Monday, 19 August 2013

Book Review No.17: Murder on the Flying Scotsman

Apologies for the back-to-back book reviews if they're not really your thing, but I'm a bit behind with them (I'm currently reading book 20 of the year) and need to do some hasty catching up. All this time on my hands now I'm "retired"...

Set in the UK during the 1920s, this is a cosy crime series which differs from many, as I've mentioned in previous reviews, since most cozies (that I've read) are set in modern-day USA. The social constraints of the era are apparent as Daisy fights to be 'independent'; despite her mother's complaints, she is employed by a magazine to write about stately homes around the country, which is how she so often happens to be in the right place at the right time to help solve murder(s). The atmosphere of the 1920s is apparent in the language, behaviour, settings, etc throughout the series, making it a gentle read where the modern world (computers, mobile phones, even motor cars for the most part) does not intrude. I'm sure a historian of the 1920s would find fault with some part(s) of the book, but I enjoy the fact that we are taken back to a time when things seemed, even if they weren't actually, a little gentler and less frantic.

This is the fourth in the Daisy Dalrymple series and the story goes something like this: Daisy is off to Scotland aboard the Flying Scotsman train to visit a stately home as part of the research for her next magazine article. On board she bumps into an old school friend who is travelling with numerous family members to the deathbed of the scion of their family in the hope that they can persuade him to leave them his (supposed) fortune. Daisy becomes embroiled in the many and varied arguments between sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins as they pass up and down the train and pop in and out of her carriage. Before long one of the greedy clan ends up dead in mysterious circumstances and it's the stowaway daughter (that's a whole other strand to the story) of Daisy's "friend" Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher who finds the body. Needless to say, the entire group has to disembark the train and is ensconced in a hotel while the police (ie Alec and his trusty cohorts, who just happen to be in the area on business) try to solve the crime. There follows a possible attempt on Belinda's life, a clonk on the head for a local policeman, numerous interviews with the assorted ne'er-do-well family members plus their solicitor until, finally, the mystery is solved.

If you have a problem remembering characters, you may want to give this book a miss. There are a LOT of them and although the family tree at the beginning of the book does help with this, it can be a little tiresome having to constantly flick back to try and work out who's who. That said, it does make it harder to work out 'whodunnit' with such a cast to choose from, and with so many of them seeming to have a motive. The style is the same as with the other Daisy books: gentle, easy-to-read (numerous characters aside) and engaging, just so long as you are willing to suspend belief and simply enjoy the book/series for what it is.

If you are a fan of cosy crime books you might be interested to give this series a go; even if you're more au fait with Agatha Christie and/or Patricia Highsmith you might enjoy it, for the settings or time period as much as anything else (autopsies, finger prints and other detection methods are evolving which is interesting in itself), although I'm not sure the plots are anything to match those penned by Ms Christie.


  1. I'd probably say this isn't my kind of book but after reluctantly reading a P G Wodehouse (Friend insisted I try it) I think I'd really enjoy the information about detection in the 20's. I really enjoy your book review posts by the way.

    1. I agree, a book on how detection developed in the early part of the 20thC would be fascinating. Thanks for saying you like my book reviews!

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