Carola Dunn – an American view of the 1920s way of murder

Agatha, Dorothy, Josephine, Gladys, – the list of Golden Age Detective writers who actually wrote during the 20s and 30s is impressively long. Indeed, there are those, like the super blogging Bibliomouse http://bibliomouse.wordpress.com/ who have made quite a study of them. I’ve read a few, seen a lot on tv, and admit to being very fond of the big house mystery. While I’ve enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes revival in all its variants, there’s something about the whole 1920s scene which is fascinating. There are many modern attempts to capture that period of murder writing, and my current wallow is in the less than literary but still good fun, Carola Dunn series of “Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries”.

There are many copies of these books in libraries and cheaper book shops. No, they are not taut, literary efforts which require careful study, and there are some bits which make me wince stylistically, but when you want an easy, quick read they are good value.

I recently picked up five in the series at the library.

To Davy Jones Below is just a very readable mystery. Daisy and her new husband Alec  are on a cruise ship which hits stormy weather and murder. There is a limit to how many possible murderers there are, and there is much debate as to possible motives. I enjoyed Dunn’s playing with the Yorkshire accent, and her observations on those who are seasick are very funny. The body count is pretty high, and one death is a little drawn out, but still quite clever. There are some good characterisations and onboard moments, including the grumpy captain. A friend of mind wasn’t going to finish it before she went home, so I had to tell her what happened. It sort of made sense when I explained it, so was not too convoluted. Not quite in the class of last week’s  Susanna Gregory, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Mistletoe and Murder 

is set in an obscure bit of Cornwall (?) which is cut off by distance from most other possible suspects when there is a murder at Christmas. This book features a confusing family, which includes so interesting characters, to say the least. There are references to some obscure bits of historical artifacts, and the children are a bit unrealistic, but overall an interesting read even if it’s not quite the season.

Unlike the Gregory which I mentioned recently, this book is not an undertaking to read, but an interesting diversion for an evening. There are twenty books in the series so far, and Ms Dunn seems to be producing them very fast. I don’t  think that it matters if you read them out of order, so if you see one in a library or sale, it’s worth giving it a try.  They are not quite in the same league as the Golden age greats, and there are times when it is obvious that they are written by someone who has done the research rather than lived in the period, but as modern pastiches go, this is a consistent series with well established characters.

 

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