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Monday, January 28, 2019


A Tappan collection. Photo courtesy of Helen Farnsworth.
Judy Penz Sheluk, author of the Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries, as well as various short stories, returns today to talk about antique perfume bottles and how they factored into one of her books. Learn more about Judy and her books at her website. 

Facts in Fiction: Herman Tappan Perfume Bottles
Until recently, I was the Senior Editor of the now-defunct New England Antiques Journal. During my decade-plus of employment there, I learned a lot about antiques, the show and auction scene, as well as the various collector associations that represented specific areas of interest. One of my favorites was the International Perfume Bottle Association (IPBA). While I don’t collect perfume bottles, the images that accompanied their press releases always captivated me.

The Herman Tappan perfume bottle
that inspired the text.
Photo courtesy of Helen Farnsworth.
When I was writing A Hole in One, the latest book in my Glass Dolphin Mystery series, I needed a decorative item, ideally valued in the $100-$150 range—something my protagonist, Arabella Carpenter, could donate on behalf of the Glass Dolphin antiques shop. I went to the IPBA website and started checking out their virtual museum. When it became quickly apparent that I had no clue what to select, I contacted the IPBA, who in turn put me in touch with longtime member/volunteer and archivist Helen Farnsworth. I did so, explaining my mission, and Helen came to the rescue.

Her suggestion of a figural bottle of a small girl wrapped in a wolf skin fur, made by the Herman Tappan Perfume Company, New York, NY, circa 1890, was perfect, and not just because it was valued in the $100-$150 range. This was the kind of “sleeper” find Arabella might have discovered at an auction or estate sale. While Tappan’s colognes and figural bottles were aimed at the middle class and the prices affordable, he’s not a household name like Lalique. In short, it was the sort of thing that could have been found in an inexpensive box lot.

Facts in fiction, like this perfume bottle, are often just a small part of the overall book—anywhere from a single paragraph to a couple of pages—but they are by no means insignificant. An author who gets the facts wrong is guaranteed to lose more than one reader for life. Get them right, however, and the author not only satisfies those in the know, she’s added another layer to the story, providing a bit of trivia for those who enjoy such things.

A Hole in One
A Glass Dolphin Mystery, Book 2

Hoping to promote the Glass Dolphin antiques shop, co-owners Arabella Carpenter and Emily Garland agree to sponsor a hole in one contest at a charity golf tournament. The publicity turns out to be anything but positive, however, when Arabella’s errant tee shot lands in the woods next to a corpse.

They soon learn that the victim is closely related to Arabella’s ex-husband, who had been acting as the Course Marshal. With means, opportunity, and more than enough motive, he soon becomes the police department’s prime suspect, leaving Arabella and Emily determined to clear his name—even if they’re not entirely convinced of his innocence.

Dogged by incriminating online posts from an anonymous blogger, they track down leads from Emily’s ex-fiancĂ© (and the woman he left Emily for), an Elvis impersonator, and a retired antiques mall vendor with a secret of her own.

All trails lead to a mysterious cult that may have something to do with the murder. Can Arabella and Emily identify the killer before the murderer comes after them?

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Judy Penz Sheluk said...

Thanks for hosting me today and letting me share the story, Lois. I'm happy to reply to any comments.


Always a pleasure, Judy!