Anyone who knows me will know how much I love the 1920s and how much I love a book with a pretty cover. In the Daisy Dalrymple series, these two come together beautifully. The Honourable Daisy Dalrymple is an aristocrat whose brother and fiancé were killed in World War One and whose father died in the Spanish Flu epidemic that followed. Consequently, the family title and estate have gone to her cousin and Daisy has to work for a living. The series follows her through finding love again, marrying and having children, whilst helping Scotland Yard to solve a series of murders.
This is an unusual variation of the usual 1920s female detective style - often the leads don't want to necessarily get married and want a career instead, taking pleasure in rebelling against the social norms. Daisy is different, in that she performs a delicate balancing act between keeping her aristocratic mother happy, maintaining the job she loves, being a wife and mother and solving crimes in her own inimitable style. She also has a step-daughter to raise and the first time she is left in charge of her, on the Flying Scotsman, of course, they get involved in a murder! The men in her life are men of their time, but allow her to be fully herself. Her husband recognises that he can't stop her 'interfering' in his investigations and values her skills enough to actively allow her to work alongside him at times. However, there are also times when he doesn't want her to involve herself in his work - usually because of his irascible boss' objections to it - but occasionally because he deems it too dangerous for her. However, this is rarely portrayed as him being overbearing or dictatorial, it's more the genuine concern of one spouse for the safety of the other. Not that Daisy very often takes notice when she is forbidden to do something! Theirs is a far more modern partnership than might have been considered the norm at the time, but they make it work for them and of course, they have support from their housekeeper and nanny once the children arrive. The beauty of these books is that the domestic scenes and the trials and tribulations of running a house with a husband/father who works irregular hours are just as engaging as the more thrilling crime scenes.
The series is usually described as a cosy crime series and on the whole, it is. However, I think the thing that sets it apart is Carola Dunn's ability to make social commentary throughout, without detracting from the central storyline. For example, in Superfluous Women, crime is as always centre stage in the plot, but much attention is given to the plight of the so-called superfluous women of the 1920s - the women who were the other half of the lost generation of World War One - women who would ordinarily have expected to get married and become mothers, who suddenly found themselves unmarried and in need of an income because of the sheer number of men who lay dead in the fields of France and Belgium. In Daisy's friends, Dunn gives a face and a voice to this generation of women who are so often forgotten about.