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Fresh Blood

Name: Catriona McPherson

Title of Book: After the Armistice Ball

‘I look forward to reading more of the further adventures of Dandelion Gilver!’

Synopsis:

Dandy (Dandelion) Gilver is one of those very privileged women of the early 1920’s. The world is just getting over the atrocities of the First World War and people are hoping that nothing like it will ever happen again. The survival of many men is made more prominent by the Armistice Ball, which is thrown every year by the Gilver’s friends, Daisy and Silas. One of the most beguiling sights of the evening is Lena Duffy showing off the famous Duffy diamonds. Soon after the Armistice Ball, a scandal arises. The diamonds have been stolen and replaced with ones made of paste. Lena Duffy leads an attack against Daisy and Silas, saying the diamonds were stolen at their house when she stayed over the night after the Ball.

Dandy Gilver, bored now the war is over, has her services taken up by her friend, Daisy. Dandy must find the Duffy diamonds to get Daisy and Silas out of a tight spot. Soon after the scandal, a fire breaks out at the Duffy’s country cottage and one of the daughters, Cara, is pronounced dead. Soon, Dandy is caught up in a mystery surrounding the Duffy’s and the famous diamonds. Dandy teams up with Cara’s fiancé to find out what happened during the week the Duffy’s had been away. As they start to peel away the veneer of the Duffy family, they begin to find a labyrinth of lies and deception.

Review:

For many years we have been subjected to the intimate details of the autopsy room in most crime novels. We have all relished in the gruesome details of the post mortem. However, after being flooded with the same sorts of books, you can get a bit bored (?) and decide to reach for something different. It appears, in the last year, that a yearning for the Golden Age of crime writing has become quite prominent amongst many readers. There has been the success of David Roberts, and now we have Catriona McPherson who has given us a novel that even Dorothy L. Sayers would have been pleased with.

Dandy Gilver sounds just like a female Lord Peter Wimsey. She is slightly spoilt yet human at the same time, and definitely naïve with her privileged lifestyle. During the book Dandy does try to help out in Mrs. Marshall’s garden, but you can tell that manual labour is not Dandy’s cup of tea. Alec, Dandy’s partner in crime, is a perfect foil and I hope that he, too, will be in future novels. There are some lovely comedic moments, especially with Grant, Dandy’s lady in waiting. The writing can get a bit convoluted sometimes and the style does take some getting used to, but once you get into the plot you will very quickly be immersed in the chain of events that all happen in rapid succession. This looks set to be a series that will really take off and become very successful!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating


Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1.) What type of crime writing would you say you write?

This is set in 1922 and features an amateur detective so it’s squarely in the tradition of the English golden age (except Scottish).

2.) What type of crime do you prefer?? Series or standalone?

Series, I think. It’s striking that writers of good series often write some of the best standalone too. I’m thinking of Ruth Rendell and Harlan Coben among others.

3.) Have you always had ideas to write a crime novel?

Surprisingly no. I’ve always read them and always wanted to write, but it wasn’t until I noticed that my first novel (now deep in a drawer) had a puzzle in it that I thought of trying. I had always assumed that writing in a genre would hold you in too much. And it does to some extent, but it also holds you up, like a good sturdy corset (I imagine).

4.) What influenced you to write a crime novel in the first place?

Honestly? That first novel deep in a drawer and the knowledge that to make a living as a writer I was going to have to write something I could sell. I sat on a beach and worked it out in cold blood. What sells? Genre. What genre do I like? Crime. What crime do I wish there was more of? Golden age. Right, then. Chapter 1, page 1 . . . It doesn’t matter where the impetus comes from; the characters and the story soon take over.

5.) What is your favourite crime read of all time?

Can I have three? Appleby’s End (Michael Innes) The China Governess (Margery Allingham) and Surfeit of Lampreys (Ngaio Marsh). Each has a civilised veneer with a very creepy underbelly. I’m always expecting to hear that David Lynch has optioned Appleby’s End.

6.) Would you describe yourself as a Crime fan and if so, which authors do you most admire?

Yes indeed. A huge and not very coherent list. Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham, and Michael Innes are long-time favourites. I love the fast pace and belly laughs of people like Lisa Scottoline and Harlan Coben. The Forensics are always diverting, although there comes a point when you’re eating macaroni and cheese and reading a description of a maggoty corpse . . . Also, as a native of Edinburgh, I have a lot of time for the two views of the city from Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith. And there’s nothing like a hammock, a bag of Thornton’s truffles and a brand-new Minette Walters in hardback.

7.) Which camp do you fall into? Agatha Christie or Dorothy L. Sayers?

DLS every time. I would say Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot deserve their place in the common culture, but almost every character in Sayers’ novels is fully realised and interesting; no stock figures wheeled out to fulfil plot functions. And where else would you go to find out about change-ringing and the drainage of the fens?

8.) What is your favourite movie adaptation of a crime novel?

Slim pickings. Raymond Chandler? If I can stretch it to include all kinds of adaptations, I’d say the David Suchet Poirots on the telly – he’s scuppered that character for any other actor now.

9.) Without giving away the story, which book included your favourite plot twist of all time?

I’m not even going to hint at what it is, but it’s in The Judas Child by Carol O’Connell.

10.) Where do you see crime fiction going next?

In all directions, faster and faster, but I hope the different sub-genres stay connected. Joined at the reader, that is. It puzzles me when people have a check-list of required features for their reading; why would you want to make sure that a book had no surprises in store and wasn’t going to extend your boundaries in any way? You might as well watch the soaps.