Death at Wentwater Court, set in 1923, introduces the Honorable Daisy Dalrymple in her new job as a magazine writer for _Town and Country_. Left without an inheritance when her late father, broken up over the death of his only son and heir at Flanders during the Great War, neglected to change his will to leave anything to his single daughter, Daisy prefers to work (unheard of for an Honorable of her time!) to support herself rather than rely on the charity of the distant cousin who has now inherited the title of Viscount Dalrymple. So she has parlayed her honorary title to convince the venerable magazine to hire her to write about the estates of the aristocracy, and the first estate she has chosen to cover, Wentwater Court, is full of intrigue.
The Wentwater family have been entertaining the “utter cad” Lord Stephen Atwick, who is openly chasing the very young and beautiful new Mrs. Wentwater, whom Daisy thinks is either his lover or blackmail victim. When Lord Stephen is found dead, floating in a hole in the ice of the lake, at first everyone writes the death off as an accident until Daisy produces photographs that show the marks of an ax that created the hole, forcing the death to be declared a homicide. Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher from Scotland Yard is called in as a discreet man to investigate the crime.
This book is a decent start to this now long-running series, full of color from the “Roaring 20s,” with slang of the era tossed about frequently, such as “spiffing,” and “topping” and discussion of fads of the day.
The book establishes Daisy’s character as a “modern young thing” of the 20s, being daring enough to forge a career for herself, something that shocks most people she encounters but impresses Alec, who does not take her analysis of the murder seriously until learning that she is not the flighty girl he has imagined but a serious working woman. The solution to the murder was not completely satisfying to me, but it does a lot to establish the characters of Daisy and Alec, between whom sparks start to fly despite their difference in class and the disapproval of most everyone else. The book does serve to establish the foundation of the series, which grows much stronger and more enjoyable as it continues.
It is also available to listen to on Audible, narrated by Bernadette Dunne. She does a good job of narration. But of the 12 books in the series that are available on audio, there are three different narrators, and that is not as satisfying, especially since they pronounce some words, especially names, differently. The audio publisher really should have made more of an effort to keep the narration more consistent.
In conclusion, this book is an enjoyable cozy mystery, with a fun portrayal of the flavor of life in the Roaring 20s and a good introduction to the rest of the series. I give the plot and narration 3 stars but the book as a whole 4 stars.
Death At Wentwater Court: The First Daisy Dalrymple Mystery (Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries) is available now in bookstores and libraries. To order from Amazon, click the link in the title.