After the Armistice Ball is the first book in the Dandy Gilver series. I’ve read a couple of the later books in the series and had to read this one in order to find out how Dandy (short for Dandelion) first became an amateur detective, or Society Sleuth, as she is called on the book cover.
It all began when there is an alleged theft of Lena Duffy’s jewels at Daisy Esslemont’s annual Armistice Ball in 1922 and Daisy asks Dandy to find out what really happened. Dandy is a bored wife, whose husband, Hugh is the ‘hunting, shooting and fishing’ type. The theft of the jewels is rapidly pushed to the sidelines after the death of Lena’s daughter, Cara in a lonely beach cottage in Galloway. Accompanied by Cara’s jilted fiancÃ©, Alec Osborne, Dandy is faced with the puzzle of Cara’s death. Was she killed, or did she commit suicide? She had died in a fire, whilst on her own in the cottage – why was the cottage always kept so hot, so hot that the coal that was supposed to last all winter had been finished in one week?
The setting in the 1920s is convincing, the sense of dislocation after the First World War, the class divide and the contrast between the idle rich and the poor. The locations are beautifully described, and the characters are lively and come to life, particularly Dandy, although Hugh does seem to be a cardboard cut-out, but the book dragged in the middle as Dandy and Alec went over and over, and over the events and theorised about what had happened and why.
I too puzzled over the mystery and I did find the ending rather confusing, so much so that I had to re-read parts of the book to sort out what I thought had happened. I’m still not sure, but I think I know. Having said all that, I did enjoy the book, and apart from the middle section I raced through it and that’s probably where I missed some salient points.
My Rating: 3/5
I borrowed the book from my local library