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by Carola Dunn
St Martin's Minotaur, September 2006
272 pages
ISBN: 0312349890

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

GUNPOWDER PLOT is the latest of Carola Dunn's Daisy Dalrymple mysteries. For the uninitiated, the former Miss Dalrymple is the plucky daughter of an English aristocrat, married to Scotland Yard detective chief Alec Fletcher.

During the years between the wars, Daisy bumbles into and helps solve mysteries. In GUNPOWDER PLOT, the resplendently pregnant Daisy visits her old chum Gwen Tyndall at the Tyndalls' dynastic estate in a swanky part of Gloucestershire. During a Bonfire Night fireworks show, the Tyndall paterfamilias and a sudden visitor, Australian nouveau riche matron Mrs Ellie Gooch, are mysteriously murdered. The Tyndalls call the cops and Alec is soon on the scene, but his wife Daisy also goes on the trail of the murderer.

This cozy provides period atmosphere by the pot-full, allowing the reader to escape to a glamorous bygone world. The glamour is undermined slightly by the Tyndalls' nasty behaviour to each other, and particularly their classism.

In the run-up to November 5, Tyndall father and children had been arguing about the touchy subject of inheritance, with son Jack defending his aspirations to have a real job and daughter Babs bristling against the restraints re-imposed upon upper-class women after their partial liberation, for reasons of national necessity, during the Great War. As smart as the progressive Babs, or smarter, Daisy nevertheless conforms to her society's expectations as the fashionably idle wife of the industrious Alec.

Dunn takes particular care to season the atmosphere with a flood of period language. This is a world where a girl has to beware of "bounders", "parents do tend to be antediluvian", the "billiard room" is a good place to hide from the "hordes of servants" and the "Old Girls' Network" has absolutely nothing to do with career networking.

GUNPOWDER PLOT is not a particularly fascinating or memorable book, but it provides a fanciful escape from contemporary reality. If you like playing Cluedo but want to see the rooms and characters in a bit more detail, then let Daisy Dalrymple-Fletcher be your guide.

Reviewed by Rebecca Nesvet, January 2007

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