A New Golden Age-Style Mystery (with bonus cocktail recipe!) from Ellen Seltz: Mister Mottley and the Dying Fall
The only way out is a long way down.
Edmund Mottley, Specialist in Discreet Enquiries, is in a precarious position: his old flame Susan needs his help. Her new fiance is accused of murder, and she wants Mottley to clear his name.
Mottley would rather jump off a cliff than get involved, but when Susan is threatened by a shadowy crime syndicate, Mottley leaps to her aid.
Mottley and Baker, his intrepid valet, pursue the case to an island of otherworldly beauty. But the island is haunted by secrets, treachery, madness, and … something more.
Every clue crumbles under their feet, pushing Mottley’s powers of deduction — and Baker’s loyalty — to the limit. With his own life on the line, can Mottley save Susan before time runs out. The Mottley & Baker Mysteries are classic whodunnits set in the Golden Age of 1930’s traditional detectives. If you like Miss Marple’s pastoral puzzles or Albert Campion’s rollicking adventures, you’ll fall hard for this cozy historical mystery adventure.
Writing for Refreshment
“The cup of tea on arrival at a country house is a thing which, as a rule, I particularly enjoy. I like the crackling logs, the shaded lights, the scent of buttered toast, the general atmosphere of leisured cosiness.”
― P.G. Wodehouse, The Code of the Woosters
Bertie Wooster sums up here the essence of my lifelong love for good old-fashioned mysteries: They’re really a kind of hospitality. “Come right in, make yourself comfortable,” the author seems to say. “Just for a while, put your worries aside, enjoy the scenery, and take some refreshment.”
Perhaps it’s my training in live theater, but I always feel that my readers and my characters are sharing space – my space. It’s my job to meet their needs, take care of all the details, and make sure everyone gets the most out of the experience.
I thought, for a visit here at Island Confidential in Hawaii, something light and cool would be more suitable than hot tea and toast. So let me introduce you to the gimblet cocktail.
The gimblet, like its more famous sibling, the gimlet, features a combination of lime, spirits, and soda water, served ice-cold. The difference is that the gimblet includes fresh lime juice instead of lime syrup. It’s similar to a lime rickey, but without added sugar.
Like the classic gin & tonic with lemon, the origins of the gimblet and gimlet trace back to the days of British naval exploration and empire – ways to make the medicinal properties of citrus, juniper, and quinine more palatable. Those “make the best of it” snorts evolved into a palate-pleasing balance of flavor, temperature, and kick.
You make a gimblet by mixing one part lime juice to three parts gin. Shake well over ice and strain into a medium glass, then fill to the top with soda water. Being ahead of his time, Mottley prefers his gimblet with vodka.
The gimblet, though little-known today, is immortalized in the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book. The bar at the Savoy Hotel was a mainstay of jazz-age cocktail culture, and the bartender Harry Craddock was a celebrated expert with an encyclopedic knowledge of mixology. His recipes remain a gold standard and basic reference text for cocktail aficionados everywhere.
Some people find the gimblet overwhelmingly tart, but – well, not to put too fine a point on it, Mottley can be a bit tart in his attitude. It suits him. I’m not much of a drinker myself, but I do enjoy unsweetened lime or grapefruit-flavored sparkling water, so perhaps Mottley inherited his taste for tartness from me.
The gimblet pops up in my new book as a prelude to some pointed questions from Mottley’s old flame Susan Parton. Ever a good hostess, Susan is thoughtful enough to bring Mottley his favorite drink before she puts him on the spot. In fiction as in life, a difficult scene goes better when you have something to drink.
Mottley made his way to a quiet corner and dropped into a low chair. Susan materialised at his elbow and handed him a vodka with fresh lime and soda on ice. She perched on the arm of his chair as he sipped.
“Very nice. If ever you need a job, tell Craddock at the Savoy I sent you.”
“Are you going to take our case?”
“Look, Bunny, are you sure you want me mucking about with this? Denis is in no danger, there’s no legal case against him. Even if his money’s tied up for years, that’s hardly a problem for you.”
“It’s not the money, Edmund. It’s the people. Half the guests we invited tonight were mysteriously ill or otherwise engaged. We were cut dead at Chez Dupin last night.”
“People!” Mottley snorted. “Since when do you care about people? Doesn’t love conquer all, and what not?”
She gazed into his eyes, too intent to take offence. “I know you’ve a low opinion of my intelligence, but I’ve never been quite that silly.”
Mottley shifted in his chair. “My dear girl, of course not…”
“This isn’t a story to dine out on. It isn’t romantic. Denis has worked his whole life to build up that firm. Of course I don’t believe he’s a killer, but I can tell he’s keeping something from me. I just want to know the truth.”
“Bunny.” Mottley covered her hand with his own.
She snatched her hand back. “Don’t Bunny me! You owe me, Edmund. I’ve found someone who doesn’t think of me as a little sister. Someone who loves me back.”
“Oof… I’m sorry, Susan, I’ve said so. I meant it.”
“We need your help.” She leaned in and whispered, “You owe me.”
About The Author
Ellen Seltz worked in the entertainment industry for twenty years, from Miami to New York and points in between. Her primary roles were actress and producer, but she also served as a comedy sketch writer, librettist, voice artist, propmaster, costumer, production assistant, camera operator and general dogsbody.
She turned to fiction writing in the vain hope that the performers would do as they were told. Joke’s on her.
Ellen is a native of Birmingham, Alabama, where she now lives with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys vegetable gardening and vintage-style sewing.