Dandy Gilver and a Deadly Measure of Brimstone by Catriona McPherson

Published 2013   set in 1929  chapter 9 

At the centre and slightly in front, the Great Personage. If I had seen him in the street I should have taken him for an actor or perhaps a theatrical impresario, and if anyone had suggested a spirit medium could achieve such grandeur and such a look of prosperity I should have wondered what the world was coming to. He wore a homburg hat as glossy as an otter and an astrakhan coat which reached to his ankles with lapels like those of Beau Brummell. His cane was ebony and had a silver knob of some complicated design, and his tie was yellow satin. As he paced along he surveyed the terrace, the grounds and the sitting guests like a Persian king come among his subjects and greatly pleased by them. It was impossible not to watch, and almost impossible not to giggle. 

‘What have you—’ I waited as the procession passed by. ‘What have you managed to find out about him?’

‘Nothing except his name,’ whispered Alec. ‘I insinuated myself into a group of them at breakfast and asked it. But I rather got the impression they thought if I didn’t know I wasn’t worth telling.’

‘And?’ I whispered back. ‘What is his name?’

‘Loveday Merrick.’

See earlier entry for more details.

Dandy Gilver is my favourite historical sleuth, and her books are among those I buy full-price, the moment they come out.
In this one, the mysterious relationship between Dandy Gilver, her husband and her business partner Alec is as intriguing as ever. 

For long-time fans: Dandy’s lady’s maid Grant gets a starring role, with some unsuspected talents. There is a great moment when she and Dandy are swapping slips of paper – emergency room numbers in case of danger for the maid, and the list of what Dandy should be wearing handed over in return.

And then, in the perfect exchange from these books, they have to invent a codeword in case of trouble during a seance:

‘Resurrection,’ I said.

‘A word that wouldn’t happen to come up any other way,’ Alec said patiently.

‘Oh. Yes, I see. Mohair.’

‘Perfect,’ said Alec. ‘If you feel frightened, Grant, or just want to stop, say “mohair”, loud and clear, and we’ll swoop in and get you.’

‘Thank you,’ Grant said. ‘That’s a great comfort, sir. Can we make it cashmere, please?’

You would have to know the situation and the characters, but that had me ROFL, honestly.

I can’t recommend these books too highly – this is the 8th of the series - but as if that weren’t enough, Catriona McP writes other books on the side - 2 under the name Catriona McCloud, and another just out with a most un-Dandy-like setting in the north of England. I don’t know how she does it, but I can only hope the Dandy books will go on forever.

The two chaps in the pictures, both Great Personages, are singer Enrico Caruso and newspaper magnate (and Citizen Kane original) W Randolph Hearst – both photos are from the Library of Congress.


  1. Moira - Such a lovely post! And a great reminder that I must spotlight a Dandy Gilver book. Soon. And I have to say....that coat. And that given name. Just too much - great touches.

    1. Thanks Margot, and I would love to read your take on Dandy, please feature her soon. I think I might re-read some of the earlier ones soon.

  2. I haven't read any of this series and I only have the 1st one to try. But if I like it as much as you (and other reviewers) I have a lot to look forward to.

    1. I relay hope you like them Tracy: I'm sure they're not to everyone's taste (Col might find them rather tame) but the historical detail, the jokes and the weird plots are all very enjoyable.

  3. I love this series - I'm looking forward to reading more.

    1. One of my absolute favourites - I hope we are in for a very long series.

  4. Oh my very goodness. I've taken a deep breath this morning and come hunting for reviews for my new website. I thought it would be traumatic - but this is lovely! I'm delighted to hear that you enjoy Grant (me too). And apologies for the flip-flops and leggings in the modern story.

    1. You have so come to the right place - I am such a fan. Hope you saw the other reviews: click on your name on the list of labels at the end of the entry. Also see detective fiction roundups for 2012 & 2013. And keep writing books!


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