The missing Madonna
This society journalist imagined that her vacation in a small mountain village would turn out differently. First, the Baron, a friend of hers who has a pension for putting her in awkward positions, appears unexpectedly. Then, a Madonna statue is stolen from the local church, causing fear and panic among the superstitious inhabitants of the village. A boys disappearance and the approach of a heavy snowstorm only add to the chaos. But, this journalist is determined to get to the bottom of things...
Author: Catherine Howard
ca. 212 Pages
Entertaining mystery novel set around Christmas time with all sorts of intrigues and a wedding between two secondary characters at the end.
Contemporary, around Christmas
12 male and 10 female roles
Main female character
Susan Strathmore, society journalist who writes her own column; lives in London; aristocratic, but does not like being reminded about her past; her parents died in a plane crash, and her brother George is still missing; when she ends up being the victim of an intrusive gossip journalist, she withdraws to a secluded mountain village in the Scottish highlands for a few days; single; shares a flat with Karen; eventually finds a good friend in Baron Martin de Burgh.
Main male character
Baron Martin de Burgh initially puts Susan in an embarrassing situation; then follows her to the village to apologise, but also because he has information for her about her brother, whom she had assumed dead; the relatively cool relationship between himself and Susan at the beginning of the book ultimately turns into a good friendship; the baron frequently displays signs of affection, but whether this will develop into a romantic relationship remains open in the end...
Guesthouse owner of main female character
Angela Green, owner of the small guesthouse in which Susan stays during her holiday; very friendly, elderly lady who takes a liking to Susan in no time at all; convinced that the Madonna protects their village and when the statue is stolen, fears disaster is looming; in charge of the church nativity play.
Guesthouse owner’s son
Scott Green, Angela's son; earthy young man, who still displays signs of his mischievous youth; in the end, he is revealed as the Madonna thief; wants to prove that superstition has no basis.
Guesthouse owner’s daughter-in-law
Kelly Green, Scott’s wife; initially somewhat overbearing, but when her son Arthur leaves home and threatens to end up in the snowstorm, the worried mother starts searching for him on her own; in so doing, she injures herself, but in the end finds herself safely back with her family.
Guesthouse owner’s grandson
Arthur Green, Kelly and Scott’s son; teenager; he and his friends Patrick and Jonathan are under suspicion of having stolen the Madonna; consequently, he leaves home and hides at Patrick’s place; eventually saves his mother from the snowstorm.
Guesthouse owner's granddaughter
Nancy Green, Kelly and Scott's young daughter; finds the stolen Madonna by chance.
Guesthouse owner’s daughter
Ruth Green, Angela's daughter; Scott’s sister; is secretly engaged to the actor Mark Walther; as Mum Angela has had a bad experience with an actor, Ruth initially keeps Mark's profession and their relationship with each other to herself.
Mark Walther, famous British actor and Ruth’s secret fiancé; lives at the B&B over Christmas; pretends to be trading in art, which is why he is under suspicion as well; an extremely obscure character at first; towards the end, he is well-liked and celebrates his wedding with Ruth.
Best friend of the guesthouse owner’s grandson
Patrick Carter, Arthur’s best friend; hides Arthur in the stables and helps look for Kelly.
Best friend’s father
Roger Carter, Patrick's single parent, following the death of his wife.
Reverend Turner, vicar of the small village community.
Irene, the vicar’s housekeeper; very small role.
Photographer and friend of female main character
Eric, photographer; Susan’s friend and colleague.
Friend of main character
Karen, Susan’s friend and flatmate.
Sara Stern, actress and good friend of Susan's; small role.
Christian, Sara Stern's fiancé; very small role.
Brother of main female character
George Strathmore, Susan’s brother who has been missing since the plane crash fourteen years ago; Susan finds out from the baron that her brother is still alive and eventually contacts him; doesn’t appear in person; as the baron connects the two on the basis of their identical names, George should have the same surname as Susan.
Dog of main female character
Trotzki, Susan’s Labrador cross; adored by all children.
A girl in the village
Nicole, girl from the village who takes part in the nativity play; very small role.
Another girl in the village
Lisa, also involved in the nativity play, very small role.
A friend of the guesthouse owner’s grandson
Jonathan, Arthur and Patrick's friend; very small role.
Extract“Ready?” asked Susan with a hint of aggression in her tone, causing Eric to start, for he much preferred ogling a skimpily dressed starlet struggling to master her high heels across the red carpet.
“Ready when you are, O Captain, my Captain!" he replied and winked at her.
Susan sighed. “Then let’s make a move.” She checked her hair one last time. Her friend Karen had painstakingly transformed Susan’s light blonde hair into an elaborate pinned-up style, taking a whole hour and using copious amounts of hairspray to hold it in place. It felt stiff and sticky as a result, but at least it would survive the evening unscathed. The dress that Karen had procured from a designer also fitted perfectly, as though it had been specially made for Susan. Well, perhaps it had been. By now the creative souls from the independent labels were well aware that Susan knew all the important people – namely those who could drive people forward. And perhaps she would be instrumental in a breakthrough for one designer or another – if she wore the right outfit.
But that wasn’t very high on her agenda. If at all possible, she would have worn faded jeans and a lumberjack shirt like Eric, instead of trying to fit her problem zones into the red number that sparkled like a kiosk at a funfair, because the entire fabric, from bodice to train, was decorated with small beads and diamanté. She’d rather not think about the cost were she to incur damage to that little treasure tonight. And on top of that, the gold strappy sandals were cutting into her feet. Why on earth had she agreed to wear sandals one size too small, just because they didn’t have her size? Now she’d spend half the evening limping through the hall at the gala evening, and in the end her feet would bleed just like Cinderella’s stepsisters’ feet.
Resolutely, Susan stepped onto the red carpet that was lined by a numerous spectators and journalists, closely followed by Eric. She walked briskly towards the entrance guarded by two sinister looking security types with broad shoulders, who took their time to check Susan’s invitation before allowing her to enter. They scrutinised Eric disparagingly, as he followed Susan with his camera over his shoulder. But they said nothing. The days when anyone would impede Susan Strathmore were long gone. And somehow, thought Susan on entering the imposing mirrored hall, that wasn’t actually a bad thing. All right, she was here to work, but was there a better job than having to mix and mingle with high society and then to drive home in the middle of the night and spend the next nine hours or so working on her society column without a break?
Naturally, there were nicer things. Sitting in the library of her villa with a good book and a glass of red wine, watching her Labrador cross Trotzki dreaming could be just as appealing - or even better. But she had a job. And she loved it.
“So, who’s on the list today?” asked Eric. He wasn’t one for reviews or briefs before going to these parties. He much preferred being surprised on site as to what Susan had in store.
“I must definitely talk to Sara Stern. There are rumours that she’s planning on marrying.”
“Yes, those rumours have been doing the rounds for a while, but I’m not convinced," replied Eric without being asked. “She’s put on a lot of weight, don’t you think?” He pointed to a group. Sara Stern stood between two men and looked so content that the few additional pounds faded into insignificance.
“Yes, she has put on weight," confirmed Susan. “Which is why it’s going to be a shotgun wedding.”
But before Eric could ask any more questions, Susan made her way towards Sara.
“How come you always know all these things?" mumbled Eric before following her.
The red dress had a signal effect. Everyone acknowledged Susan with a nod, and a few celebrities even greeted her graciously, despite the fact that she belonged to the ‘journo’ clique. But nobody ever forgot anything in these circles. And they especially didn’t forget that Susan had once belonged to them, because she was ever present.
“Sara!” Susan joined Sara Stern and her long-term fiancé Christian, who gave Susan a sideways look, not altogether approvingly. He owned a thriving advertising agency in London. “Susan!” Sara Stern threw her arms around the journalist’s neck with overstated enthusiasm and breathed kisses to the right and left of Susan’s head. “My goodness, it’s been a long time! Do you know Martin? Baron Martin de Burgh only returned from the States a month ago. He worked for a private bank there, isn’t that right Martin? And now he’s come back to save his parents’ business. But all this business talk is way above me.”
Only then did Susan glance at the second man standing with Sara. She was fascinated by the way he beamed at her. He was tall, had dark brown hair, and his brown eyes examined Susan both in a friendly and interested way. She lowered her glance, a little embarrassed, as she felt strangely shaky in his presence.
“Now why didn’t I think of introducing you two earlier! Martin’s also single, did you know that? No, of course not, how could you?” Sara simply carried on babbling.
“Pleased to meet you, Miss…” Martin de Burgh extended his hand to her.
“Susan Strathmore," she said softly.
“Strathmore, is it?” He wrinkled his eyebrows as though in thought, but Susan quickly withdrew her hand and turned back to Sara and Christian. “And who would have thought that Christmas would come again so soon!” called Sara. “Here we are once more at the Christmas dance. Just where is the time going?”
Susan smiled. She knew how to take the celebrities. Allow them their exuberance – that was her motto. Leave them to it and then they’ll tell you everything you want to hear. “Yes, it’s been a long time. Can I have a word now, Sara?”
Sara nodded enthusiastically, placed her hand on Christian’s arm and whispered something in his ear. He lifted his Susan to a quieter spot in the hall.
“No champagne today, Sara?” Susan pointed to the orange juice filled champagne flute Sara was holding primly with her fingers splayed.
“So, you’re pregnant after all?”
“Oh, you already know.” Sara sounded distinctly disappointed. “I was going to tell you this evening, so that you could publish it in the Christmas issue of your gossip rag…”
“Now, now," threatened Susan with a grin. “You shouldn’t underestimate me. I know you Sara, and that smile on your face either means that you’ve been nominated for an Oscar or that you’re pregnant.”
“Do the others also already know?”
“My colleagues?” Susan was unable to suppress a smile. “No, they don’t know. At least, not from me.”
“Well, then you’ll be the first to report it.”
Susan pulled a ballpoint pen and a Moleskine that she used as a notebook from her small evening bag, which was also red and decorated with diamanté. “So, tell me!”
And Sara began to tell her. With beaming eyes, she talked about the new chapter in her life, that Christian could hardly wait any longer, and, above all, how excited she was about becoming a mother soon. “And…" she began secretively.
“Yes?” Susan probed. “Where will you get married?”
Sara pulled a sulky face. “Sometimes I ask myself why you’re actually still interviewing me. You always know everything anyway!”
“Because I don’t want to go about it like my dear colleagues do. They simply suck anything from their thumbs and are surprised to find an injunction on their desks three days later, and their editor furious with them because they have to issue a counter statement. You know, I could also have been wrong.” Susan winked at Sara.
“Amazingly, that hasn’t happened often in the past," noted Sara.
“Tell me everything!” requested Susan, rather than replying.
Frequency of appearance
We have summarised all personalisation options for this book here. We also listed the Frequency of appearance for the respective details. You do not need to fill in all options – you can also use the defaults.
|Main female character|
|The first name of the heroine is||595 x|
|The surname of the heroine is||26 x|
|The hair colour of the heroine is||2 x|
|The colour of the heroine’s eyes is||1 x|
|Main male character|
|The first name of the baron is||188 x|
|The surname of the baron is||29 x|
|The hair colour of the baron is||1 x|
|The colour of the baron’s eyes is||3 x|
|His car is a||1 x|
|The colour of his car is||1 x|
|Guesthouse owner of main female character|
|The first name of the guesthouse owner (female) is||234 x|
|The surname of the guesthouse owner and therefore all family members is||73 x|
|Guesthouse owner’s son|
|The first name of the son is||144 x|
|Guesthouse owner’s daughter-in-law|
|The name of his wife is||88 x|
|Guesthouse owner’s grandson|
|The first name of the grandson is||161 x|
|Guesthouse owner's granddaughter|
|The first name of the granddaughter is||40 x|
|Guesthouse owner’s daughter|
|The first name of the daughter is||134 x|
|The first name of the actor is||106 x|
|The surname of the actor is||62 x|
|Best friend of the guesthouse owner’s grandson|
|The first name of the grandson’s friend (male) is||87 x|
|Best friend’s father|
|The first name of his father is||41 x|
|The surname of both is||21 x|
|The surname of the vicar is||23 x|
|The first name of the vicar’s housekeeper (female) is||3 x|
|Photographer and friend of female main character|
|The first name of the photographer (male) is||66 x|
|Friend of main character|
|The first name of the flatmate (female) is||82 x|
|The first name of the actress is||27 x|
|The surname of the actress is||8 x|
|The first name of the actress' fiancé is||5 x|
|Brother of main female character|
|The first name of the missing brother is||19 x|
|The surname of the missing brother is (same name as heroine)||3 x|
|Dog of main female character|
|The heroine's dog answers to the name of (male)||80 x|
|A girl in the village|
|The first name of the girl is||2 x|
|Another girl in the village|
|The first name of the second girl is||2 x|
|A friend of the guesthouse owner’s grandson|
|The first name of the grandson´s other friend (male) is||5 x|
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