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Tuesday, 12 January 2016

‘Superfluous Women’ by Carola Dunn

Published by Constable,
2 July 2015.
ISBN: 978-1-4721-2275-9

Daisy Dalrymple has been Mrs Alec Fletcher for some years now, a happily married woman and a loving mother and stepmother. However, she still feels grateful for her good luck in meeting and falling in love with DCI Alec Fletcher after losing her first love, her fiancé Michael in the First World War. Without Alec she could easily have been one of the two million 'superfluous' or 'surplus' women left without suitable partners after war had destroyed so many young men.

At the start of the book Daisy has been ill with bronchitis and has gone to a hotel in Beaconsfield to recuperate away from the London smog. Willie Chandler, an old school friend of Daisy, has recently moved to Beaconsfield to set up house with two other 'superfluous women,' Isabel Sutcliffe and Vera Leighton. Willie is a chartered accountant, a trailblazer for professional women; Vera is a teacher and Isabel keeps house for the three of them. They are leading active, happy and useful lives but the stigma of being 'surplus' still hurts and angers them.

Alec Fletcher comes to Beaconsfield to spend the weekend with Daisy and to take her home. They accept an invitation to lunch with the three women, all of whom have now become Daisy's friends. It is mentioned that the cellar door is locked, and has been since they arrived. The previous owner, a widow, has gone abroad. Alec agrees to try and pick the lock for them. He succeeds but, when the cellar door is opened, the house is engulfed by the hideous smell of a decomposing body.
Alec experiences the unusual problem of being a witness, and maybe a suspect, rather than the investigating officer; previously this had always been Daisy's role. However, an intelligent local Detective Inspector is eager to get his help, even if it has to be unofficial, and soon Alec is involved in the investigation. Of course, Daisy is not going to go quietly home when her friends are suspected of murder, and soon she is investigating and combating injustice in every way she can.

Superfluous Women is the 22nd in the Daisy Dalrymple series. It is a series that goes from strength to strength. Daisy is a delightful protagonist and all her family and friends are likeable. The author has great skill in using little known and unconsidered after-effects of the Great War and a society that is still struggling to regain its balance, and weaves them into intriguing murder mysteries. I read Superfluous Women in two days. It is a page-turner.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Carola Dunn  was born and grew up in England. After graduating from Manchester University, she set off around the world, but only made it halfway, to Fiji, before turning back to get married. She is the author of over 50 books: 22 mysteries in the Daisy Dalrymple series, set in England in the 1920s; 3 Cornish mysteries, set around 1970; and 32 Regencies, not counting numerous novellas. She lives in Eugene, Oregon, and enjoys gardening, bird watching, and playing music from medieval to modern with a recorder group

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Her second book About the Children was published in May 2014.

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