Beauty in Black and White

It has been at least twenty-five years since I discovered a Swiss art-form called paper-cutting or Scherenschnitte. And now I’ve discovered a new Swiss paper-cutter, Marc Schweizer, who’s about to have a show of his work in the Alps. Although the Chinese had already been making paper-cuts for at least 1500 years, the craft didn’tContinue reading “Beauty in Black and White”

Thou and I Will See Him Dine

One of my favorite Christmas carols is “Good King Wenceslas.” It has a rousing, easy-to-sing melody and tells a dramatic story.  I especially like the verse in which, with each step, the king’s feet heat the ground, melting the snow and leaving a warm place where his page can walk. But what I could neverContinue reading “Thou and I Will See Him Dine”

What Do We Mean By Old?

When I was fourteen, my family moved from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to West Vancouver, British Columbia. In those days, Gastown, the historic district of Vancouver, was starting to fill with interesting shops and hip restaurants, and my parents sometimes took my sister and me there for dinner. Although I found Gastown fun, I couldContinue reading “What Do We Mean By Old?”

The Queen Investigates

When I was about twelve years old, I wanted to marry Charles, Prince of Wales, who was eighteen. I wrote him a letter, telling him about my plans for his future, and received a signed picture in return, which I stuck in a drawer.  It wasn’t that I had a crush on him—as far asContinue reading “The Queen Investigates”

The Land of the Free

A swashbuckling Swiss is hard to imagine. After all, the Swiss haven’t fought a war against a foreign country since 1515, except when Napoleon attacked—and then Switzerland was conquered (although Swiss forces did win one battle against Napoleon’s troops; there’s a large monument near Bern to prove it.) If the Swiss are known for anything,Continue reading “The Land of the Free”

Hunting (and Eating) Game

In Bern, as in many parts of the world, autumn is the season of cool, crisp air, golden light, falling leaves—and hunting. But here it isn’t just the hunters who get to enjoy the meat they bring down: venison steaks are for sale in local grocery stores.  As far as I’m concerned, though, the bestContinue reading “Hunting (and Eating) Game”

What Makes a Mystery “Traditional”?

My debut police procedural, Pesticide, won’t go on sale until April 2022, but already I’ve been busy combing the page proofs for typos. I’ve also drafted text for the book’s back cover.  Trying to come up with the best way to describe Pesticide made me ask myself: What does it mean to call a bookContinue reading “What Makes a Mystery “Traditional”?”

The Birth and Death of the Aare

When I first came to live in Bern in January 1987, only two months had passed since the Rhine had been disastrously polluted by a fire in a Sandoz warehouse on the river’s bank in the Swiss city of Basel. The water used to put out the fire had caused huge quantities of dangerous chemicalsContinue reading “The Birth and Death of the Aare”

Cheese: One of the Basic Swiss Food Groups

“A big bowl of hot boiled potatoes and some cheese? For fifty people?” Peter’s and my wedding had been in the US. Now my in-laws wanted to give a buffet dinner for us in Bern, to celebrate with Swiss family and friends. When Peter told me the main course, I was . . . well,Continue reading “Cheese: One of the Basic Swiss Food Groups”

A Deeply Moving Darkness

In an earlier post on Belinda Bauer’s terrific mystery Snap, I mentioned how much I enjoy adult novels with realistically portrayed children. Another brilliant example is Heather Young’s The Distant Dead (2020) . The story, set in a small desert town in Nevada, is told by three characters: Jake Sanchez, a volunteer fireman and driverContinue reading “A Deeply Moving Darkness”