It's Christmas 1923 and Daisy Dalrymple has conceded to the demands of her snobbish mother and agreed to take her family to Brockdene for the holidays. Brockdene is a Tudor manor house in Cornwall, situated beside the river Tamar, which forms the border with Devon and Cornwall. It's isolated and therefore tricky to get to. It has a long, long history of smuggling and therefore tales of secret tunnels and ghosts abound.
Daisy goes ahead of the family as she is doing an article for a magazine and wants to gather information and photos before the Christmas mayhem begins. The house is occupied by the Norville family, poor relations of the the Duke of Westmoor.
Once there, Daisy's detective nose is alerted by the oddness of the family. Godfrey Norville is obsessed with the history of the house, to the exclusion of all else. His mother is an Indian woman and very soon Daisy discovers that there is some doubt as to whether she was actually married to the father of her two sons. The fact that he had gone to India and married a local girl causing scandal within his family back home. This is not helped by the fact that he died soon after arriving back in England and the marriage certificate was lost.
The current family are a peculiar lot and made even more so when the other brother, a captain in the navy, arrives home from India with a rather puritanical minister. It seems he might know something about the marriage but before he can reveal all is killed with a knife in the chapel on the estate. Daisy's husband, Alec, a Scotland yard detective, has to give up his Christmas holiday in order to investigate the murder. And of course there's no way that Daisy is not going to help...
This is Carola Dunn on top form, in my opinion. I thoroughly enjoyed this country house mystery and the reason for that is that the author states at the beginning of the book that she based the house on Cotehele in Cornwall. I've been there several times so this really brought the book alive for me.
Sadly it's many years since we were there so I don't have photos but I borrowed this one from the Cornish Tours website:
The property is now owned by the National Trust and here's the page for Cotehele. It's a stunning property in beautiful grounds and an ideal setting for a mystery novel.
Anyway, the book was, as are all the Daisy books, huge fun. The author fills her books with wonderfully quirky characters and this one was no exception. There are also some very human moments... the surprise Daisy feels at how much she misses Alec when she's not with him, the hurt her mother inflicts on Daisy as she denigrates Alec and his police job in front of strangers, and Daisy wishing she had the kind of mother or mother-in-law that she could look after and cosset. Daisy finds her life interesting and fun, but all is not a bed of roses by any means.
So that's my second read for R.I.P. VII. Two very different books read so far but both excellent.