Monday, June 29, 2015

"Superfluous Women"

Carola Dunn is the author of many mysteries featuring Daisy Dalrymple, as well as numerous historical novels. Born and raised in England, she lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Dunn applied the Page 69 Test to Superfluous Women, the 22nd Daisy Dalrymple mystery, and reported the following:
Superfluous Women focuses on the women who, brought up to expect a husband, home, and family, found themselves with little hope of marriage because of the huge number of men killed in WWI.

Daisy visits an old school friend who lives with two other women in a house they recently bought together in a small town near London. She and her husband, DCI Alec Fletcher, are invited to Sunday lunch. One of the ladies mentions the old wine cellar—it's locked and they were never given a key. Hoping to find a bottle overlooked in the sale of the contents, Alec picks the lock. What he finds in the near-airtight cellar is a long-dead body, whose stench drives them from the house.

The local police take over the case, as Alec is a witness and can't officially investigate. On Page 69, Daisy is being interviewed by the local Detective Inspector.
Daisy had a feeling his rationale was somewhat specious, but she was always a bit muddled about what was hearsay, what was speculation, and what counted as reporting her own knowledge and observations.

"This is what I remember," she said cautiously. "I couldn't swear I'm getting it right."

"No swearing involved at present, and it won't go in your official statement."

That made her even less certain that she ought to be telling him. She couldn't see what harm it could do, though. "All right. Let's see, where should I start?"

"I'll leave that up to you, Mrs. Fletcher."

"In a nutshell: Miss Sutcliffe had a large house in Huddersfield and not much money, so she took in lodgers. Willie—Miss Chandler—and Miss Leighton had rooms there and they became friends. Miss Chandler worked as a secretary and bookkeeper. She studied and took the exams and became a Chartered Accountant."

"Did she now! A bright young lady."

"Very. But there was some ill-feeling about her success at the firm she worked for, that made her uncomfortable."

"Some people are jealous of success, even when it's taken hard work."

"That, and I gathered one of her bosses believed women had no business becoming professionals. She found a good job in High Wycombe, so she had to move. The others decided to stick with her. Miss Leighton's a teacher and luckily St. Mary's school here in Beaconsfield had an opening. Miss Sutcliffe sold her house and bought Cherry Trees. She's housekeeper, cook, gardener—and landlady to some degree, I think, but I'm a little vague about that."

"Then Miss Sutcliffe must be about the house much of the time? She's the most likely to know something about the previous residents."

"I can't answer for her. That you will have to ask them."

"Of course. Now, would you please tell me what happened at Cherry Trees today."

"Alec and I were invited to lunch. We—"

"Just a minute. When did you receive the invitation?"

"When I went to tea. They invited me, then included Alec when I told them he was coming. If he didn't mind being outnumbered four to one, they said."

"Did they know then that he's a police officer? A detective chief inspector?"

"Willie did. Miss Chandler. She didn't tell the others. I prefer to keep quiet about it, in general. I expect your wife's told you how people look askance at a copper's wife."
Learn more about the book and author at Carola Dunn's website and blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Carola Dunn and Trillian.

The Page 69 Test: Heirs of the Body.

--Marshal Zeringue