LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOYS AND GIRLS... welcome to the big top blog of Douglas McPherson, author of CIRCUS MANIA, the book described by Gerry Cottle as "A passionate and up-to-date look at the circus and its people."

Friday, 19 November 2010

Murder at the Circus

Part 3
by Douglas McPherson

A serial killer is stalking the circus and an arsonist is on the loose. Can the four fiesty ladies of the Blue Rinse Brigade catch the killer? Find out in the final part of my three-part comedy crime caper which first appeared in My Weekly. (If you missed Parts 1 and 2, just scroll down the blog and find them below).

Murder at the Circus as it originally appeared
in My Weekly
Big Ted Telford came running across the green with the two constables Mervyn had left on duty while he went back to the station to interview Tommy the Clown.
"Shall we call the fire brigade?" asked one of the officers, waving aside the smoke.
"Bit late for that," said Evelyn as she set a fire extinguisher down on the grass. "But nice of you to stroll over and say hello."
"If it hadn’t been for these ladies, I’d have been burnt alive," said the girl who had been serving in the hotdog wagon.
Ted gazed at the badly blackened back of the otherwise intact wagon and said, "If the fire had reached those gas cylinders it would have wiped out half the circus."
"I think that was the intention," said Pam. She pointed her walking stick at a paraffin can casually discarded next to the remains of some hay bales that had formed the seat of the fire. "This was deliberate."
A little way off, Jane used a pair of eyebrow tweezers to pick up a matchbox. "It looks like the arsonist went this way."
"Heading for the caravans," Evelyn deduced. "I reckon whoever sawed through Tamsin’s tight-wire realised their plan had been foiled and stayed around to wreck more havoc."
"Which means they could strike again," Maude said, darkly.
"Agreed," said Evelyn. Turning to Ted, she asked, "Are there any particularly dangerous stunts in the second half of the show?"
"Well, there’s the knife-throwing, Marko catching a bullet in his teeth, Luigi juggling with chainsaws... nothing out of the ordinary."
"You’d better warn the performers to be on their guard for another attack," said Evelyn. "Maude, you’re needed as the plant for Tony’s gorilla routine, so you can keep an eye on things ringside. Pam, cover the backstage area. Jane and I will search around the lorries and caravans for clues to where our saboteur may be hiding.
"As for you two," the former Chief Inspector pointed at the constables, "Guard the main entrance to the big top - and if anything happens, try to react a bit quicker this time."
"Yes ma’am!" One of the officers saluted.
"The killer must be someone who knows their way around the circus," said Evelyn, as she and Jane perused the vehicles that encircled the big top. "Always watching and able to slip away unseen. But where can they be hiding?"
"Over here!" Jane hissed, suddenly. She pointed to a wet handprint on a caravan door and mouthed: "Paraffin!"
They checked the windows, but the blinds were down.
"Shall we call for back up?" Jane whispered.
"From Pinky and Perky back there?" Evelyn scorned. "I think we can handle this. Cover me."
Jane drew her miniature pistol and Evelyn rapped loudly on the door. "Open up! We‘ve got you surrounded!"
There was no sound from inside the caravan.
"Looks like nobody’s home," said Evelyn, "Shall we take a look inside?"
"Allow me," said Jane. Taking a hairclip from her blue rinsed ‘do, the former spy poked it into the lock and sprung the simple mechanism.
Inside, they found just the normal signs of recent habitation: the remains of a meal on the worktop, some clothes on the bed.
"Well, there’s no sign of... Eeeek!"
Having idly opened a wardrobe door, Jane jumped back as a young man fell forward and crashed full length on the floor.
"Is he...?" Jane asked shakily.
Evelyn nodded grimly and pointed to a flash of glittery nylon wound tightly around the man’s neck: "Strangled with a pair of circus tights."
"But who is he, and who’d want to kill him?"
Evelyn noticed a brightly illustrated circus poster on the wall and said, "My guess is someone wanted to steal his identity."
For more adventures
of Evleyn, Pam, Jane
and Maude,
download new ebook
The Blue Rinse Brigade
from the
Kindle Store
The backstage area was hectic, with brightly costumed performers coming and going from the ring.
"Where’s the Masked Assassin?" Helga shouted above the music coming through the sparkly curtain.
"The Masked Assassin?" Pam asked, dubiously.
"He shoots the bullet I catch in my mouth," explained Marko the Magician, who was checking the mechanism of a powerful rifle.
"That doesn’t look like a fake gun," Pam observed.
"It’s real!" Marko said proudly. "The trick is he aims past my head, at a sandbag concealed in the wings, and I produce another bullet from under my tongue."
He grinned, and was suddenly holding a bullet between his teeth.
"He fires that rifle straight past you?" Pam marvelled. "You must trust him like a brother."
"He is my brother," said Marko.
At that moment, the rear tent flap was thrust aside by a sinister looking figure, clad in a long black trench coat and slouch hat. His ‘face’ was a featureless black satin mask.
"And about time," snapped Helga.
Ignoring the ring-mistress, the Assassin strode towards Marko and reached out with leather gloved hands to take the rifle.
"Don’t give it to him!" Evelyn shouted, as she and Jane burst into the tent.
As the Assassin spun around in surprise, Jane covered him with her pistol and Evelyn yelled, "Grab him Chewbacca!"
Still dressed in his gorilla suit, Tony wrapped his arms around the Assassin from behind.
"Get your paws off me!" came a muffled hiss from behind the mask. But although the trench-coated figure squirmed and struggled, the self-defence instructor’s grip was unbreakable.
"Now let‘s see who the circus murderer really is," said Evelyn.
Tugging off the Assassin’s hat and mask, Evelyn stepped back in surprise as she revealed the red with rage face of a woman in her 60s.
"Cora!" Ted exclaimed. "I thought you’d joined Zippos!"
"What as?" Cora snarled, "A 65-year-old trapeze artist? Not that you cared what happened to me as long as I was out of the way and you could shack up with this harlot!"
"How dare you!" exclaimed Helga.
"And how dare the lot of you steal my circus!"
"It’s my circus," Ted corrected.
"What do you know about circuses?" Cora raged. "It might have your name on it, Elvis, but it should bear the name of this country’s finest circus family, The Flying Flynns!"
"You had a generous divorce settlement," Ted mumbled.
"But where’s my brother?" Marko asked, confused.
"Gone to that great curtain call in the sky!" Cora spat unrepentantly. "Just as I’d have picked off the rest of you, one by one, if it wasn’t for these geriatric crime-busters!"
"You killed my brother?" Marko stammered. Suddenly he began stuffing bullets in his rifle. "Then I’ll kill you!"
"Stop him!" Evelyn commanded. "The law will take care of Cora."
As Helga and Tamsin tried to wrest the rifle from Marko, it went off and shot a hole in the canvas roof.
Taking advantage of the confusion, Cora stamped on Tony’s foot and elbowed herself out of his embrace.
"Sorry I can’t stick around for the rest of the show," she said, "But I promise I’ll be back!"
"You’re not going anywhere!" said Ted.
The grey-haired Teddy Boy grabbed the lapel of his ex-wife’s coat. But with an acrobat’s ease, Cora slipped out of the coat and left him holding the empty garment.
Underneath, she was wearing her old trapeze costume.
"Yes, it still fits!" Cora crowed. "And I can still do this!"
With a high kick worthy of a can-can dancer, Cora booted the pistol out of Jane’s hand. It went off with a loud bang and shot another hole through the roof.
Turning on her heel, Cora darted through the sparkly curtain towards the ring.
"After her, Galen!" said Evelyn.
In the spotlight, Luigi almost dropped the dumbbell he was holding, but the audience cheered as Cora ran across the ring chased by a gorilla.
Evelyn pulled a whistle from her bag and blew it loudly, causing the two constables to join the affray and try to block Cora‘s escape.
Around the edge of the ring were four metal pillars that held the tent up. Each was made from criss-crossed steel, like a crane.
Nimbly evading the police, Cora dashed towards one of the pillars and began climbing it, hand over hand.
Tony, in his gorilla costume, began scaling it behind her.
"He’s gaining on her!" Jane cheered.
Just out of Tony‘s reach, Cora came to a rope coiled around the pillar. The audience let out an admiring "Oooooh!" as she uncoiled the rope and swung diagonally across the ring.
There was applause as she leapt off the rope and landed with a loud clang on another pillar.
"Follow that, monkey boy!" Cora taunted.
As the rope swung back, Tony made a grab for it, missed and lost his footing. The crowd gasped as he hugged the pillar for dear life.
Cora, meanwhile continued climbing, past the spotlights into the murky heights of the roof.
"Where’s she going?" asked Jane.
Evelyn shaded her eyes against the spotlights and made out a faint ring of light around the top of the pillar where it poked through the canvas into the evening sky.
"She’s going onto the roof!" Evelyn shouted. "Everyone outside!"
Evelyn, Pam and Jane rushed towards the tent flaps as fast as their joints - collective age 236 - would carry them.
Backing against a caravan, they and the rest of the cast squinted up at the huge dome of the big top, which was silhouetted like a mountain against the sunset.
"There she is!" said Pam, as a tiny figured shinned up one of the four columns that poked through the roof of the tent, each topped with a flag.
"And there she goes!" said Evelyn, as the silhouetted figure disappeared over the central ridge.
"I’ll get her!" Helga sprinted off around the perimeter of the tent.
"I‘ll come with you!" said Tamsin.
"Me too!" said Ted.
In the meantime, a second, hairier silhouette emerged on the roof.
"It’s Tony!" Jane cheered.
On the sunny side of the big top, Cora sat on the canvas and whooshed down the steeply sloped roof as if on a toboggan.
At the bottom of the slope, she rolled athletically over the edge and dropped the final six feet, feet first into a clown car waiting below.
As Cora started the car, the noise was drowned by a protracted "Waaaaaaagh!" as a gorilla came slithering and rolling down the slope of the tent in a much less graceful manner.
Unprepared for the drop at the bottom, Tony flew straight off the edge and landed face first in a heap of straw that had recently been mucked out of the horses’ paddock.
Having no idea what was happening on the other side of the tent, Jane suddenly said, "There she is!"
As the Blue Rinse Brigade watched powerlessly, Cora came into view around the edge of the big top, driving a spluttering and bouncing clown car that sporadically let out a fire cracker bang from the exhaust pipe, accompanied by several clangs as various doors and mudguards fell off onto the grass.
Despite its condition, the car was moving remarkably quickly.
As it bumped away, heading for the edge of the green, it was followed by a straw-covered gorilla on a wobbly bicycle, which was in turn being chased by the leggy shapes of Helga and Tamsin in their circus tights.
A grey-haired aging Teddy Boy followed them, angrily shaking his fists, and two policemen brought up the rear, waving their truncheons.
"If only Mervyn was here to see this," Evelyn breathed.
"I’ve just called him," boomed Maude, who had finally emerged from the tent. "By the way, do you think she’s forgotten this?"
Maude was holding a remote control handset with a long, floppy aerial. She began thumbing the controls and the clown car abruptly veered away from the edge of the green.
For a moment, the car appeared to be on a collision course with the box office wagon, then it swerved away once more.
"Ah, I’m getting the hang of it now," said Maude.
As Cora wrestled uselessly with the steering wheel, and Tony and the other pursuers tried to keep up with the constant changes of direction, the little car settled into a wide arc that brought it trundling back the big top.
With a final shudder and bang, the brightly coloured vehicle came to an obedient halt right in front of the four ladies of the Blue Rinse Brigade.
"Nice driving," said Pam, clapping Maude on the back.
"It seems all those Sunday mornings playing with my great-granddaughter’s boats in the park finally paid off," Maude smiled.
"Give me that!" Cora made a grab for the handset, but Jane levelled her pistol and stopped the trapeze artist in her tracks with a stern, "Not this time."
"That was quite a performance," said Evelyn, "But you can save your encore for the judge."

After the formalities had been completed at the police station, Ted invited everyone back to the big top for a much needed drink.
Evelyn watched fondly as Tamsin threw her arms around Tommy the Clown, who had been released without charge.
"I tried to tell them I wasn’t doing a runner," he explained. "I was chasing a suspicious looking woman dressed as a fortune teller. But you know what the Old Bill’s like - they didn’t believe a word I said."
Mervyn blushed and cleared his throat, awkwardly. "Well you must admit, sir, it seemed an unlikely story at the time."
Ted clinked his glass with Helga and said, "I can’t believe Cora went so psycho... although she was always a bit fiery."
Helga slipped her arm around the showman’s waist and said, huskily, "I thought that’s how you like your women."
Noticing Tony glancing wistfully from Tamsin to Helga, Evelyn said, "Well, Kong, you may not have got the girl, but I’m sure that after your performance today there’s a job for you on the circus anytime you want it."
"I‘ve had enough monkey business for one lifetime..." Tony began.
But the electric blue sleeve of a Teddy Boy jacket was suddenly draped around his shoulders.
"I’ve been thinking," Ted began, "We should recreate that chase every night. The audience would love it...!"
As Ted moved away, with an arm each around Tony and Helga, making plans for the show, Mervyn sidled up to Evelyn, Jane, Pam and Maude with a sheepish expression on his face.
Evelyn gave her son-in-law a triumphant look and said, "Have you come to apologise for once again doubting our ability to assist in the fight against crime?"
"Well, the thing is," Mervyn began, "I thought Cora would turn out to be responsible for those cat burglaries the circus was accused of. But it seems I was wrong again. So I was wondering..."
Evelyn exchanged a look with her friends and said, "It sounds to me like another case for the Blue Rinse Brigade."

For more adventures of Evelyn, Pam, Jane and Maude, download new ebook The Blue Rinse Brigade from the Kindle Store.

For more circus fiction visit Polka Dot Dreams

Friday, 12 November 2010

Murder at the Circus

Part 2

by Douglas McPherson

A clown has met a sticky end and a serial killer is stalking the circus. In the second part of this comedy crime caper, which first appeared in My Weekly, can former police chief Evelyn and her doughty friends in the Blue Rinse Brigade catch the villain and save the day? (If you missed Part One, scroll down to find it below)

Murder at the Circus as it originally
appeared in My Weekly
The drums rolled, the music struck up and spotlights spun around the inside of the big top as six leggy dancing girls, clad in feathers and sequins, skipped into the circus ring for the opening spectacle.
While the dancers flashed their toothy grins, Luigi the strongman stood in the spotlight and ripped a telephone directory in half.
Backstage, there was just as much of a performance in progress.
Amid the jostling circus stars waiting to take their turn in the ring, former police chief Evelyn, retired pathologist Pam, former spy Jane, wartime codebreaker Maude and self-defence instructor Tony examined the split in the tight-wire used by Evelyn’s granddaughter, Tamsin.
"That saw cut looks like the work of someone who knew what they were doing," said Pam. "My guess is it would have only broke when Tamsin was half way across."
"Sabotage!" said Helga, an Amazonian blonde dressed in the red tailcoat, top hat and black tights of a ring-mistress.
"This isn’t sabotage," Evelyn declared, "It’s attempted murder."
"But who would do such a thing?" The gravel-voiced speaker was the aptly named Big Ted Telford, the circus owner. He was a big, grizzled man with a grey quiff, wearing an electric blue Teddy Boy jacket with a black velvet lapel.
"It was probably the same person who dropped a kitbag of cement on Rory the Clown, earlier," said Evelyn.
"Then that proves Tommy wasn‘t the murderer," said Tamsin, who was wearing a skimpy, yellow sequined costume, ready for the ring. "He might have fallen out with Rory, but he’d never do anything to harm me."
"Who else had access to your equipment?" asked Evelyn.
"It could have been anyone on the show," Tamsin shrugged. "I just left it here with all the other props."
As if to confirm the constant to-ing and fro-ing through the backstage area, the music grew briefly louder as Luigi’s muscle-bound torso emerged through the sparkly curtain from the ring. Two evening-suited magicians ducked past him to take their turn in the spotlight.
"It must be the Varneys!" Helga said, fiercely. "Messing around with our equipment so we start blaming each other."
"The Varneys?" Jane enquired.
"A rival circus," Ted explained. "They’re in the next town and they’re always trying to spoil our business."
He took the half-sawn-through tight-wire from Evelyn’s gloved hands. "But I can’t believe even the Varneys would stoop to this."
"I wouldn’t put it past them," Helga said darkly.
"Either that or it was someone closer to home," said Evelyn.
"More to the point," Helga addressed Tamsin, "Have you got another wire?"
"In my caravan."
"Then go and get it," Helga snapped. "The show must go on, and you’re on after me."
"Are you sure you’ll be alright up there after the shock you’ve had?" Evelyn asked her granddaughter.
Tamsin hesitated, her eyes wide with fear. But Ted said, "Helga’s right. We’ve already lost the clowns, we can’t afford to drop another act from the show."
"Don’t worry," Tamsin reassured her grandmother, "I’ll be alright."
"That‘s my girl," Evelyn said proudly. "As you can see, Pam, a stiff upper lip runs in the family."
As Tamsin hurried off, Evelyn turned to Ted.
"If you’re running short of performers, Mr Telford, I may be able to help you."
Ted gave her a dubious look. "What do you do, ride a unicycle?"
"We form a human pyramid," boomed the 91-year-old Maude, straight-faced, from where she was sitting on a plastic chair nearby.
"Not us!" Evelyn said, hastily. "Tony here is the funniest clown since Charlie Cairoli."
Tony dropped his candyfloss and turned to Evelyn with his mouth hanging open in disbelief.
"See what I mean?" said Evelyn, "Perfect comic timing! If you’ve got a spare costume he can start straightaway."
"Now hang on a -"
Before Tony could complete the sentence, Evelyn said, "This is no time for false modesty, Coco. The circus is in trouble and we must all rise to the occasion."
Ted didn’t look convinced but said, "I suppose I could try you out with the old escaped gorilla routine."
"The old escaped...?"
Evelyn put her heel onto Tony’s trainer and sank her weight onto it, causing him to whoop like an ape: "Oow, oow, oow, oow!"
"The escaped gorilla routine is his speciality," Evelyn smiled.
"Oh, I saw that at Bertram Mills in the 30s," Maude put in, brightly. "I could be a plant in the audience and you can pretend to steal my handbag."
"Perfect!" said Evelyn
"Alright then," said Ted. "You can have Rory’s gorilla suit and I’ll put you on in the second half. Helga can be the straight woman and you can work out the details between you in the interval."
Helga rolled her eyes and grumbled, "As if I’m not doing enough in the show with the hula hoops and the sword-swallowing!"
"That’s because you’re the star," Ted mollified her. "The public can’t see enough of you."
Tony, meanwhile, suddenly looked a little keener at the prospect of teaming up with Helga. She was quite a looker, even if her face was far from friendly.
"By the way," he asked, "What happened to your last clown?"
"Oh, didn’t anyone tell you?" Pam said breezily. "He was murdered."

As the music from the big top wafted on the balmy evening air, Big Ted ducked under the police tape that surrounded Rory the Clown’s caravan.
Evelyn followed him, a little more stiffly. As she straightened up, she took a closer look at the circus boss.
"Didn’t you used to be a singer?"
The grey-quiffed showman smiled for the first time since she had met him.
"Big Ted & The Teddy Boys," he confirmed. "We had a few hits in the 60s... although everyone mixes us up with Showaddywaddy."
"What made you run away with the circus?"
"Blame my ex-wife. She was a trapeze artist. The rock’n’roll was drying up a bit, so I thought I’d give it a go. As it turned out, the circus thrived but the marriage didn’t."
"And you got custody of the big top?" Evelyn surmised.
Ted nodded. "Cora didn’t think I’d be able to make a go of it without her, but I leave a lot of the day-to-day management to Helga. She cracks the whip a bit with the performers, but she knows the business inside out."
Following Evelyn and Ted past the lorries and throbbing generators that circled the big top, Jane slowed Tony down so she could whisper to him without being overheard.
"It’s what we call a honey trap - and you’re the honey. Use your charm to get as pally with Helga as you can. Find out all the show‘s secrets, one artiste to another. Think you can handle it?"
Tony thought of Helga‘s statuesque figure and said, "I‘m starting to look forward to it."
Ted let them into Rory’s caravan and said, "The police have taken a lot of his personal things away, but luckily they left his costumes."
Ted held the furry gorilla suit up to Tony and looked a little misty eyed as he said, "Rory would have wanted it to go to a good home.
"You‘ll need this, too." Ted shoved an outsize handbag into Tony’s arms and said, "The washing line’s inside."
"Washing line...?" Tony was baffled.
"For when you rummage through the contents."
Ted reached into the bag and pulled out a pair of polka dot bloomers that would have fitted an elephant. They were attached to a washing line with a pair of stripy socks, an enormous bra and a whole series of other comedy underwear hanging from it.
"Are you sure you’ve done this before?" Ted frowned.
"He’s just a little rusty," Evelyn cut in. "He spent the last two years on the Chinese State Circus and they speak a completely different language."
Turning to Tony, she said, "Why don’t you put it on outside. You’ll have more room to practise your monkey moves."
When Tony was gone, Evelyn gazed around the interior of the caravan, looking for insights into the life of the man who had lived there.
"What was Rory like?" she asked, casually.
Ted smiled, fondly. "Trouble Brothers was about right. They were a right pair of tearaways, Rory and Tommy both. But he was a good lad. It was never more than youthful pranks."
"What sort of pranks?" asked Evelyn
"Well, like I said, there’s always been a bit of antagonism between us and the Varneys - papering over each other’s posters and things like that. If ever anything like that was going on you can bet Tommy or Rory were involved."
With a chuckle, Ted added, "We’ve had a few jealous husbands looking for them as well. Rory in particular was a bit of a ladies man."
Evelyn and Jane exchanged a look. Evelyn said, "Were they ever in more serious trouble? Anything the police might be interested in?"
Ted looked shifty. "What makes you ask that?"
"I just wondered if there was anything Tommy wouldn’t have wanted to be questioned about? Anything, other than the obvious, that may have made him flee the scene of the crime?"
Ted glanced from Evelyn to Jane, then admitted, "We had the Old Bill sniffing around recently. There were some cat burglaries in the last town and some bright spark had the idea it might have been circus performers. You know, people good with heights and ropes.
"But I can’t believe Rory and Tommy would be involved in anything like that. I put it down to a malicious tip-off by someone trying to blacken our name."
"The Varneys?" Evelyn guessed.
Ted nodded. "Although the bad blood was really between the Varneys and my ex-wife’s family, the Flynns - two old circus families who’ve been at each other’s throats since the 20s. Since I split with Cora I thought all the trouble had died down."
"How long have you been divorced?" asked Jane.
"A year ago today. This would have been our 30th anniversary."
Evelyn‘s eyebrows shot up. "What went wrong after all those years?"
Ted looked sheepishly down at his blue suede shoes. "Er, that was when Helga and I discovered our love for each other."
At that moment, the James Bond signature tune filled the caravan. Jane pulled out her iPhone and went outside to take the call.
"I think the tension is starting to take its toll on the performers," boomed Maude, who was stationed backstage. "The Hungarian tumblers have just come out of the ring arguing furiously with each other."
"What about?"
"No idea," Maude said dryly, "Hungarian isn’t one of the six languages I speak.
"But we did notice Marko the Magician exchanging dark whispers with his assistant. Pam’s followed them to see if she can earwig anything pertinent to the investigation."
"Good move," said Jane.
As Jane put her phone away, Evelyn came out of the caravan and cast a critical eye over the six-foot gorilla cavorting rather unconvincingly nearby.
"Can’t you act a bit more ape-like?" Evelyn asked.
His voice muffled by his mask, Tony said, "I feel like a narner, to be honest."
"Well that‘s a start," said Jane. Reaching into her handbag, she offered him the banana she’d been saving as a snack.
Bang! Bang! Bang! As Ted locked Rory’s caravan, three loud reports cut through the music coming from the big top.
"Gunshots!" Jane drew her pistol, ready for action.
"I don’t suppose it’s part of the show?" Evelyn asked, without much hope.
"Not as far as I know," said Ted.
As the foursome hurried towards the backstage area, the source of the bangs suddenly became clear.
A spluttering, backfiring vintage car was racing around the perimeter of the tent and heading straight for them. It had an open top, brightly coloured paintwork... and no driver!
"Evasive action!" Evelyn commanded.
As she spoke, the rickety little car veered to one side of its own accord, crashed through the police tape and came to a halt with a clang against the corner of Rory’s caravan.
Luigi the strongman came running around the tent behind the car. He was holding a remote control handset with a long, floppy aerial.
"Sorry boss!" he panted. "I thought we could still use-a the clown car without-a the clowns."
"Not until you’ve had more practise," Ted said darkly. "We’ve had enough fatalities for one day."
"Luigi!" snapped Helga, running up behind the muscleman, "Put that car back where you found it!"
Luigi fiddled with the remote control and the little car backfired as it reversed away from the caravan, just missing one of the guy ropes that held up the big top.
"Give that to me!" Helga snatched the handset from the muscleman’s grip. "Just drive it normally, before you cause any more damage."
As Luigi got into the car, muttering like a scolded child, Helga pointed her whip at Tony and said, "As for you, Cheetah, we’ve got fifteen minutes to work out an act. Quick march!"
As Helga stalked off, with Tony lumbering behind her in his gorilla suit, Ted let out a loving sigh. "I love it when she takes charge."
While Helga put Tony through his paces, Evelyn, Pam, Jane and Maude convened for interval teas at a table near the hotdog wagon.
"Unfortunately they don’t sell biscuits," said Evelyn as she set down the tray of plastic cups.
Like a conjurer, Maude reached into her bag and produced a packet of Hobnobs.
"Never go on a mission unprepared," she intoned.
As all hands reached for a sugary fix, Evelyn called the meeting to order.
"So what have we got?"
"If Marko the Magician can be believed, Helga has to be among the suspects," said Pam. "The other performers don’t like her because she rules them with a rod of iron. And because she’s thirty years the boss’ junior, some of them think she’s only with him to get her hands in the till.
"Marko overheard Rory accuse her of just that and reckons Helga dropped the kitbag on him to shut him up."
"She certainly looks ruthless enough," said Jane.
"But it wouldn’t explain her cutting through Tamsin’s tight-wire," said Evelyn.
"Perhaps Helga was jealous of her," Jane ventured. "After all, Tamsin’s one of the rising stars and Helga likes to be queen bee."
Evelyn rubbed her chin and said, "Something doesn’t smell right."
Pam sniffed the air. "Actually, something about those hotdogs doesn’t smell too good."
"Smells like they’re burning to me..." Maude boomed.
Four blue rinsed heads turned in puzzlement. Their mouths dropped open in horror as they saw an enormous plume of black smoke rising into the air. The girl serving clearly hadn’t noticed, but the back of the hotdog wagon was on fire!

Next week: What other disasters await the circus? And can our plucky heroines catch the felon responsible?

Click here to read the next thrilling installment!

For more adventures of Evelyn, Pam, Jane and Maude, download the new ebook The Blue Rinse Brigade from the Kindle Store.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Another Great Review for Circus Mania!

CIRCUS MANIA - “A Delightful Book.”

My thanks to Seamus Doran for posting such a great review of Circus Mania on the EuVue website: . Here’s what he wrote:

Circus Mania - All the fun of the Big Top (8/10).
Review by Seamus Doran

We all have circus memories.
Parents taking us to the local travelling one with bright coloured clowns, their rude sounding cars and glamorous tiny women hanging precariously above our heads.
My first experiences were of elephants and clockwise trotting ponies dressed up like Christmas trees.

Who were these death defying performers who after a few days packed up and moved on until next autumn?

This book tells you the story of this noble and fascinating tradition and the people who ran away to the circus, found themselves and found an audience .
The circus started in ancient Rome with horse presentations and gladiatorial displays.
Acrobatic performance emerged from Chinese Theatre, clowning and clowns from pantomime .

All of this came together eventually under The Big Top with entrepreneurs in America such as Barnum and Bertram Mills in England.

Going to the circus was always an event with its unique smells and sense of real danger, author Mc Pherson tells us that this was the fruit of “low budgets and high spirits” a mixture of “the tacky and the amazing”.

Contrary to my sense that this art form was dying out, it appears to be alive and well.
The stories and interviews in this delightful book illuminates what remains a grand place of wonder, escape and romance.

Modern circus doesn’t have many animals (the do gooders of this world saw to that) but it still presents great excitement and fun, the very sap of life.

In an age of Cirque du Soleil circus playing shows all over the world and with their Beatles “LOVE” (the must see Las Vegas show), reading this book will prompt admiration for this special brand of show business and this author’s talent in presenting its magic.

Circus Mania retails at £14.99 but can be ordered direct from Peter Owen Publishers at the special price of just £10 including postage. Just send a cheque or postal order to:
Peter Owen Publishers
81 Ridge Road

London N8 9NP

But why not solve all your Christmas present problems in go by ordering Circus Mania in bulk? Described by the Mail on Sunday as “A brilliant account of a vanishing art form,“ and by Gerry Cottle as “A passionate and up-to-date look at the circus and its people,” Circus Mania is a beautiful looking book full of glossy photographs and original line drawings that would make the ideal Christmas present for anyone who ever went to the circus. For wholesale rates on orders of more than six copies, call sales manager Michael O’Connell on 020 8350 1775.