Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Blood Stains
by Catriona McPherson
(Minotaur, $23.99, NV) ISBN 978-0-312-65418-4
****
In 1926 Scotland, upper crust Dandy Gilver does not like to go idle and often takes amateur sleuth cases with her friend Alec to pass the time. Dandy is approached by Lollie Balfour who announces that her husband of five years is going to kill her and she’d “rather he didn’t.”  Dandy agrees to take the case; with some coaching from her own maid, she is hired onto the staff of twelve in the Balfour house as Lollie’s lady’s maid. 

Mr. Balfour is found the next morning with his throat slit and Lollie immediately fears if Dandy’s identity and purpose in the house is revealed, Lollie will be the primary suspect.  (Odd that Lollie doesn’t immediately suspect Dandy as the new addition to the house and the person Lollie invited in to help solve her problem.)  Dandy is, of course, recognized by Superintendent Hardy who is more than happy to have her investigate this apparently closed room murder from inside the house since there is a police strike throughout Edinburgh leaving Hardy short of man power. 

Dandy quickly wins the confidences of most of the staff, save for the butler Ernest Faulds, and learns that the master of the house was anything but well-liked and well-respected by his staff.  When more deaths occur, Dandy is hard-pressed to see the connection, but she keeps her mind open which may be just the thing that is finally going to get her in trouble or killed.

 A charming comedy of manners, Dandy Gilver is a delightful character with a no-nonsense air about her, and a welcoming demeanor that gets people to open up to her, even those whom she has just met. Dandy gets a chance to see clearly, perhaps for the first time, how a poorer class lives, as she is living and working among servants. This eye opening awakening gives her a new understanding for the policemen on strike and an appreciation and new respect for those who serve and protect. 

While the murderer is reasonably easy to pick out, the investigation is well-plotted; the solution, once revealed, is a little far-fetched, though it fits the overall feel of the book.  Good fun for a quick, easy read especially for fans of traditional, early twentieth-century English mysteries.                                                                               

--Jennifer Monahan Winberry


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