June 19, 2012

An upper-class murder mystery

By Catriona McPherson
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Amateur investigator Dandy Gilver is an upper-class lady who solves upper-class crimes, along with her friend Alec Osborne. Her aristocratic approach gets a little tattered around the edges as she inserts herself into a household of folks who do not welcome her, but she has her breakthrough moments in Dandy Gilver and An Unsuitable Day for Murder, the sixth book in Catriona McPherson’s popular post-World War I series.

Dandy’s been called to the Scottish town of Dumfermline by a member of the Aitken family. She’s there to find young Mirren Aitken, whose family owns the Aitken Emporium, a solid, staid department store that’s celebrating its solid, staid 50th anniversary. Turns out the family’s afraid that Mirren has run off to elope with Dugald Hepburn, youngest son of the owners of House of Hepburn, the other department store in town. A major rivalry fit for the Capulets and Montagues keeps the two families far apart, each the other’s nemesis.

During the anniversary celebration at the Emporium, Dandy discovers Mirren horrifically dead, with her mother alongside holding a revolver. With this, the story is off and running, with a determined Dandy pursuing an elusive scenario well after the police have deemed the death a suicide.

Despite her aristocratic airs, Dandy is not above disturbing the crime scene, pursuing her own line of questioning and continuing to interfere in the lives of both the Hepburns and Aitkens after they’ve told her to get lost. Occasionally, she seems on the verge of noticing her behavior: “If anyone were ever to find out that Alec and I had come along like a pair of gangsters’ heavies and intimidated a grieving family this way after being told to leave them alone . . .  we would never work again,” she thinks. However, Dandy is not to be deterred from wresting a criminal from the depths of this sad, tortured family, even if it might be better to leave well enough alone.

Keep your Hepburn/Aitken family trees handy—they are conveniently provided—and your thinking cap on; you’ll need them, as confusion mounts in the “who’s who” of siblings and parents. What better place than this story to apply Sir Walter Scott’s famous line, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave / When first we practice to deceive.” Readers will keep guessing right up to the endgame in this startling tale.

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Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder

Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder

By Catriona McPherson
ISBN 9781250007377

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