‘Dandy Gilver & A Spot of Toil & Trouble’ by Catriona McPherson

Scotland, 1934.
Aristocratic private detective Dandy Gilver arrives at Castle Bewer, at midsummer, to solve the tangled mystery of a missing man, a lost ruby and a family curse.

The Bewer family’s latest wheeze to keep the wolf from the door is turning the castle keep into a theatre. While a motley band of players rehearse Macbeth, the Bewers themselves prepare lectures, their faithful servants set up a tearoom, and the guest wings fill with rich American ladies seeking.

Meanwhile, Dandy and her sidekick Alec Osborne begin to unravel the many secrets of the Bewers and find that, despite the witches, murders and ghosts onstage, it’s behind the scenes where the darkest deeds are done.

I had the great fortune of meeting Catriona McPherson last year when she came to an event at Darlington library with Ann Cleeves (who writes the Vera and the Shetland books just in case you didn’t know).  Both are really lovely people.  Catriona described her character of Dandy Gilver, who immediately sounded just like my kind of female lead but more about that later.  When I was invited to take part in the blog tour for ‘Dandy Gilver & A Spot Of Toil & Trouble’, I immediately said yes and boy oh boy I am so glad that I did.

I don’t want to write too much about the plot as I have a nasty (but unintentional) habit of giving far too much away about books that I have really enjoyed.  I certainly enjoyed this one.  Dandy Gilver and her sidekick Alec Osborne are invited to Castle Bewer to try to locate a missing man, a missing piece of rather valuable jewellery and to investigate an alleged ‘family curse’.  At the same time a travelling theatre arrive to put on a production at Castle Bewer, which is set to raise some much needed pennies for the family coffers.  Will Dandy & Alec find the jewellery?  Will they find the missing man?  Is there really a family curse on the Bewers? Well for the answers to those questions and more you are just going to have to read the book for yourself to find out as I am not going to tell you.

I absolutely and totally loved the character of Dandy Gilver.  She is one feisty lady, who pulls no punches and doesn’t beat around the bush.  She says it how it is.  Dandy is a very independent and aristocratic woman, who is a private detective.  As she is of the same class or standing as the Bewers, the Bewers don’t feel so bad about talking to her and because they are so relaxed with her, Dandy thinks that they might let something slip that would otherwise have remained a secret.  I am not sure if Dandy became a private detective because she wants to seek justice for victims of crime or to give her something to do and a licence to snoop into other peoples’ private lives.  Dandy comes out with some really funny lines, which made me chuckle or cough and splutter because I couldn’t believe what I had read.    She has a close working relationship with Alec Osborne, which is a good thing since he is part of the crime fighting duo.  Both Dandy and Alec become caught up in the whole production and assume acting roles in the company’s production of Macbeth.  I also loved the role of Cordelia Grant, who is the maid to Dandy Gilver.  She gets on really well with Dandy and views her as a friend.  Grant has an ambitious view of her own role within the detective agency but if Dandy feels that Grant is getting too big for her boots, she gives her a reality check and a gentle reminder not to get ideas above her station.  Grant also has a knack of making people talk even if at first they don’t want to.  She gets to know the servants at Bewer Hall and let’s face it if you want to know the real gossip in the upper classes of society, then ask the servants.  Dandy Gilver, Alec Osborne and Cordelia Grant make a fantastic team.

In my opinion ‘Dandy Gilver & A Spot Of Toil & Trouble’ is very well written.  This is more of a cozy mystery rather than a blood and guts story, which is a nice refreshing change. Catriona McPherson managed to grab my attention from the very first word on the very first page and kept my attention throughout the book without losing me halfway through.  Reading this book became an addiction to me as I just had to read on to see if Dandy solved the case and to see if there really was a family curse.  The pages were almost turning themselves and turned so quickly that before I knew it I had finished the book.  The story is uncomplicated to follow although there are there are the introductions of a lot of characters, which can initially be confusing but you soon realise who is who.  I wouldn’t say that there are stomach churning moments but there are still lots of twists and turns.

‘Dandy Gilver & A Spot Of Toil & Trouble’ can be read as a standalone but there are a lot of references to past events, which only make sense if you have read the series from the beginning and in order- something which I now fully intend to do.

In short I really enjoyed reading ‘Dandy Gilver & A Spot Of Toil & Trouble’ and I would definitely recommend it to others.  This book has the perfect mix of mystery, drama and intrigue with more than a dash of humour.  I can’t wait to read more from this hugely talented, very funny and very nice author.   I award this book 4* out of 5*.




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