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This is a book I picked up from my local library the other week when looking among the crime section for something to read.
Murder on the Flying Scotsman is the fourth in Daisy Dalrymple series by Carola Dunn. Now I haven't read as yet books 1-3 in the series and this is the first book by this author that I have read but having enjoyed this I plan to try to borrow the rest of the books in the series of which there is 17 in total.
About the Series
The Daisy Dalrymple series is set in Britain the 1920's just after the Second World War. This provides a great backdrop for a series as some of the male characters within the book and I am guessing 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 life's though this is only referred to a few times within this book. 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 she works for seems to be a cross of 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, 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. Alec is the epitome of the new England post war he is middle class, college educated, a former officer and pilot. He then became a Police man and now holds the title of a Chief Inspector at Scotland Yard. He's a widower with a young daughter and a mother who lives with them. The one thing that Alec's and Daisy's family have in common is the disapproval of their relationship, the snobbery of both the middle and upper classes is rife and both believe the two classes don't mix.
The social changes in England post war make a fabulous and exhilarating background for murder
About the book
As the title suggested the murder itself takes place on the flying Scotsman on its journey from London to Scotland. Daisy is on her way to Scotland on an assignment for the magazine. She treats herself to a first class ticket and is expecting a quite journey. She immediately is thrown into turmoil by Alec's daughter Belinda who has stowed away on the train. As the passengers all settle down for the journey within the first class carriages and compartments (remember this is an old fashioned stream train with small compartments for an about 6 people each) Daisy meets an old school chum who she hasn't seen since her school days. This school friend is on her way north to see an uncle (Uncle Alistair) who has summoned all of his relatives on his death bed for the possible re writing of his will for the family estate. All of the family are onboard the train in various compartments. The author seems to know that this complex family tree may need some explaining and referring to so has handily include the family tree at the beginning and I admit I had to refer to it several times at the start of the book. Daisy soon gets fed up with the money grasping relatives and their goings on. One of the families is Uncle Albert whom Alistair has currently willed the estate to. Albert is the focus of all the relatives moaning he is himself a rich man with no family and they all hope to persuade him to get Alistair to change his will in their favor and failing that for him to leave his won money to them. Albert currently has made his will to a Dr Jagai whom he views as a son but the family is not pleased about this. Without giving the plot away the murder happens on the train and Daisy gets to pull the emergency stop cord. Because they don't know which County the murder happened in Daisy suggests that Alec is called in to help as he is currently in Northumberland finishing off another case. The rest of the book is held in Berwick till the case is solved.
My thoughts on the book
I enjoy this cozy style of murder mystery and it has all the classic elements of a good murder mystery in the Agatha Christie style of writing. Dunn paints an engrossing picture of the uneasy, shell-shocked period after WWI her descriptions and her handling of the character Raymond who has shell shock is sensitively and deftly handled. The cast of suspects is so immense that Dunn has Daisy refer the reader to the family tree in the book's foreword.
The characters of Daisy Belinda and Alec I immediately warmed to and Dunn writes they characters in a witty and heart felt manner they are believable and fallible with their own faults all of which made me like them more. The love interest between Daisy and Alec is still within its infancy in the series and within this book there is their first kiss which sends Daisy reeling. I thought the description of this event was written well with the event been described in terms of what this meant to the characters on an emotional level as well as the chemistry between the pair.
There is also contained within the book a lively social criticism on issues of racism, sexism, and social hypocrisy. Most of the characters complain about the others money grabbing behavior and a blissfully unaware that they are committing the same social gaffs. Daisy's old school friend Anne comes in for some particularly witty commentary as she complains about the children and promptly shoves them off to nanny. Dunn is very adept at creating the mood of 1920s England, a time when rigid social customs began to crumble. The issues of racism at the time in England are delicately written as the family attempt to push Dr Jagai out and view him as not good enough based only on his skin colour. The main characters of Daisy Belinda and Alec have none of this racism and Dunn writes Dr Jagai as one of the few pleasant suspects. She writes but not in a preachy way the insistent message that you don't judge a book by it cover that is a relevant today as then.
Though I haven't read any of the other books in the series I felt this book was able to stand alone. I was able to place the characters within their various contexts and wasn't confused by any of the inter relationships. That said I am now hoping to start reading the other books within the series as I prefer to read books within the correct order but that maybe just me!
I would definitely recommend this book to people who enjoy gentle murder mysteries
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Kensington Publishing;
Currently on Amazon market place from £3.39