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If You’re Feeling Sinister

Dandy Gilver bothersome

Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses: A Mystery by Catronia McPherson (Minotaur Books, $25.99, 304 pages)

‘Alec?’ I said, sitting down in the chair at the desk. It was an oak and leather affair, one leg and four little castored feet, and it was set very low to the floor for Miss Shank’s short stature. I twirled it around and around a few times to make myself comfortable and by the time I had undone the ensuing tangle with the telephone cord, Alec had roused himself and was talking.

The narrator is Dandy Gilver, a fortyish lady detective who lives on a “farm” in Scotland, is happily married and has two sons. Dandy and her partner Alec Osborne are hot on the trail of an English teacher at St. Columba’s School for Girls who has gone incommunicado. The instructor, Fleur Lipscott, happens to be a girlhood friend of Dandy’s. Fleur’s sisters are frantically looking for her, as they have not been in contact for too long a time. This disappearance is not a first. Some deep dark family secrets are being withheld from the detectives making their job difficult.

Dandy Gilver bothersome 2

The era is post-World War I and the school is located in Portpatrick, Scotland. The author, Catronia McPherson, assures her reader that Portpatrick is indeed a real place as are the other cities and towns in this charming and well-paced mystery. The school is fictional; as well it should be given the remarkable activities and events that take place there.

While seeking assurances that Fleur is well, Dandy and Alec are drawn into the workings of St. Columba’s. Their first bothersome corpse has washed up on shore and the local police aren’t able to identify her. The fishes have made quick work of her face and fingers.

What begins as a picturesque period piece, morphs into a murder mystery that might well take place today. The language, clothing, prejudices and references to the great war keep it grounded in the past but the use of telephones makes it modern.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher. “Agatha Christie lives!” John Lescroart

You can read a review of Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder: A Mystery here:


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Hammer to Fall

Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder: A Mystery by Catriona McPherson (Minotaur, $24.99, 304 pages)

Dandy Gilver is a proper lady living in Scotland during the 1930s.   She is also a detective married to a respectable nobleman and the mother of two sons.   Dandy is the narrator for this series of remarkably detailed and charming period pieces.   Unsuitable Day is the latest in the series written by Catriona McPherson, who was born in Scotland and now resides in Davis, California.

Readers who delight in location details, period pieces and wicked humor are the audience for this book.   There are red herrings, plot twists, gruesome murders and a bit of class warfare that make each page an experience in itself.   Author McPherson’s writing is dedicated to immersing the reader in all things Scottish and particularly those of a small nature.

Perfect escapism is rarely presented in a murder mystery.   There are usually jumps in the story line that create ambiguities to throw the reader off the trail of the killer.   Being thrown off in that way has a tendency to break the spell.   Unsuitable Day goes in the other direction.   There are so many specifics and events that the reader is transported straightaway to the other side of the ocean and into the past.   This reviewer lost track of time during the reading of the book.   Perhaps that’s due to the lack of technology in the story, or maybe it’s the fascinating details related to running a department store in post-World War I.   Regardless, the escape happens and not only will future episodes be welcome, maybe a bit of catching up with Dandy’s past escapades is in order.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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