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by Carola Dunn
St Martin's Minotaur, September 2008
294 pages
ISBN: 0312363079

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Daisy Dalrymple works for a living, writing magazine articles (although she is surprisingly unmindful about politics) and enjoys her independent position in the world. But she is also married to DCI Alex Fletcher who tries to keep her from interfering in his investigations but always fails.

In this novel a wealthy and deceased great uncle has left his fortune to Alex but only if he and his family live in his house. It is an ideal house although it needs a great deal of work, near Hampstead Heath, larger than their present place and in a small cul de sac with other homes. The uncle's solicitor seems reluctant to have them move in and Daisy discovers his daughter is married into the family next door, the Jessups. This family is in the wine and spirits business. Their youngest son is traveling abroad at the moment.

Daisy and Alex do move in, get to know their neighbors and become fond of the Jessups, which makes it awkward when Daisy's dog discovers a body in the little garden shared by all. It is even more awkward when an American revenue agent suggests that the neighbors are involved in shipping spirits to the United States where it is illegal to buy and sell them, thanks to Prohibition.

This is a light-hearted whimsical novel, set in the twenties, which does address some actual historic facts (in this case Prohibition -- the Black Ships are those that carry liquor to the United States as well as those that pick it up offshore), and does depict an independent clever female protagonist who discovers the key clue while her policeman husband is trying his best to keep her out of his case. This is hard to do because his sergeants adore her.

Daisy is an adorable woman, admirable, tactful (most of the time), gracious, and kind. She is the daughter of a viscount so can legally be addressed as The Honorable, but she does not tell her neighbors this so they will not feel intimidated. She does not like to interfere but she just has to make certain the wrong people are not arrested for murder. Together she and Alex make a good team. He is long-suffering, by the rules usually, but open to reasonable suggestions from Daisy.

The setting and the time are very nicely portrayed. However London in the twenties was not all happiness and good cheer. Great losses in the war and damaged veterans made for unhappiness and gloom. But the wealthy, those who could afford large homes and servants, were little affected by these vexations and were able to isolate themselves from them. So they would continue, happy and ignorant, until the depression and then another war destroyed their world forever.

It is, however, great fun to revisit that world, to puzzle over an intriguing mystery, and to join this family for a few days of their upper class lives.

Reviewed by Sally A. Fellows, January 2009

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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