Mary Chiappe, author of The Grapes of Warmth, the only book in English about Manilva, its environs, and much more, has followed it up with her first solo novel, Mosaic of an Unquiet Time, which appeared in June this year.
“It is set in 1963 in an imaginary British colony off the coast of Portugal. Probably the best thing I have written to date,” she says. “It is about a time of change as seen through the lives of five major characters with their loves and problems, whether these involve religion, sex or politics. I’d say it’s a many-layered book to be enjoyed and re-read!”
Mary has, concurrently, been writing whodunits with a childhood friend, Dr Sam Benady, a paediatrician and amateur historian. The Bresciano Mysteries are set in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Gibraltar, Morocco and Spain. Their fourth novel, The Prince’s Lady, was launched on 6th November.
“We plan a rough outline of the book and get splendid ideas that later – as we attempt to wrestle with the logistics involved – land us in the soup. Further meetings are involved… a good excuse to get together for a tasty lunch… as the book develops and expands and we have to keep adjusting and readjusting and abandoning old ideas or accommodating new ones. Our best-laid plans can certainly go awry, and often do!
“We write a chapter apiece and constantly revise each other’s work – suggesting changes and pointing out errors or inconsistencies and dealing with all the niggling details that require adjustment – from punctuation to characterisation. By the end of it all, it often becomes impossible to remember who wrote what.”
The books feature a local man, an Anglo-Genoese amateur investigator. Bresciano has a talent for spotting anomalies and clues – without always drawing the right conclusions at the time, but, like the Canadian Mounties… he always gets his man (or woman!) in the end.
While the central character – Giovanni Bresciano – is fictional, many of those he works or deals with are real historical personalities connected with Gibraltar. They can range from Governor Eliott or General O’Hara, to Sergeant Miles who became one of Gibraltar’s first policemen and Abraham Hassan, the only local man to volunteer and be recruited into the army during the Great Siege – both their descendants are still around.
Books may even feature someone else’s fictional character – like Captain Wentworth from Jane Austen’s Persuasion.
The books have attracted good reviews both locally and in the UK in “Historical Novels Review”.
The Murder in Whirligig Lane “passes the Good Mystery Test, because the dénouement is unforeseeable, in spite of a generous supply of clues, and yet plausible. I read it at one sitting, and look forward to Bresciano’s next case.” Alan Fisk. Historical Novels Review, U.K.
Fall of a Sparrow “An unusual crime novel… an unconventional hero… an interesting setting… a very enjoyable read.” Lynn Guest. Historical Novels Review, U.K.
The Pearls of Tangier “Well plotted… and characters strongly conveyed. The time period… and the exotic setting permeate the novel without overpowering the action or the characters. I thoroughly enjoyed (it). Recommended.” Anne Northfield. Historical Novels Review, U.K.
And now we have the latest book of the series: The Prince’s Lady. The book centres round Prince Edward, fourth son of George III, who is posted to Gibraltar in disgrace in 1790-91 to serve as a young Colonel. He is the man who will, many years later, father a child who will ascend the throne of England as Queen Victoria. As the novel opens, he is living contentedly with his mistress, a cultured French Baroness. They rent a house in Spain for occasional use. All is well until the morning when the Lady vanishes. Has she suffered an accident when riding out? Has she fled to the arms of a new lover? Or is it something more sinister? And there are bandoliers in the area – desperate and violent men…
And over the week that follows, Bresciano becomes involved in a flight that may turn out to be an abduction; he faces the Giants with their fearsome reputation; and is horrified by the murder of an innocent accessory. And it all has to be unravelled before the wind blows from the west – or from the east – for both become crucial either to the villain or the Prince… and to Bresciano himself, for the east wind may take the woman he loves away to the opposite side of the world.
Books are available from the English Bookshop in Sabinillas as well as in bookshops in Gibraltar and at Longman’s in Estepona. Steve at the English Bookshop is planning an Author’s Day when you can meet Mary and get your copy of the books signed.