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MISTLETOE AND MURDER
by Carola Dunn
Kensington, October 2004
256 pages
$5.99
ISBN: 0758204892


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In marrying Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher, Daisy Dalrymple has almost mortally offended her mother, the formidable Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple. Which may explain, to some degree, why Daisy rarely wins an argument with her mother.

This year, Daisy and most of her family will be spending Christmas at Brockdene, the ancestral estate of Lord Westmoor in Cornwall. Which is all well and good, until one discovers such things as: there are very few mod cons in this region of Cornwall (autos, electricity, and the like), the roads are notoriously tortuous and muddy, the easiest way to Brockdene involves taking a launch, Lord Westmoor will not actually be in Cornwall but his poor relations will, and so will Daisy's mother-in law. None of these things is likely to make the formidable DVD happy.

The poor relations of Lord Westmoor are in an unusual situation. The family is being allowed to stay at Brockdene for as long as 'Mrs' Norville makes no claims upon the estate. 'Mrs' Norville is from India, and her husband, Albert Norville, drowned while she was en route from India. The family does not believe that she and Albert were truly married, two children notwithstanding. So Lord Westmoor maintains the house, and provides some small support for Norville's widow. The staff at Brockdene takes care of Brockdene, but not of the Norvilles in residence.

Godfrey Norville, his wife Dora, and their children Jemima and Felicity live at Brockdene; Godfrey is a historian in love with the house and its contents. Felicity longs to be in London, having a 'season' and marrying well. She has been sneaking around, having a romance with Cedric Norville, of the 'legitimate' branch of the family. Jemima is an obnoxious chit.

Captain Victor Norville, the other of the two children, is back from India for the holidays. He has brought with him an unpleasant gentleman, the Reverend Calloway. Victor has tracked down Calloway in order to prove that Mrs Norville was legally married to Albert. But Calloway is murdered in the chapel down by the river.

Much of MISTLETOE AND MURDER is spent setting the scene leading up to the murder. The family relationships are complex and sometimes difficult to keep track of. The rest of the book is devoted to fairly mundane police work -- checking alibis, questioning the various family members, and so on. Daisy is enlisted to take notes, which gives her the perfect opportunity to assist Alec in his investigation.

If the reader pays close attention, the killer is fairly easy to identify and the motive is obvious. IF one pays close attention. What I particularly enjoyed about Dunn's work is her ability to convey the difficulties encountered in daily life back in the 1920s: the lack of electricity, the time required for the most basic activities, the far more rigid social strictures imposed upon everyone (not just women), and the technology (or lack of it) available to policemen at the time. Dunn does this without lecturing or preaching, which is no mean feat.

MISTLETOE AND MURDER is a good book for a winter afternoon when there's nothing on television worth watching, there's a nice fire in the fireplace, and one is looking for a pleasant excursion into another time and place. No great social commentary, no convoluted plot requiring pencil and paper to keep track, no sweaty sex, no bloody gore. Daisy seems like a nice young woman with a brain in her head, and the willingness to use it.

Reviewed by P. J. Coldren, January 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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