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The Sirens of Suspense


Dandelion Dahlia Leston Gilver—Dandy to her friends—is a mature Englishwoman who, after tasting some of the freedoms previously withheld from women while working as a volunteer nurse in the Great War, is not content to follow Victorian morals and sit at home in Scotland with her well-to-do husband. Instead, motivated by boredom, she sets herself up as a “society sleuth”, with her bachelor friend Alec Osborne frequently acting as her sidekick, and her beloved Dalmatian Bunty never far from her side.  Her latest escapades are documented in Catriona McPherson’s Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains, described by Publishers Weekly as “Agatha Christie meets Upstairs, Downstairs”.

Bloodstains takes place in 1926 Edinburgh, where we find Dandy living belowstairs as lady’s maid after receiving a letter from Mrs. Philip Belfour, begging Dandy to protect her from her husband, who has threatened to kill her.  Unable to ignore the lady’s entreaty, Dandy infiltrates the house only to discover Mr. Belfour with his throat cut, and a bevy of terrorized servants. The logical (though unpredictable) twists and turns give the book a very classic feel, but Dandy can’t be pigeonholed in any particular genre. With its honest look at social status, Bloodstains is stronger fare than some similar series. However, the modernized (yet true to period) heroine is so likable and funny, in addition to being historically accurate, the book is also a delight to read.

For those whose first meet Dandy in Bloodstains, this is the fifth book in the series (following 2008’s The Winter Ground) so there is some backstory you’re missing, but the book is so well-written, and the mystery is stand-alone, so you won’t feel out of the water for long. McPherson’s next Dandy story, Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder, already finished, is set in two warring department stores in 1927. McPherson is currently working on the seventh book, in which Dandy goes undercover once more, this time as an English mistress in a girls’ boarding school in 1928.

If you like Catriona McPherson’s ( Dandy Gilver series, you may also enjoy:
Carola Dunn (Daisy Dalrymple series)
Kerry Greenwood (Phryne Fisher series)
Amy Patricia Meade (Marjorie McClelland series)
Barbara Pym
Dorothy L. Sayers

This review originally posted on The Poisoned Pen blog, read it and comment here:

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