Mistletoe and Murder ~ Carola Dunn

  • Title: Mistletoe and Murder
  • Author: Carola Dunn
  • Series: Daisy Dalrymple #11
  • Genre: Cozy mystery
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewed by: Olga
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  In December 1923, the formidable Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple has decided that for Christmas the family will all gather at Brockdene in Cornwall at the invitation of Lord Westmoor.

Her daughter – Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher – is something less than pleased but yields to the demands of her mother, especially as she’ll be there just before the holidays working on another article for Town and Country about the estate itself.

But the family gathering quickly goes awry. Brockdene, it seems, is only occupied by the Norvilles – poor relations of Lord Westmoor – and Westmoor himself won’t be joining them.

So Daisy, her husband Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard, and their family must spend their Christmas holiday trapped in an ancestral estate with a rich history of lore, ghost stories, rumors of hidden treasure and secret passageways with a family seething with resentments, grudges and a faintly scandalous history.

The veneer of civility that pervades the halls of Brockdene, however, begins to wear thin when long-held family secrets threaten to bubble over, and one of the Christmas guests if found savagely murdered.

With few clues as to who committed the murder and with too many motives as to why, it is once again up to Daisy to sort out the truth that lies beneath a generation of poisonous secrets.

Review:  This cozy English mystery is a ‘pure’ Daisy Dalrymple, cute and predictable (in a good way), one of the best in the series. The action takes place over Christmas in a crumbling mansion of an earl. He is Daisy’s distant relative and he invited Daisy (or rather her mother needled the invitation out of him) and her family for the holidays, but for Daisy, it is also a working vacation – she has an assignment to write an article about the mansion and its centuries-old history.

In accordance with the tradition of this series, the first few chapters describe the life of the mansion, familiarizing Daisy as well as the readers with the place’s shabby, decaying splendor, the quirky set of its denizens, and their convoluted family dynamics. Then a tragedy interrupts the jolly festivities, or should I say their pale approximations – one of the guests gets murdered.

Contrary to most other novels of the series, Daisy doesn’t discover the body. Her husband Alec, Detective Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard, does, so he has to interrupt his own vacation for a spot of detection, but Daisy definitely helps her beloved.

For most of the tale, the readers are as baffled as the police about who the culprit of this drama is, although it’s largely a process of elimination. When we disregard all those who can’t be murderers, the only person left on the list of suspects is the guilty party, however unlikely.

The characters are divided into two clans. The series newcomers, the members of the family under suspicion, all have their distinct personalities. Some are depicted deeper than others, but on the whole, the group is believable. Like in any family, there are various currents swirling among them: affection and dissatisfaction, vulnerability and stupidity, shame, envy, and passion.

The recurring stars – Daisy, Alec, and his team of detectives – make this book a welcome addition to the series. Everyone has his or her accustomed role to play, a slot to fill, to the readers’ continuous delight. The children – Daisy’s stepdaughter Belinda, her friend, and her puppy – provide some humorous interludes.

Like all the books in this series, this charming story also had new words for me:

Etiolated – pale and limp, feeble looking, effete. Nice to know.
Canard – 1) a malicious rumor; 2) something to do with airplanes.

Recommended for all the fans of the series as well as the lovers of cozy mysteries.