are both out of control. One day, we'll be able to travel again and oh the places we'll see. I can't wait.

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  15. 'Slightly above bathroom graffiti"--oh how true and how inaccurate! I have been moved to laughter, tears, and sighs reading 'genre' fiction, Valerie. I'm looking forward to traveling to England with Sam & Co, but if I could go anywhere right now, I'd be escaping to somewhere warm as the Polar Vortex is reminding me just how much I hate being cold. I'm thinking Hawaii sounds perfect.

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    1. Flora,
      I am always amazed by the power of words to evoke emotions. I sometimes laugh at myself when I get so angry with a character that I throw the book across the room. Then, I crawl over and pick it up and keep reading. I'm from arctic (okay northern Indiana but it feels like the arctic) and so I can truly appreciate your desire to be warm. Hawaii does sound perfect.

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  16. Hi Valerie! Thanks for stopping by JRW. I love your Mystery Bookshop series and can't wait to read this newest installment. On my reading journey, I am currently in the French Alps after stopping off for a mystery and a wedding in Millers Kill, NY.

    I think research in Great Britain would definitely take me to Bath where I would schedule it around daily cream teas at the Royal Crescent and breakfast at Sally Lunns (can you tell I haven't had breakfast yet!)

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    1. Celia,
      Thank you! I think the French Alps sounds like a lovely escape. I'm all in for cream tea in Bath, too. Nothing beats a good cream tea.

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    2. CELIA and VALERIE: I would love to join you both for a cream tea in Bath. I love the architecture there, and I do remember admiring the Royal Crescent homes.

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    3. Friends and I travelled from Osford to Bath on a bus and we had tea in Bath. The tea and the scones were wonderful!

      Diana

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  17. Congratulations! A new book for me to discover! Thank you.
    As for "literary fiction", I find that genre fiction usually has better plotting and grammar.
    I would love to research in Scotland because I have never been there and my mother's ancestors were Scots.

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    1. Atlanta,
      Thank you so much. I would love to visit Scotland too. I can absolutely imagine a murder or two there.

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  18. Love this! "intensive television reconnaissance (that’s what I’m calling it, don’t judge)" and the new book sounds just like what we all need. Picking one place to research in England? I'd actually love to see more of Oxford ( I was there for part of a day) but I wouldn't compete with all the other great mysteries set there! Practicaly a cliche. So I'll say York. I was there on my my 2nd trip anywhere, ever, in 1971. York's 1900th anniversary ( Not a typo - founded by Romans in 71 AD!) Love to go back and see it again and more of Yorkshire.

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    1. Triss,
      Thank you! I think you can never have enough mysteries in Oxford, but York sounds like a great spot too. I can imagine a murder at the 1900th founders day celebration (or 1950 now). I love all of that history. So much to see and so little time.

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    2. I know I mentioned the Yorkshire Dales as my choice (shades of All Creatures Great and Small) but how about setting a murder at the York Minster?

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  19. Escape sounds lovely right now. I get more than enough serious social issue talk and traumatic life event stuff from reality right now. Why would I want to spend precious hours reading about it, too? To the literary snobs I say, "Bah! Humbug!"

    Yesterday I actually left the house and drove to Dallas. (30 miles) Exhilarating, but also kind of unnerving. There's a whole world out there. With people in it!

    My fictional escapes have been much more entertaining. Most recently I've escaped to the Cotswolds, and also to Big Sur. I spent some pleasant time in Scotland, and also Alaska, thanks to Paige Shelton. Not sure where I'll go next, but it sounds like I'm headed to the Amazon to hunt down VM's new book!

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    1. Gigi,
      Thank you so much! Your recent excursions (even your real life one) sounds fantastic. I hope you enjoy the Mystery Lovers Tour. And, I agree with you. Bah! Humbug to literary snobs!

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  20. I absolutely agree, fiction has been a wonderful escape. Even if it is just an escape to a world without any of this going on.

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    1. Mark,
      I can't imagine where we'd be without the ability to escape from our current reality into fiction.

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  21. Congratulations on the new book! If I were writing a UK book, I could start in Edinburgh because both sides of my family emigrated from there. OR go to where the Brits go when they want warmth--southern Spain or South Africa.

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    1. Priscilla,
      Thank you! I think all of the places you mentioned sound like wonderful escapes. I'm a little partial to the warmth, so Southern Spain and South Africa would probably edge out Edinburgh but just until the winter is over and everything warms up.

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  22. Hi Valerie! I love your fictional mystery tour, much of which I've done in real life, too. I've never managed to get to Greenways, however, and that is definitely on my list. Picking one place to research a mystery set in England is challenging, indeed. I've never set a book in Cornwall, or the Lake District, or Northumberland, or Suffolk... there are so many places I'd like to explore!

    I LOVE the poodles on your cover! Now I'm off to check out A Tourist's Guide to Murder and your Dog Club series as well!

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    1. Deborah,
      Thank you! Greenways is at the top of my list whenever I'm able to travel again. Definitely lots of great spots to explore. Glad you like the cover. Those were my poodles! So, I love it, too.

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    2. DEBORAH, I would love to visit Greenways too.

      Diana

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  23. I've been doing a lot of book traveling lately. Currently I'm on the coast in Rhode Island. The Jersey shore before that. I believe Edinburgh is up next with Anna Lee Huber. I've so many places I want to go to that I don't think I can narrow it down!

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    1. Pat, Rhode Island is on my bucket list. I'd love to do a mystery that takes place there. I completely understand the feeling. There are a lot of places to see. Hopefully, we'll be able to travel in person again soon. If not, there are a lot of great books.

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  24. The trips I’ve taken to the UK have all been planned around book locations. It is my favorite place to visit. Too many places to name. I’m a sucker for a book set in the UK. Since we can’t travel I. Person right now, I’ve even participated in zoom tours by London Walks, a touring company set in London so I can get my UK fix. I’m heading over to Amazon to check out your series.

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    1. Teri,
      I'm a sucker for books set in the UK also (especially mysteries). I'm going to check out the Zoom Tours by London Walks. Thanks for considering my series. I appreciate the support.

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  25. Welcome indeed to JRW's. I love the way you think. Can I follow you around for a few days.. no? then I must travel. In fact with my second Covid 19 shot in my arm as of today, I will be flying to Maryland in April. All that aside, I want to thank you for hours of pleasure by introducing me both to Sam's world and the Dog Club series. May we all meet at the airline counters soon.

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    1. Coralee,
      First, congratulations on getting your second COVID shot. Sadly, I'm not scheduled until September according to the chart on my state's website. I hope that we can all be safe to travel soon. Secondly, thank you so much for the kind words and support. I truly appreciate you. Thanks!

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  27. V.M. Burns, welcome back to JRW! Your last name reminds me of Robert Burns, the Scottish poet.

    Like you, I love watching Midsomer Murders, Lord Peter Wimsey and the Marple/Poirot mysteries.

    For me, travelling abroad virtually through reading books is a wonderful escape from the harsh reality of the ongoing pandemic.

    Locations include London and the English countryside, Scotland, Ireland and Wales; Scamdinavia, and some places in Europe.

    Diana

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    1. Diana,
      Thank you so much. I would love to visit all of those locations. Of course, I'm willing to travel anywhere right now, but I definitely need to add Scotland, Ireland and Wales to my next trip.

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  28. Thanks so much for visiting with us today, Valerie. I am so excited to dive into A Tourist's Guide to Murder because I most definitely need a vacation!!!

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    1. Jenn,
      Thank you and the Jungle Red Writers so much for allowing me to visit today. I love spending time with you all. You're not the only one in need of a vacation!

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  29. Hi,

    I love this series, I was excited to see you were on here. I love reading mysteries set in Ireland. I tend to watch british mysteries, but have recently branched out to New Zealand. Some of the series I like to watch are Midsomer Murders, Brokenwood Mysteries and Shakespeare and Hathaway just to name a few.

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  30. I'm late to commenting, but I also wanted to take a trip to England in 2020, for my new series, the Cambridge Bookshop Series. My mother is from England so I also wanted to visit my aunt and uncle, who live 50 miles from Cambridge. So I also had to rely on my memories--and seek help in a Cambridge group on Facebook. Fingers crossed we get to go soon!

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    1. Oh and meant to say CONGRATS! Your book looks great and I can't wait to read it.

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