The Daisy Dalrymple series continues in Heirs of the Body—when one of four potential claimants to the title of Lord Dalrymple dies a sudden, nasty death, the question on everyone’s mind is, “was it murder”?
In the late 1920s in England, The Honourable Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher is recruited to help her cousin Edgar — i.e. the Lord Dalrymple. About to turn fifty, Lord Dalrymple decides it is time to find out who would be the heir to the viscountcy. With the help of the family lawyer, who advertises Empire-wide, they have come up with four potential claimants. For his fiftieth birthday, Edgar invites those would-be heirs — along with Daisy and the rest of the family — to Fairacres, the family estate.
In the meantime, Daisy is asked to be the family’s representative at the lawyer’s interviews with the claimants. Those four are a hotelier from Scarborough, a diamond merchant from South Africa, a young mixed-raced boy from Trinidad, and a sailor from Jamaica. However, according to his very pregnant wife, the sailor has gone missing.
Daisy and Alec must uncover a conspiracy if they are going to stop the killing in the latest from the accomplished master of the genre, Carola Dunn.
Entailed estates and the British primogeniture laws are always good mystery fodder, and Dunn takes full advantage of them in Heirs of the Body, the latest mystery featuring Daisy Fletcher nee Dalrymple. Series fans will remember that Daisy’s father was the previous Lord Dalrymple; on her brother’s death in World War I, her schoolmaster cousin Edgar inherited, and Daisy and her mother lost their home. But Edgar and his wife Geraldine are childless, so a search must be made for the next heir. This means going back several generations in search of a living male descendant. The trouble is, there are four claimants. So Edgar, Lord Dalrymple invites them all to stay at Fairacres while efforts are made to sort things out.
I really enjoyed this installment of the series. While the genealogical details were occasionally hard to follow (I highly recommend taking notes!), I loved several of the characters. Geraldine and Edgar are much more sympathetic characters than I expected them to be — particularly Edgar, with his almost obsessive interest in lepidopterology. For all his apparent absentmindedness, though, Edgar is no fool. The children figure prominently throughout the book, particularly the trio made up of Alec and Daisy’s Belinda, Daisy’s nephew Derek, and young Ben, a charming Jamaican. Ben’s stepfather can be charming, but I kept wondering if there were anything sinister behind the charm.
The mystery is as much “who is the real heir” as “is someone trying to injure or kill the other claimants,” and in fact, apart from one death which may or may not be accidental, violence and mayhem are pretty mild throughout the book. What keeps things interesting are the disparate personalities — snooty Anglo-French hotelier Vincent, arrogant South African diamond dealer Raymond, and cheerful young Ben are the three claimants in residence, along with Vincent’s wife Laurette and Ben’s stepfather Frank. The whereabouts of the fourth claimant, Sam, a sailor whose pregnant wife is also at Fairacres, are yet another mystery; he’s gone missing somewhere in the Atlantic or Caribbean. Add in Daisy’s mother, the Dowager Lady Dalrymple, utterly self-centered and far too aware of her rank and class; Martha, the aforesaid Sam’s rather timid wife; and of course Daisy and her detective husband, and you’re in for an entertaining house party indeed.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Category: Cozy mystery
Series: Daisy Dalrymple #21
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release date: Dec. 10, 2013
Book source: Public library
About the author:
Carola Dunn is the author of more than 30 Regency romances, as well as 24 mysteries. Her Daisy Dalrymple mystery series is set in England in the 1920s. She also writes a series set in 1960s Cornwall.
Ms. Dunn was born and grew up in England, where she got a B.A. in Russian and French from Manchester University. She traveled as far as Fiji before returning to settle in California. After 30 years in the US, she says she still sounds as if she arrived a month ago. Ms. Dunn now lives in Oregon.
Prior to writing, Ms. Dunn’s various jobs included market research, child-care, construction–from foundation trenches to roofing–and writing definitions for a dictionary of science and technology. She wrote her first novel in 1979, a Regency which she sold to Warner Books. (biography adapted from Goodreads)