Sunday, October 9, 2011

Jane Shaw Guide: Susan and the Spae Wife

Susan and the Spae wife is the last of four short stories about Susan Lyle and her cousins the Carmichaels. It was published in the Collins’ Girls’ Annual 1960. While on holiday in Arran, the gang are roped into helping at the local fĂȘte, and Susan and Midge are given the job of collecting the takings at the tent of the spae wife (fortune teller). Along with all the stalls and festivities, an added attraction is the presence of a famous novelist, Mr. Rock Carlisle. When Mirren, the spae wife, is called away on a family emergency, Susan takes her place in disguise and surprises her unsuspecting friends and family by telling them the details of their life with amazing accuracy. However, Susan also hopes to use her new job to discover the identity of a daring robber. The day before the fĂȘte there was a daring hold up at the bank, with the thief making off with five hundred pounds. The bank teller told Susan that the thief had a scar on his hand. When a little fat bald man enters the tent, Susan attacks him during the reading of his palm because he has a scar on his hand. The ensuing uproar brings the minister and Lady Alison into the tent. Susan is embarrassed and stunned when she discovers that the little man is actually Rock Carlisle. She is forced to apologize. But next day Mr. Carlisle visits her and admits that he was the robber after all, claiming that he needs to experience events for real before putting them in his books. He asks Susan to return the money once he is safely off the island.

Susan and the Spae Wife was published in the same year as Susan Muddles Through, also set in Arran. These were the last of the four Jane Shaw stories to take place there, the others being Highland Holiday (1942) and Penny Foolish (1953). The style of the story is a little different from the average Jane Shaw tale in that instead of being told in sequence, this story begins with the cousins looking back at the events after they take place. In addition to the Collins annual, the story was reprinted in 2002 in Susan and Friends.