The Mirror Dance by Catriona McPherson

The Mirror Dance by Catriona McPherson is the 15th book in the author’s Dandy Gilver series and I’ve read them all, but I was a wee bit disappointed with this one. In fact by the time I got to about 70 pages from the end of the book I had lost all interest in the outcome, but I struggled on. I’ll be generous and say that maybe it is all the horrendous news from Ukraine which had an effect on me.

The setting is mainly Dundee and St Andrews. There has been a murder in Dundee. A Punch and Judy man is done to death while Dandy was actually watching his puppet show in a park, despite having a front row view, she didn’t see anyone approaching the puppet booth. How was it possible?

The investigation involves two supposedly rival publishing companies, Doig’s Publishers and D.C. Thomson’s and a possible problem over copyright. There are plenty of twists and turns along the way, in fact maybe too many.

There are a few annoying mistakes, such as the mention of the shop/newspaper, magazine distributor W.H. Smith, which didn’t exist in Scotland until fairly recent years as it was John Menzies which had that business in Scotland. The setting for the book is 1937.

There are some phrases which seem unlikely in Dundee of the 1930s, such as ‘state of the art’. But the mention of cricket not being played in Scotland is just plain wrong. Cricket was very popular in many areas of Scotland and still is. I live near two villages which have cricket pitches which are still in use and one of them won the National Village Cricket Cup in 1985. There’s a cricket pitch and pavillion in Kirriemuir, the birthplace of J.M. Barrie of Peter Pan fame, and he actually donated the ground and pavillion to the town as he was a huge fan of cricket, as was Arthur Conan Doyle, they played it together.

Anyway, possibly I’m being too picky and this series has just run its course for me.

Readers Imbibing Peril XV

I’ve come to the end of Readers Imbibing Peril, it’s the first time I’ve taken part and I did enjoy it. I did quite well I think, the only book on my original list that I didn’t read is Shirley Jackson’s Dark Tales. I requested this one from the library and it hasn’t arrived yet, I will read it when/if it does turn up.

The only author who was new to me was Raymond Chandler, I’ve been meaning to get around to reading him for decades, I loved The Big Sleep so I’ll definitely be reading more of his books.

A Better Man by Louise Penny

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

The Stone Circle by Elly Griffiths

The Golden Tresses of the Dead by Alan Bradley

Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson

The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes The Martian Menace by Eric Brown

A Step So Grave by Catriona McPherson

Checkmate to Murder by E.C.R. Lorac

The Turning Tide by Catriona McPherson

Cloak of Darkness by Helen MacInnes


The Turning Tide by Catriona McPherson

 The Turning Tidecover

The Turning Tide by Catriona McPherson was published in 2019, I’m glad that I’ve caught up with this series which should be read in the correct order if possible. Dandy’s family has just expanded by two as her daughter-in-law has given birth to twins.

The setting is the summer of 1936 and on the east coast of Scotland Dandy is feeling no need to shed her cardigan as there’s a keen wind, as usual! Dandy and Alec have been asked to investigate goings on at the Cramond Ferry. It doesn’t sound like their sort of thing and initially they decline to take the case on, then refuse the second plea, when the third request came along things at Cramond had deteriorated and they decided to take the case on. Apparently the ferrywoman’s behaviour was now so strange that she was refusing to ferry anyone out to the small tidal island in the middle of the Firth of Forth. There has been a tragic accident, the body of a young man has been fished out of the river and Dandy realises that she knows his family. When Dandy and Alec arrive at Cramond island the ferrywoman who goes by the name of Vesper Kemp is raving, filthy and is naked from the waist up. Alec doesn’t know where to look! Vesper claims she murdered the young man.

Various Cramond residents including the local minister don’t believe that Vesper is guilty, surely it was just an accident, but there’s no doubting that there are strange things going on in the small community. Dandy and Alec are the ones to get to the bottom of it all, assisted by Grant, Dandy’s maid who now sees herself as a key component of any investigation.

This was a good read and for me the fact that I know the settings of Cramond and Edinburgh so well added to the enjoyment. You can see images of Cramond here. However the tidal island off Cramond whih is featured in this book sounds much bigger than the actual island.

A Step So Grave by Catriona McPherson – Readers Imbibing Peril XV

A Step So Grave

A Step So Grave by Catriona McPherson was first published in 2018 and it’s the 13th book in her Dandy Gilvers series.

It’s 1935 and Dandy is crossing from the beautiful Scottish Highland village of Plockton to Applecross Bay, Wester Ross, in a small boat. She had expected it to be a smooth jaunt but the sea loch was choppy, it’s not something she’s keen to repeat any time soon. Dandy’s accompanied by her husband Hugh and her two sons, Donald and Teddy. They’re on their way to meet Donald’s future mother-in-law Lavinia, Viscountess Ross, she’s about to celebrate her 50th birthday. Dandy hasn’t met Donald’s fiancee Mallory, but she’s not at all keen on her, mainly because at the age of 30 Mallory is seven years older than Donald. Surely Mallory should have been married already at her age, maybe there’s something wrong with her?

It isn’t long before Lavinia’s body is found in the garden, but she’s surrounded by a fall of snow and there are no footprints at all in the area. How did the murderer manage that? Who would want to kill Lavinia and why? Then there’s another murder.

This was a good read, and it made a nice change to have the action going on in the Scottish Highlands instead of the Edinburgh area or Fife. There’s a wee glossary at the beginning as there are quite a few Gaelic words used, the tale features folklore but McPherson says in her ‘Facts and Fictions’ at the back of the book that most of the folklore is made up by her. Applecross is of course a real place and the manse which appears in the book is apparently available for holiday lets. I imagine that the owners were very happy to have the publicity as it sounds like a beautiful place for a holiday – and it’s fairly unlikely that you’ll be murdered there!

If you want to read this book you might be interested in what the scenery looks like. You can see images of Plockton here. Applecross images are here.

I read this one for Readers Imbibing Peril.

readers imbibing peril

Dandy Gilver & a Spot of Toil and Trouble by Catriona McPherson

 Dandy Gilver & a Spot of Toil and Trouble cover

Dandy Gilver & a Spot of Toil and Trouble by Catriona McPherson is the new mystery featuring Dandy and Alec’s detective agency. Dandy has been contacted by an old schoolfriend who needs her services. Minerva, better known as Minnie lives with her husband in Castle Bewer which is a crumbling 14th century pile. In her letter she explains that they are opening the castle to the public and also staging plays there.

A company of actors from London will be arriving there soon and Dandy and Alec are needed to guard the castle’s valuables apparently. Grant – Dandy’s loyal maid is champing at the bit to join in on this job as she grew up with actor parents, and the stage is a home from home for her.

When they arrive at Castle Bewer they soon realise that the job is far more complicated than Minnie had implied. As ever this was an enjoyable read, I like being in the company of Dandy and Alec. Hugh her husband doesn’t appear in this one much though which is a shame as I think he’s a good character.

Dandy Gilver and A Most Misleading Habit by Catriona McPherson

 Dandy Gilver and A Most Misleading Habit cover

Dandy Gilver and A Most Misleading Habit by Catriona McPherson is the latest in the Dandy Gilver series that I’ve been enjoying over the past few years.

The setting is Scotland, the bleak moors of Lanarkshire, and Dandy is called in to investigate a break out of inmates at a remote mental hospital on Christmas Eve 1932, and a fire that broke out the same night at a nearby convent.

Of course Dandy’s side-kick Alec is helping out as usual although he isn’t able to do much of the investigating in the convent, he concentrates on the mental hospital.

I don’t think this book is as successful as the previous ones, a lot of it just feels so wrong given that it is a convent in the early 1930s. Everyone is just too happy and it is just too unrealistic with the orphanage attached to the convent being full of well-loved children, unlikely even within a sort of freelance convent as it is. There were so many mentions of ‘sister’ in it, it was even mentioned by Alec in the book that he was tired of the word, or something to that effect. I suppose I’m just not that fond of a convent setting.

There wasn’t much in the way of banter between Dandy and her maid Grant, or even between Dandy and Alec although her husband Hugh played a larger part in this story and he’s a good character I think so that was welcome.

I will definitely read the next one in the series though.

I read this one for the Read Scotland 2016 Challenge.

Dandy Gilver and The Unpleasantness in the Ballroom by Catriona McPherson

The Unpleasantness in the Ballroom is the latest Dandy Gilver investigation from Catriona McPherson. This one is set in Glasgow in 1932 and the whole city is dance crazy. There is a big dancing competition coming up and none other than Victor Sylvester will be officiating.

The Locarno Ballroom in Sauchiehall Street is the venue and Theresa, better known as Tweetie is one of the contestants. She’s the very spoiled and self-centred daughter of a wealthy businessman and her dancing partner is a young man who works for Tweetie’s fiance. The other contestants are very much more down to earth, typical Glaswegians.

When Tweetie starts to get various threats, such as being sent a dead stuffed bird – her parents are understandably worried and call in Dandy and her side-kick Alec to try to track down the perpetrator, and keep an eye on Tweetie.

This was a good mystery with a particularly enjoyable setting for me as I knew everywhere mentioned, and in fact the street that I was born in is even given a mention. The various different types of tenement flats are described in detail which will be of interest to people who haven’t frequented any.

I was a bit disappointed that gangsters featured in this book – thinking that yet again Glasgow is being portrayed as a wildly violent place, but in a note at the end McPherson does say that gangsters had been a problem in the city up until the early 1930s, after which the police seem to have got to grips with the problem.

If you want to have a wee keek at what The Locarno actually looked like, click here.

This book counts towards the Read Scotland 2015 challenge.

Bury Her Deep by Catriona McPherson

Bury Her Deep by Catriona McPherson was published in 2007 and it’s a Dandy Gilver mystery. I thought I had read all of the books in this series so I was really chuffed to see this one on the library shelf, this is the third one in the series and it’s set in 1924.

Dandy is married to Hugh Gilver who is a well-off landowner, they live in rural Perthshire with their two sons but Dandy is obviously in need of outside stimulation or she’ll die of boredom amongst the sheep.

In fact she thought she was going to be bored stiff at the luncheon which Hugh had invited his old schoolfriend to but it turns out that the now Reverend Mr Tait has been having some problems in his parish and he asks Dandy to come and investigate.

The scene changes to Fife and the wee village of Luckenlaw where the newly set up branch of the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute (the equivalent of the Women’s Institute in England) is being seen as a bad influence on their womenfolk – as far as their husbands are concerned. It doesn’t help matters that they always meet on the night of a full moon, there’s a lot of gossip going on in the village which has suffered a lot of bad luck in recent times. Dandy is determined to get to the bottom of it, with the help of her trusty side-kick Alec of course.

I enjoyed this one although probably not as much as her later books, but the setting was all local to me and I do enjoy being able to imagine all the roads and places in a book, although the actual village of Luckenlaw is fictional, the rest of the locations are all real. I know that some people aren’t all that keen on Dandy as a character but I’m a fan, to me she’s a realistic long-married woman, coping with an uncommunicative husband as best she can. Hugh is still clueless about his wife’s career as a private investigator as Dandy knows that if he finds out about it he will put a stop to it.

I read this one for the Read Scotland 2015 Challenge.

Dandy Gilver & a Deadly Measure of Brimstone by Catriona McPherson

It’s 1929 and Dandy’s whole family has been ill with flu, bronchitis, pneumonia and even pleurisy.* She decides to take them all off to the Scottish Border town of Moffat, hoping the Laidlaw Hydropathic Hotel in the town will speed their recovery. Of course there has to be another reason for Dandy to be there – she has had a request from a family to look into the death of their mother/wife. She died at the Laidlaw Hydro and although they’ve been told it was natural causes, they suspect foul play.

Whilst the Gilver family has taken a rented villa in Moffat the menfolks are spending most of their time at the Hydro and seem to be finding it all to their taste, much to their surprise.

The brother and sister who own the Hydro have recently inherited the business from their father and it’s obvious that they have very different ideas on how the place should be run.

It’s another good investigation from Dandy and her sidekick Alec. This was a very satisfying read with Dandy’s husband playing a much bigger part than usual and their relationship proving to be much closer than either of them usually admit.

I suspect this was written in because some reviewers had been put off the series because they claimed that Dandy treated her husband badly. Ahh those critics must have been tender souls – unused to the realities of husbands and marriage in general!

*Wording thanks to the Great Northern Welly Boot Show and Billy Connolly. Obviously Dandy’s family hadn’t got their wellies!

The song is an adaptation of an old folk tune, “The Work of the Weavers.”

Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains by Catriona McPherson

Dandy Gilver just gets better and better. In this book she has to take a crash course in the mysteries of being a lady’s maid from Grant, her own lady’s maid, so that she can take up the position in an Edinburgh household.

Walburga Balfour, the lady of the house has written to Dandy asking for her help as she is sure that her husband is trying to kill her. Working under the name of Miss Rossiter, Dandy is accepted by the rest of the house staff, all twelve of them. It isn’t long before things take an unexpected turn and Dandy’s sleuthing begins in earnest, helped by her trusty Alec of course.

The story takes place during the nine days of the General Strike in 1926 and Catriona McPherson has obviously done her research, so as well as an entertaining mystery I learned a lot about what was going on in Edinburgh and the surrounding district at that time. A great read.