Madam Tulip and the Bones of Chance – Review and a conversation with David Ahern

BonesofChanceEbook476X762@72David Ahern’s Derry O’Donnell, together with her fortune-reading alter-ego Madam Tulip, is now on her third adventure, this time in the highlands of Scotland. I was very happy to see that familiar characters are back – there’s much to love about Derry’s opportunistic father, this time embroiled in buying an ancestral home, and Derry’s ever reliable ex-Navy-Seal-turned-actor-sidekick Bruce. This time, Derry and Bruce find themselves on a film set with an offer of parts which seem a little too good to be true (a well-paid role without an audition, for a start), and people who are not always what they seem. This novel offers a perfect blend of humour, intrigue and a hint of the occult. 

Ahern delineates character swiftly and effectively, leaving room for the unfolding plot to offer tantalising clues and red herrings all over the place. As with Ahern’s previous novels, there are slyly humorous moments, usually aimed at the acting and art worlds. Derry herself, often occupying the role of the onlooker in these worlds – a helpful position for a reluctant sleuth with the ‘gift’ of seeing into the future, is a very likeable heroine indeed. She’s become very protective of her creation, Madam Tulip,  and the scenes in which Derry steps into the spotlight and negotiates her way through the expectations others have of her alter-ego are some of my favourite. The plot moves along at a good pace and the suspense builds perfectly, with things getting potentially pretty dark at times.

When I first met Ahern’s protagonist (my review of his first novel in the series, Madam Tulip, is here) I hoped to meet her and her friends again – reading Madam Tulip and the Bones of Chance I had that really satisfying sense of being immersed in the middle of something highly enjoyable and well-written, happy in the knowledge that there is more to come.

In addition to getting my hands on a review copy, I also had the chance to chat to David Ahern on his writing – I forgot to get his thoughts on the wine gums vs. chocolate question but enjoyed quizzing him on all things Derry O’Donnell…

This being the third Madam Tulip novel, your readers now know Derry O’Donnell pretty well. Is she still the same character you envisaged when you were writing the first novel, or have there been unexpected developments as the series has progressed?
Unexpected changes do happen. For example, when I started, I didn’t know what a mixed blessing Madam Tulip would turn out to be for Derry. She loves the role, but she’s wary too, and for good reason.

MadamTulipEBookCoverThumbnailx72-188x300Now the Madam Tulip novels are fully established, is it easier to create new adventures for Derry, or does writing a series bring more challenges?
Easier in that the characters are old friends now. Harder, in that every writer wants each book to be at least as good as the last, preferably better. And there’s so much serendipity in writing; I never know how a story is going to pan out.

I love your supporting cast – they’re brilliantly drawn. Are they all entirely fictitious, or do you find yourself borrowing from people you know?
All fictitious. They just wander onto the stage, and there they are more or less fully formed. I have no idea how that works.

Once again, Bruce is an incredibly useful sidekick – is he ever going to get his big break in acting?
Ah! You’ll have to follow the stories to find out. But like in any tough profession actors have to ask themselves now and again why they want to do something so demanding when they could play safe like the rest of us. But he’s no quitter, Bruce. And that means he’s always in with a chance.

KnaveOfHeartscover481X685@72-DS-189x300Your stories are intricately plotted – where do you start with a new story? Do you map it all out before you begin writing, or do you piece ideas together as you go along?
Because the stories are driven by the characters, I don’t plot them out mechanically; to do that would kill them dead. But I always think a good mystery or thriller is the tip of an iceberg, so I need to know what’s under the water in a story. Especially, I like to know what the bad guys are up to. After that, Derry and her friends are on their own.

What’s the most enjoyable part of the writing process for you?
Laughing at some of the scenes that play out. Writing Madam Tulip is a lot of fun.

What’s next for Derry and Madam Tulip?
Book #4 is well underway. I can tell you it’s set in Ireland, but other than that it’s wait and see (me included).

Is there anything a cup of Borage tea can’t solve?
The twelfth straight day of rain on an Irish summer vacation? Even borage has its limits.

Blurb: Suspense, mystery, action, a little romance and lots of laughs

A surprise role in a movie takes actress Derry O’Donnell to a romantic castle in the Scottish Highlands. But romance soon turns to fear and suspicion. Someone means to kill, and Derry, moonlighting as celebrity fortune-teller Madam Tulip, is snared in a net of greed, conspiracy and betrayal.

A millionaire banker, a film producer with a mysterious past, a gun-loving wife, a PA with her eyes on Hollywood, a handsome and charming estate manager—each has a secret to share and a request for Madam Tulip.

As Derry and her friend Bruce race to prevent a murder, she learns to her dismay that the one future Tulip can’t predict is her own.

Madam Tulip is the third in a series of thrilling and hilarious Tulip adventures in which Derry O’Donnell, celebrity fortune-teller and reluctant amateur detective, plays the most exciting and perilous roles of her acting life, drinks borage tea, and fails to understand her parents.

DavidAhern 300X375David Ahern grew up in a theatrical family in Ireland but ran away to Scotland to become a research psychologist and sensible person. He earned his doctorate but soon absconded to work in television. He became a writer, director and producer, creating international documentary series and winning numerous awards, none of which got him free into nightclubs.

Madam Tulip wasn’t David Ahern’s first novel, but writing it was the most fun he’s ever had with a computer. He is now writing the fourth Madam Tulip adventure and enjoys pretending this is actual work.

David Ahern lives in the beautiful West of Ireland with his wife, two cats and a vegetable garden of which he is inordinately proud.

You can learn more about David Ahern and Madam Tulip on his website

Other links:



Title: Madam Tulip and the Bones of Chance
Publisher: Malin Press
Release Date: Paperback and eBook April 12, 2018
Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Cozy/Humour
Length: 368 pp
Formats Available: Paperback, ebook

Amazon link:
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Goodreads book link:


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