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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 ninth book in the series though only the fourth one I have read.
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 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 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 have just got married .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.
The social changes in England post war make a fabulous and exhilarating background for murder
About the book
This book finds newlyweds Daisy and Alec Fletcher, headed for America aboard the S.S. Talavera. This is an extension to their honeymoon as Alec has been invited to go to America to consult with the Investigation Bureau of the Justice Department to help them clean up corruption within the department. On the voyage they are the guests of Caleb P. Arbuckle the millionaire father of Gloria Petrie and her husband Philip who are friends of Daisy and have been involved in an earlier case of Daisy's. Also on board the ship is Arbuckle's friend, Jethro Gotobed (another millionaire) and his new wife Wanda. Arbuckle had hoped to wean Gotobed of the splendid Wanda's charms by inviting him to America as he fears the showgirl is just after Gotobed money. However Gotobed thwarts Arbuckle's good intentions by rushing Wanda off her feet and marrying her and the trip becomes their honeymoon. Everyone is appalled by this marriage and are challenged and left dumbfound by Wanda's vulgarity even Daisy's normally forgiving nature is stretched to the limit.
It is not long however before the voyage is disrupted by mysterious accidents man overboard incidents and murder. As Alec battles seasickness, Daisy is left to investigate the case mainly by herself. She also has to write about the voyage for her magazine article, and guiltily tries to avoid the unbearable Wanda Gotobed.
This book certainly continues the wonderful cozy style of murder mystery I have learnt to expect from Carola Dunn. She pens beautifully the small community life aboard a cruise ship. The combination of claustrophobia as everyone is trapped on board together weaves wonderfully with the various excitements of ship life such as sitting at the captains table and on board games.
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. Added into this are the differences in English and American terminology such as "blooming bride" to Daisy means slang for pregnant whilst it is meant as complement by Arbuckle.
The descriptions of Wanda as a showgirl and her manners or lack of them has you both chuckling with amusement and cringing with mortification at her lack of subtlety and at times sheer rudeness. This strategy works well and makes you as the reader understand all too easily Daisy, Alec's and other characters reluctance to engage in conversation and social intercourse with Wanda.
Wanda's over reactions every time some one goes overboard or is injured generates great disbelief in her acting abilities, what she says and her motives in marrying Gotobed.
Life onboard the ship is skillfully written the combination of hurling from entertainment to meals seems very realistic for life on board a cruise ship. It is something I am sure cruise ship passengers would recognize as adapt today as well as in the 1920's. The grandeur of the various rooms including the library and writing rooms is very evocative and encourages you to sink into the large comfortable chairs onboard.
The murder is not one full of blood and gore though people meet a violent end the minutiae of the blood and bones and drowning are not described. This is very much in the style of Agatha Christie murder scenes rather than Patricia Cornwell for example.
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 or to dislike them in as is the case with. Wanda. This is the first book in this series that has a prologue to events on board the ship. In some ways I don't think these two pages add too much to the novel as the information within them is also gleaned from the rest of the novel.
The relationship between Alec and Daisy continues to develop but it is Daisy's own crime solving talents that are more at the fore due to Alec being laid low with sea sickness. This gives Daisy the opportunity to look after Alec more and be his defender at times rather than as more often the case in these novels Alec being Daisy's champion.
The issues again of class in the 1920's continue to be an undercurrent within the book. These are deftly done and the various classes and cabin style that people are traveling on the ship add to the descriptions of people's roles as they were seen at that time in society. To ensure that everyone mingles in the story the SS Talavera is a small ship with the first, tourist and third class passengers sharing all the public facilities how realistic for this period this would be I don't know. I am however willing to grant the author license here. Dunn doesn't paint one class as superior to the other she instead makes it very person centered about someone's worth and value in society. Added into the class system here is that of "new money". Here Dunn describe Gotobed as a very intelligent man and how plays the part of a yokel if it suits him and is very much the social chameleon in adapting well to various circumstances.
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 village like world the cruise ship takes on board is where everyone seems to gossip and socialize together is well written. By trapping everyone on board the claustrophobia this engenders in some of the characters is handled well and adds time dead lines to solving the crime. In this book I personally feel Dunn is trying to capture something of Agatha Christies "Death on the Nile" and for the most part she succeeds. There are lots of witty observations and humor, the humor is a dry humor rather than slapstick. I would definitely recommend this book. I think it can be read by itself rather than as part of the series.
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation; Reprint edition (Jul 2003)
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