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Not bad - but why not read the real thing instead?
on 4 March 2012
If you're a fan of crime writers of the old-fashioned sort, like Agatha Christie or Dorothy L Sayers, then you might like this modern take on a 1920s country house murder mystery. It's full of titled posh people with names like Binkie and Teddy, a mixture of cads and good eggs, and there's a Cluedo-like puzzle to solve - who didn't come down to tea/who was lurking in the conservatory? etc - before the final revelation of whodunnit at the end.
Or you might hate it for being a pale and rather pointless imitation of the real thing. I was torn between the two. This is my first Daisy Dalrymple mystery - up until now I've been put off by that twee name and the titles and cover designs - and I was surprised: this was more than just a pastiche and I quite enjoyed it. It was clever and it had an authentic twenties feel.
But in the end I found it all a bit too light and superficial. There's little sense of danger, fear or suspense: a ruthless killer was at large in this house yet no-one seemed to be taking it very seriously, so neither could I. Should the tone be so Bertie Wooster-ish, when there's a dead body lying on the floor?
There's no sex or violence of course, fine by me, but not a lot of real emotion either. It's all very well to mimic those 1920s stiff upper lips, but some of these characters come a bit too close to being caricatures. There are an awful lot of them, too, so the complicated family tree was helpful, but it's not a good sign when you keep having to refer to it to remember who's who right the way through to the end.
And would a Scotland Yard detective have been drafted in to take over the case, particularly as he knew some of the house guests/suspects, and one of them was his wife? And at the end, after ploughing through all that detail and all that police procedure, it's wrapped up far too abruptly. Daisy just pulls the solution out of a hat, which I found neither satisfying nor convincing.
If you're looking for an undemanding and inoffensive whodunnit to pass the time on a journey, then it's worth giving Carola Dunn a try.
I don't know whether I'll bother with any more, there's plenty of the real thing to choose from, after all - Agatha Christie alone wrote over eighty books like this.