Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Book Review No.9: Dead in the Water (cosy time again)

The blurb from the back reads:
"July 1923, and Daisy has been invited by an American magazine to cover the Henley Regatta. But unknown to her, she steps right into a class war between two members of the Oxford rowing team. Cox Horace Bott - a shopkeeper's son and scholar student - has always hated rower Basil Delancy - younger son of an earl and all-round cad and bully. And after a particularly brutal public humiliation by Delancy, Bott swears revenge - so when Delancy keels over and dies mid-race, it would seem he's made good on his promise.
Yet Daisy isn't convinced, and with the help of her fiance Det Insp Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard, she dives into a tangled web of jealousies and secrets, where appearances are everything and good breeding may just be a cover for a killer intent on keeping Daisy mum forever..."

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 main character is Daisy Dalrymple, a fairly well-to-do young lady fighting against the social constraints of the era 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 sixth in the Daisy Dalrymple series and the story goes something like this: Daisy is the guest of her aunt at the latter's manor house in Henley during the Regatta. Also staying at the house is one of the many rowing teams, the members of which appear not to get on particularly well. When one of them dies in the middle of a race, and in the middle of the Thames, it's up to Daisy and her fiance Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard to find the culprit.

This has been my least favourite of the series so far. Such a pity as I was really looking forward to reading a book set in a town where I used to live. I did enjoy the references to the town (especially trying to work out whether the author had the geography right) and the Regatta (you can't live in Henley without knowing about the Regatta and all the goings-on surrounding it), but the story was pretty dire. There were way too many similar characters, quite a lot of whom were surplus to requirements, so that was confusing; the plot was a bit wobbly; Daisy was pretty annoying throughout, and actually the rest of the characters were either frustrating or nothing-y (great use of descriptive words there.) I do hope the next in the series is a great improvement on this one as I do generally enjoy them a lot. 

As I've said before when reviewing the Daisy books, 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.

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