In The Winter Garden Mystery, the second book in the Daisy Dalrymple series by Carola Dunn, Daisy takes off for Occles Hall for her second article about the homes of the aristocracy that she is writing. It doesn’t take long before Daisy, who soon gets a reputation at Scotland Yard for “falling over bodies,” is once again at the scene of the discovery of a murdered person. This time they find the body of Grace Moss, the former parlor maid of Occles Hall buried in the winter garden at the hall. She is dug up from under a dead tree by Owen Morgan, the undergardener who had been walking out with her.
A big scandal ensues when the medical examiner announces at the inquest that Grace had been three months pregnant at the time of her death. Terrified of Lady Valeria, the local police refuse even to interview the people at the Hall and, for expediency, arrest Owen, more because he is a “foreigner,” hailing from the far-off British land of Wales and thus less able to defend himself, than because they have any proof.
So enters Daisy on her high horse, first demanding that the police release Owen and then, when that has no effect, calling her friend Chief Detective Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard. Normally the Met would not involve itself in such a case, but learning that Daisy, whose meddling he learned to fear in Death at Wentwater Court is the one requesting it, the assistant chief commissioner inveigles a minor request for assistance to send Alec to Occles Hall to deal with things.
I found this book stronger than the first, with a better organized plot. It continues to have great round characters, both reuniting us with old friends and introducing us to new ones. As the series progresses, the plots improve dramatically, but Dunn tends to fall back on a lot of clichés that she has coined rather than find new ways to describe things. Going back to the earlier books in the series after having read almost all of the 22 currently available, I was pleased to discover that Dunn hardly used any of these.
I also did not find the sometimes excessive use of 1920’s slang as annoying as I did in the previous book. Perhaps Dunn uses it less, or maybe she does a better job of making it fit more seamlessly into the books. Whatever the case, the book gives a nice sense of the era without appearing as forced as it was sometimes in the first book.
As in Death at Wentwater Court, Bernadette Dunne provides the narration for this book. She does a good job, but as I pointed out in my review of the prior book, having three different people narrate and letting each decide how she wants to pronounce names leads to some annoyance on the part of the listener.
Overall, The Winter Garden Mystery is a strong sequel to Death at Wentwater Court and deserves four stars. But stay tuned because the series really improves as it gains momentum!
The Winter Garden Mystery: A Daisy Dalrymple Mystery (Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries) is available in multiple formats. To order from Amazon, click the link in the title. You may also find it at your local bookstore or library!