Star-Crossed Lovers at Center of Mystery

"Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder"
by Catriona McPherson
Reviewed by
David Marshall James

Catriona McPherson's mysteries are as dense in bits and pieces as a High Street tearoom fruitcake, seeped in period Scottish flavor, and crowned with a generous dollop of humor.

Her title character, Dandy "Dandelion" Gilver, is the mother of grown children, wed to a country estate owner who is as fond of the outdoors as she is of drawing rooms, yet they share an understanding of one another's interests and often go off in preferred directions.

Thus, Dandy has banded with a neighbor, Alec Osborne, in detection-- two heads being better than one, particularly when one of them is male, this being the late 1920s.

Gilver and Osborne's latest case finds them in Dunfermline, Scotland, sorting through a most tangled web of personal histories concerning two department-store families: One owns Aitken's Emporium; the other, House of Hepburn.

Aitken's, the longer established of the two, tends toward the tweedy and practical. Hepburn's, however, leans toward the a la mode, more gold lame than flannel.

As Dandy discovers, if one desires a pair of black (gasp!) mousquetaires (opera gloves), one heads to House of Hepburn.

She has been summoned by the no-nonsense, bombazine-clad matriarch of the Aitken clan in order to locate her missing granddaughter, Mirren Aitken, who has fallen for Dugald Hepburn.

Ought the reader to be thinking along the plot line of "Romeo and Juliet"? Why, yes. Moreover, the story concentrates on Dandy's and Alec's shaking out the labyrinthine secrets of the Aitkens and Hepburns-- secrets that have borne bitter fruit into this most unfortunate generation that includes Mirren and Dugald.

McPherson's writing is concerned with the details, with the little odds and ends that bespeak a character's personality-- the furtive sigh, the stolen glance, the scratching behind the ear, the loose strand of hair. Her protagonist possesses quite the detective's eye for such signs and gestures, coupled with a persistence toward getting at the truth.of the matter, to the bottom of things.

While reading this latest "D.G." volume released in the U.S.-- these are first published in the U.K.-- we kept thinking what a jolly film could be made of this, with loads of plum-juicy parts.

For some reason, Glenn Close rises to the fore amongst our thoughts on possible "Dandy's".

Any thoughts thereon?