reekredherrings
Catriona McPherson’s fifth Dandy Gilver master, The Reek of Red Herrings, finds the 1930 sleuth and her partner, Alec, headed to the Banffshire coast of Scotland to the tiny fishing village of Gamrie.

Posing as philologists out to garner information on local folklore and the Doric speech patterns, the colloquial language soon gets the better of them as they hide their real aim: to uncover for the local herring merchant how body parts have started showing up in several barrels sent from the area.

They arrive at the rainy and snowy coast the week before Christmas, a high time as the boats are due in, in strong contract to the menacing weather. It’s also the wedding season as the boats return with their unusual engagement customs followed, and soon the two are swept up in the five weddings to take place on the next weekend.

Adding to the bizarre feeling of the area are the two strange brothers who inhabit Lump House on the cliff, a menagerie of stuffed animals in tableau settings that creep out Dandy as much as the boarding house where they stay, with its meager food and drafty rooms.

The duo become adrift in a sea of nonsensical “teenames,” nicknames given to tell people apart when the local custom has so much naming after grandparents that there could be three in a family with the same name. McPherson has done significant research to get the tone and customs down right and it shows.

The wild winter adds to the discomfort Dandy and Alec encounter, and just when she thinks things can’t possibly fall into place, Dandy figures out what’s really happened. But just what should be done about it then becomes the issue.

A satisfying and enveloping mystery that will have Dandy and Alec consulting their own morals before it’s over.

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