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Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains by Catriona McPherson
Cover Artist: Jessica Hische
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312654184
Date: 16 August 2011 List Price $23.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Series Website / Show Official Info /

In 1926s Edinburg, England, the aristocratic, sleuthing Dandy Gilver masquerades as Fanny Rossiter. She goes undercover as a ladies maid to the wealthy Lollie Balfour of 31 Heriot Row. Lollie claims her evil, philandering husband, Pip Balfour, wants to murder her. On Dandy's first night in the mansion, someone fatally stabs Pip in the neck. 31 Heriot Row was locked up tight as a submarine; therefore, all suspicion falls on Lollie and the multitude of servants living in the subbasement. Because of a coalminers' strike, only Superintendent Hardy can thoroughly investigate Pip's murder; he must rely heavily upon Dandy's help. When a servant is later murdered, Dandy realizes a malevolent serial killer is dwelling among them.

I was delighted to discover that critics and fans were correct upon stating that Catriona McPherson's Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains reads like an Agatha Christie novel. Christie was an expert at planting red herrings; exuding a creepy, deceptive atmosphere; creating strange, peculiar characters; and plotting multiple murders that led to a chilling, unsuspected revelation. The bizarre, atrocious stabbing of Pip Balfour mesmerized me from beginning to end. Everyone seemed happy and relieved that he was dead. No one wanted the killer brought to justice. Each servant had a horrid tale about how Pip abused him/her. However, as Dandy investigates, she discovers discrepancies that make her doubt the truthfulness of those around her.

Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains reads like a period piece. McPherson must have spent a great deal of time studying British history, especially that which pertains to pre-World War II. The novel reminded me of the classics I read during my high school and university years. McPherson convincingly describes, in minute detail, period clothing, furnishings, architecture, dialects, customs, politics, class distinctions, etc. Not only is the setting very realistic but so are the characters. I grew not only to admire the crafty, humorous Dandy Gilver but also Lollie and, especially, the servants. They worked together well, protecting each other like a close knit family. I didnít want one of the servants to be the killer, especially after discovering how beastly Pip treated them.

Unfortunately, there is a wolf among the sheep--someone pretending to be a friend when they are an enemy. No one is safe at 31 Heriot Row. Dandy, with the help of her friend, Alec Osbourne, who is eventually able to reach her despite the coalminers' strike, must differentiate lies from truths. The introduction of an adorable boy, Mattie MacGibney (the youngest member of a poor coal mining family) and the addition of two frolicsome canines (Dandyís Dalmatian, Bunty, and Alec's Spaniel, Millie) provide the novel with added appeal. Also, unlike the Agatha Christie mysteries, there is the inclusion of much welcomed dark humor, which often made me laugh aloud with hilarity. For example, after Pip's murder, when the servants are preparing to dine, Dandy interpreted their prayer to mean they are relieved that master is dead and hope his killer is not punished.

Fans of Agatha Christie, the Grand Dame of the cozy English murder mystery, will enjoy Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains. This is the first novel I've read in the series and I look forward to reading more. Catriona McPherson provided enough background information for me to easily leap headfirst into the series. Hopefully, Minotaur will publish the seriesí previous novels, some of which are already out of print and demanding a high price on the secondary market. Her next novel, Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder, is tentatively scheduled to be published in July of 2012. Once again, multiple murders and dark humor ensue when Dandy goes undercover as a servant to locate a missing heiress.

Furthermore, if the hilarious high jinks of female sleuths are your cup of tea, then I strongly suggest reading the misadventures of Parnell Hall's Cora Felton and M.C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin. These two ladies appear, respectively, in The KenKen Killings and As The Pig Turns.

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