By Cathy Clamp
Dandelion Gliver, known to her friends as Dandy, has all the benefits of an upper middle class existence in 1920s Scotland—a loving, but conservative husband, a faithful Dalmatian, and a comfortable life. But not all of Edinburgh is as quiet. Strikes and riots have turned the city into a war zone and Dandy finds herself being contacted by Walburga Balfour, who writes that her husband is going to kill her and “I would rather he didn’t.” Dandy is persuaded to take a position in Walburga’s home as a downstairs maid. She writes to her friend Alec Osborne (the Watson to her Sherlock) to joke about it, saying “Guess who is setting her virgin shoulder to its very first wheel? I am dressed in serge and sensible footwear, sleeping in an iron bed and dining off pickled tongue at six o’clock.” Fortunately, her old police friend, Superintendent Hardy, recognizes her disguise and begins to rely on Dandy to help solve a murder that happens shortly after she arrives.
The United States debut of this UK series is actually the fifth book in the Dandy Gliver series, following the 2005 After the Armistice Ball, which was short listed for the Crime Writers Association Ellis Peters Historical Dagger award. (So once you realize you love this book, there are four more to go out and find online!)
With all the trappings of a cozy mystery but all the attention to detail and action of a modern thriller, author Catriona McPherson has created a unique series that will appeal to readers of Agatha Christie, Barbara Pym and even Dan Brown. Library Journal calls it a “strong traditional offering, with sly humor, a love of dogs, and not too much violence. A real contender for the Agathas!” while Publishers Weekly claims it’s a “charming interwar whodunit.”
Catriona (pronounced like Hurricane Katrina) McPherson (pronounced like “person” with a Mc) was born in South Queensferry, Scotland, near Edinburgh and was constantly told in school that she was “over-imaginative and full of nonsense.” That led her to try her hand at the world of banking. She decided she was definitely too imaginative for that, and began an academic career. The holder of both an MA in English language and linguistics and a PhD in semantics, she tried the academic world. She really did. But she discovered something annoying. She absolutely hated it. As she says, “The only thing I had ever wanted to do was write novels. And since that was clearly an over-imaginative daydream full of nonsense, I was snookered.”
The only thing she could think to do went against everything she had been taught and she wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. “Without a deal, without an offer, and without even an agent, and never having had anything published, I resigned from my job, took on a bit of tutoring and started to write a book.”
Thankfully, it worked out. The boyfriend she’d supported through his PhD returned the favor and two years later, she had produced the first Dandy novel, which was sold just a year and a half later. Moving from Scotland in 2010 to the beautiful valley in Northern California, she lives in a ramshackle new farm (to replace her ramshackle old farm in Scotland) where she can grow melons as well as cabbages. And she’s pleased that “no one has told me I have too much imagination for years and years and years.”
Born and bred in Scotland but recently transplanted to northern California, Catriona is a recovering academic, now a full-time writer. The Dandy Gilver series has been shortlisted for a CWA Dagger in the UK and long-listed for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. The Proper Treatment of Bloodstains launches the series in the US. Catriona is currently at work on a modern suspense novel.
To learn more about Catriona, please visit her website.