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by Carola Dunn
Kensington, February 2005
299 pages
ISBN: 075820938X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

DIE LAUGHING is the 12th mystery to feature the Honourable Daisy Dalrymple, but works well as a standalone novel. This is a fun series which will appeal to readers of cosy mysteries and of light-hearted Golden Age mysteries too.

It's 1924 and Daisy is now married to Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher and living with him, his battleaxe Victorian mother, and his daughter Belinda in St John's Wood, London. She is still a freelance journalist, which keeps her in pocket money, but she has a pretty low-key social life, suspecting that her husband's profession, and her title, have made her neighbours a little wary of them.

The elder Mrs Fletcher is aware that Daisy has been involved as an amateur sleuth on several previous occasions and is very disapproving. It is her reaction that most worries Daisy when she goes to visit her dentist and finds him dead in his chair, with a smile on his face. He has suffocated from lack of oxygen whilst inhaling laughing gas.

Raymond Talmadge was a good-looking man and a respected dentist, but it soon transpires that he had a dangerous habit of pepping himself up with the occasional dose of nitrous oxide. The question is whether his death was an accident, suicide, or murder.

Daisy is pretty sure it's murder and calls in the police. She has a little trouble convincing the local sergeant but, once she rings her husband and New Scotland Yard become involved, he realises who she is and starts paying attention. Alec and his team arrive to conduct the investigation, and Daisy heads home after imparting everything she has deduced in the meantime.

News travels fast, and she is soon fighting off a flood of lunch and dinner invites from the local ladies who want all the juicy details. Seeing this as an opportunity to pick up some gossip which might help Alec in his investigations, she duly obliges and is not disappointed, but there is more death and drama to unfold before the case is solved.

I enjoyed the way the investigation was conducted on twin paths, with Alec providing the police procedural element, investigating the suspects, checking alibis and managing crime scenes, whilst Daisy gathered gossip and provided a sympathetic ear to the women caught up in the case, always sharing information as she acquired it.

There are only ever a handful of suspects, and so it is not too hard to guess who might be responsible, but there are enough twists and turns in the evidence that is uncovered to keep the reader guessing and turning the pages.

This is a feel good mystery with delightful characters, an interesting plot, and whilst you might not DIE LAUGHING, you'll certainly smile.

Reviewed by Bridget Bolton, May 2005

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