I’ve been reading a fluffy but fun little detective series by Carola Dunn. It follows 1920′s English girl reporter (okay, girl feature writer and photographer) Daisy Dalrymple. All she wants to do is write up big old houses for Town and Country. Instead she keeps stumbling over dead bodies and having family secrets confided to her. Fortunately, she also keeps running into Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard.
It’s a bizarre little series, if you think too hard about it. The atmosphere is house party mystery, but the actual crimes are much nastier and the sex and violence explained in a more contemporary way (though the people still act like they’re in a twenties mystery novel). It’s as if Nancy Drew suddenly started investigating serial killers and finding out that her neighbors were all sleeping around or coming out of the closet. Also, if Daisy wasn’t so much fun, she’d be a Mary Sue who needed neck-wringing. And it’s just plain weird to read historical novels set in an era from which you’re used to reading contemporary novels.
But Daisy is a lot of fun, as are all her supporting characters. The 1920′s setting is well done, with many of the implicit details of your normal house party being explicitly explained. (I for one was stunned when Peter Dickinson explained how the whole backstairs thing worked in country houses, and Dunn does a good job of explaining it in action.) The novels are extremely short, too. (I can read one in about an hour.) So if you want a nice read to take your mind off things, try Carola Dunn and Daisy Dalrymple. You’ll want to read them in order, though, since there is a continuing storyline.
There are two Daisy short stories at Belgrave House. Under “Free EBooks”, click on “Short Fiction”.
Dunn also writes Regencies (which she did before her mystery gig). I read one of them from the library, Angel. It was written back in the 80′s, so it’s probably not a fair representation of the lady’s style now, but it was okay writing and entertaining enough, even if the setting was dealt with a bit self-consciously.