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by Carola Dunn
St Martin's Minotaur, September 2005
272 pages
ISBN: 031233589X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Carola Dunn has excelled again with the latest in her Daisy Dalrymple mystery series, FALL OF A PHILANDERER. This is the 14th in this wonderful series set in England after the first world war. It isn't necessary to have the read the others first, but you'll probably find you want to read them soon if you start here.

It is the summer of 1924 and Daisy, by now married to Alec Fletcher, a Detective Inspector with Scotland Yard, has taken her stepdaughter Belinda and a friend to stay at a small hotel, more like a B&B, in the seaside town of Westcombe in Devon. Alec joins them for the second week.

It's a lovely place, and the initial scene-setting takes one back to childhood tales by Enid Blyton with sand castles, cliff top walks and bottles of ginger beer. There are a couple of minor blots on the landscape for Daisy though, the first being her landlady Cecily's unhappiness, and the second being the brief but unwelcome attentions of George Enderby, landlord of the local pub and all-round bounder.

It turns out the two are not unrelated; they have been having an affair whilst Cecily's husband Peter has been at sea. He is about to return home, and Cecily fears she will be found out. She is, and within hours George Enderby's broken body is found at the bottom of the cliffs.

Alec is pressed into taking charge of the case with the help of the local constabulary and an enthusiastic trainee doctor who fancies himself as a medical sleuth. This is good news for Peter who is naturally the prime suspect because Alec, and of course Daisy, keep an open mind.

It is soon evident that George Enderby was a serial philanderer and a lot of people in Westcombe are not sad to hear of his demise. As Daisy picks up pieces of gossip for Alec, several suspects emerge with varying clarity of motive, weak alibis, and the Fletchers are in the awkward position of staying with and liking some of them.

This a delightful tale, packed full of interesting characters, and set in a wonderful location. The plot is essentially that of a police procedural, with Daisy contributing information to assist Alec's enquiries, and helping out dramatically in the final stages.

The conclusion was an unexpected masterstroke, and if all the above is not praise enough to encourage you to buy this book, I should mention that the gorgeous artwork on the front cover is so yummy that I may have to redecorate my front room to complement it.

Reviewed by Bridget Bolton, October 2005

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