Sheer Folly, Carola Dunn
As I've mentioned before, I've fallen behind on the Daisy Dalrymple mysteries, as well as the Lady Julia Grey mysteries, and I'm trying to catch up. I read Black Ship back in June, and I have the newest, Anthem For Doomed Youth, from the library.
Sheer Folly takes place in that ideal Golden Age setting for murder, a country-house weekend. Daisy and her friend Lucy Bincombe travel to Appsworth Hall in Wiltshire, which has a famous grotto that Lucy will photograph and Daisy describe for an upcoming book. Brin Pritchard, the Hall's owner, made his fortune in plumbing supplies and is now wealthy enough to maintain a country home. His widowed sister-in-law also lives at Appsworth Hall with her son, who works in his uncle's business. Other guests for the weekend include Lucy and Daisy's old schoolmate Julia Beaufort and her mother, Lady Beaufort; an appallingly rude and insensitive Earl, Lord Rydal, generally known as "Rhino"; and Sir Desmond and Lady Ottoline Wandersley. Sir Desmond, a civil servant, has business with Pritchard, Lady Ottoline with Rhino.
Daisy's husband Alec Fletcher is a Detective Chief Inspector at Scotland Yard, and over the course of the series she has become involved in many of his cases. That's even how they met, in the midst of a murder investigation. Unlike Lady Julia, though, Daisy doesn't set out deliberately to involve herself in Alec's work. Generally she just finds herself in the middle, when she doesn't stumble across the body herself. Once she is in the case, though, she sticks like glue, and Alec ends up allowing her to play an unofficial role. Daisy doesn't quite play fair in that role, though, because she often decides herself what is important, and she will withhold evidence from him, particularly when it seems to implicate someone she has decided is innocent. Fortunately for Daisy, and for justice, she has never been wrong, at least so far, while the police of course initially focus on the wrong person.
In this case, it is Alec who plays an unofficial role, since he and Lucy's husband Lord Gerald Bincombe are staying at Appsworth Hall as guests. The local police have no reason to call in Scotland Yard, but the officer in charge, DI Boyle, accepts his offer of help, though Boyle isn't pleased when he realizes that means including Daisy as well. This is also one of the rare books without Alec's Yard team of Tom Tring and Ernie Piper.
I found the mystery plot a bit confusing, and the idea that the case could be proved by a flashlight (torch) with incriminating fingerprints unconvincing. The fun of the book for me was the heterogeneous cast of characters and the setting, which reminded me a bit of Gosford Park.