Women Sleuths in
Historical Mysteries

Scotland - 1920s


The Burry Man’s Day

by Catriona McPherson

This second story featuring amateur society sleuth Dandy Gilver takes place in the community of Queensferry. Here, Dandy is recruited by an old friend to get to the bottom of the suspected murder of the man who every year reenacts the role of “Burry Man.” This hardy sole has to cover his whole body with sharp seed like “burries”, and then parade around town all day taking sips of whiskey offered by the local merchants. Even though Dandy is not from the area, she manages to insert herself into the female circle surrounding the widow and into the world of the local children, which proves to be the only way to undercover the town’s past secrets.

Traumas generated during the chilly years of WWI are key elements in this story. Many in towns such as Queensferry had lost young men to the war, and feeling still ran high against those who were found to be deserters or conscious objectors. Also viewed with suspicion are members of a temperance group who are seen as potential threats given the town’s dependence on producing whiskey.

The author, who lives in Scotland, provides solid descriptions of village and country life, enlivened by believable rural phrases and dialects. She also reveals the power of pre-Christian village ceremonies and beliefs and the prevalence of upper class snobbery, held by Dandy as well as others within her social circle.

Very useful map of the area included.


Of the other books in the Dandy Gilver series, we particularly enjoyed “Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains.” Interwoven into this story is the 1926 ten day strike in the United Kingdom of the coal miners, supported by other trades such as the transportation workers. The effects on the lives of the striking workers around Edinburgh is vividly told.



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