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Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder by Catriona McPherson
Cover Artist: Jessica Hische
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250007377
Date: 22 May 2012 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Series Website / Show Official Info /

In post WWI Dunfermline, England, aristocratic PI Dandy Gilver is hired to locate Mirren Aitken, the missing heiress to a highly successful department store, Aitken Emporium. During the store's Jubilee celebration, a member of the Aitken family is murdered in the attic while hundreds of guests are enjoying the festivities in the lobby. Soon afterwards, a member of the Hepburn family (the owners of the rival department store, House of Hepburn) is found murdered at Aitken Emporium. While investigating the two murders, Dandy discovers that the Aitkens and Hepburns are embroiled in a vicious, most bizarre family feud--one involving adultery and incest.

Fans never know what to expect when reading one of Catriona McPherson's mysteries. Her novels are definitely sewn from a different pattern. Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder is a Romeo and Juliet-type tragedy involving two rival families--families that have been plagued by loneliness, lust, and greed for material possessions. It suffices for me to say that the family trees of these prominent families don't branch. They remind me of the constant, embittered feuding that existed between the Ewing and Barnes families on the megahit primetime soap opera, Dallas. Each family has a matriarch or a patriarch that controls it; in this novel, they are Mary Goudie Aitken and Robert Hepburn.

In Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder, the mystery takes a backseat to the soap opera-like corruption that Dandy and her sleuthing pal, Alec Osbourne, must wade through in order to identify the murderer. Towards the novel's end, it is another character who actually takes credit for solving the mystery. Basically, Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder is a fascinating exposition on how women must be strong when coping with loneliness, abandonment, widowhood, and adultery. It describes the lengths to which women will endeavor to protect their offspring and avenge the shame and degradation that they have suffered. While investigating the Aitkens and Hepburns, Dandy reveals personal aspects of her own family and upbringing, especially ones pertaining to death, which are quite interesting.

Dandy's husband Hugh makes a brief, but startling, appearance in which he chivalrously and bravely defends her honor. The reader learns that he merely tolerates her PI work because it provides him with extra income for his lavish lifestyle. Bunty, her adorable Dalmatian, is brought to Dunfermline; she provides much comfort to ailing members of the Aitken household; they hate to see her leave. There is some comic relief provided by the playful bickering between Dandy and her boy pal Alec.

When reading a Catriona McPherson novel, one feels as though they are actually reading a classic that is set in the early nineteen hundreds. She expertly depicts the clothing, customs, and language of the citizens of bustling Dunfermline, which must have had a growing, prosperous population in order to support two major department stores. However, the British terms that are often used in this novel are sometimes archaic and obscure; they may frustrate American readers such as me. I had to frequently research words on my iPhone's Webster's dictionary app. Also, the fact that numerous characters were referred to by several names was often confusing. Gratefully, in the front of the book, McPherson provides family trees for both rival families; I had this page bookmarked and was frequently referring back to it in order to keep family members straight.

If you enjoy a heart-rending, highly emotional, soap-opera like, turn-of-the-century mystery, then I recommend Catriona McPherson's cleverly written Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder. I didn't quite enjoy it as much as her previous novel, Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains, in which her life was constantly in peril and the murderer used a most bizarre method for dispatching his/her victims; also, the body count was slightly higher. Nevertheless, Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder provides enough soap opera-like revelations that will shock even the most jaded fans of Maury Povich and other racy talk show hosts. McPherson's novel would have been more appropriately titled Who is Mirren's Father?

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