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“This is a beguiling book whose 1920s setting, light tone, and beautifully developed main characters draw you ever deeper into the central puzzle, or perhaps puzzles, which take on an increasingly dark tone as the story progresses. The background is utterly convincing, and there is a considerable amount of pleasure in simply learning more about Scotland in the 1920s. Most important of all, however, is that this is a thoroughly enjoyable read whose whose twists and turns are genuinely intriguing. An absolutely outstanding murder mystery...”
“1930s lady detective Dandy Gilver lands a sleuthing gig in a setting straight out of Enid Blyton. Cosier than a pair of WI-knitted mittens, 'Corpses' serves up murder most foul - and is also good for several giggles.”
Upper-class Scottish socialite Dandy Gilver receives a note requesting her services as a detective in order to find a missing young woman. When she arrives at the appointed place and time, Dandy finds that she is not expected, and there a verbal brawl going on among the women of the house. In this passage we get the tenor of Dandy’s reaction:
“In times gone by, I should not have known—as my maid Grant says—‘where to put myself’. Things being what they were these days, of course I watched all three with my piercing detective’s eye, wondering how the disappearance of a girl could produce three such very different reactions among a mother and two grandmothers, one fondly exasperated, one faint with terror and one so angry that I almost expected steam to hiss from her ears.”
Dandy finds herself in the midst of a scenario not unlike the Montagues and Capulets. It seems that it is young Mirren Aitken, third generation of the Aitken’s Emporium founding family, who is missing and there is a great fear among the family that she has eloped with Dugald Hepburn of the rival department store, House of Hepburn. The family rivalry is so strong that an alliance between the two simply cannot be allowed to happen.
Throughout this novel, there is a strong sense of life in the United Kingdom after World War I. Things are changing between and among the social classes and many upper-class families don’t have quite the money they once did, yet pride and position still count. And Dandy is a great example of strong women doing what the times require.
“McPherson's sixth cozy set in 1920s Scotland markedly improves on its predecessor, 2011’s Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains.”
“When Mirren Aitken, a department store heiress, goes missing, Mirren's mother asks well-to-do sleuth Dandy to track her down. Aitkens’ Emporium (“Tailors, Mantle Makers, Silk Merchants, Domestic Bazaar”) is in bitter competition with another store in the town of Dunfermline, House of Hepburn (“Hosiers, Glovers, Clothiers and Milliners”).”
“The Aitkens fear that Mirren has eloped with Dugald Hepburn, a scion of the rival family. Before long, Dandy must tackle a related homicide, only to become a suspect herself. Dorothy Sayers's fans will find many aspects of Harriet Vane in Dandy, who really comes into her own in this installment. The strong plot offers a truly baffling traditional murder mystery, which bodes well for future books in the series.”
Scotland on Sunday
“The period features are done with aplomb, the dialogue shines with Golden Age wit, and McPherson’s heroine is warm and sharp as well as ingenious at solving the mysteries she is presented with.”
The Hartlepool Mail
“In Catriona McPherson's Dandy Gilver series it is always, in George Orwell's phrase, Sunday afternoon, preferably before the war. In a loosely connected series of novels which walks this side - just - of the parodic, her lady detective, released from an unrewarding life as wife and mother, takes on a series of cases and solves them with panache.
The Book Depository
“The delightful new Dandy Gilver mystery.”
Taken from The Book Depository, December 2010.
Nottingham Library Service
“More adventures of the popular lady detective in a sharp and witty take on the traditional "cosy crime" story. An heiress has disappeared and affairs of the heart are suspected until a suicide which may be murder is discovered. Dandy had been reluctant to get involved, but once her suspicions are aroused she is less than happy to be sacked from the case.”
Taken from Nottingham Library Service: Your next good read, December 2010.
“...there’s a lot of perceptive upstairs-downstairs stuff. It’s great fun, with obvious resemblances to the novels of the so-called golden age of the cosy whodunnit, though more skilfully written than most.”
“McPherson's books are always strong on period detail, with nifty sleight-of-hand plotting and plenty of interesting secondary characters, but it's Dandy herself who makes them shine: witty, briskly humane and quietly subversive, she is a continuing delight.”
“...an acute sense of period, sharp observation of the mores of the day (both above and below stairs), a nicely-judged infusion of humour and a winning heroine.”
“That McPherson has an ear for mellifluous language is obvious from the name of her detective or, say, the long-case clock that “ticks away an endless bass lullaby”. The story bristles with clues, and the resolution — arrived at by agonised brain-racking on the part of our tenacious heroine rather than any brilliant leap — is un-guessable yet just the right side of ridiculous.”
“Scottish aristocrat Dandy Gilver (The Winter Ground) is not one to twiddle her thumbs. Indeed, she’s lead partner in a private investigative firm, with friend Alec Osborne as her Watson. In this outing, Dandy has gone undercover as a maid to help Mrs. Balfour find out why her husband wants her dead. Within 24 hours, the husband is the murder victim. Clever Dandy is fully aware that she’s dealing with a closed-room case and madly uses her powers of observation to unravel a complex puzzle before more violence ensues. This splendid 1926 Edinburgh historical incorporates the ongoing labor strike and social nuances of the day.”
VERDICT: With witty dialog and low-key humor, McPherson’s series is a great choice for Jacqueline Winspear, Carola Dunn, and Amy Patricia Meade fans. A strong traditional offering with sly humor, a love of dogs, and not too much violence. A real contender for the Agathas!
Fans of Jacqueline Winspear will fall in love with Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains by Catriona McPherson—a fun and refreshing cozy series set in 1920s Scotland, featuring a witty and spirited socialite sleuth.
Taken from The Mystery Guild website, mysterguild.com, 2011.
“The Winter Ground is a jaunty romp with a gripping ending. But McPherson's real skill lies in her delightful rendering of the culture clash between the martini-quaffing ‘good eggs’ of Perthshire's high society and Ma Cooke's band of lovable eccentrics.”
“The period setting is beautifully painted and I loved the language McPherson uses to describe it all. Dandy Gilver is a wonderful heroine and her warmth, charm, humour and ingenuity shine through McPherson's words.
I was pleased to discover this was the fourth Dandy Gilver book, as I now know I have the pleasure of reading about her earlier escapades too. Dandy is the kind of character I love discovering — the sort you want to return to again and again, just like a long catch up with an old friend.”
“This series reaches its fourth instalment with this book and it shows no sign of losing momentum. The heroine Dandy Gilver is, in most ways, a typical lady of her period but she has the skills of a detective — to the horror of her highly conventional husband. The contrasts between her life and that of the group she is investigating here are delicious.”
“The strengths of Bury Her Deep all derive from the voice of the narrator. Respectably married to the deeply conventional Henry Gilver, Dandy is brisk, baffled, heroic, kindly, scandalised and — above all — very funny as she sleuths her way with through the Scottish countryside, the kind of grim environment where toothless old women at christenings mutter: ‘First breath — beginning of death.’ Bleak her world may be, but she has fun along the way.”
The Historical Novel Society
“Captivating and beautifully written, this third book in the Dandy Gilver mystery series is set in 1920s Scotland. Our heroine, a respectable matron who keeps her sleuthing secret from her uptight husband, motors down to Luckenlaw, a village in Fife, to investigate a series of eldritch events. Every full moon, a dark stranger attacks women and girls on their way home from the Scottish Woman’s Rural Institute meetings...
... Joined by Bunty, her stalwart Dalmatian, and her sidekick Alec, who hilariously poses as an effete landscape artiste, Dandy is determined to get to the heart of the mystery. ”
“With her faithful dalmatian Bunty in tow, Dandy may stumble across clues rather than deduce them, but her progress is amusingly recounted through sparkling dialigue and meticulous description, especially when it comes to Dandy's fabulously chic wardrobe.
McPherson has obviously researched the background to her tale thoroughly and her knowledge of ancient folklore is cunningly used in a well-constructed plot that has many twists and turns... ”
Taken from the 18th August 2007 issue. Click here for a clipping of the whole review.
“…When the titular Burry Man (played by a local carpenter, Robert Dudgeon, who's actually covered in burrs) drops dead in the midst of the fair, people assume he died of a heart attack, but Dandy suspects foul play. …Charming historical details add an extra something to this altogether satisfying cozy.”
See the full review at Publishers Weekly, 7th August 2006
Scotland on Sunday
“Detective stories are only as good as their investigators and they often supplant the author: we speak of reading the new Rebus or an old Nero Wolfe book. McPherson is onto a winner with her 1920s society sleuth Dandy gilver, who is the most engaging and ingenious crime-cracker I've met in ages...”
Book & Magazine Collector
“Chance enounters, a mysterious death and countless twists and turns all ensue as Dandy bumbles her way through her first case. The book not only captures the atmosphere of the period but also the character of detective novels of the era. In short, a thoroughly entertaining debut...”
Quoted from a feature on After the Armistice Ball from the August 2005 issue. Click here for a clipping of the whole review.
Publishers Weekly, August 2005
“…With her husband at home and her children away at school, Dandy is bored until a friend asks her to help recover the Duffy family diamonds stolen from a country house after an elaborate armistice ball, artfully depicted in the prologue.
…Memorable supporting characters, both upstairs and downstairs, plus vivid descriptions of the Scottish landscape enhance a compelling mystery, but it is Dandy who shines as she smoothly and sometimes unscrupulously deals with people at all social levels in her quest for the truth. ”
A starred review from Publishers Weekly, the US publishers' trade paper. Click here
“McPherson is an exemplary crime writer, effortlessly balancing the driest wit with melodramatic suspense. Her range of reference is seriously literary, her research impeccable, and her exuberance with period detail utterly beguiling. ”
Review from The Scotsman, 6th August 2005. Click here for a clipping of the whole review.
“For many years we have been subjected to the intimate details of the autopsy room in most crime novels... It appears, in the last year, that a yearning for the Golden Age of crime writing has become quite prominent amongst many readers. There has been the success of David Roberts, and now we have Catriona McPherson who has given us a novel that even Dorothy L. Sayers would have been pleased with.”
“The aftermath of the First World War sees the upper class of Perthshire coming to terms with changes in their lifestyle. Among these is Dandy Gilver, struggling financially and unoccupied since her husband's return from the Front. When asked by a more solvent friend to investigate a diamond theft she is at first excited by the prospective adventure, especially when it is coupled with the offer of payment. However, soon a suspicious death apparently linked to the theft paints a more sinister picture.”
“Dandy is an engaging, likeable sleuth. Her approach is direct and her initial naiveté does put her at risk of being manipulated by others. She forms a lively partnership with the dead girl's fiancé, Alec Osborne, and they proceed with their investigation through intelligent discussion and banter.”