Why this book
Basically I am working my way through the Daisy Dalrymple books via my local library and this was the next book they had in the series for me to borrow. I am reading and rating a lot of the books in this series as I am thoroughly enjoying reading these witty cozy murder mysteries novels. This is the thirteenth book in the series.
About the author
Born in England in 1946 and lived and study in England. She attended Manchester University and studied Russian and French. She then traveled and meets her husband before settling in the USA. Her first novel a historical romance was published in 1979 however she then switched to crime novels and the Daisy Dalrymple series. That said she still writes some regency romance novel
About the Series
The Daisy Dalrymple series is set in Britain the 1920's after the First World War. This provides a great backdrop for a series as some of the male characters within the series come home altered by the war. There was also the great influenza epidemic that killed thousands which impacts upon several of the characters and their lives. Daisy is an "Honorable" which for those of you who don't know Burke's Peerage (myself included) is a daughter of a viscount.
Daisy herself has been affected by the war and lost her father, brother and fiancé. Following this she talks herself into a magazine job. The Magazine is American and to me seems to be a cross between Tatler, and Country life.
Lest you think this series is all gloom and doom, remember this was "The roaring '20s", with newly emancipated women, flappers and full of "bright young things"
In the first book in the series, Daisy meets Alec Fletcher he is the love interest for Daisy through the series but don't expect much by way of steamy sex scenes this book is written very much in the Agatha Christie style not a Jackie Collins. By this book in the series Daisy and Alec are newly weds and Daisy is expecting their first child. Alec is the epitome of the England post war in that he is middle class, college educated, a former officer and pilot. Following the he became a Police man and now holds the title of a Chief Inspector at Scotland Yard.
About the book
Daisy is off to her friends Lucy Fotheringay's wedding. Daisy as matron of honor is going ahead of Alec by a few days to help calm Lucy's tattered nerves. The wedding is being held at Lucy's grandfather's house he is the Earl of Haverhill. The house is gradually filling up with lots of Lucy's relatives not least her Great aunt Lady Eva. Lady Eva likes to know everything about everyone in the family and has a way of finding out every screte of those who belong to her family however distantly related they are. She logs all of this down in her note books which would be positive dynamite in the wrong hands and could lead to social shame and financial ruin at the very least. On the morning after Daisy arrives at Haverhill Lady Eva's is found dead and strangled in her bed. The Hornets nest of the Haverhill family secrets looks set to be exposed until Alec steps in to investigate the case as the request of the Earl of Haverhill
This is another wonderfully written murder mystery in the Daisy Dalrymple series. Dunn takes the reader back to familiar ground for murder mysteries here with the house party setting. Though this is a tried and tested formula Dunn manages to bring wonderful fresh touches to this mystery especially with the added dynamics of a family wedding and a bride with the jitters. The authors writing style continues to be in the style of Agatha Christie with a hint of the humor of PG Woodhouse.
Dunn continues to keep the language used to describe events and the speech of the characters in keeping with the 1920's all of which for me make the novel seem more rounded and amusing to me. This includes expletives such as "Bosh!" "Too sickening" and "utterly poisonous" All of these help to transport me as the reader back to the roaring twenties.
The flow of this novel is pitched perfectly for me in that we get to know some background to the events of the murder before it occurs. I especially enjoyed meeting the formidable Lady Eva in the prologue. That said this is one of the fasted murders in the series so far and the bodies start to stack up quickly rather like a Midsummer Murder programme.
The list of characters and possible murders in this book is extensive and to help the reader there is a family tree to consult at the front of the book and I certainly had to keep double checking this at the start to see how everyone is related in the book. There is a large cast of suspects and there are quite a few sub plots too, as at the start it is soon established that Lady Eva had "the goods on everyone". She didn't always let the person know that she was a aware of their misdeeds and various theories are suggested and rejected by Daisy and Alec based on did the person know what Lady Eva had on them and how much this would damage them socially, finically or their relationships. Even thought there is a long list of suspects Dunn still manages to bring something unique to all the characters and some suspects you find yourself disliking quite quickly due to the way they treat other members of the family.
As there are lots of suspects there is lots gathering of information and sounding out theories between Alec and Daisy. There are quite a few red herrings, twists and turns which for me is one of the central appeals of these novels and the series. I love the different theories that Daisy comes up with and presents to Alec all of which turn out in some way or other to be flawed.
The relationship between Alec and Daisy has deepened by this time and both are very sure of each other affections. The caring and protective side of Alec is further developed by Daisy's pregnancy as he tries in vain to stop her meddling in the investigation.
Daisy also starts to worry about her friend Lucy and all the doubts she has about the wedding and Binkie the groom to be. There are some lovely scene written where she tries to help out only to end up at a loss about what to do as Lucy changes her mind and what she wants all the time.
The clothing that the characters wear in this book is used very cleverly to help illustrate the characters social standing. For example the wearing of either real silk stockings or Nylons shows how far up the social standing and how much money some one has. The transformation Lady Ione from a dowdy spinster to a smart perfectly made up lady about town is another example of the detail being used to add not only depth to the period detail but in this case to give someone a motive for murder.
The issue of class in society and how following the First World War that the whole class system was shaken up and is sensitively written. This is illustrated by how the Aristocracy views the police and how Montague's penchant for servants is viewed. The author makes the point subtly that it's not class that's makes people decent and honorable but an individual own moral compass. However despite this all being within the book its certainly isn't heavy handed or preachy in its tone or manner and this is only an under current within the book.
This is a witty charming and entertaining murder mystery. The characters and the narrative are well constructed which capture perfectly the 1920' with all of its fun frivolity and tragedies following the War. The book is well paced allowing you to read the beautifully crafted scenes of the wedding preparations and the bride's doubts before you are launched into a murderous killing spree. The whisper of romance between Daisy and Alec and Lucy and Binkie is gentle and not enough to put a male reader of in my opinion. I would definitely recommend it.
I also think it stands alone as a novel and it wouldn't matter to the reader if they hadn't read any of the earlier novels in the series. That said reading them in order obviously helps you place the relationship between Alec and Daisy and Daisy and Lucy in more contexts
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation; Reprint edition (5 Nov 2005)
This book is currently only available used at £11.57 on Amazon market place. But they are gradually reprinting all of the series so it should be available cheaper soon.