I have enjoyed a lot of the Daisy Dalrymple series by Carola Dunn and this book was no exception. It had been recently re printed so my local library had got a copy so I was able to catch up with this book I had originally missed when first reading 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 travelled 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 are newlyweds living together with Daisy's Step daughter and Mother in law. Alec is the epitome of the England post war in that he is middle class, college educated, a former officer and pilot. Following the war he became a Police man and now holds the title of a Chief Inspector at Scotland Yard.
About the book
Daisy has tooth ache and is dreading a visit to the dentist to get it sorted unfortunately for her teeth she doesn't get to her appointment owing to the fact that she finds her dentist dead in the dentist chair on her arrival. The dentist appears to have suffered a fatal overdose of laughing gas. The question initially is had he over done his regular habit of taking a sniff of gas or had he been gassed to death. Once murder is established it soon turns out that he and his wife were not on the best terms and that he was a serial adulterer meaning that there are many suspects for Alec to investigate much to the shock and horror of his mother who finds it hard having a murder on her very door step.
As with all the books in the Daisy series Carola Dunn writes from Daisy perspective and we get to know her thoughts feelings and hunches as we go along. I personally like this style and feel it suits well the story lines as it allows me to understand Daisy's actions. The style of writing is also very much in keeping with the 1920's despite having been written much later. The language used to describe events and the speech of the characters certainly seems in keeping with the 1920's or my understanding of it at least. The use of this language and references to the social etiquette of the times such as housemaids and the way servants had different ranks for example make the novel seem more rounded and amusing to me.
Unlike a lot of the books in the series the murder happens very quickly in the book and the novel focus on the finding the culprit. Unlike a lot of the other novels in the series this one isn't set in a country house so there is no setting of the scene and getting to know the main characters and how they all interrelate before the crime. This change from the normal formulae of getting to know people first works actually quite well and we get to see a lot Daisy's first impressions of people being coloured by the murder and her suspicions of people is influenced by some of the knowledge she has wedeled out of Alec. As these people are also going to be her neighbours we see both Daisy and Alec trying to juggle the need to find things out with not wanting to upset people too much. Dunn writes wonderful prose with various twists and turns and red herrings that Daisy and Alec follow till they eventually find the culprit to the murder. But not before Daisy manages to suspect several different people and take some others under her wing. The relationship that Daisy has with her mother in law is problematic and Dunn writes beautifully how they just seem to grate on one another without it seeming the stuff of a pantomime villains.
The staple characters of Sergeant Tring and Constable Piper continue to provide a great foil for both one another and Alec. They inject some humour to the book especially Tring with his immeasurable belief in Daisy and her often bizarre theories. They are joined by Detective Sargent Mackinnon who quickly joins the Ranks of Daisy's fans and let's slip things to her and believes in some of her wilder theories too.
As well as solving the murder we see Daisy start to settle down into married life and meet some of her neighbours under difficult situations and how they vary in their approach to dealing with an aristocrat in the suburbs. This makes at times for some moments of humour as well as stuff that did make me cringe as you see people toadying up to Daisy all of which is easily believable. The social niceties of the time make for great reading as they allow the plot to develop slowly and at a genteel pace that mimics the pace of life at the time. Dunn continues well with the book in the Agatha Christie style of genteel murder mystery that I love.
I would definitely recommend this book to fans of the cosy murder mystery style. It is a humours novel at times as you watch Daisy settle into married life living with a mother in law that has very different opinions to her own. The characters and the narrative are well constructed which capture perfectly the 1920' with all of its fun frivolity and tragedies following the War. I 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 different relationships in more context.
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Robinson (15 July 2011)
Currently on Amazon from £5.20 new and 1 pence for used on the Amazon market place.