It’s the roaring twenties and plucky young thing, Daisy Dalrymple, is writing an article about Wentwater Court during a post-Christmas house party for the Wentwater family and Lord Stephen Astwick, a hanger-on and blaggard of the highest order. Needless to say, the dastardly so-and-so gets his just desserts when he’s found floating in a hole in the ice after a skating accident. That would be all well and good, but jolly old Daisy spots some marks on the ice where someone has cut the hole using an axe. Suspicion falls on all the members of the household. I know what you’re thinking – why on earth is Puzzledoctor reviewing this apparent piece of fluff?
Well, first of all, I got this out of the library to read for the same reason as I reviewed Death of a Scriptwriter by M C Beaton – there seems to be a surplus of books from these series on the shelves of bookshops at the moment and I was curious. And to a certain extent, I’m rather glad I did.
This is a rather jolly book – there’s plenty going on in Wentwater House, with jewellery thefts, swindles and dubious romantic pursuits to keep Daisy and Chief Detective Alec Fletcher (who she is obviously falling for and vice versa) busy, and the characters populating the house, whilst being the sort of stereotypes that you would expect in a country house mystery, they are well-drawn and I did find myself caring about what happened to the characters (well, the nice ones, anyway). There’s also a commendable restrain on the use of words like “spiffing” and other phrases writers tend to fill this sort of story with. The excuse that Daisy is someone everyone trusts as soon as they meet her gives an excuse for her to be present at every crucial conversation, and this does stretch the imagination a little, but this isn’t being presented as a realistic series of events.
Unfortunately the finale is a let-down, with a solution presented that in most detective books would be a false solution (as it’s not desperately interesting or particularly clued), with even an obvious gap in the solution where the “real” murderer would have done the deed, so it’s somewhat surprising when this doesn’t materialise. After a lot of good build-up, this is a disappointment.
It is, though, nice to see such a series, clearly written to be a “popular” whodunnit, being of a decent standard of writing, and it’s a shame that the ending blows it for me, but I do appreciate the attempt to do something a little different with the final stage of the book – I’ll say no more on that for fear of spoiling things. It’s fair to say that I’ll be keeping an eye out for another of these in the local library – it’s certainly has enough potential and as this as the first entry is a series, this is very promising. Carola Dunn has written twenty of these, so there’s plenty to look forward to – in particular, Rattle His Bones, involving death by dinosaur skeleton sounds interesting.
WHERE CAN I GET THIS?
Well, Waterstones has loads of books in this series, so you should be able to find it without too much difficulty.
STOP PRESS: If you want another review of this one, then do check out the Traditional Mysteries blog.