Daisy Fletcher, nee Dalrymple, stumbles over yet another body in Carola Dunn’s 16th Daisy book, The Bloody Tower. Daisy gets commissioned by her American editor to write a series of articles on the Tower of London, her first article job following the birth of her 2-month-old twins. Spending a few days exploring the Tower, she is guided by several of the guards who work there. She gets to see the Crown Jewels and the tower where the young princes were killed by Richard III, according to Shakespeare (for a fascinating debunking of this myth, read Josephine Tey’s mystery book The Daughter of Time). Having friends, the Tibbets, who live in the Tower as relatives of the governor of the Tower, Daisy gets invited to spend the night with them in order to observe the Ceremony of the Keys, a ritual performed since the 14th century in which the Chief Yeoman Warder and the Yeoman Warder Watchman secure the gates and give over the keys to the governor, meaning General Carradeen in this case. Early the next morning, Daisy, missing her twins badly, gets up and sneaks out to rush home to her babies. But instead of getting home, she stumbles over the body of the Chief Yeoman Warder, Crabtree, with a partizan, a type of medieval weapon carried by the warders, sticking out of his back. Curiously, though, what has killed Crabtree is a broken neck and not the pike.
Thus, Chief Detective Inspector Alec Fletcher gets a call to hurry over to the Tower of London to investigate the death. He faces a challenge because there are two elite groups that guard the Tower. The Yeoman Warders are all Sgt. Majors, sworn special constables of the Metropolitan Police, making them superior in rank to Alec’s team who must interview them. Then, the Hotspur Guards are an elite military unit that do not get along with the Yeoman Warders. This is going to prove to be a difficult investigation, made even more complicated by the fact that the fog was so bad the previous night that it will be difficult to find any witnesses. Causing even more confusion is the question of whether the murderer intended to kill Crabtree or whether he mistook Crabtree for a different man.
The Bloody Tower has some fun characters that I really enjoyed. General Carradeen’s two nieces, in their late teens, have bubbly personalities and chase after the officers who serve in the Tower. Mrs. Tibbet, Daisy’s former neighbor who has moved to the Tower to oversee the girls, is refreshing as a senior woman with a liberated attitude. I also enjoyed being reunited with Daisy’s neighbors Melanie and Sakari, the latter being the wife of an Indian high official, though the latter, a particularly favorite character of mine, appears in only one chapter.
This book deals with a major historical location and artifacts, and I really appreciated the fascinating stories from history incorporated into the plot of the book. We learn some of the history of the Crown Jewels, including fun cases when someone tried to steal them. There are also wild escape attempts from the past, all told within the context of the story in the book. I thought Dunn did a terrific job of working the stories into the book and making them enliven scenes that could have gotten dreary from long discussions.
Lucy Rayner narrates this book very enjoyably. Her voices come across very believably, well suiting the nature of each character, though I did feel that her voices for Daisy and some of the other women were a bit too shrill. She is actually more effective in her voices for the male characters than the female ones. In trying to create a strong enough contrast between the men and women, Rayner sometimes goes too far in raising the pitch of the women. But this issue does little to mar the quality of the performance.
I really enjoyed The Bloody Tower, with its historical elements and creative plot details. I especially love the setting and the atmosphere of this book. I give the book five stars.
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