The Case of the Murdered Muckraker ~ Carola Dunn

  • Title: The Case of the Murdered Muckraker
  • Author: Carola Dunn
  • Series: Daisy Dalrymple #10
  • Genre: Cozy Mystery
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewed by: Olga
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Description:  In late 1923, the newly married Daisy Dalrymple and her husband Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard, come to America for a honeymoon visit. In the midst of a pleasure trip, however, both work in a bit of business – Alec travels to Washington, D. C. to consult with the U.S. government, Daisy to New York to meet with her American magazine editor. While in New York, Daisy stays at the famed Chelsea Hotel, which is not only close to the Flatiron Building offices of Abroad magazine, where she’ll be meeting with her editor, but home to many of New York’s artists and writers.

After her late morning meeting, Daisy agrees to accompany her editor, Mr. Thorwald, to lunch but as they are leaving the offices, they hear a gun shot and see a man plummeting down an elevator shaft. The man killed was one of her fellow residents at the Chelsea Hotel, Otis Carmody, who was a journalist with no end of enemies – personal and professional – who would delight in his death. Again in the midst of a murder investigation, Daisy’s search for the killer takes her to all levels of society, and even a mad dash across the country itself, as she attempts to solve a puzzle that would baffle even Philo Vance himself.

Review: 

I didn’t like this book as well as most of the others in the Daisy Dalrymple series. The story deviates from the usual plotline of the series, both in structure and in characters, and the differences are glaring.

First, the action takes place in America, not in Britain, and I commiserated with Daisy, as she struggles to understand the land and its people, as well as translate the frequently unfamiliar vernacular.

She wondered why Americans insisted that they spoke English, when they might just as well call their language American. The oddest thing was that people kept telling her, an English woman speaking the King’s English, that she had a quaint accent!

Second, all the characters except Daisy and her husband, Alec Fletcher, are Americans, of course, and not nearly as charming as most of the British characters of Dunn’s other novels of the series. The characters are also not well defined, and there are unnecessarily many of them, making the narrative confusing at times. Even Daisy and Alec are kind-of blurry, although my familiarity with them from the other novels served to alleviate this shortcoming.

The mystery itself is rather dull, with a politic flavor, which is also a new wrinkle in the series, and it is not handled in the best possible way. Furthermore, contrary to the British police in the other books, the investigating American police is depicted as corrupt and incompetent. Actually, Alec is on a temporary assignment in America: to help the American government in creating as efficient and incorruptible police force as in Britain. (I can’t help grinning.)

The tale is extremely slow in the first half, while Alec is off the spotlight and Daisy sleuths alone, but as soon as he arrives on the scene, the story builds speed and momentum, exploding in an airplane chase across America: from New York to Eugine, Oregon. Remember – it’s 1923, and planes are still made of sticks and cellophane, so the entire sequence is highly educational and fun to read. But the denouement is disappointing.

Despite the flaws I mentioned, I enjoyed meeting Daisy again. By now, I’ve almost exhausted my secret cache of unread Daisy Dalrymple mysteries – only a couple left – and it makes me sad. Daisy is an old friend, even though this time, her story is not as fascinating and sometimes it even feels contrived, artificial. 

To sweeten the deal, this novel, like most Dunn’s novels, contained a couple new words for me, the words requiring a dictionary. The first word is on the cover – Muckraker. When I first picked up this book, I thought it was some kind of a bird or a toy. In all my reading, I’d never encountered this word before. Now, upon consulting a dictionary, I know that it means an exposer or a gossipmonger, someone who digs up dirt. Or an investigative journalist.   

The second word new to me was Inapposite, which means irrelevant.  Many of the readers might already be familiar with that word, but I wasn’t. 

The best feature of this book was Daisy’s puzzled contemplations on the differences between the two cultures and two tongues, even though both tongues are still called by the same name: English. 

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