Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review - Fall of a Philanderer by Carola Dunn (4/5)

By Olga Godim

I’m a fan of this cozy mystery series (of which there are currently 21 installments) and its protagonist, Daisy Dalrymple, a young journalist and a daughter of a viscount in 1920s England. I’ve read almost all the novels of the series and I can say this: The Fall of a Philanderer one of the best. In this story, Daisy is on vacation in Devon. For the first (and only, I think) time in the series, she doesn’t discover a dead body; her husband Alec Fletcher, the Detective Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard, does so by accident when he joins her for a short holiday.

Although the body doesn’t appear until chapter seven, Dunn keeps the reader’s interest from line one. Little, seemingly inconsequential events spring up along the pages as the plot romps ahead like a playful colt.  The way the atmosphere builds through vivid descriptions – alternately idyllic and foreboding – is something that can only be done by a master storyteller.

Take this snippet for instance:
Thursday was another sunny day, but Friday brought a dank and dismal grey mist that left droplets beading everything it touched. Before dawn, Daisy’s dreams were haunted by the mournful howl of a foghorn.
And later the same morning…
Halfway back to Westcombe, they could see ahead a solid-looking mass of fog lying in wait, crouching between the hillsides, “Like a big grey cat waiting to pounce,” Belinda said.
Daisy is her usual charming self, warm-hearted but sensible. Around her revolves the multitude of secondary characters, all different, all living and breathing and possessing their unique quirks.  There’s the bevy of suspects, the local policemen, and the denizens of the small seaside village—many of which provide the comic interludes so common to Dunn’s tales.

The village bobby Puckle, for example, has an edifying conversation with Alec shortly after the body is found. The author makes Puckle’s accent unmistakable but clear, unlike some less skillful writers. Alec, who had hoped to keep his Scotland Yard identity secret for this holiday, asks Puckle in frustration:
"But why should they think it was murder, not an accident?”

Puckle looked at him in surprise. “Acos of I told ’em you was here, sir. Stands to reason. If ’tweren’t murder, why would a detective chief inspector from the Yard be on the spot, like?” 
Carola Dunn
The constable’s logic is irrefutable, albeit circular.

Another source of giggles is a medical student, Vernon, assisting Alec in the investigation. Vernon is a fan of mystery novels, but Sherlock Holmes is not among his favorite fictional detectives. Instead he admires Dr. Thorndyke of R. Austin Freeman much more (a new name for me, I must admit). Alec says to him:
“I’m sure you would have made an apt pupil if he were not a fictional character.”

Unoffended, the medical student grinned. “Julia thinks I’m an absolute ass, but I do think I’d make a better pupil than Jervis. He’s definitely not too swift in the uptake. It seems to be the fashion to give the top detectives rather thick assistants. Look at Dr. Watson. And do you know this new chappie, the Belgian detective? Same thing—he has the bumbling Colonel Hastings to crow over.”
My sentiments precisely! I read this quaint little book very fast, I chuckled a lot, and I enjoyed it tremendously. I also learned a new concept: a ducking stool for scolds. Only Daisy would be so brazen as to introduce it to the modern day readers.

Overall, a delightful novel of mystery and mayhem in the post-WWI England.   Four stars.



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About the Reviewer Olga Godim is a writer and journalist from VancouverCanada.  Her articles appear regularly in local newspapers, but her passion is fiction.  Her short stories have been published in several internet magazines, including Lorelei SignalSorcerous SignalsAoife’s KissSilver Blade, and other publications.  In her free time, she writes novels, collects toy monkeys, and posts book reviews on GoodReads.  Her first novel, Lost and Found in Russia, has just been released from Eternal Press.

15 comments:

  1. What a pretty cover. I enjoy cozies, yet I don't make the time for them. This does sound charming. I'll have to look this series up. Great review :)

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  2. I have only read a few cozies, sometimes they are too cute and pat, but this one sounds good and well written. Very visual. Great review.

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