At the beginning of August we published a new short story in the 1588: A Calendar of Crime series by Shirley McKay called Lammas.
About this short story:
Lammas day, a day of celebration for some. Elspet, a serving girl at the harbour inn has been told for years by the inn’s owner, Walter Bone, that she is ugly and that no man will ever want her. Then, after years of being shut away from the world she unexpectedly catches the attention of a young labourer and realises she has been lied to all these years. She meets her lover in secret at the Lammas day fair, but her dalliances do not go unnoticed . . .
Hew Cullan finds himself retained by a man with a mind for murder. Walter Bone makes clear his intent to kill Elspet’s lover, and seeks Hew’s help to ensure his will is upheld when he is inevitably hanged for the act. But his jealousy has unexpected consequences. When Elspet disappears without a trace several innocent fair-goers and patrons are dragged into a web of suspicion, rumour and accusation. It falls to Hew to unravel the twisted threads and figure out the truth of the matter.
What is Lammas:
In some English-speaking countries in the Northern Hemisphere, 1 August is Lammas Day (Anglo-Saxon hlaf-mas, “loaf-mass”), the festival of the wheat harvest, and is the first harvest festival of the year. On this day it was customary to bring to church a loaf made from the new crop, which began to be harvested at Lammastide.
The loaf was blessed, and in Anglo-Saxon England it might be employed afterwards to work magic: a book of Anglo-Saxon charms directed that the lammas bread be broken into four bits, which were to be placed at the four corners of the barn, to protect the garnered grain.
In many parts of England, tenants were bound to present freshly harvested wheat to their landlords on or before the first day of August. In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, where it is referred to regularly, it is called “the feast of first fruits”. The blessing of first fruits was performed annually in both the Eastern and Western Churches on the first or the sixth of August (the latter being the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ).
Lammas has coincided with the feast of St. Peter in Chains, commemorating St. Peter’s miraculous deliverance from prison, but in the liturgical reform of 1969, the feast of St. Alphonsus Liguori was transferred to this day, the day of St. Alphonsus’ death.
About the author:
Shirley McKay was born in Tynemouth but now lives with her family in Fife. At the age of fifteen she won the Young Observer playwriting competition, her play being performed at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs. She went on to study English and Linguistics at the University of St Andrews before attending Durham University for postgraduate study in Romantic and seventeenth century prose. She was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger and has wowed crime fiction fans since then with the Hew Cullen mysteries over five novels, Hue & Cry, Fate & Fortune, Time & Tide, Friend & Foe and Queen & Country. Her fantastic blend of page-turning whodunit with intriguing historical detail — often incorporating real life figures — continues to win her an army of fans.
You can get your hands on a copy of the eBook here.