Carola Dunn — Author Spotlight
Today I’m happy to welcome author Carola Dunn for an author spotlight.
I was born and grew up in England, but I’ve lived in the US for many years, presently in Oregon. However, the 60 or so books I’ve written over the past 40 years are mostly set in England.
I started with Regencies—Having read all Georgette Heyer’s several times, I wanted more, so I decided to write one myself and was lucky enough to find an editor who loved it. Toblethorpe Manor came out in 1981 and is still selling as an ebook. I had around 20 Regencies out when both my publishers stopped publishing the genre. That was when I switched to mysteries, which I’d always loved (Later I wrote another dozen Regencies).
I have two mystery series, 4 Cornish mysteries and the Daisy Dalrymple mysteries, set in the 1920s, of which the 23rd comes out in July. Both series are “traditional,” the term I prefer though they’re often called cozies.
In the latest, The Corpse at the Crystal Palace, set in 1928, Daisy takes her family to visit one of the sights of London. Chaos ensues as the 3-year-old twins’ nanny disappears while Daisy’s teenage stepdaughter and her two young cousins fail to turn up at the rendezvous. And then Daisy, hunting for them, discovers a body… The local police investigate, and Daisy hopes her husband, Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard, will never find out that she’s involved. No such luck!
Sic Transit Gloria
When I first considered setting my 23rd Daisy Dalrymple mystery at the Crystal Palace, I knew very little about it, no more than that it was a huge building constructed almost entirely of glass and had been a London landmark for many years. Having grown up outside London, I didn’t even realize it no longer existed.
However, it was still a going concern in Daisy’s time—the 1920s. As often happens once I’ve settled on a site for murder, the plot began to weave itself in my mind.
The Crystal Palace was originally erected in Hyde Park for the 1851 Great Exhibition. More than five football fields long, it was crammed with the products of the world, natural and manufactured, especially those of the British Empire. It also featured sculpture and the architecture of earlier civilizations, and a large concert hall. Queen Victoria often attended concerts there.
In 1852, at the end of the Exhibition, it had to be demolished. An entrepreneur saved it and rebuilt it on a hill in South London, with two wings added. It was so big, the sun glinting from the glass roof could be seen from Hampstead Heath, miles away in North London, near Daisy’s home. Its landscaped grounds had lakes and fountains, a football ground, and an arena for motor rallies, fireworks, and such spectacles as jousting knights in armour. It remained so popular, a new railway line was provided to serve it.
In 1876, a fire destroyed part of one new wing. Rebuilding plans were shelved as the Palace, now more of an amusement park, began to lose its appeal. Business was still limping along when the Great War started. With its large building and plenty of room for practising maneuvers, the Crystal Palace was requisitioned to billet troops. Inevitably the exhibits suffered and upkeep was neglected.
At the end of the war, the Imperial War Museum took over the Palace for a few years. When they moved out in 1924, the Palace was bankrupt and huge sums were needed to clear up the mess and renovate the structure and its contents.
Somehow the funds were found. By the time Daisy took her family there for an outing in 1928, restoration was well underway, though not yet completed. In spite of a couple of closed displays, there was plenty to keep everyone occupied—until Daisy discovered the body of a nanny in the ladies’ loo.
Why the loo, of all places? In the course of my research, I had learned that the Crystal Palace had the first “ladies’ conveniences” in London. Though not actually mentioned in the book the fact was irresistible, sparking the entire plot. What sort of person would choose such an odd place to commit murder? And why? Whom did the murderer kill, and what took the victim to the Crystal Palace in the first place?
The answers to those questions led Daisy and her husband Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard into an investigation that ended in a desperate race across London to save the life of an innocent man.
After being closed for a few days fictionally), the Crystal Palace survived Daisy’s exploits for another 8 years before it burned to the ground one night in a spectacular fire, perhaps the greatest entertainment of its existence. Nothing is left today but the foundations, the elegant underground station (putting the gloria in transit, you might say), and the extensive park.
Oh, and the monsters at the bottom of the gardens, which you can read about here: https://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com/search?q=carola+dunn.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
A casual outing to the Crystal Palace in London takes a mysterious and murderous turn in The Corpse at the Crystal Palace, the latest mystery in Carola Dunn’s beloved Daisy Dalrymple series.
April 1928: Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher is visited in London by her young cousins. On the list of must-see sites is the Crystal Palace. Discovering that her children’s nanny, Nanny Gilpin, has never seen the Palace, Daisy decides to make a day of it―bringing her cousins, her 3-year-old twins, her step-daughter Belinda, the nurserymaid, and Nanny Gilpin. Yet this ordinary outing goes wrong when Mrs. Gilpin goes off to the ladies’ room and fails to return. When Daisy goes to look for her, she doesn’t find her nanny but instead the body of another woman dressed in a nanny’s uniform.
Meanwhile, Belinda and the cousins spot Mrs. Gilpin chasing after yet another nanny. Intrigued, they trail the two through the vast Crystal Palace and into the park. After briefly losing sight of their quarry, they stumble across Mrs. Gilpin lying unconscious in a small lake inhabited by huge concrete dinosaurs.
When she comes to, Mrs. Gilpin can’t remember what happened after leaving the twins in the nurserymaid’s care. Daisy’s husband, Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard, finds himself embroiled in the investigation of the murdered nanny. Worried about her children’s own injured nanny, Daisy is determined to help. First she has to discover the identity of the third nanny, the presumed murderer, and to do so, Daisy must uncover why the amnesic Mrs. Gilpin deserted her charges to follow the missing third nanny.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carola Dunn
Carola Dunn is the author of 23 Daisy Dalrymple mysteries, set in England in the 1920s, 4 Cornish mysteries, and 32 Regencies. Born and brought up in England, she set off around the world after university and ended up in the US, where she has lived for many years, presently in Oregon. She has one son and two grandchildren, and a dog, Trillian, with whom she walks every morning by the Willamette River.
First page of The Corpse at the Crystal Palace:
The Corpse at the Crystal Palace
“Mrs. Fletcher, my lady.”
“Daisy darling,” Lucy said languidly, not rising from the Empire chaise-longue where she reclined. Her slender figure was draped in a peach silk negligée adorned with a froth of lace, oddly incongruous with her dark, sleek bob.
“Hello, darling.” Daisy pulled off her gloves. “It’s filthy out.” She trod carefully across the Aubusson. Her shoes were damp though she had only crossed the pavement from the taxi and had wiped her feet vigorously on entering the house. Even in St James’s, the streets could not be kept clear of snow and slush.
“Too divine of you to come struggling through the knee-high drifts.”
“Not quite that bad, though I think there’s more to come. Three inches is a lot for London in March, and of course we have more up in Hampstead. It’s beautiful, but messy. Your note sounded urgent, darling. What’s up? Are you ill? You’re never ill.”
“I’ll tell you in a minute.”
The door to the boudoir opened again, to admit the butler with a tray of coffee and biscuits. As he arranged it on a low table beside the chaise longue, Daisy looked round the room. Lucy had had the downstairs rooms of the Georgian town house done over in the latest Art Deco style, but here, in her private room, mellow antiquity reigned. It contrasted also with her strictly utilitarian studio and darkroom in the basement.
Over the satinwood bureau hung a photographic portrait of Gerald, Lucy’s husband. It was surrounded by the original photos she had taken for the book of follies she and Daisy had produced together. Daisy was sure the display was symbolic, but whether of the folly of men or the folly of women entrusting their lives to men, she had never asked.
The warmth of the central heating was supplemented by glowing coals in the grate. Daisy took off her gloves and scarf, stuffed them in her pockets, and unbuttoned her coat.
“Aargh,” moaned Lucy. Clapping her hand to her mouth, she jumped up, sped to the door, and disappeared.