Anthem for Doomed Youth, Carola Dunn
I've been slowly catching up with Carola Dunn's series of Daisy Dalrymple mysteries, set in the 1920s - so slowly that the latest book was published yesterday, and here I am behind again.
Daisy is an "Honourable," the only daughter of Viscount Dalrymple. After her brother Gervaise was killed in the Great War, a distant cousin inherited the title and estate. Daisy also lost her fiancé in the war, and afterwards she made a career for herself writing about country houses and historic villages for magazines. In the course of one assignment at a stately home, a murder occurred, and Scotland Yard was called in, in the person of Detective Chief Superintendent Alec Fletcher. Though he was older, a widower with a young daughter, and not of her class, Daisy fell in love with him and they later married. Over the course of the series Daisy has continued (or contrived) to land in the middle of his cases. She is a friendly person who attracts confidences, and she usually picks up important clues, which she may or may not share with Alec. She has confidence in her own judgement, and if she decides a person under suspicion is innocent, she will do everything she can to protect that person, even to the point of withholding evidence.
This book opens with the discovery of three corpses in Epping Forest. Alec and his team are assigned to the investigation, which will keep him from the sports day at his daughter Belinda's school over the weekend. Daisy makes plans instead to go with her friends Melanie and Sakari, whose daughters Lizzie and Deva also attend the school (it is a co-ed Quaker school, with international students like Deva from India).
The story moves back and forth between Alec's investigation of the three bodies, focusing on a possible link between the victims' service in the Great War, and the women's weekend with the girls. On Sunday afternoon, Daisy and her friends visit the town's gardens, and there in the maze the girls find the body of the school's sports master, an ex-sergeant major and an unpopular bully. Daisy wants to keep her involvement in this case quiet, and she also wants to protect the girls. She and the other mothers pull rank on the local police inspector, DI Gant, evade questions, and deliberately confuse him. Daisy goes even further when she identifies the murderer and decides to shield this person, who in her judgement did not mean to kill and is unlikely to do so again. In the process, she also encourages Belinda to lie at least by omission to her father and DI Gant (which Sakari says will teach her that a wife should have some secrets from her husband).
The mystery itself, the connection between the two cases, is interesting, and the solution neatly worked out. But I found Daisy's part in the story really problematical and much too flip, even for a light mystery like this. While she has shielded suspects and withheld evidence before, she has never taken it on herself to let a murderer go free. It rather spoiled the book for me, and I found myself wondering how far she will go next time.