This is a tremendous book, weaving in a collection of wonderful new characters and making the most of some of Dandy's wonderful entourage including Grant, Hugh, Pallister and Mrs Tilling and the boys, all getting turns in the limelight for once. When I finished reading the story and setting hung round me for days, the sign of a truly great book.
One of the great joys of attending festivals is being scheduled on panels with people whose work I don't know yet. So I'll be at the Theakston's Old Peculier (sic) Harrogate Crime Fest in the middle of this month shadowing Val McDermid who is reprising her role as Chair 10 years after the first one (heck, is it 10 years? It feels like yesterday) so that I know how to run the Historical Festival in October (25th - 27th - put it in your diary). But I'll also be on a panel on Sunday 21st entitled Slaughtering the Sacred Cows.
With me will be Stuart MacBride, Cathi Unsworth and Catriona MacPherson - all of us are apparently iconoclastic in one form or another. As you do before these events, I've just started reading their books - and have just finished Catriona Macpherson's Dandy Gilver novel.
This is the seventh in the series and I can't think why it's taken so long to get around to something so richly, gloriously, wonderfully off the wall. The premise is simple: Mrs Dandy (Dandelion) Gilver is a country house lady living in a grand house in hte Perthshire wilderness, wife to Hugh, mother to two teenaged sons, Teddy and Donald, mistress to a variety of lady's maids, butlers, factors and general factotums - and she's bored. Or I guess she was bored at the start of the series when she joined forces with her neighbour, Alec Osborne for the purposes of solving crimes.
They make a formidable team: not quite Sherlock and Holmes, because neither of them is dim, but they balance each other nicely and in this book's theme of country house spas and mediums, ghosts and murder, they manage between them to run rings round the opposition without ever feeling as if they are either superheroes or implausibly well informed.
It's all told in a first person voice that feels absolutely of its time and its this, the voice, that really hooked me. Dandy Gilver reminds me of the various competent women who run hawking displays at gamefairs. She's completely at home in her rural estate, but can don furs and march about town if she has to. She's not squeamish, but she's not gung ho either. Coupled to this is a sense of time that is absolutely perfect. The setting is 1929, and everyone carries scars from the first world war (Alec, reminiscing at one point with a fellow serviceman, says that 'it was not so bad once the rations started up again', which carries within it such a wealth of unspoken horrors that it could have made a whole portion of the novel itself: it doesn't, it's there as part of the texture, the warp and weft of a time about which I know very little, but in which the author is obviously an expert. Like the best historical novels, this is one from which I learned a lot about a time and a social class without ever feeling I was being taught - this is learned, but it wears its learning lightly.
So all in all, I'm immensely glad I came across this, and am looking forward to delving further into the Dandy Gilver series. And I'll see you at Harrogate if you can make it.
Great! This was worth waiting for. Despite what some say, Catriona McPherson is not 'like' Dorothy L Sayers, but she is very good at setting this series throughout the 1920s, everything feels authentic, unlike the vast majority of writers using the 1920s as a setting CM gets the social mores, the sensibilities and the attitudes correct. Not always an easy thing to do as some of these are unacceptable, so to convey these without making your main characters appear too offensive is very clever. The mystery, like her others is also a cut above the average, with unusual but very typical settings, this time a hydropathic hotel where Dandy's family and servants can try to recover from a very bad bout of flu and she and Alec can try to solve the mystery behind the unexpected death of one of the guests and Alec also has another pre-occupation to distract the reader. I would definitely recommend this book and hope that CM is busy on the next one
The plot, as usual, is well crafted. However, the main attraction of the Dandy Gilver books is the development of her as a person and as a personality. Her mild frustration with husband and two boys turning into men is charmingly clear and one can almost hear her muttering under her breath. Her strategies for managing the home and domestic life and timeless and authentic. The eternal work/life balance is authentically portrayed and the author avoids creating a superwomen.
I have been a devoted reader of the Dandy Gilver series since the first marvellous book, After the Armistice Ball, which is one of my all-time favourites. Catriona McPherson cleverly and seemingly,effortlessly, evokes the post-WW1 period in this. Subsequent books in the series have all been superb. A Deadly Measure of Brimstone doesn't disappoint. I'm reluctant to say too much about the plot of this book, as I don't wish to spoil it for others. All I will say is that Dandy's husband Hugh and their two sons have been laid low by a particularly virulent bout of influenza with complications,so she decides to relocate them to the town of Moffat which boasts a Hydro for the sufferers,while also providing Dandy and her partner-in- investigation,Alec,with an absorbing crime to solve. I loved this book as Catriona McPherson,once again,caught the atmosphere of the period,(1929),superbly.
I love Dandy Gilver books and I was so glad to see another one. The story is completely bonkers but I loved it. I love the interplay between the two detectives and husband Hugh has a much bigger role in this one - in the end I quite liked him. Looking forward to number nine. It will be interesting to see if Alec does find himself a wife and what impact that has on the partnership.
Dandy has moved on: honed her skills and is less the ingenue, which is good. Depth is added to her character by exploring more of her fond relationships with Hugh,her hilarious husband, and her two lovely sons.
Lots of other vivid characters. Environment well-drawn, fabulous authentic period language. I just thought the book was a wee bit long for the plot.