A holiday is a time to relax, unwind and see the sights. But for two adventurous sexagenarians, the sights have a tendency to include dead bodies.
Etta and Dora, both newly retired teachers, travel from their home in Southern Italy to a fairy-tale German town for their first home swap holiday, delighted by their neighbours’ warm welcome. But the welcome turns sour when the Night Watchman of Rothenburg is brutally murdered while his tour group takes photographs nearby, a halberd buried in his chest and a peculiar iron mask by his side.
When the murderer claims a second victim and the son of their hospitable neighbours becomes the number-one suspect, Etta’s analytical mind goes to work. Why was a shame mask left at the scene of each murder? Is there a clandestine trade going on behind the scenes of apparently upstanding local businesses? And why does every lead take her back to the sinister Devil’s Ale pub and the terrifying gang who lurk within?
Meanwhile, Dora has a puzzle of her own – how can she persuade Etta that a loveably disobedient Basset Hound called Napoleon is now a permanent part of their lives?
◆◆◆ Pack your bags, jump into the backseat of Etta and Dora’s old Fiat 500, and join them on their travels around Europe. There’ll be mystery, murder and mayhem aplenty wherever they go. ◆◆◆
In The Watchman of Rothenburg Dies, Etta and Dora have swapped homes with a family in Rothenburg, Germany, and arrive for a one month vacation stay. After taking a tour and finding their tour guide murdered, things take an unexpected twist for the two.
I really enjoyed this start to a new cozy series. What a great way to put your characters in new and unexpected places! The two retired schoolteacher protagonists gave the book a slightly Christie-esque feel that I loved. The mystery is well written and the characters were great. I can’t wait for more books in this series.
I am also lucky enough to have the author here today. Please read on for a post from Adriana Licio!
THE WATCHMAN OF ROTHENBURG DIES: TRAVEL AND MYSTERY
The Homeswappers Mysteries were created thanks to my family (made up of myself, my husband and Frodo, a Golden Retriever with a penchant for travelling) wandering the roads of Europe for the past ten years, visiting renowned places such as London, Paris, Stockholm, Prague, Amsterdam, and some less well-known ones like St-Jean-de-Luz in the Basque Province, Chandolin in Switzerland, Hamelin in Germany, Salcombe in the UK, the Bohemian Canada in the Czech Republic, the Island of Ærø in Denmark, the Island of Möja in Sweden… the list, believe me, goes on and on.
I’m proud of being European; I’m proud of travelling with my dog; I’m happy to discover new little places that show how multifaceted Europe is. In short, I’m an enthusiastic home swapper.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber was the place we visited back in 2010 when we travelled with Frodo for the first time. So no wonder the book that opens my Homeswappers Mysteries series should take place in the Romantic Strasse of this quaint medieval town, with its ancient walls, colourful half-timbered houses and mysterious watchtowers.
Rothenburg ob Der Tauber, the Christmas Town
Amongst Rothenburg’s main attractions are the Christmas Museum and its bewitching Christmas shops. No matter what season of the year you visit, these make you feel as if you’re in a real Christmas market in the midst of the festive season: impossible to resist, unless you’re Scrooge.
I won’t go into detail about the number of churches with beautiful artwork inside, nor catalogue all the breathtaking areas such as the Plönlein, where Dora – driving Etta nuts – stops time and time again to “Imprint this image in my memory for the rest of my life”. Nor will I list the museums, with one notable exception.
The shame masks
In Rothenburg’s Crime Museum, I – too sensitive to look at the displays of torture implements – was hooked by some strange cast-iron masks. They looked like human faces, but with exaggerated features, such as a pig’s nose to indicate a dirty person. Long ears and an even longer tongue were sure signs of a gossip, while vine leaves indicated an insane passion for wine…
You see, during the Middle Ages, if a citizen’s behaviour was morally lacking, a judge would condemn him or her to wear the appropriate shame mask for a day, or maybe a week, according to the gravity of their actions. All passers-by recognised both the sinner and the sin, and they were allowed to mock and tease the guilty party. Hopefully the public shaming would convince the sinner to mend their ways…
In my mystery, The Watchman of Rothenburg Dies, the murderer’s signature is to leave a shame mask at each crime scene, pointing out the faults of the victim.
Rothenburg, food and drink
But let’s move on to less grisly subjects…
Rothenburg bakeries excel at making virtually every type of cake, but if you want to find a favourite, then try the Bavarian prinzregententorte: seven layers of thin white sponge, just as many layers of chocolate buttercream, plus a bonus layer of apricot jam. Delicious!
And you cannot miss the schneeballen – the snowballs decorating all bakery counters. Traditional to Rothenburg, they are made of fried shortcrust pastry shaped like snowballs. They can be served sprinkled with powdered sugar or dipped into white or dark chocolate, nuts, coconut, cinnamon or marzipan, each ingredient giving them a different colour and taste.
In the late afternoon, you may want to refresh yourself in a tree-shaded beer garden, where it’s hard to choose between a beer or one of the celebrated Franconian wines. And the local cuisine is superb, meats and herbs presented with fruit sauces, plenty of veggies and local cheese.
But as the sun sets, the adventures in Rothenburg are only just beginning.
At night, the atmosphere is dreamy, maybe even a little eerie. Can you hear him? The Night Watchman, a halberd in one hand, an oil lamp in the other, is taking tourists to discover the hidden corners and forgotten secrets of this historic town. And it’s at this moment of darkness and whispered legends that my story begins…
Please leave a message in the comments and we will pick a winner for an eBook of The Watchman of Rothenburg Dies.
About the Author
She loves loads of things: traveling, reading, walking, good food, small villages, and home swapping. She runs her family perfumery, and between a dark patchouli and a musky rose, she reads and writes cozy mysteries. She resisted writing as long as she could. But one day she found an alluring blank page and the words flowed in that weird English she’d learned in Glasgow…
Get a taste of Adriana’s world reading And Then There Were Bones the prequel to her An Italian Village Mystery series, exclusive to the subscribers on her mailing list – https://adrianalicio.com/murderclub
Free Prequel: https://adrianalicio.com/murderclub
Purchase Link – Amazon – FREE on Kindle Unlimited
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