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Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses by Catriona McPherson
Cover Artist: Jessica Hische
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250028907
Date: 19 November 2013 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

A childhood friend, Pearl Lipscott, asks Dandy Gilver to investigate her sister Fleur. When she was a child, the rambunctious Fleur was the proverbial life of the party. Now she lives like a cloistered nun, working as a schoolmistress at St. Columba's in Portpatrick, Scotland. When Dandy and her sleuthing partner, Alec Osbourne, arrive at St. Columba's, they find a foreboding mansion sitting on the edge of a sea cliff; it is a hotbed of corruption among its students and staff. When the body of a drowned woman washes ashore, Fleur swears she murdered her and flees. Dandy and Alec learn that Fleur may be responsible for a series of gruesome deaths spanning decades.

If the reader has patience, they will fine Catriona McPherson's latest novel, Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses, a very intriguing, bizarre mystery. The setting is superb: an enormous, creepy mansion, with a maze of rooms, which sits precariously on a cliff, overlooking a treacherous ocean. The girls school reminded me of Collinwood on the classic Gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows. There is also the secluded, quaint fishing village of Portpatrick where the superstitious, gossipy peasants are accustomed to discovering drowned bodies. The creepy mansion, jagged cliffs, crashing waves, and cold ocean combine to create an ominous atmosphere.

There is also an unusual assortment of characters. It is obvious that Fleur Lipscott is mentally unbalanced due to the death of her father, the Major, during WWI; she suffers from delusions. Another strange bird is the bipolar Ivy Shanks, the head mistress; one moment she is speaking merrily in silly rhymes and the next she is cold, blunt, and harsh. The students lounge around as though at a resort while the overtaxed schoolmistresses labor as though at a prison. Fleur's family is an extremely wealthy, but eccentric, one consisting mostly of ladies who are well past the bloom of their youth and dwell too much, like many of us, in a rose-tinted past.

Set in the 1920s, Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses is a historical mystery. With its archaic, antiquated language, it reads like one of the classics I had to study in high school and college. Nevertheless, I must applaud McPherson in having undergone extensive research in making me feel as though I was reading a British mystery that was written in the 1920s. The details given to dress, social etiquette, and technology, or lack of, are extraordinary. I found it laughable that the girls at St. Columba's detested reading Silas Marner. I, on the other hand, found it extremely entertaining when I read it at their age. To each his own.

Fans of historical mysteries and old-fashioned whodunits will enjoy Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses (following Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder and Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains). The pacing could have been faster if there had been more corpses discovered during the present day. Most of the suspicious deaths occur in the past. The title made me hope for a high body count mystery thriller involving a vicious serial killer. I was sorely mistaken. Nevertheless, I was rewarded with a very satisfying whodunit that was both intriguing and creepy. Friends Dandy Gilver and Alec Osbourne make a likable sleuthing pair. I hope to see them together in future installments of Catriona McPherson's popular series.

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