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A Deadly Measure of Brimstone (Dandy Gilver) by Catriona McPherson
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250053978
Date: 18 November 2014 List Price $26.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

In Scotland, 1928, aristocratic wife, Dandy Gilver, deceives her ailing family into renting a house near the Hydro Hotel in Moffat. While they are away, Dandy is having their mansion, the Gilverton, outfitted with central heating. However, she and her sleuthing partner, Alec Osborne, are also investigating the mysterious death of an elderly, rotund patient, Enid Addie, at the Hydro. During the day, patients are treated to steam baths and massages. At night, the Hydro turns into a casino. To complicate the investigation, numerous mediums from as far away as London are descending upon the hotel to study the ghosts that may have caused Addie's death.

Also by Catriona McPherson:
Dandy Gilver Mysteries:
* Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains
* Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder
* Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses
* A Deadly Measure of Brimstone
* The Reek of Red Herrings

I've read several novels from Catriona McPherson's popular Dandy Gilverton mysteries (Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains, Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder, and Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses); her latest one, A Deadly Measure of Brimstone is one of the most macabre. I was thrilled to have read it during Halloween when I spend a lot of time dwelling on the supernatural. A Deadly Measure of Brimstone speaks of ghosts, sťances, mediums, etc. Dandy and Alec visit every haunted attraction in the village of Moffat. Dandy even has one of her devoted servants, Grant, don a cloak and turban and pretend she is a medium, with hilarious consequences. Furthermore, in this novel, readers will learn more about Dandy's family, including her husband Hugh and her two young sons, Donald and Teddy.

A Deadly Measure of Brimstone depicts the treatment of arthritis and other ailments using hot water springs in the 1920s. The novel is narrated in the first person from the point of view of the main character, Dandelion "Dandy" Gilver, and reads as though it was written by someone who lived around the turn of the century. Some of the language is too colloquial and archaic for modern readers but lends a feeling of authenticity. The plot moves along at a steady and unnerving pace.

The two most interesting characters are the brother and sister, Thomas "Tot" Laidlaw and Dr. Dorothea "Dot" Laidlaw. Each one has their own agenda for the hotel that has fallen into their hands since their father's death. Each one has a version of the truth concerning the mysterious death of Enid Addie. Because there are two Laidlaws, there are always two versions of everything. Complicating matters is Alec's growing attachment for Dr. Dot Laidlaw. His feelings may be clouding his judgment.

Like many Gothic mansions (remember Collinwood of Dark Shadows fame?), the Hydro Hotel has a secret room that is forbidden. There is also a mysterious stranger, Loveday Merrick--a famous medium who has quite a legion of strange followers; he is not who he appears to be. A creepy staff of nurses, a dysfunctional brother and sister, and ghost stories based on Scotland's notorious William Burke and William Hare make A Deadly Measure of Brimstone a macabre mystery. A fiery disaster is the icing on a superb cake.

Fans of historical mysteries and fans of Agatha Christie will be thrilled to learn how Enid Addie died from A Deadly Measure of Brimstone.

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