After the Armistice Ball is set among the struggling upper classes of 1920s Perthshire as, in the aftermath of the First World War, their comfortable world begins to crumble. Dandy Gilver, her husband back from the War, her children off at school and her uniform growing musty in the attic, is bored to a whimper and a little light snooping seems like harmless fun. Before long, though, the puzzle of what really happened to the Duffy diamonds after the Armistice Ball is swept aside by a sudden death in a lonely seaside cottage in Galloway.
Although Dandy is new at sleuthing, she is getting paid to detect, so she is not strictly an amateur. I noticed how much of Dandy's motivation was connected to getting paid to do the sleuthing, which I found surprising. Was this because this was her own money not controlled by her husband? Or because the family's funds are low due to economic circumstances of the times?
Dandy later acquires a partner in sleuthing, Alec, a male acquaintance who has connections to the family she is investigating. Her husband, Hugh, is involved with the care of their estate and is just as happy for her to go off and entertain herself, and she does not enlighten him as to her true intent. These are relationships I don't understand, but I accepted them and I assume they were not that unusual for the time. Dandy is still very inexperienced at detecting. She doesn't really have a plan, she and Alec endlessly discuss what they have discovered, and she sort of fumbles through the sleuthing. Nevertheless, except for the long discussions, the results are entertaining.
The depiction of the times seems accurate, although I am not knowledgeable in that area. In fact, learning more about that time is one attraction for me. I have read some books from both the Charles Todd series (Bess Crawford) and the Jaqueline Winspear series (Maisie Dobbs) and this one focuses more on the upper classes and how they were affected by World War I. That does bring a different slant to the story.
One thing that bothered me initially: Dandy makes it quite clear she is not maternally inclined and is just as happy that her sons are now away at school. That, along with her attitude toward her husband, grated on me. But this is just my personal prejudice, reflecting my times and my experiences. When her sons return from school, their relationship with Dandy seems quite fine, so maybe she just is not the smothering type. One can definitely understand how a woman of that class in those times could be bored with her life and seeking more excitement.
There is a detailed description of Dandy Gilver and her family and her household at the author's blog.
This book seems to get a divided response at Goodreads. Seems like readers either love it or hate it. So be warned, this may not be the book or the series for you. From my comments, you can see I went back and forth about this book. I have read many reviews that are very complimentary about the later books. I enjoyed the setting and the characters and I plan to seek out more of the books in the series.
This is my first read for the Read Scotland challenge, hosted by Peggy at Peggy Ann's Post.
Reviewed at: BooksPlease and Pining for the West