Review: The Winter Garden Mystery by Carola Dunn
In this second installment of Carola Dunn’s cozy mystery series set in 1923 England, plucky Daisy Dalrymple embarks on another assignment for Town and Country magazine and discovers that daffodil bulbs aren’t all that’s buried in a country estate’s flower bed….
The merest hint of spring has arrived in Cheshire, and so has Daisy Dalrymple. The feisty flapper is a breath of fresh air to the occupants of gloomy Occles Hall, among them her former school chum, wallflower Bobbie Parslow, and the thorny mistress of the manor, Lady Valeria. While photographing the barren grounds behind the house, Daisy suspects someone has been digging amidst the soil’s first green shoots — and promptly unearths the corpse of Grace Moss, the missing parlor maid. So begins a harrowing romp as the dead woman’s shocking secret is revealed — leaving Daisy to catch a killer before she’s pushing up daisies…
The Daisy Dalrymple mysteries came to my attention around a year ago and I kept wanting to read them – I love mysteries set in the 1920s. But I could never find the first few books in the series and I didn’t know if they could be read out of order.
I finally got my hands on The Winter Garden Mystery – the second book in the series – and I really enjoyed every single minute. Before I get to the plot I’ll just mention that it is a shame that I didn’t try harder to find the first book in the series, Death at Wentwater Court (out of print on most sites but available via the Book Depository) because Dunn doesn’t give you much background information about Daisy, Alec or any of the other characters who might be series “regulars” in The Winter Garden Mystery. I did sometimes feel like I was missing something in the story, especially in scenes involving Daisy and Detective Alec Fletcher.
Our story begins with the Honorable Daisy Dalrymple heading out to visit Occles Hall to do a piece for Town and Country magazine. Like many in her social stratum, she is suffering from a lack of funds and so has taken on a job as a writer. Yet when she arrives at Occles Hall it is revealed that while she’s been invited by her old school friend Bobby (short for Barbara), the Lady of the Manor is less than pleased to see her.
Valeria rules her house and her family with an iron fist – her husband lets her to make all the decisions, her son and daughter are stuck under her thumb, the village believes her word is law and even the local authorities prefer to stay on her good side. So when she decides she dislikes Daisy on sight (ladies of quality shouldn’t be working you know!) Daisy’s visit seems to be about to be cut short. And then she accidentally discovers (with the help of the assistant gardener) a body in the winter garden…
Now Lady Valeria really wants her to leave, but when the local police pin the murder – of former parlor maid and loose woman Grace Moss – on the assistant gardener and close the case before they even look into any other possible suspect, Daisy is determined to stay and find the real killer, even if that means annoying Lady Valeria.
With that purpose in mind she calls Scotland Yard’s Inspector Fletcher, who she befriended in Death at Wentwater Court. Alec knows what Daisy is like and decides to take over the case.
What follows is a fun and yes, ‘cosy’ read: Daisy is a wonderful lead who doesn’t have those annoying ‘I’ll just stick my nose in no matter who I endanger’ moments. She helps with the case in a believable way and brings out the best (and the very worst in some cases) in the supporting characters.
The other storyline – Daisy’s friendship with Alec Fletcher is just pure reading-goodness and I was seriously peeved off with myself over my stupidity in not working harder to find Death at Wentwater Court – a mistake I have now rectified. I luvs you Book Depository.
If Winter Garden Mystery is what this series is like, it is definitely going on my favorites shelf.