I absolutely loved the first adventure to feature Shona McMonagle, Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar, and couldn’t wait to find out what she got up to next. Now if you know me at all, you’ll know I’m not into fantasy books really so what am I doing reading a book featuring time travel and vampires? Loving every page of it that’s what! This book was entertaining from the very beginning right to the last page.
Shona is a librarian at Morningside Library in Edinburgh and considers it her duty, as an ex-pupil of Marcia Blaine’s Academy, to keep all copies of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie out of the hands of readers. You see, pupils of Marcia Blaine feel that Muriel Spark did their school a disservice when creating her character and detest any mention of her. But Shona has a bit of a double life as she is also sent on missions by ‘The Founder’, Miss Blaine herself. These missions involve travelling back in time and are often rather vague, with Shona discovering what her mission is as she goes along. This time, she finds herself in fin-de-siecle France, in a small village called Sans-Soleil where she feels her task is to save the villagers from vampires! This mission is perhaps by way of retribution for a shameful error on Shona’s part. She discovers that there is a new edition of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (that harpie!) and is ashamed that it has made its way into her library.
Shona is exceptionally well educated, being a Blainer, and my goodness does she know it! She does make me laugh with her absolute confidence in her own talents and abilities – and there are many of them. In many ways, she is rather like Miss Brodie, though I wouldn’t dare suggest it to her! She does not question at all why she has been sent on the mission even if she doesn’t know what it is: it is obvious to her that she is the only person suitable to carry out Miss Blaine’s task. In fact, she considers herself to be almost a missionary for Miss Blaine.
I love the Edinburgh – Glasgow rivalry Shona alludes to so often and the way she is so determined that the French villagers understand that being Scottish is very different from being English! Somewhat bewilderingly, the villagers are all obsessed with cheese and seem rather concerned that their annual celebrations on 14th July may not be able to take place for some reason. No not Bastille Day, but celebrating cheese. I couldn’t help but laugh at the French and Scottish versions of Frere Jacques with cheesy lyrics!
Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Vampire Menace is so clever, hugely enjoyable and absolutely hilarious! If you ever get the chance to see Olga Wojtas at a book event you really must as she is very entertaining. Even if, like me, you are not at all into vampires you should give this book a go as it’s such great fun to read! Shona is a fantastic character and I hope she has many more time travelling adventures.
My thanks to Kelly at Love Books Tours for the invitation to take part in the blog tour and for arranging a review copy of the book from the publishers. Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Vampire Menace is published by Saraband Books and available now in ebook and paperback formats. You will find buying options on their website here: Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Vampire Menace
From the back of the book
The intrepid librarian Shona McMonagle, erstwhile Marcia Blaine Academy prefect and an accomplished linguist and martial artist, finds herself in an isolated French mountain village, Sans-Soleil, which has no sunlight because of its topography. It’s reeling from a spate of unexplained deaths, and Shona has once again travelled back in time to help out.
Forging an uneasy alliance with newly widowed Madeleine, Shona is soon drawn into a full-blown vampire hunt, involving several notable villagers, the world-renowned soprano Mary Garden – and even Count Dracula himself. Will Shona solve the mystery, secure justice for the murder victims and make it through a deathly denouement in the hall of mirrors to return to present-day Morningside Library?
About the author
Olga Wojtas is an unconventional – and very witty – writer of postmodern crime fiction whose surrealist humour has been compared to the likes of PG Wodehouse, Jasper Fforde and the Marx Brothers. Her debut novel, Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar, has been published in the UK and US to great critical acclaim – being longlisted for the inaugural Comedy Women in Print Prize 2019, shortlisted for a CrimeFest Award, and named as one of the best mysteries and thrillers of the year by Kirkus.
A journalist for more than 30 years, Olga was Scottish editor of the Times Higher Education Supplement before she began adding creative writing to her portfolio. She won a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award in 2015 and has had numerous short stories and several novellas published. Olga lives in Edinburgh, where she once attended James Gillespie’s High School – the model for Marcia Blaine School for Girls, which appears in Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, the novel that inspired the Miss Blaine’s Prefect series.