the 2nd Ben Reese mystery
Parson Jonathan MacLean is too healthy and widely loved to die so young. Yet suddenly and mysteriously he’s dead. Archivist Ben Reese, in Scotland to appraise the treasures of Balnagard Castle for his old friend Lord Alexander Chisholm, suspects cold-blooded murder. And he is absolutely certain it was one of Jonathan’s kith and kin who slipped into his picnic hamper the bees that triggered his fatal allergy. What Ben doesn’t suspect is that the same venomous killer is now arranging a most creative death for Ben himself. . . .
Pride and Predator is set in Scotland where Ben is on sabbatical evaluating the collections in a medieval mansion house while working on research of his own. The story has to do with the Church of Scotland, the Battle of El Alemein, the habits of a potentially dangerous animal, as well as certain aspects of medicine, chemistry, the import-export business and the history of castles and country houses—as they relate to more than one death in the summer of ’61.
Predator was fun to work on in Scotland, despite being chased by cows, mocked by a military historian, and spoken to with pointed severity by a disputatious “animal trainer.” (The sad part is I suddenly can’t find most of the pictures I took.)
The dedication says: “Because of David Munro who started the book with his stories, then patiently answered more questions that anyone ought to be able to.”
That’s not an exaggeration. I couldn’t have written the book if I hadn’t known David Munro—a Ph.D. geographer, Director of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, and modern day Renaissance man. He knew seventy-five percent of the large and small information I needed, and pointed me to the rest. He even had copies of newspapers from the fifties stashed away that he’d known as a kid would be something he’d want when he grew up—the opening day of the Firth of Forth Bridge preserved for private posterity!
He drove me places in his ’51 Bentley (the one he sold to add on to his cottage), pouring a quart of oil in the crankcase whenever he pumped gas, loaning me survey maps so I could drive my modest rental to strange and isolated places, introducing me to all kinds of people I desperately needed to interview, teaching me several sorts of Scottish history (land management among them), giving me book ideas one after the other, trying to keep me from looking like a fool when writing about his country.
I find myself smiling when I think about Predator. The ladies in the train with the dogs are real. The way they fussed and debated dog food was too good not to use. Placing the book at Kinnaird near Dunkeld, that’s as good a memory as anything—the place itself, the people who run it, climbing the moor to Loch Skiach with the gillie who managed the grouse.
A gentle World War II veteran Church of Scotland minister helped me with Jonathan MacLean. A young pharmacist in Dunkeld went way out of his way to do research for me. Being told about Cawdor Castle by the man whose family had owned it for centuries was nothing if not interesting. As was pulling myself up a hill cliff with fistfuls of dried bracken, after getting stuck in the dark in an ice storm on the very steep track to my tiny cottage on the moor above Kinnaird.
Panicking completely wasn’t dull either, right before I left Scotland, when I still hadn’t found two much-needed experts and couldn’t afford to come back. Being filled suddenly with peace about it, while worrying over it that morning— only to have them dropped in my lap, and get all questions answered long before noon.
It’s a lesson I try to remember (but don’t) that applies everywhere else.
Available from Amazon, B&N.com, Indiebound
What They’re Saying:
“…Wright not only provides clever leads to challenge the reader, but she has also created a strong and interesting protagonist in Ben Reese . . . Pride And Predator is quite a compelling story.”
“If Sally Wright’s budding mystery series doesn’t get at least a little buzz out there in the book world, it won’t be because she doesn’t deserve it.”
-Fort Worth Star Telegram
“Pride And Predator is a welcome retreat to the Golden Age of mystery . . . Definitely a must for those of you who relish classic mystery authors.”
“An evocative story teller, Wright’s descriptions of the ancient land of Scotland and the family relationships of its inhabitants are as compelling as the mystery itself.