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Thursday 9 November 2023

‘After the Armistice Ball’ by Catriona McPherson

Published by Constable,
24 August 2006.
ISBN: 1-84529-341-3 (PB)

The aftermath of the First World War sees the upper class of Perthshire coming to terms with changes in their lifestyle.  Among these is Dandy Gilver, struggling financially and unoccupied since her husband's return from the Front.  When asked by a more solvent friend to investigate a diamond theft she is at first excited by the prospective adventure, especially when it is coupled with the offer of payment.  However, soon a suspicious death apparently linked to the theft paints a more sinister picture.

Dandy is an engaging, likeable sleuth.  Her approach is direct and her initial naiveté does  put her at risk of being manipulated by others.  She forms a lively partnership with the dead girl's fiancé, Alec Osborne, and they proceed with their investigation through intelligent discussion and banter.  Little interference comes from Dandy's family, with her husband Hugh focused on estate improvements and their sons spending most of the time away at school.  However, when necessary, Dandy offers some amusing excuses for absences to visit potential witnesses, such as going to look at a litter of puppies which are being given away. 

Dandy tends to babble when questioning possible witnesses.  Yet there is charm in her manner and awareness of this and in her perseverence, deciding she has nothing to lose.  Descriptions of reactions to this unconventional approach are excellent, as is that of the quiet, philosophical manner in which she accepts clear doubts about her mental stability. 

This is an excellent debut novel, conveying the atmosphere of the period and the twists of the plot.   Characters are well drawn and the plot is logical but not obvious.  There is a comfortable feel, with elements of humour.This can put the reader at ease in a way which makes the darker aspects stand out all the more.
Reviewer: Mary Andrea Clarke

Catriona McPherson was born in 1965 in South Queensferry. After finishing school, she worked in a bank for a short time, before going to university. She studied for an MA in English Language and Linguistics at Edinburgh University, and then gained a job in the local studies department at Edinburgh City Libraries. She left this post after a couple of years and went back to university to study for a PhD in semantics. During her final year she applied for an academic job but left to begin a writing career. McPherson lives with her husband on a farm in the Galloway countryside, where she spends her time writing, gardening, swimming and running.

Mary Andrea Clarke writes a historical series set in Regency London featuring Georgina Grey.  Her first book The Crimson Cavalier. Published in 2007, grew out of a desire to explore the challenges faced by an intelligent, independent woman in an era before equality of opportunity between the sexes became the norm.

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