Written by Catriona McPherson — The Dandy Gilver series first entered the historical crime arena back in July 2005 with After the Armistice. The book was set in Perthshire shortly after World War I as Britain moved into the 1920s and looked back on the devastation of the War. It was shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger in the year of its release but was pipped at the post by CJ Sansom’s Dark Fire. However, Dandy Gilver has continued to grow in popularity, gathering a multitude of accolades along the way.
In A Deadly Measure of Brimston it’s September 1929, the Roaring 20s are drawing to a close, and the Wall Street crash is just weeks away. In Perthshire, private detective Dandy and her partner in crime Alec Osborne have just been instructed to investigate the circumstances behind an old woman’s death at a hydropathic hotel in the Scottish border town of Moffat.
For Dandy, the timing couldn’t be more fortuitous. Husband Hugh and their two teenaged sons have been struck down with various strains of man flu and she has secretly planned some drastic plumbing works for their old homestead. A few weeks spent taking the waters and recuperating at Laidlaw’s Hydropathic Hotel could be just the thing. Oblivious to her ulterior motives for their removal, the family arrives at their new billet with Hugh deciding to take up residence at the hotel, where Alec is already ensconced.
Before long it’s apparent that all is not well between Tot and Dorothea Laidlaw – the brother and sister duo running the spa. Furthermore, Dandy isn’t inclined to believe that the lady who died was taken by natural causes. Something just doesn’t ring true about the explanation for her death. Where are her missing clothes and handbag? Then there’s the rumours… ghosts haunting the whole area. Was Mrs Addie quite literally frightened to death?
As they delve deeper into the goings on at the Hydro it becomes clear that the Laidlaws are at war over how to run it, and that the business is on the brink of collapse. Tot is secretly running an after hours casino, which would explain all the bright young things gadding about the place. Not to mention the fact that the area is swarming with ghost hunters hoping to catch a glimpse of the infamous body snatcher, William Hare, swinging from one of the trees on the hill. Behind the façade is a massive cover up, and Mrs Addie is right at the centre of it, but why?
This is Dandy and Alec’s eighth outing in what is a highly entertaining series, and it’s very easy to understand why it’s become so popular. Dandy is at the heart of the novel as its narrator. You’ll see everything through her eyes and follow her train of thought, which adds to the enjoyment as you soak up the atmosphere she creates. There are also one or two comic moments, such as her maid, Grant, who she has enlisted to infiltrate the ghost hunters, pretending to commune with the spirits and using her theatrical talents to create voices for her spooky cast. As a bonus there’s a rather naughty recipe for Mrs Tilling’s tablet (toffee) included at the back of the book, which is a must try. Might we suggest it’s best served with a pot of leaf tea and this thoroughly enjoyable read?
Hodder & Stoughton
CFL Rating: 5 Stars