Saturday in the Smokies

Clingman’s Dome..

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The Corpse in the Snowman

cover120770-mediumby Nicholas Blake
source: Ipso Books via Netgalley

Sex. Money. Drugs. Take your choice.

In middle of a cold snap, with snow swirling round the imposing Easterham Manor, Nigel and Georgia Strangeways enter the warmth of the Victorian estate. But upon their arrival, the couple quickly learn that all is not as cozy as it seems. The whole house is pervaded by a sense of foreboding: a room is haunted, the cat is possessed, and the specter of the enigmatic Elizabeth Restorick looms.

Confounded by the guests’ strange reactions to the very mention of Elizabeth’s name, Nigel never gets the chance to form his own opinion of the young woman. The next morning, Elizabeth Restorick is found hanged and naked in her room, a hint of a smile playing on her painted lips.

Could her apparent suicide be more than just that? Would this beautiful girl, sensuous, compassionate, full of vitality, have taken her own life? Or did someone take it from her?

With too many loose ends to count, planted evidence, and motives mounting, Nigel must delve into Miss Restorick’s colourful past to solve this tragic mystery. 


A very enjoyable read! Hooked me right off the get go. A country house, snowed in, solid characters, twists and turns, what more could you ask for?  This is my second Nigel Strangeways mystery, don’t you just love the name! I’m glad Ipso books are reprinting these Golden Age mysteries again for a whole new generation to enjoy.

I prefer the older cover for the book though…

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This fulfills the “Pseudonymous Author” category under “What” in the gold era Just the Facts Notebook @My Reader’s Block.  Nicholas Blake was the pseudonym for Cecil Day-Lewis.  Also counts for Cloak and Dagger.

Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site

Tipton-Haynes State Historic SiteThis is the site where we attended the Civil War re-enactment a few weeks ago. It’s a pretty spot with several historic buildings

The Tipton-Haynes site represents various periods of Tennessee history, from pre-colonial times to Reconstruction. An ancient buffalo trail ran near the site of the “bold spring,” and the grounds were frequented successively by the Woodland Indians, the Cherokees, European explorers and traders.

The site was later inhabited by Colonel John Tipton, a former member of the Territorial Assembly, U.S. Territory South of the River Ohio, who built a substantial log house in 1784. His career embraced the controversial State of Franklin and early Tennessee statehood. Tipton was also a member of the Tennessee legislature and a signer and a framer of the first Tennessee Constitution. In an area including this site, the Battle of Franklin was fought in 1788, the only armed skirmish between supporters of the proposed state and their opponents, who were loyal to North Carolina. John Tipton, Jr. inherited the home in 1813. He served in the Tennessee General Assembly from 1803 to 1819, and was lieutenant governor and president of the senate for the last of these sessions.

In 1839, the estate was given as a wedding present to Landon Carter Haynes, who had the home enlarged and renovated. He also built a free-standing office building, where he practiced law. He served in the state legislature (1845-51), and was Speaker of the House in 1849. From 1846 to 1849, Haynes was editor of his brother-in-law’s paper, The Tennessee Sentinel, which opposed the views of The Whig, edited by William G. Brownlow, a personal and political antagonist. Haynes is chiefly remembered for his sponsorship of railroad-building and for his brilliant oratorical skills. A states’ rights advocate, Haynes served as a Confederate Senator. Arrested after the Civil War and pardoned by President Andrew Johnson, Haynes moved to Memphis, where he died in 1875. Today the site is managed and operated by the Tipton-Haynes Historical Association.

The French botanist André Michaux was a guest in this house during one of his many expeditions in eastern North America. You can read about the people involved in the history of this site HERE.

There is a lovely wooden frame home, the small office built by Landon Carter Haynes right next to the house, a log cabin, barns, well house, and another small cabin near the well house. Inside the visitors center is a small museum area. In total there are 45 acres on the site with a small cave and walking trails. A nice afternoon outing!

Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site  Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site

Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site

Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site

Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site

Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site

This is the spring and spring house…

Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site

 

Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site    Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site

These two pictures above are of the inside of the log home. I posted a pic of the outside with a solider sitting on the porch in the re-enactment post.

 

 

 

Civil War Re-enactment

A couple weeks ago a friend and I went to a State Historic Site in Johnson City and roamed around a Civil War encampment and re-enactment. It was a gorgeous warm sunny day, which seems to come and go this year! Winter does not want to let go, it’s been like a roller coaster. At least we aren’t getting snow like some places up north!
Civil War re-enactment Johnson City TN.This group wasn’t really large, but it was fun and interesting. There was a surgeons tent set up and he had all the tools of the trade and was full of interesting facts. J.E. Hanger, an engineering student who lost his leg in the Civil War, came home and went right to work on an artificial leg. His company Hanger Inc. is still in business and at the leading edge of prosthetics today. They are the company that figured out the prosthetic tail fin for the dolphin, Winter! Did you see the movie about this dolphin’s tale? No pun intended! You can watch all about her rescue and the journey to finding the right prosthetic for her HERE. Her tale was infected and she was close to death. They amputated and saved her life.  The gel sleeve that we use today on humans to protect their skin was discovered in trying to give Winter a prosthetic that worked! It’s a fascinating story. She is still at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida, I’d love to go see her.

The group stayed the whole weekend camping just like they would have during the Civil War. During the day they have drills and battles, pay calls, cannon firing etc. It looked like a lot of fun, except that heavy clothing must be really hot on a hot summer day! The uniforms are made of wool!

Civil War re-enactment Johnson City TN.

Civil War re-enactment Johnson City TN. Civil War re-enactment Johnson City TN.

Civil War re-enactment Johnson City TN. Civil War re-enactment Johnson City TN.

Civil War re-enactment Johnson City TN. Civil War re-enactment Johnson City TN.

Civil War re-enactment Johnson City TN.

Notice in a couple of pictures there is a Scottish flag flying. That’s because we have a large concentration, the most in all the US, of Scottish immigrants in the East Tennessee area. They flew the Scottish flag with their regiments because of that!

Civil War re-enactment Johnson City TN.

Civil War re-enactment Johnson City TN.

The Confederate boys

Civil War re-enactment Johnson City TN.

Civil War re-enactment Johnson City TN.

I took a video of them firing the cannon. There was someone there filming for a local TV show or something so it took longer than I thought because they stopped a time or two for the guy down the hill filming but here it is…

Short videos of them marching and fighting…

 

 

 

I post about the actual Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site where this was held next. A lovely old home is there. Hope you enjoyed the day at the re-enactment. There’s going to be a BIG one at Gettysburg this year for the 155th year anniversary. I’d love to go to that!

Two for One

Wrapping up Reading Ireland Month with two good reads…

A Stone of the Heart by John Brady

A Brutal murder on the grounds of Trinity College, Dublin, sparks a police investigation with unexpected consequences for Sergeant Matt Minogue of the Garda Murder Squad. When the body of student Jarlath Walsh is discovered with his head beaten in, Minogue instinctively knows that this is no random killing. Walsh was a young idealist, an innocent, as his grieving girlfriend Agnes McGuire confirms. But someone wants Minogue to believe that Walsh was a drug pusher who got what he deserved. As the sergeant digs deeper into the case, Dublin is rocked by IRA violence — a violence that seems somehow linked to the student’s murder. Minogue discovers the truth only after he is nearly killed when a hair-raising chase ends in a fateful clash in that no-man’s land which is the border with Northern Ireland.
    The title comes from Yeats: “Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart.” The stony heartedness of grief and political hatred resonate through this subtle thriller set against a backdrop of terrorist violence.

This book is the first in the Inspector Matt Minogue Mystery series, there are ten books in the series. Minogue is freshly called back to service after a serious on duty injury. He’s really not sure if his superiors really want him to, or care if, he solves this case or if they just thought it was a good vehicle to see if he is ready to come back to work. He second guesses everything they do or say to him.  Set in the unrest of 1980’s Ireland, lots of politicking going on. This book sets us up with insight with his past and family dynamics. We learn who Matt Minogue is. It is a slow read with a dramatic chase at the end. Well worth the time. I first heard about this book way back in 2013 on Tracy’s blog Bitter Tea and Mystery. Hop over and read her review too! It’s been on my shelf since 2013, wow! Glad I finally read it!

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Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

  Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America, she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind.
    Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, who loves the Dodgers and his big Italian family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.

I very much enjoyed this book! It was a gentle, sweet story of an immigrant’s journey. Eilis didn’t really belong in her new homeland and now doesn’t really belong in her old homeland anymore. Somewhat sad really.

Looking forward to reading Nora Webster by this author soon. Nora is mentioned in this book. There is a recent movie, of the same title, made from this book. Have any of you seen Brooklyn!

Sad that Reading Ireland Month is over, but looking forward to next year. I discovered several new authors through this and will definitely be looking for their books. Thanks Cathy!

Biltmore House

BiltmoreA couple of weeks ago we went to Biltmore House in Asheville, NC., America’s largest home. A sweet friend has season passes and she receives free passes to hand out the first of the year. So we got to go for free! It’s not cheap to tour this house!

 

George Vanderbilt was born in 1862, grandson of the famed industrialist, Cornelius Vanderbilt. They were for all intent and purpose, American royalty. After traveling to Asheville, NC in 1880 with his mother he decided to build a home there in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Construction started in 1889 and the house opened on Christmas day in 1895. George married Edith in 1898 and made Biltmore their family home. They had one daughter, Cornelia. George died at the age of 51 in 1914 after having his appendix removed. Cornelia married an English judge, John Cecil in 1924. They lived in Biltmore and had two sons there. In 1930 they opened the house to the public to help draw tourist and income to Asheville during the depression and to help with the cost of maintaining the house. It is still a family owned property. The house has a rich history, priceless art from the National Art Gallery in DC was stored here to keep it safe during WWII. You can read up on the house at the website HERE.

The house, a French chateau design, has 250 rooms, 35 bedrooms, 43 baths, 65 fireplaces, a 70,000 gallon indoor, heated swimming pool, the first privately installed bowling alley, a gymnasium and a library with 10,000+ books! The estate is 8,000 acres and has large gardens, walking trails, a farm, a winery, a small shopping area and two hotels. It was completely self-sufficient in its day. For a house that old it is in excellent condition! Even the original telephones and servant communication systems are still there. It has an Otis elevator and while we were there it was down for the first time since installation in 1895! The motor was sent out to be re-wound. The guide said just think what the mechanics at Otis thought when they received a 125 year old motor to work on! All the furnishings are original to the house too! It really is a treasure, a step back in time. Of course the free tickets are for January through the middle of March so the gardens were not in bloom.

Gargoyles were all over the outside of the house. It was really cool. It was fairly crowded. We spoke to two gentlemen who have season passes and they said they open and close rooms during each season so you have to come back to see all of them. They also said it is so crowded in house in the summer you can barely move and before they installed the air-conditioning it was unbearably hot and humid.  I took so many pictures. I’m going to share a few here and give you the link to my Flickr album so you can look at all of them.

The library of course! He owned 22,000 books! Some 10,000 were here in the library…

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This chess set was owned by Napoleon and given to George on his 21st birthday

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Thes two pics are of my favorite bedroom! Reserved for special guests

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Game room

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The Loggia, one of my favorite rooms. There’s a large balcony off this room with the wide sweeping views of the mountains and countryside.

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This is the balcony. Large windows are opened off the room into this porch.

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The pool

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Gymnasium

Banquet Hall

Banquet Hall

Kitchen

Kitchen

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Windows on the main staircase inside

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Biltmore

Front of the chateau

So many more gorgeous things to look at so jump over HERE! Photos of lights, magnificent ceilings, drain spouts, kitchen, laundry rooms etc. Be sure and click on each picture and read the descriptions. There were costumes from the Titanic period on display during our visit. Thats what all the mannequins are about in the pictures. The Vanderbilt’s have a connection to the Titanic – they were scheduled to sail on her and at the last minute changed their plans and sailed later on another ship!

Hope you enjoyed the day at Biltmore with me!