Monday, May 2, 2011

"Anthem for Doomed Youth"

Anthem for Doomed Youth is Carola Dunn's 19th Daisy Dalrymple mystery, set in England in the 1920s.

Dunn applied the Page 69 Test to Anthem for Doomed Youth and reported the following:
Page 69:
"I am Detective Chief Inspector Fletcher."

"I thought so, but she—Chief Inspector? I'm so glad someone is taking his disappearance seriously at—But it isn't just a disappearance now. He's dead, isn't he? They came last night and told—I just can't accustom my mind to—The first policeman said young men, even the steadiest—Martin was very steady. He always told me where he was going and when he'd come—so it was nonsense to say he'd probably gone off to have a fling!"

"Martin was very steady, was he? You must miss him terribly. Tell me about him, Mrs Devine."

"He wanted to be a clergyman, you see. Then the War started, just as he finished school. He volunteered at once, of course—the Territorials—they didn't take volunteers into the regular army yet, not till—I'm not quite—Sometime in 1915, I think, or was it '16? As soon as they did, he—and then he was sent to France. Or he volunteered to go. Must you know exactly?"

"That's all right, it doesn't matter." And, if necessary, could be looked up in the records. "Don't worry about the date. Do you know which regiment, or battalion, of the Territorials he was in?"

"Regiment—No. Did they have regiments, like the proper army? Does it matter? I thought they were all—But they didn't all go to France. Mesopotamia and India—but he transferred to the army in France. I wish he hadn't! When he came back, he said he couldn't be a clergyman because the Bible says, 'Thou shalt not kill,' and he had killed two men. Or three—he wasn't sure. It was the third—For some reason, that one worried him most but he never really—"

Alec decided not to press her about which unit her son had joined in France. Not unless they couldn't work it out from the records. "Never really...?"

"Explained. So he articled as a solicitor in my brother-in-law's firm—Lily's husband—very good to him."

"He lived with you all this time, Mrs Devine? Since he was demobbed, I mean."

"Yes. He never seemed interested in—We lead—led a quiet life—bridge, tennis—I don't play tennis but he was quite keen, though he didn't care for golf, though I encouraged— and cricket. I know what they say about widowed mothers but I wasn't clinging! I wasn't! I just wanted him to be happy." She broke down again, and Alec fished for another hankie.
The missing son of Mrs. Devine was found shot and buried along with two other bodies. Martin Devine, as described by his mother, seems an unlikely murder victim. As you might guess, the "third" man, whom he never explained to her, is one of the keys to the puzzle. DCI Alec Fletcher, husband of Daisy Dalrymple, is trying to discover the identities of the three men and the connection between them. If he doesn't catch the killer soon, more deaths may follow.

Anthem for Doomed Youth is about the wounds of war, the ones that never heal. Mysterious Women called it: "gripping and fascinating." This side of the story is reflected in the cover of the UK edition [left]. The title is taken from the poem by Wilfred Owen, who was killed in action a week before the Armistice. You can read it on my website.

You will have noticed that Daisy, the eponymous sleuth of the series, doesn't appear on P.69. She takes little part in Alec's case. She's out of town, visiting her stepdaughter at boarding school(which just happens to be the school I went to, though not in the 1920s!).

In spite of the murder of one of the teachers, Daisy's part of the story is in a much more light-hearted vein, "amusing and sprightly," according to Kirkus. The cover art of the US edition is more appropriate for this aspect of the book [top right]... though Daisy is looking distinctly worried! To protect her daughter from interrogation by the obnoxious local detective, she does her best to find out what happened. And she begins to wonder: Is the teacher's death somehow connected with Alec's case?
According to Publishers Weekly: "The aristocratic but very modern Daisy makes a formidable amateur sleuth." Being "very modern," she has her own Facebook page, Daisy Dalrymple, Fictional Character. You can also read more about her at Carola Dunn's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Carola Dunn & Trillian.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue