This review is specifically for The Corpse at the Crystal Palace but I’m including my thoughts on the Daisy Dalrymple series as a whole.
The series takes place in England in the 1920s. The main character is Mrs. Daisy Fletcher (née the Honorable Daisy Dalrymple). Daisy is the youngest daughter of an English aristocrat and is married to Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of the New Scotland Yard. Daisy keeps accidentally finding dead bodies and feels compelled to help Alec with his investigations. She is often aided by her friends Sakari, Lady Lucy, and Phillip, and occasionally by her step-daughter Belinda. Daisy works as a journalist for Town & Country and other upscale magazines, writing articles about English country homes and tourist attractions.
I love the Daisy Dalrymple books. They are the coziest of cozys. While the stories have many similarities to other cozy mysteries, Carola Dunn has avoided the tropes that really annoy me, like the heroine who is beautiful but doesn’t know it, every man who meets her falls in love with her, and confronting the murderer alone so she has to be rescued at the last minute. Daisy has a successful career and is well-respected. She’s kind, intelligent, a loyal friend, and has excellent instincts. She and Alec, their friends and colleagues, are all nice people. Even though it’s a murder mystery series, the books are comforting because they are usually very gentle.
The Corpse in the Crystal Palace is the latest book in the series. Daisy’s young cousins are visiting from the country, so she takes them and her children to the Crystal Palace. The nanny, Mrs. Gilpin, and the nursery maid, Bertha, go to help with the youngest kids. Sakari and Tom and Molly Tring also join the party. The older children see Nanny Gilpin chasing another nanny, so they follow her, and end up rescuing her from drowning in a pond. At the same time, Daisy finds a dead nanny in the ladies restroom. Daisy and Alec must find out who murdered the nanny and injured Mrs. Gilpin.
This wasn’t my favorite Daisy Dalrymple book. I’ve never cared for Nanny Gilpin so I was interested in what would make her chase a fellow nanny. But, that was a very minor part of the story as Nanny had amnesia and was not in much of the book. The bigger problem was that the dead nanny was a thoroughly unsympathetic character. I’ve always loved that Carola Dunn doesn’t make her victims or murders cut and dry good or bad characters. Sometimes the murder is an accident. Sometimes the victim was a rotter and the murderer is very sympathetic. Sometimes the victim was nice and the murderer is mean. You just never know. But this murder victim had no redeemable qualities. I didn’t like learning about the character. I believe every murder victim deserves justice, and it’s admirable that Dunn chose to have such an unlikeable character as the focus, but neither fact makes me want to read about someone like that. I also wasn’t crazy about the mystery. I feel like the reason for the murder wasn’t explained well enough, nor was Nanny Gilpin’s accident.
All that being said, I loved the developments with the regular characters. Lady Lucy and Alec have some big changes in store and I’m eager to see how that plays out. I love seeing Sakari in a bigger role because she and Daisy make such a wonderful investigative team. Dunn has done a wonderful job of aging Belinda and still making her an engaging character, which is difficult with children. The Corpse at the Crystal Palace may not be my favorite in the series, but the wonderful characters make it worth reading.
2 stars for the mystery, 4 stars for the character developments.