Black Ship

Written by Carola Dunn
Review by Kathryn Kimball Johnson

In this 17th book in the Daisy Dalrymple series of mysteries, the always curious wife of Scotland Yard detective Alec Fletcher delves into a murder when a body shows up in the garden of her new home on the outskirts of London. The appearance of bootleggers (1925 being American Prohibition), gangsters, and talk of Irish Republican bombs complicate the investigation. Daisy bravely tackles all challenges that come her way, whether tracking down a killer or getting her family settled into their larger, though in slight disrepair, new abode.

Dunn’s heroine is a complex and fascinating character. She fusses over the pressure of having to choose room colors and seems helpless without servants to run her life, yet wants to be “the modern mother” despite Nurse’s disapproval. When she decides to take a bold leap and read a newspaper, her affectionate husband humors her by leaving it at table for her. How the world has changed! Although Dunn’s treatment of London’s upper middle class in the 1920s rings fairly true, I couldn’t help wondering if all servants were as content with their lots in life as they seem to be in Daisy’s world. Some of the very best scenes in the book appear in a series of dramatic “Sea Interludes” that involve a young smuggler, at one point being chased through a stormy night by the Coast Guard. These episodes show off an entirely different set of the writer’s talents. Dunn handles realism as deftly as her lighthearted comedy.