Author: Carola Dunn
Publication: Minotaur paperback, 2015 (originally published in 1994)
Description: Like many young Englishwomen, the Honorable Daisy Dalrymple lost the man she loved in World War I. She also lost her brother so the ancestral home now belongs to a cousin. Not wanting to be the poor relation on sufferance, Daisy is trying to make a living as a writer. After successfully pitching a series of articles on stately homes to a magazine, she heads to her first assignment at Wentwater Court where she finds a household on edge – followed by murder! When Scotland Yard is called in, Daisy’s photographic skill and observations of the family are invaluable to the handsome chief inspector trying to solve the mystery without offending the aristocracy.
My Impression: The challenge that many authors of historical fiction fail is to craft an intelligent and self-reliant heroine who is not too anachronistic for the discerning reader (this is why I am worried about Bridgerton). Perhaps because Carola Dunn is British, she is careful to create Daisy Dalrymple as an authentic member of the British upper class who has embraced the respectable career of writing yet still behaves in a way that does not offend either the well-born, their servants, or critical me. Daisy is outgoing and sincere, quick to make friends, and loyal to those she senses are in trouble. If she sometimes sounds like a British schoolgirl, that may be an inevitable aspect of associating with Bright Young Things. While the series does not break any new ground, it is always pleasant (so to speak) to be at a house party interrupted by murder! There are just the right amount of characters to get a sense of personality without there being too many to keep straight. Although I am not much of a cozy fan, I think I will read more of this series, which begins in 1923.
This was billed as a Christmas mystery but it actually takes place in early January; Dunn says she was planning to call it Death in January so she wouldn’t have to agonize over a subsequent 11 titles in the series, but her editor rejected that idea (the unconvincing cover below does show seasonal ice skating which does figure in the plot). There are apparently 23 books in the series at this point. I do like the character of Detective Chief Inspector Fletcher:
He rose to his feet. Gentleman or not, he was well-dressed in a charcoal suit, with the tie of the Royal Flying Corps. Of middle height, broad-shouldered, he impressed Daisy as vigorous and resolute, an impression reinforced by rather intimidating dark, heavy eyebrows over piercing gray eyes.
Daisy was not about to let herself be intimidated. She advanced across the blue Wilton carpet, held out her hand, and announced, “I’m Daisy Dalrymple.”
“How do you do.” His handshake was cool and firm, his voice educated – though not at Eton or Harrow. . . Altogether he was rather gorgeous, she decided.
Grey eyes are always a hero alert, aren’t they? But can you really tell what color someone’s eyes are unless you are extremely close to them?
|(skirt much too short, also|
Daisy never gets to skate)
Wilton carpets originated in the Wiltshire town of Wilton, which was known for its wool trade. Huguenot weavers brought their craft to England in the 18th century (allegedly smuggled out of France in barrels by the Ninth Earl of Pembroke) and although many changes in ownership have taken place in the intervening years, Wilton carpets are still manufactured in Wilton
Off to what substitutes for Midnight Mass around here - 6 pm! Merry Christmas to those who celebrate!