With Dead in the Water, the sixth book in Carola Dunn’s Daisy Dalrymple series, Daisy visits her aunt’s house to cover the social events at the Henley-on-Thames regatta, where her cousin’s rowing team for Ambrose College of Oxford is competing. She discovers that the team of 8 has personal conflicts, with the Honourable Basil Delancy going out of his way to be rude to everyone but especially to the cox Horace Bott, who has just graduated with a first (the Oxford version of our summa cum laude) in both science and math, for being the son middle-class son of a shopkeeper instead of aristocracy as Delancy is.
So when Delancy falls over dead in the middle of his race, the victim of an attack to his head that could have happened anytime in the previous few days, everyone assumes that Bott must be responsible. Alec Fletcher, Daisy’s fiance and a Detective Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard, has gotten the weekend off from his duties to spend with Daisy, but his being present at the death and the Daisy’s involvement forces him to take charge. Fletcher’s bosses tremble in fear when they hear Daisy’s name, knowing her propensity for “falling over bodies” and “meddling” in their cases, so they rely on Alec to try to handle her, though they realize that no one can really stop Daisy from acting once she gets involved.
This book begins enjoyably, but I found the ending less satisfactory than usual. I enjoyed meeting more of Daisy’s family and the members of the Ambrose crew.
This book further deals with the theme of class, especially showing how the aristocratic Basil Delancy has no real class despite being considered high class. The brilliant Horace Bott, of the middle class, has better class, but he is so bitter about the bad way he has been treated for his station in life that he takes it out on the rest of the world. However, his girl, who grew up with him, is delightful and brings out the best in him.
A theme of this series that I have not addressed so far in these reviews is the aftermath of the Great War, which ended five years earlier. Daisy lost her brother in the war, and that had a direct effect on her position because that led to a distant cousin’s inheriting the title, leaving Daisy without any money of her own and pushing her to work for a living. In addition, Daisy’s fiance, a conscientious objector, was killed when the ambulance he was driving was blown up in a landmine. Even five years later, most people show scorn and contempt towards Michael for not fighting, despite his willingness to give his life in driving the ambulance. In Dead in the Water, Basil Delancy’s older brother, Lord Delancy, is terrified of any publicity about the family because he had a bad war record that had been hushed up because his father was important in government, and he fears that someone may bring up that he had led his men into a massacre from behind. Another way the book addresses issues of the war is that some of the oarsmen are older than the average student because they had fought in the war instead of going to university after high school.
Once again, Mia Chiaromonte narrates this series and does a great job. I enjoy listening to her.
For the fun atmosphere of the regatta and the interesting set-up of the book, despite my not liking the conclusion as much at others in this series, I give this book four stars.
Dead in the Water (Daisy Dalrymple) by Carola Dunn is available now. To order from Amazon, click the link in the title–or check your locak bookstore or library for a copy.