Another Recommendsday post, another crime novel. This time though it’s historical crime and the Dandy Gilver series by Catriona McPherson. I read number 11 in the series – Dandy Gilver and a Most Misleading Habit – at the weekend and was reminded how much I like this series. The previous book in the series was a joint BotW about 18 months ago, but perhaps didn’t get as much love as it deserved so this seemed like a good time to revisit it.
I’m trying not to hold the non-matching covers against them!
Dandy is an upper class lady turned private detective in the wilds of Scotland in the 1920s. She falls into detection when some diamonds are stolen at a ball and discovers that a) she enjoys it and b) she is really quite good at it. Soon she’s started her own detective agency with her friend Alec and the cases start coming in. Dandy’s husband is not keen, but is prepared to put up with it (and the money it brings in) as long as her activities are thrust in his face all the time. I think the series starts fairly slowly, but really hits its stride by book 5 when Dandy goes under cover as a lady’s maid for a case, although I like the second one, Bury Man’s Day a lot as well.
In …Most Misleading Habit, Dandy is investigating a death at a convent in an arson attack, while Alec, her partner in detection, is looking into a break out at an asylum nearby which happened on the same night. The two must be connected – but an old war chum of Alec’s is being blamed for it and Alec is convinced that he’s being framed. What really happened and who is it that’s still sneaking around the convent?
Dandy is often shelved with the cozy crime books – but it’s a bit darker than that. They do have their humorous moments, but the solutions often involve issues that you don’t come across very often in this sort of book. I’ve spoken before about the Daisy Dalrymple and Phryne Fisher series, and Dandy is definitely darker than Daisy and as dark as the darkest Phryne’s.
I’ve read all bar one of the series now – and they’re really worth your time. You don’t necessarily need to start at the beginning – and several of the installments are very competitively priced at the moment. I’ve just bought the missing one while writing this because it was only £1.99 on kindle – but a couple of them are only 99p and one of them – Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder is one of my favourites and gives a fairly good indication of what the series is like.
Oh gosh. I had such trouble picking this. It came down to two choices – the latest Dandy Gilver book, which I devoured Sunday-into-Monday last week or Jojo Moyes Me Before You, which I was *sure* I had read, and then realised that I hadn’t and really ought to get in there quick before the sequel arrives on Thursday. But, if I make Me Before You this week’s BotW, then what happens if After You is amazing. But then what happens if After You isn’t awesome – and I haven’t said my piece on Me Before You. Basically, this boils down to a lesson in why I shouldn’t get behind with books. Which is what this whole blog is about. And you know I’ve written this whole opening paragraph without actually having decided – the post title just says Book of the Week and I’m still dithering.
Dang it. Double-header special it is.
So, lets start with Me Before You. I’m sure you’ve all read it already (as I said, I was convinced that I had too), but in case you’ve missed it, it tells the story of Lou, who loses her job at a cafe and finds a new one, working for Will Traynor – whose life was changed forever in a motorbike accident. If you haven’t read it and think I should say more about the plot, I’m sorry, but I don’t want to give too much away. But it’s funny and romantic and it had me surreptitiously crying in public. It could have been a very depressing book – there are some really serious issues in here and I was seriously worried that the ending was going to make me really miserable – but it’s not. A lot of research has clearly been done and it wears it very lightly. Will is clearly one individual, in a specific situation, who is making a certain choice – but there will be people out there who don’t like the way that this unfolds.*
On to Dandy Gilver and the Unpleasantness in the Ballroom, which is the 10th in the interwar-set detective agency series and finds Dandy in the ballrooms of Glasgow investigating threats made against a dancer. I’ve read just over half of this series and this is as good as any of them. I love the dynamic between Alec and Dandy (although as I’ve not read a couple of the early books so I think I’ve missed some bits there) and the dance hall world of Glasgow is compelling. And despite the pretty covers, the plots are often quite dark and there’s a (relatively) high body count. They’re smart and different and don’t rely on murder mystery cliches, but without going for lots of sexual violence.
So there you go – two books of the week this week, a lot of dithering and another lesson in why a big book backlog isn’t good!
* And I wish there could have been a magic fix ending, but that’s not how real life works.