The Turning Tide by Catriona McPherson – A Dandy Gilver Mystery in a Coastal Village
It is 1936, and Dandy Gilver, private detective working with her trusted colleague Alec, is pulled away from her full time duties as a grandmother to undertake another case. It is an unusual one, not concerning murder or mayhem, but a young woman behaving strangely. This book, like several others in this series, involves Dandy and Alec immersing themselves in a community that is unsure of what to make of them, demonstrating local prejudices and suspicions that make their lives more difficult. This book is the latest in a series, but can easily be read as a standalone or out of sequence; like the others it demonstrates Dandy coming to terms with the Scottish life she has married into and Alec, a platonic best friend with whom she enjoys total trust. Their shared dialogue is always entertaining, and Dandy peppers her conversation with modern phrases picked up from her sons, to whom she is deeply attached and fearful for in case of another war. Her husband Hugh is obsessed with his estate and agricultural matters, but can still surprise with his help. As they struggle with accommodation, meals and more, Dandy and Alec must find out why a ferry woman will not carry passengers, and what is really going on in a small Scottish village on the coast.
When Dandy discovers that she is to become a grandmother, she is not prepared for the huge commitment of time and energy it will take, but she is as always helped by her friend Alec. When the third call for help comes from a Reverend Hogg, she decides that her daughter in laws plan for an enormous picnic can proceed without her help, so she willingly packs her bags and goes to Crammond with Alec. They soon discover that the local cause for concern is a woman, Vesper Kemp, who managed to retain her late father’s role as ferry keeper, but who has recently started behaving very oddly. The local clergyman has his own agenda, but there are two women, Miss Speir and Miss Lumley who have mixed feelings about the case. When Alec and Dandy meet Vesper, she is indeed behaving very oddly and seems frightened. The locals seem to have mixed feelings about her, and there are several odd happenings which confuse Dandy and Alec. There are students in the area with a strange fixation with potatoes, men with an unusual reason for being in the area, and two public houses with different clientele. When a young man’s fate is also questioned, Alec and Dandy must make every effort to discover the truth as soon as possible, even though there is danger in the finding out.
This is a lively and engaging book with some endearing characters, vivid descriptions of everything ranging from food to village life, and a delightful excursion to Edinburgh. This book explains a lot about the way Scottish people lived in the interwar period, the variants of class and money, and the shadows of the rise of Hitler. I greatly enjoyed this book, and always anticipate with pleasure reading another episode of adventures of Dandy and Alec. I was so pleased to read this book, and recommend this series to anyone who enjoys fairly gentle mystery novels.
This is the fourteenth book in the series, and if you have not discovered Dandy and her family yet, you have a real treat in store! I have really enjoyed all of them, learning a lot about life in Scotland in the first half of the twentieth century, and some really funny incidents as Dandy struggles with the pretensions of her maid and the fixed views of her husband.
In other news, I am starting a re read (after about twenty years) of “A Suitable Boy”. Yes, it’s only a few pages so far, but its a big book! I have watched the first couple of episodes and think it is beautifully filmed and usefully simplifies a complex story. I’ll let you know how it goes!