The Turning Tide (Dandy Gilver) by Catriona McPherson

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The Turning Tide (Dandy Gilver) by Catriona McPherson

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Category: Crime (Historical)
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: It's number fourteen in the series but you could read it as a standalone, although you will get more out of it if you know some of the background. A perfect evocation of the nineteen-thirties and a good read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: November 2019
Publisher: Hodder
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1473682405

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Those who were with us at the end of A Step So Grave will remember that Donald was engaged to Mallory Dunnoch. They're now married and Mallory is having twins. When they arrive no one can doubt the charms of Lavinia Dahlia Cherry and her brother, Edward Hugh Lachlan Gilver. There are two drawbacks: they're noisy and they're staying with Dandy and Hugh. Dandy and her detective partner, Alec Osborne, had not taken up the chance to look into a problem at the Cramond ferry when it was offered to them twice before, but suddenly the possibility of being out of the house at Gilverton seems irresistible.

Cramond is an island in the Forth. At low tide, it's joined to the mainland by a causeway but at other times people cross back and forth using the ferry, which is run by a young lady called Vesper Kemp. There's been some antagonism locally about this. Vesper took over the ferry from her father and had every right to - but it's seen as a woman taking a job away from one of the men who returned from the war. The Reverend Hogg has written to Dandy and Alec again because he's concerned about Vesper's increasingly irrational behaviour: he'd like their help in resolving the matter.

It's May 1936. There's a sense that the country is girding up for war. The abdication of Edward VIII is still something which people hope is not going to happen and whilst people are wary of Hitler, he usually gets the title 'Mr' when he's referred to. Dandy uses 'setting lotion' on her hair and although she might countenance bringing poachers up before the local magistrate she does see the irony in allowing her dog, Bunty, whom she feeds twice a day, to chase rabbits.

There's been a tragedy locally too. Simone and Angus Haslett are neighbours and friends of Hugh and Dandy and their son, Peter, who was studying agriculture has drowned. It seems that he was alone on the Cramond ferry and drunk when he fell into the water. Simone and Angus are distraught.

It looks quite simple, doesn't it? Dandy and Alec simply need to find Vesper Kemp and persuade her that she needs medical help and perhaps a rest from the duties which she isn't currently performing. There's a problem though - Vesper has seemingly lost all contact with reality to the extent of being partially undressed in public and she can't always be found. There's also something very strange going on in the town and it's not just the dreadful food which Dandy and Alec are being served at Miss Speir's house.

It's a cracking good story, which at one point become so complex that you wonder how it can all be disentangled but Catriona McPherson works her usual magic and there's a very satisfying ending. The writing is entertaining and McPherson has a wonderful ability to paint unforgettable word pictures:

She shooed us away towards a grand staircase with such a series of flurried gestures that I was reminded of a shepherd attempting to get a collie, only half-trained, to run out and gather a huddle of flighty ewes.

You can see it can't you?

If you enjoy a book where the violence is always at a distance and there's no bad language then this is a book for you. I'd like to thank the publishers for making a copy available to the Bookbag.

For more classy historical crime we can recommend that follow the exploits of Kate Shckleton and Mirabelle Bevan. You won't be disappointed.

Catriona McPherson's Dandy Gilver novels in chronological order

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