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.

The Burry Man’s Day by Catriona McPherson

This is the second book in the Dandy Gilver series and so far I think it’s my favourite, I don’t know how much I’ve been influenced by knowing the setting fairly well, it’s always a plus as far as I’m concerned when I can easily imagine exactly where I am location-wise in a book. Apart from that I do like Catriona McPherson’s writing, she’s particularly good with different dialects which can be really difficult to get right.

It’s August 1923 and the setting is in and around South Queensferry. The small town has an annual Ferry Fair and the Burry Man plays a big part in it. He’s a bit of a hangover from pagan days I suppose but it’s all a bit of a mystery, you can read about the 2012 Burryman here. And here is a photo of him with his two helpers. This all takes place on the second Friday of August, I’ve marked it down on my calendar – see you at South Queensferry – and on the Saturday too.
Burry man in South Queensferry

If you want to see what South Queensferry looks like have a look at a previous post here.

Back to the book. Not everyone in Queensferry is enamoured of the Burry Man, the various religious ministers/priest aren’t keen on him and the Turnbulls – who are the local temperance, all alcohol is evil, tee-total fanatics are dead against him, because part of the Burry Man’s duties is to go around the town being treated to whisky from everyone.

Robert Dudgeon has been the Burry Man for 25 years but for some reason he doesn’t want to play the part again, although he won’t say why. At the last minute he changes his mind but the day ends in trgedy as the Burry Man drops down dead. Is it natural causes or has he been poisoned?

When all this occurs, Dandy happens to be staying at Cassilis Castle which is actually a fictional place, supposedly somewhere over Dalmeny way, and is owned by her old schoolfriend Buttercup and her American husband Cadwallader. Cad asks Dandy to investigate, which of course she does, with the help of Alec.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable murder mystery which had me puzzled to the end, a good comfort read. It occurred to me that McPherson deals with Dandy’s husband and family in exactly the same way that children’s authors always have done with parents – that is, she gets rid of them very early on in the story. Just thought I’d mention it. I’m looking forward to reading more of this series.

The Winter Ground by Catriona McPherson

I’ve got into the horrible habit recently of reading books all out of order and I had intended waiting until I had the first Dandy Gilver book which I have on request at the library, but in the end I started reading this one, just to get a flavour of it, and just kept going.

The setting is Perthshire, Scotland and it’s 1925. Dandelion Dahlia Gilver, to give her her full title, shouldn’t really be all that likeable because she’s a woman who isn’t keen on heathery moors, isn’t really all that enamoured with her two small boys or her husband for that matter and is a bit upper class and English! But somehow she overcomes all of those disadvantages and is a likeable character.

The other disadvantage of this book, for me anyway, is the fact that it’s about strange goings on at the winter camp of a circus. That put me off a bit because things like that always remind me of Scoobie-Doo! Plus, I’ve always disliked circuses, even as a child I didn’t like performing animals, and clowns are the stuff of nightmares. So given all that, I really should have hated the book, but I didn’t.

Dandy writes to her sidekick Alec, asking him to come and help her investigate the circus which is camped out on land which is owned by her new neighbours, Ina and Albert Wilson, the owners of Benachally Castle. Albert Wilson has invited the circus performers so that Ina can be entertained by them. Ina is wrapped in cotton wool by Albert and more or less a prisoner in her own castle. Albert is trying to keep her safe from germs since their child died in the flu epidemic which hit Europe just after World War I.

That all sounds quite heavy but this is an enjoyable, witty and well-written read. As usual, I’m not saying too much about it all, for fear of spoiling it for other potential readers. Dandy has a Dalmatian dog called Bunty, I mention this just because I do like dogs in books, in fact they’re the perfect kind, no hairs and cleaning up required.

The blurb says that Catriona McPherson has a Ph.D in Linguistics and she uses a lot of words which are presumably authentic to the circus fraternity. I hope they are anyway, and weren’t just manufactured by McPherson.

There’s quite a lot of praise for the Dandy Gilver series on the back of the book but I’ll just give you the one from the Guardian:

‘Dan Brown meets Barbara Pym ….Dandy is brisk, baffled, heroic, kindly, scandalised and – above all – very funny.’

I’ve never read anything by Dan Brown, but I have read quite a few Barbara Pym books. This is quite different I would say, but maybe they meant the quality of the writing.

Some Progress

I’ve been spending my time inadvertently sniffing the fumes from paint and varnish pots during the last couple of days. Actually I’ve been painting the vestibule, magnolia of course, keeping it neutral as we’re advised, the emulsion paint doesn’t smell nearly as bad as it used to mind you. After that I scrubbed the floor tiles and I don’t think they’ve ever looked cleaner in all the 25 years that we’ve lived here. Things are so quiet in the housing market at the moment though, I won’t be at all surprised if nobody turns up to view my hard work, when we do put our house up for sale!

The varnish was worse, smell wise anyway but it did actually do what it said on the tin and was touch dry in two hours, which is just as well because it was the staircase that I was varnishing, and even although I knew I wouldn’t be able to go upstairs once I started on them and planned ahead to take books and things downstairs, there were several times when I wanted soemthing which was up there and I just had to do without. But I’m pleased with the outcome, the stairs are looking a lot better now.

So I feel that I’m making progress again after being at a standstill over the winter. ‘Stuff’ has been recycled or binned – again. Why do I hold on to things like split boots instead of just chucking them immediately? I did actually try to get my 35 year old red wellies on, but my legs have thickened over all those years. I’ve definitely not worn them since we moved here, they’ve just taken up space in the cupboard as they perished.

But I did get quite a lot of reading done today too. I decided just to start the Catriona McPherson book – The Winter Ground. I had intended waiting until I got the first of the Dandy Gilver books, so that I could read them in the correct order, but I read a bit of it then just kept reading, which is surprising really as the book setting is the Perthshire winter camp of a travelling circus. I can’t stand circuses, I even hated them as a child, but strangely, I’m enjoying the book.