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  • A Christmas murder at the circus

    Dandy Gilver, amateur sleuth, and her husband Hugh's neighbours, Albert and Ina Wilson, are not at all their sort of people. He's a self-made man with a brick foundry and tries to give himself airs, she's the daughter of Edinburgh intellectuals. They moved to the country after the flu epidemic in 1918 which killed their daughter and made Ina very ill. Since then Albert has treated Ina as an invalid and won't allow anyone within six feet of her. As an aside, I find it astonishing during the COVID-19 pandemic how many books I am reading which reference the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. Ina has a love of circuses (circii?) and so Albert has persuaded the Cooke family circus to winter on his land and perform a special show for Ina, once they have spent sufficient time away from the germs of the city of course. When Albert is away at his foundry Ina takes Dandy down to the circus to introduce her to the troupe. Ina and her servants conspire against Albert's bizarre strictures wherever possible. The owner's wife, Ma Cooke enlists Dandy's help with one of the troupe, Ana(stasia), who does bareback tricks on her horse. Recently there has been a spate of things being stolen or deliberately damaged and Ma thinks that Ana is responsible. It's Christmas time and Dandy's two sons are home from boarding school. The idea of a circus just down the road is like catnip to two young boys who petition Dandy and Hugh to allow them to camp out like the circus folk. As Dandy investigates she uncovers bitter feuds, romance, rivalry, resentment and it all spills out into murder. I was convinced I knew who would be the murderer from very early on - guess what? Totally wrong! Anyway, I've kind of decided that I don't read these books for the murder mystery, I just love the details of life for the landed gentry after WW1. The way that Dandy has very little interest in her sons, her distant relationship with Hugh, her subservience to her maid, her chaste relationship with her neighbour and sidekick/fellow sleuth Alec are just pure delight. I have no idea how accurate they are but they feel really authentic. This book dragged a bit for me TBH, I bought this to read over and above my mahoosive pile of ARCs to be read and yet I took four days to finish it - unheard of!

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