Dandy Gilver & the Unpleasantness in the Ballroom

Written by Catriona McPherson
Review by Edward James

The Dandy Gilver novels are a 1930s pastiche, imitating and gently satirising the detective novels of the Golden Age (Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, et al). Dandy Gilver is a lady detective (very much a lady) who always takes her lady’s maid with her when working on a case. Her sidekick, Alec, likewise takes his valet. Lady’s maid and valet form a parallel investigative team which often gets to the heart of the mystery ahead of their employers.

In The Unpleasantness in the Ballroom, Dandy’s upper-class client turns out to have very low-life connections in Glasgow’s notorious razor gangs.  The ballroom in question is a Glasgow dance hall, and the unpleasantness is the murder of one of the contestants in the course of a dance championship.  The plot is fiendishly intricate and wildly improbable, in the best traditions of the Golden Age.  It is all very clever and very entertaining.  I will never watch Strictly Come Dancing in the same way again!