The Bistro

The Bistro

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Join us here in The Bistro for a discussion on the entire Gamache series. Feel free to ask or answer any questions about any of the books or the series as a whole.

Discussion on “The Bistro”

I would like to read it but it is not available on kindle in Australia for some reason. The reviews compared it to the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which I enjoyed. I am intriguesd and want to read The Storied Life now!

Barbara, Julie, you both made me laugh. Barbara, when I was pregnant with my first son I used to bake lemon merengue pies, crust from scratch even, at least once a week! It kept me from getting morning sickness. It’s still my favorite pie. Guess I’ve been practicing finding the bright side to things for a very long time.
Thank you for the laughs, the hugs and holding my hand. I feel loved and surrounded by positivity.

I just finished listening to a fascinating book called “The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabielle Zevin. I was going to listen to one mentioned in The Night is a Strawberry blog, but the sample narration was so bad I looked at the reviews and someone suggested The Storied Life… was a better story. It was published in 2014. Has anyone read it? It has a most unusual point of view, but though odd sounding at first, it works. Several years ago I would have hated the ending, but now I found it very satisfying. It’s about the life of an independent book store owner in a small island up north. He’s a widower who has lost his desire to live, but life conspires to give him many reasons to keep living and in doing so he has a tremendous impact on the little community. I know it isn’t for everyone but it is short and I’d love to know how others felt about it.

I forgot to say that I was sad to hear of Harper Lee passing although she had lived a long life. Glad we got to debate Go Set A Watchman.

Morgan sighed. The Inspector was forcing him into the big reveal before he was ready.
“I went to a clinical presentation at a conference a couple of years ago. The mysterious case revolved around a man who committed suicide with a novel and unknown nerve agent. The body was found almost immediately by an assistant who heard a noise as the dying man fell from his chair. The first medics on the scene commented on the stiff limbs and signs of pulmonary oedema. It is not a common set of findings and most nerve agents cause muscles to relax not become rigid. As even you plods know, immediately after death the body is typically in a state of flaccidity. Rigor doesn’t usually set in for at least two hours and even then it affects areas like the eyelids, jaw and neck first. The limbs don’t become involved until later.”
Robbie Fox was thoughtful. “Anything else which could cause the stiffness? Other than this mysterious nerve agent and I need to know more about that in a minute.”
“Bodies exposed to high temperatures, above 65 degrees centigrade, or low temperatures can be rigid at time of death. There is also cadaveric spasm which may occur in the case of some violent deaths. Muscles that were held tightly contracted before death don’t always relax into flaccidity. It is most common in one group of muscles like a hand tightly holding a gun before a suicide, although I have heard that occasionally in traumatic deaths, soldiers who die in war for example, the whole body can spasm. That doesn’t account for the pulmonary oedema. It is the combination that made me wonder.”
“When you say nerve agent, I am presuming you mean something like Sarin, but that isn’t that a gas?”
“Similar idea. Most of the organophosphate based nerve agents are volatile liquids that turn into gases at low temperatures but they are also lethal as liquids, say if they splash onto the skin or are ingested, which is what happened in this case. The effects of ingestion are fairly rapid and the victim was alone with a glass of scotch when he died. The agent was found in the scotch and the victim’s blood. Incidentally the assistant had poured himself a glass of scotch from the same bottle that night and he was fine and tests on the bottle came back negative for toxins. It was, therefore, presumed that the dead man added the agent to the scotch some time after his assistant left the room which was on the second floor of a very secure estate. Nobody else was in the house and the security system was on.”
“The assistant could have done it.”
“The presenter was asked the same question and it turns out the assistant was on his computer chatting via video link to his book club. Six members gave him an alibi for the entire hour preceding the victim’s demise.”
Robbie Fox digested the tale Morgan was spinning. It was a Christiesque locked room mystery. If, as Morgan suspected, a similar agent was responsible for the death of Ms Purdue she had to have ingested it minutes before dying, presumably from her water bottle. The problem was she had been drinking from the bottle all morning with no ill effects and by all accounts she had been seated alone, so how had her bottle been tampered with? And there was another obvious question.
“Where did this mysterious toxin come from?”

You are a wonderfully positive person Millie and I know you will sail through on Monday….sail being an unexpected pirate reference! I will be thinking of you and sending loads of calming thoughts.
The story is not a burden people. I love having the distraction. Dad is much better today so I can relax a little.
Sorry to disappoint Barbara but Morgan is of African descent. I suspect this story may have an English setting because of the castle reference. They are a little thin on the ground in Australia but there was a very castellic building near where I grew up in the country that was a boys home for a while. On the other point I think you are right. There will be a complex background to this mystery. I mean, Evangeline is annoying but that usually warrants a quick bop on the head in a fit of a rage at having to listen to her droning on about her family or some new complaint. Why the nerve gas? Frankly I have to keep writing as I want to know too!

I’m lost! I type and the moment I press post comment there are a half a dozen new comments above mine. Nerve gas? Are people leaving comments on previous pages? Or was that a reference to what was coming?
Arrrggghhh. 😉
Anna, loved your sailing reference. You all are wonderful. Oh wait, that sounded Southern, not piratey at all. HeeHee

Oh dear Millie, I put that comment before I posted the section mentioning the nerve gas. My fault, you are not confused.

Well, I am, hahahaha! No, I see what you mean – I haven’t read the last bit yet – but am assuming the very specific symptoms you gave Evangeline must be pointing to nerve gas. So who has access to nerve gas? I’m betting that would be hard to come by these days, hahaha. I am so loving this story!

Thanks for the positive thoughts, ladies. I’m quite calm now about the surgery. They will do my left eye Monday. Got a personal call from my ophthalmologist a few days ago to ask if I was willing to try ‘mono-vision’ lenses. She was going over my chart and thought I was young enough to get used to it. Left eye lens is corrected for midrange, right eye lense is corrected for far range. She said the brain figures out which eye to use to focus. This way I’d only need glasses for reading or computer/pad use depending on how long my arms are. lol! We use the between surgery time to see if I can make it work. I loved the idea and I’m willing to give it a go. She was pleased that I grasped the concept quickly. She said she can’t get some patients to understand at all so they are automatically not good candidates. I said that was a great way to keep the brain active. She laughed. Downside if it works, good possibility my long distance driving days are pretty much over. I said YAY. I really don’t like driving. Never did.
As for computer work, she said we could see later about bifocals to decorrect the far range on the right eye at the top and reading small print on the bottom. Actually, that would work for lots of things: cooking, washing dishes, folding laundry… The real joys of my life – NOT! Necessary though. But I could do needlework again which does give me joy.
BTW Julie, I was so sorry to hear/read about your own eye problems. Love your attitude. I’ve told Mike and our sons not to worry when they see me wearing an eye patch. I’ll be playing pirate for a while.
Sending positive, comforting, warm thoughts to all ye mateys.

Arrrrrggggghhhhh! Avast ye matey – you will have no trouble at all adjusting to the mono-vision lenses, I think! I love the idea – I know what your brain “fills in” by the fact that most people don’t know they have macular degeneration until it’s quite far along, as your brain just compensates. Until you look at that little Amsler grid and see the wavy lines, you think you are seeing things as they really are, and not something your imagination has conjured up! I’ll be thinking of you on Monday! (((((((((Hugs))))))))))

Thinking of you and hoping all goes great on Monday. Being able to see clearly will be wonderful.
You are an inspiration. Life keeps handing you lemons but you don’t just make lemonade as the saying goes. You make a fabulous lemon pie! All the best to you on Monday.

Thank you for the thoughts and the advice Julie. We did some massage on dad and I had him sit on a tennis ball today to put some pressure on the piriformis muscle. He didn’t have a good day. He was tired, he had a sore jaw and then he got chest pain. We sorted him out and the GP was contacted. He was much better tonight but he is a worry.
Because of all of that the story writing has been a bit challenging. I managed to get some done tonight…I do write best at night but the time is then limited by fatigue. I had to nut out a few technical points. Lots of research in the writing game. Keep suspending belief people and pretend you are watching a Poirot episode or something.
Right bedtime has arrived. I am thinking of you all.

Anna – unless the story-writing is a much-needed distraction, please don’t feel you have to rush to finish it when other things are calling you! I was hoping it was a bit of fun, but that won’t work if you are worrying about the time spent on it. Please take your time – we’ll be here. Hee hee.

Hope your Dad is improved today. I second the idea that you do not need to push yourself to finish the story for us. We all want what is best for you to be first. That said I must comment on the story. I’m loving it! I had wondered if you would bring in anything about Australian First Peoples. Like that you did. I have my idea of who the murder should be but can not nail down a motive without an involved and lengthy story. I am probably overthinking things as I often do. I know you will be able to make it all clear without much too do. Love the “suspend belief” and the Poirot reference. Good thoughts to you.

Now it was Toni’s turn to frown. She had no indication of there being any risk to the rest of the tour group. The pathologist at the scene had said he was worried about poison to the Inspector but he hadn’t expressed any concern that it might affect anyone else. Toni opted for bland reassurance and then dispatched Therese back to the lounge room while she conferred with her boss. Robbie Fox put in a call to the morgue just in case.
“I have my suspicions but I won’t know for sure until the lab runs a few tests. I have asked them to put a rush on it,” Dr Morgan Ngige explained, “but I don’t think any of the others have cause to worry at this stage.”
“Can you elaborate on your suspicions Chief?”
“Is that a reference to the tribal nature of my native origins which could be construed as a racist remark in certain circles?”
“No. It’s a reference to the fact that you are the Chief pathologist and revered as such. Besides, your native origins have been rooted in Wapping for at least the past five generations if I recall.”
Fox and Morgan both knew that as the only pathologist in the county Ngige often felt he had been shunted to a backwater. His wife, Amelia, had put the sign Chief Pathologist on his door to make him feel better.
Morgan hurumphed. “The victim showed a couple of distinct and unusual signs when I examined her at the scene. Firstly, the muscles in her limbs were almost rigid when I saw her less than an hour after death. Then there was the blood stained froth on her mouth and nostrils indicative of massive pulmonary oedema.”
“In English please Doctor for the sake of us plods.”
“Ms Purdue’s lungs filled with fluid which is usually associated with heart failure. I have already spoken to her local doctor and he saw her only recently. She was in rude good health, with an emphasis on the rude apparently. Heart was fine and she was on no regular medications.”
“And this lead you to conclude?”
“Like I said, I need to get a result from the lab.”
“What did you ask them to look for Morgan? You are holding out on me.”

Make a note of the clues Julie as I must admit to bwing really curious to see what you have found. This short story is becoming quite long! Another installment soon. I am down at the nuraing home aa dad has sciatica. Busy night here. Someone passed away and there is family everywhere which is lovely actually.
Hope everyone is ok. Cathryne, thinking of you as we haven’t heard from you for a while.
Lovely to here from you Nancy. Hope all is ok with Petey Barbara.
Thinking of you Millie as date for surgery aproaches.

I will, Anna! I’m so sorry about your dad. Sciatica can be miserable. My hubby had it for almost a year before he finally found something that worked. It was deep tissue massage, which of course, hurts like crazy while it’s going on, but does a lot of good. I get it for my neck, which has some bones in it breaking down or something like that, age -related… anyway, for the first 5 times or so, it was agony, but in between the massages, no pain. Now the massage is not painful – I guess we managed to get me used to it or something, and the pain is never around, but if I stop for a month or so, it comes back, so poor me – I’ll have to keep on having massages… Anyway – if that’s available, try it – it took Vern something like 7 massages, once a week, to get rid of it completely, and then he stopped going and it never came back. The massage therapist told him if he’d come in as soon as the sciatic pain had started, it would only have taken two or three sessions.

I’ve been thinking of you, too, Millie – do let us know how it progresses – as soon as you can see to type, of course, hahaha.

JULIE, are you a Diana Gabaldon fan? I read a post on her FB page where she said she couldn’t write by committee. What Anna said is probably why. 😀

ANNA, see previous page for my comment.

I am, and I couldn’t agree more – that writing by committee would be awful. There are so many things I do and think of intuitively, and if I had to explain them to someone else I’d be lost! This is Anna’s story, and she must follow where it goes, the devil to the rest of us, hahaha. I will refrain from making guesses and will wait (not so patiently) until it comes out and THEN show you all how brilliant I was, hahahahahahaha. I don’t want to influence the story, as I’m sure Anna’s way will be much better. When my husband and I watch mysteries on TV, we guess who did it as soon as we get an idea, but of course, one of the biggest clues is how big an actor is who SEEMS to be in a small role – that’s a dead giveaway… Sticking just to the story is much harder, haha.

I am loving this story, Anna – it’s so fun!

Well its hard to know Julie. I dont yet consciously know who the killer is but I have to trust that my subconscious will work it out. I do worry I might get consciously distracted by the clues you pick up and head down the wrong path!!

Oh, this is fun for us, and hopefully, a bit of a challenge for you. As you say, it would be hard to go back and change anything… Now – is it better if we guess things, or would you prefer that we just see what happens next? As I think I’ve seen something of a clue… but don’t want to ruin it for anyone…

This is challenging….the writing equivalent of working without a net! I write then I put it up for you to read and if I get stuck I can’t go back and change anything!

Who says you can’t go back and change anything? Writing isn’t like carving stone… But so far, I wouldn’t change a thing. It keeps getting more interesting. Well done. 😀

They didn’t ever get to see the castle, or the gallery or the rose gardens. The police organised for the tour guests to be temporarily accommodated at a cosy country inn nearby while investigations were undertaken. The inn proprietors were an efficient husband and wife pair who understood completely the necessity of a good supply of tea and sandwiches in a crisis. Jolly nice sandwiches they were too thought Amelia as she made a quick round of the lounge ensuring everyone was appropriately imbibing. That is where Inspector Robert Fox found them, a motley group slumped in armchairs and settees and pondering in low tones what could have happened and whether the tour would go on.
Amelia liked the Inspector immediately. He resembled his namesake not at all. He had an open face and crinkly eyes and he was dressed most smartly in a grey suit. His offsider, Detective Sergeant Toni Collie more closely fit the image of a vulpine with a narrow face and bushy red hair. Perhaps they should swap surnames. After introducing themselves and their intent to ask a few routine questions, the police officers split up and took turns interviewing the occupants of the bus in separate small rooms. When Amelia’s turn came she was very glad to find herself opposite the Inspector who stood politely when she entered the small dining room before settling himself on a chair next to a table. Amelia gave him points for sitting across the corner from the interviewee and not using the table as a barrier.
“I believe you were the first to offer assistance to the deceased,” the Inspector said after a short round of pleasantries.
“Yes Inspector, although I can’t say there was much to be done.”
“Do you have medical training Ms Dinthorpe? I ask as, by all reports, you acted quickly and decisively when all others were still trying to come to grips with the situation.”
“I was a doctor in the army Inspector. I served in the Middle East so I am little harder to shock than most.”
Fox noted the past tense. “What do you do now Doctor?”
“It’s Ms or Amelia. I no longer work as a doctor. I work for a pharmaceutical company writing up research reports. It’s regular hours and I am a little less likely to be shot at.”
Fox pondered that piece of information. He quite liked Amelia Dinthorpe with her quiet unflappable directness but with her medical knowledge and connection to the pharmaceutical industry she had just managed to bump herself into first place on a suspect list. The preliminary thoughts of the pathologist were that Evangeline Purdue had not died a natural death. Something about the state of the body suggested poison but he would know more after the autopsy and toxicology results.
Therese shifted uncomfortably before Sergeant Collie. Toni consulted her notes and let the witness squirm a little. She liked nervous people, they generally talked freely and were thus more useful.
“So I take it Ms Purdue was not well liked among the other tour guests?”
It was speaking ill of the dead that seemed to be causing Therese the most concern.
“I am not sure I would put it like that..” she began only to have the Detective cut her off.
“Just about everyone else I have interviewed put it exactly like that. Rude, obnoxious, overbearing. She doesn’t sound like someone I would be keen to share a holiday with.”
“It is true that she could be a bit loud and she liked her own way. Many older people can get a bit crotchety especially if they aren’t well.”
“What makes you think Ms Purdue wasn’t well.”
Therese’s eyes widened. “She is dead for a start. I presume it was her heart, or maybe a stroke?”
Toni was beginning to think Therese was a little naive but she took a deep breath and rephrased the question. “Did Ms Purdue show any particular signs of being unwell before she died, apart from being easily irritated?”
Therese pursed her lips and frowned, signs of ponderous thought in Toni’s experience. She gave her some thinking time while mentally reviewing the statements of the other bus passengers. They all agreed that the deceased was unlikely to be on their next Christmas card list but they were stunned by her sudden demise. No-one reported any preceding signs of illness, she was a robust woman in her mid fifties by all accounts. Therese confirmed what the others had said.
“Evangeline was in fine form last night. She stayed at dinner for ages chatting to people. She did like to talk….and eat. You don’t suppose it was something she ate?” Therese looked suddenly worried. “You don’t suppose that the rest of us could be in danger?”

Yes but who. Frankly I have no idea so best I keep writing. Aa to the ice idea…. Why on earth would you think that! Tee hee

Someone who has access to her room because ‘heaven forbid she would get her own ice’? Humm. I’m loving this. 😀

Hi, Millie! How awful is it that Gabri won’t deliver to Florida? I think he could stop by Seattle on his way… hee hee. I agree about the pink tails and poufs (for bunnies) – I think for the poufs, I could do a radish rose that would spread out, but for the mouse tails, I’m probably going to have to stick with green (chive leaves). Unless I can think of something else – I was thinking pimentos are not long enough, but then…. roasted peppers would be….a very slim slice could do very nicely! I don’t want it to be too lifelike, after all, I want people to eat them, hahaha. There are other ladies who will be doing cookies and candies in mouse shapes, and I think I can do cheese balls, as well. I also had a thought about an avocado half (stuffed with crab, perhaps)… I’ll take pictures when the time comes…

Anna, this story is wonderful. I clapped my hands and cheered when Evangeline died! It has to be something in her flask – someone has managed to tamper with her ice… hmmmmmmmmmm.

Hi Nancy, so nice to have you pop in. It’s been a while. Hope all’s well.
Welcome Neva, I was wondering at what point you thought Ruth had died? I could easily see room for a lot of confusion in ‘The Long Way Home” since so much is explained thru phone calls and memories.
Hi Barbara, waving towards the north. Hope Petey is hanging in there. How’s your new pulmonologist working out? I hope you are breathing with ease and comfort and ready for spring!
Hi Julie, love your enthusiasm for your upcoming events. Such fun. And the egg mice are terrific! Was wondering what could be used for a pink nose and tails and poof – mice => bunnies for Spring. 😀 Are pimentos too red?
Oh, Anna, what a delightful treat you are giving us. You are extraordinary. Squeezing in a short story between caring for so many and working on two full novels.
I’ve read very few ‘closed room’ mysteries so I’m enjoying this. It cracks me up that tiny me prefers action / adventure novels. Full of things I’d never have the courage to do myself. Louise is the exception to my usual reading which includes lots of nonfiction. There’s so many books I suppose we need to narrow the net we cast or we’d get nothing done. Sadly we must eat and Gabri won’t bring food to FL! lol…
Well, here are wonderful wishes to all – all extraordinary in your individual ways. Big hug to all.

The tour guide, a dumpy little blond with braces called Sherry McCarthy, cut into the music with a quick run down of the day’s expected events. It was a little unnecessary thought Amelia as it was all detailed in the brochure they were handed on day one but then not everybody bothers to read printed information. If she remembered correctly it was a long cliff side drive for the morning as they headed to their next destination, a rather delightful medieval castle by a lake. There they would be treated to a special morning tea followed by a private guided tour. Lunch would be up to the guests but there a number of options in the nearby village. The afternoon would entail a visit to a local gallery and rose garden before it was back on the bus to be taken to their hotel.
Sherry concluded the dissertation, which was almost verbatim from the brochure as Amelia had remembered it perfectly, by taking pains to point out the excellent washroom facilities provided at the rear of the bus, as she did every day. Perhaps she had suffered a previous unfortunate experience with guests forgetting there was a loo on board. Perhaps if she called it a loo or a lavatory the purpose of the little compartment would be more obvious to assembled throng. Washroom was a complete misnomer. Had the woman ever actually tried to wash her hands in there? The basin was so small It had to be done one finger at a time.
Amelia was all for calling a spade a shovel, although she also understood tact, unlike Ms Purdue. A quick glance across the aisle confirmed the dreadful woman was well settled and sipping happily from her omnipresent ice filled thermos flask. Pity it seemed to do little to soothe her fiery temperament. Amelia had been looking forward to this trip. There was so much to be seen when one wasn’t driving and battling the throngs of enraged horn honkers that filled the roads these days. Evangeline Purdue was starting to cause her to regret her decision. Perhaps next holiday she could take a solitary walking tour.
At ten fifteen Amelia felt her stomach announce it was ready for morning tea. At ten sixteen Evangeline Purdue gasped, choked, twitched and promptly died. It was distinctly unpleasant and extremely inconvenient. Amelia knew straight away that morning tea was now a very remote possibility. Only Therese shed a tear as Amelia slipped past her and took charge, which was just as well as everyone else seemed too stunned to move, including a now very pale Sherry who had to be coaxed into calling for help while Amelia attempted CPR. Dave turned out to be useful when he came to his senses and helped lay Evangeline in the aisle but it was all for nought.

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