Friday, August 16, 2013

Book Review - Carola Dunn's The Winter Garden Mystery

The Winter Garden Mystery (Daisy Dalrymple Book 2) by Carola Dunn
Published by: Kensington
Publication Date: 1995
Format: Paperback, 256 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy
Wherever Daisy goes death is sure to follow. This time she's off to Cheshire and Occles Hall, which thanks to her old school chum, Bobbie Parslow, she has been able to wrangle an invite. Bobbie's mother, Lady Valeria, is notoriously bad tempered and also very protective of her unnaturally good looking son, Sebastian. In fact, the first thing that Daisy hears upon arriving in the picture postcard perfect village of Occleswich is the raging feud between Lady Valeria and Stan Moss, the local car mechanic. Stan wants to put in a gas station, and Lady Valeria will not hear of it blighting her perfect town. Stan has had a rough time of it of late, his daughter Grace, who worked up at the Hall as a parlor maid and took care of him in her spare time, ran off with a travelling salesman a few months back. Daisy instantly loves the hall and sees the picture possibilities for her article and is grateful to Bobbie and her father, Sir Reginald. The Tudor facade hides much turmoil and secrets though. Sir Reginald has an obsession with his Dairy so is rarely seen by anyone. Sebastian's famed good looks did nothing to prepare Daisy for the Adonis that is brought before her. Then there's the family's secretary, Ben Goodman, who was injured in the war and who Sebastian is very protective of. But what lies in the family tree is not important to Daisy who is there to capture the house, not the inhabitants, for her article. Daisy is lucky enough to get a tour of the grounds and the famed winter garden, in blooms though it is not quite spring. Owen Morgan, the assistant gardener and jilted boyfriend of Grace, is showing Daisy the wonders of blossoms in winter when Daisy notices a disturbance in the flowerbed. A disturbance which happens to be Grace Moss. She didn't run off with that travelling salesman after all.

It's not long before the local coppers decide that Owen Morgan is their man. They claim that the Welshman lost his temper when Daisy declared she was pregnant and in love with Sebastian and he hide her among the flowers. But Daisy knows this is wrong. She was there when Owen found Grace, and the conclusion the cops have reached couldn't be farther than the truth. Daisy starts to dig and soon finds out all manner of secrets the family was concealing, none of which really have a bearing on the case. Fearing for her safety and sensing she is once more in over her head, her old friend Phillip Petrie comes with the cavalry of Inspector Fletcher, there to get to the bottom of things and fix the mess the local police have made of this case. But when Bobbie disappears and the locals start to close ranks, it looks like the answer might never be found and that Daisy might be excommunicated from Occles Hall without her article finished. But which is worse? Not finding the killer or looser her job?

There's something fun and infectious about Carola Dunn's Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries. They're the quick little mystery fix that you need on a cold winter's day to while away the hours. I am drawn to them because they do have an Agatha Christie feel to them, and most Christie novels, even if I haven't read them, have been adapted to death so that the killers and plots are second nature to us bibliophiles. Therefore it's like fresh new Christie, but a period feel with a modern sensibility. Also I felt that unlike the first installment, the cast of characters was not so unwieldy, and that you grasped the basic suspect pool fairly fast. Also, how much fun is it that we actually get to have the inquest in this one? That staple of British mysteries was sadly lacking in the first book. On a final note I'd like to say, how cool is Daisy's job. Sure she's "tarnishing" the family name by working for a living. But getting to travel to all these great houses, which Carola Dunn brings such life and reality to, makes me just wish for more time to pick up the next book and then the next.


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