Saturday, November 25, 2017

Winter Ground: Catriona McPherson

When a circus comes to spend the winter at the neighboring estate to Gilverton, Dandy Gilver is asked to investigate some worrisome pranks and practical jokes. Then one of the pranks results in a death, and the question becomes, was it an accident or not?

This is the fourth book in the Dandy Gilver Mystery Series, set in 1920s Scotland after WWI. The series features Dandy, wife of Hugh Gilver, owner of the Gilverton estate, and mother of two sons. She is also a private detective, working with her friend Alec Osborne. The series is cozy, with little violence, quirky characters, and a lot of subtle humor.

I had a mixed reaction to the first book of the series, After the Armistice Ball. The story was interesting and nicely paced, but some aspects bothered me. My comments on that book are here. I became much fonder of Dandy in this book than I had been in Book 1. Dandy and her friend Alec are still investigating crimes. Dandy takes it very seriously but her husband, Hugh, is not resigned to the idea. Dandy's two sons are home from school for the holidays and thrilled to visit the circus folk and watch them prepare for a special performance.

It was fun to read about a circus operating in the time frame of this story. The circus people were very interesting and provided a contrast to Dandy's upper-class life. The depiction of Scotland in 1925 is very interesting, the characters are well-done, and the events take place around Christmas and the New Year.

I enjoyed Dandy's thoughts while on a walk in November with her dog, Bunty:
I trudged on, inwardly counting my blessings as Nanny Palmer's early training had left me all but unable not to do. Peace was still on the list even seven years after the armistice that put it  there but it was beginning to lose its place to the everyday: stout shoes, warm clothes, a solid roof awaiting my return, hot coffee – chocolate even, if I asked for it – and health and strength and… I willed my thoughts towards less depressingly wholesome blessings… a new sable-tipped evening wrap, Christmas coming but no family visits coming with it and, next week, Rudolf Valentino at the Cinerama.
Christmas, which comes very near the end, does not play a big part in the plot, but I enjoyed the chapter that included the family's observance of Christmas and the family squablles.

While preparing this post, I reread the last 30-40 pages of the book and I liked the ending just as well the second time. McPherson does a very good job of pulling together a lot of threads in the book and left me with a good feeling about the future of the series.

See also:
Katrina's review at Pining for the West. Katrina lives in Scotland.
The review at the Historical Novel Society.
A review at The Bookbag.


Publisher:   Hodder, 2009 (orig. pub. 2008) 
Length:       294 pages
Format:      Trade paperback
Series:       Dandy Gilver Mystery #4
Setting:      Perthshire, Scotland, 1925
Genre:       Mystery
Source:      I purchased this book.


col2910 said...

Glad you enjoyed this one. I have read one of her stand-alones, but this series isn't for me.

TracyK said...

There seems to be a great divide between this series and her standalone books, Col. I think her standalone books may be too tense and uncomfortable for me, but I do plan to try one anyway.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this one, Tracy. I think McPherson is talented. In my opinion, too, the series has improved as it's gone on. The characters are better-articulated, etc..

TracyK said...

I have also heard that the series gets better as it goes along, Margot. I am looking forward to trying more books in the series.

Katrina said...

Thanks for the mention. I've read all of the books in this series now and enjoyed them all. Some people seem to have a problem with Dandy's relationship with her husband but as the series continues I really like it. Dandy seems like a 'normal' exasperated wife of long-standing. I had a look at the blurb on one of her standalone books and it didn't appeal to me at all.

TracyK said...

Katrina, in the first book Dandy's relationship with her husband did bother me, but not in this book. I will be continuing with the next book and onward, but probably won't go back and pick up the ones I missed.

Anonymous said...

I have one pointless comment to make: I really like the cover.

I've seen her books crop up from time to time in my browsing. I put this one on my wishlist. Thanks for the review, Tracy. --Keishon

TracyK said...

I like the cover too, Keishon. It is strange, this is cozyish, but not. And I see all ranges of opinions on the books in the series. I hope you will like it if you try it.

Clothes In Books said...

these books have lovely covers, I agree with you and Keishon!
Catrional McPherson is another of my favourite crime authors, I have loved reading the Dandy series, and I like her standalones too. Nice to be reminded of this one, especially as seasonally appropriate!

TracyK said...

Moira, I read Winter Ground back in August or Sept., not even realizing that it had a Christmas connection. It was a pleasant surprise.