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Why this book
As you may realize if you have read some of my other reviews I am working may way through the Daisy Dalrymple series. Though I have been trying to read them in order this hasn't always been possible as my local library didn't have all the books. However they have recently purchased this book so I have taken a huge leap forward to number 17 as this is newly published in the UK
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 novels.
About the Series
The Daisy Dalrymple series is set in Britain the 1920's after the Second 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 by this book in the series they have become married and have a set of twins under the age of one. 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
It is 1925 and the Honorable Daisy Dalrymple and her husband Alec Fletcher and their twins move to a new, large house on the outskirts of London. Set in a small circle of houses with a communal garden, it seems like the idyllic setting - that is, until a murder victim turns up under the bushes of the communal garden. Now rumors of bootleggers, American gangsters and an international liquor smuggling operation via black ships turn everything upside down and just how are their new neighbors the Jessop's involved with all of this
This is a wonderfully written murder mystery in style of Agatha Christie. By this I mean there is a gentle read not gritty murder mysteries in the style of Patricia Cornwell say. Though there is death within the book the gruesome details are kept to a minimum and a lot is left to the reader's imagination.
The authors talent for describing life in the 1920's is again displayed wonderfully examples of this include the styles of dress and language in used in the conversations. All of which for me make the novel seem more rounded and amusing to me. One of the things that struck me in this novel was the way people had to travel in the 1920's either if they were rich they owned a car but if not they either had to hire a car or take the train for long journeys. This attention to detail again makes this an enjoyable read. Also the author use which class of carriage people would take on the train to good effect to show some of the class divides that existed in the 1920's.
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. This also allows you as a reader to get to know the various characters and build a rapport with them. One of the things that took a like bit of getting used to in this book was in the early part of the novel we joined Patrick Jessop on board a ship in the Atlantic. This was as he set up communications for the rum running. I would urge the reader to pay particular attention to these sections of you will miss vital clues to help you solve the murder.
The characters within the novel are all well defined and have both good and bad qualities these are not one dimensional pantomime goodies and baddies. It was interesting to see the re introduction of Lambert the bungling American agent from "Death of a Mudracker" he was still a hazard to everyone one he came into contact with but added a wonderful touch of humor to the novel. Sergeant Tring and Constable Piper both of whom have a soft spot for Daisy are again present though a bit in the back seat in this novel. But the moments they are in the novel provide some of the lighter hearted moments in the story. The Jessop family who are the main suspects for the murder are all wonderfully written characters each with their own stand point and possible motive for the killing.
There is lots gathering of information and sounding out theories between Alec and Daisy. For once Alec seems pleased to have Daisy's help and at times keeps her actively involved in the investigation which made a refreshing change to him trying to protect her and keep at a distance to the investigation. 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 as Daisy admits herself she always sees the best in people and will champion the lame duck.
The issue of class and how following the First World War that the whole class system was shaken up and is sensitively written. The prejudices that prevailed at the time amongst the upper classes that the any one below then was not only a "lower order" but inferior in some way is written with a witty and sharp edge. This is demonstrated beautifully by the Bennets and how they abuse people they see to have less social standing than them but toadied up to anyone they see as being high status. The relationship Daisy has with all the help is marvelously written she likes them as people and worries about upsetting them which contrasts nicely to how some of the other characters view their servants. 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.
My only criticism is the ending seemed a little rushes and I would liked maybe one more chapter devoted to how Alec found the murderer but that is me being a bit picky really.
This is another wonderful novel by Carola Dunn involving Daisy Dalrymple in the 1920's this is a must for all fans of the cozy murder mystery and I don't hesitate to recommend it.
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Robinson (10 Sep 2009)
Currently on sale on Amazon for £5.55 in paperback