Welcome to the strange world of Rosie McLeod, an amateur detective with a big difference. Her deductive powers are based solely on the careful preparation and use of plants and herbs.
Love Potions and Other Calamities is pure comedy, with a bit of drama thrown in, as Rosie sets out to discover whether her husband is having an affair and, as the story unfolds, to solve a murder – before she becomes the next victim.
Rosie McLeod, pub proprietor and a gifted herbalist of some renown, is thirty-nine and holding, but only just. The talons of her fortieth birthday are in her back and her bloody, bloody husband hasn’t laid a lustful hand on her for months.
She has the fortune, or misfortune, to live in one of Scotland’s most famous places – the East Lothian village of Holy Cross, which takes its name from the legendary Glastonbury Cross that was spirited away – and subsequently lost – when Henry VIII purged the English monasteries. The cross of pale Welsh gold, reputedly buried within the village, had at its centre a fragment of emerald from the Holy Grail. The story is, of course, complete baloney.
But the association with the Holy Grail and the later witch persecutions of James VI mean that the village is as well known around the world as Edinburgh Castle, haggis or Loch Ness. It has been described as “the heartbeat of Scotland” and is a major tourist destination – many of whom visit the village with metal detectors, hoping to discover the elusive cross.
However, a sighting of a large, black cat by the local Church of Scotland minister sets off a chain of events that lead back twenty years and, although the villagers are blissfully unaware of it, to a woman’s murder. The black cat had last been sighted near the village some two decades before, and the minister’s predecessor was sure that it had triggered something evil. The villagers, of course, think otherwise.
Nothing ever happens in Holy Cross.
Despite herself, Rosie again smiled. Rainbows always reminded her of childhood. She remembered once travelling by car, sitting in the back seat, coming back from visiting one of her mother’s relatives, and they were on a motorway. Rosie had never liked this relative, a large woman with bushy eyebrows who frightened her. Partly it was her size. On a previous visit Rosie had fallen asleep on her sofa and been nearly sat on, which could have been fatal. Being squashed dead by someone’s bottom, Rosie had thought, wouldn’t be a nice way to die. Partly also it was her booming voice, like Clare Derby’s, and the piercing way she would stare at Rosie, until she realised she’d been asked a question and had somehow blotted it out.
Mostly, however, it was her inedible food that Rosie and her parents all had to gamely eat. Being large, she served monumental portions of overcooked carrots, mushy potato that was neither properly mashed nor firmly boiled, and meat that didn’t come from any species that Rosie recognised. They were all expected to eat heartily, which wasn’t easy. Like many of her parents’ relatives, Rosie had no idea how she was related to them, and still doesn’t, but didn’t want to ask in case she was a close relative and she might grow up to look like her. That was a really frightening thought. So, it was always a relief to escape unscathed and usually hungry back to their farm, where her mother would cook Rosie beans on toast.
That was the journey during which Rosie saw her first rainbow, or the first one she can remember. It was arched over the motorway; one end of it lost between low hills, the other in a scabby council estate. Her mother tried to explain about rainbows being all the different colours of light, but clearly didn’t really know, and couldn’t tell Rosie why light sometimes goes haywire and splits up into all its different colours. Rosie also didn’t know if there were pots of gold at the end of rainbows, and didn’t like thinking about all the drug addicts in the squalid council estate fighting over it.
Thank you, Charlie Laidlaw and R&R Book Tours
About the author
I was born in Paisley, central Scotland, which wasn’t my fault. That week, Eddie Calvert with Norrie Paramor and his Orchestra were Top of the Pops, with Oh, Mein Papa, as sung by a young German woman remembering her once-famous clown father. That gives a clue to my age, not my musical taste.
I was brought up in the west of Scotland and graduated from the University of Edinburgh. I still have the scroll, but it’s in Latin, so it could say anything.
I then worked briefly as a street actor, baby photographer, puppeteer and restaurant dogsbody before becoming a journalist. I started in Glasgow and ended up in London, covering news, features and politics. I interviewed motorbike ace Barry Sheene, Noel Edmonds threatened me with legal action and, because of a bureaucratic muddle, I was ordered out of Greece.
I then took a year to travel round the world, visiting 19 countries. Highlights included being threatened by a man with a gun in Dubai, being given an armed bodyguard by the PLO in Beirut (not the same person with a gun), and visiting Robert Louis Stevenson’s grave in Samoa. What I did for the rest of the year I can’t quite remember
Surprisingly, I was approached by a government agency to work in intelligence, which just shows how shoddy government recruitment was back then. However, it turned out to be very boring and I don’t like vodka martini.
Craving excitement and adventure, I ended up as a PR consultant, which is the fate of all journalists who haven’t won a Pulitzer Prize, and I’ve still to listen to Oh, Mein Papa.
I am married with two grown-up children and live in central Scotland. And that’s about it.
Charlie Laidlaw: https://www.charlielaidlawauthor.com/