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by Carola Dunn
Minotaur Books, September 2009
304 pages
ISBN: 031238775X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Nice Mr. Pritchard made himself quite a packet on plumbing fixtures and spent a good deal of it on acquiring somewhat decrepit Appsworth Hall and its dilapidated Folly, once an architectural gem filled with caves and grottoes and various interesting sights. Over the last several years he's restored both the manor house and the grotto, and invites Daisy and her photographer friend Lucy to come and visit for a long weekend, in hopes that they'll include his now-beautiful folly and grotto in a book they're preparing on architectural oddities. The service at Appsworth Hall is wonderful, the plumbing sublime, and the grotto glorious, but the guest list for the weekend is not only rather odd, it turns out to be deadly.

A pleasant Army officer's wife with a sly sense of humor and her pretty daughter, Mr. Pritchard's overbearing sister-in-law and her business-minded son, and a resident scholar digging into the past history of the Appsworth family mix rather decently with Daisy and Lucy, somehow managing to enjoy themselves despite the definite bad temper and even worse manners of the thick-skinned and foul-mouthed Lord Rydal, who has asked himself along for the weekend and succeeds in alienating pretty nearly every human being he meets. Things become downright deadly at dinner, however, when two more guests show up, waspish bureaucrat Sir Desmond and his peculiar wife Ottaline, who definitely knows much more about Lord Rydal than is good for her. The mix proves quite combustible, in several senses of that word, as tempers flare and nasty things get said, then nastier things done, with deadly results.

This beautifully calibrated historical cosy is very strongly plotted, with a superb setting and excellent characterizations, and shows Dunn's confidence and style at its best. You won't need to have read the previous entries in the long series to have a very good time with the latest, as she is quite expert at giving you all the information you'll need but no spoilers of previous books, and I'd recommend your seeking them out. With just enough sweetness, a neat soupçon of tart humor, and a bit of sly commentary on the social classes, SHEER FOLLY is another winner for Dunn, who exhibits perfect balance and pacing. Everything is just right for those of us who enjoy genteel historical murder with a side dish of satire.

Reviewed by Abbey Hamilton, September 2009

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