The Daisy Dalrymple series continues in Heirs of the Body—when one of four potential claimants to the title of Lord Dalrymple dies a sudden, nasty death, the question on everyone's mind is, "was it murder"?
In the late 1920's in England, The Honourable Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher is recruited to help her cousin Edgar—i.e. the Lord Dalrymple. About to turn fifty, Lord Dalrymple decides it is time to find out who would be the heir to the viscountcy. With the help of the family lawyer, who advertises Empire-wide, they have come up with four potential claimants. For his fiftieth birthday, Edgar invites those would-be heirs—along with Daisy and the rest of the family—to Fairacres, the family estate.
In the meantime, Daisy is asked to be the family's representative at the lawyer's interviews with the claimants. Those four are a hotelier from Scarborough, a diamond merchant from South Africa, a young mixed-raced boy from Trinidad, and a sailor from Jamaica. However, according to his very pregnant wife, the sailor has gone missing.
Daisy and Alec must uncover a conspiracy if they are going to stop the killing in the latest from the accomplished master of the genre, Carola Dunn.
About the Author
CAROLA DUNN is the author of many mysteries featuring Daisy Dalrymple, including Sheer Folly, Gone West and Heirs to the Body, as well as numerous historical novels. Born and raised in England, she lives in Eugene, Oregon.
Read an Excerpt
Heirs of the Body
A Daisy Dalrymple Mystery
By Carola Dunn
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2013 Carola Dunn
All rights reserved.
"Darling, what on earth are 'heirs of the body'?" Daisy enquired, frowning at the wad of blue Basildon Bond writing paper in her hand. She had been busy all day and was only now, after dinner, opening the afternoon post.
"Coroners?" Without looking up from the Evening Standard, Alec reached for his whisky, an indulgence usually reserved for celebrating the end of a big investigation. "Undertakers? Worms?"
"Ugh, Daddy, that's disgusting!" Belinda's Easter holidays had started just a couple of days earlier, and her father was apt to forget to mind his tongue in her presence.
"What, worms? Just think, if they didn't do their work we'd be up to our necks in bodies."
"Alec, really! In any case, 'heirs' is the important word here. Cousin Edgar's coming up to his fiftieth birthday and apparently it dawned on him a few months ago that he hasn't the faintest idea who is heir to the title and Fairacres."
"Your letter's from Lord Dalrymple?"
"No, Cousin Geraldine. She's frightfully scathing about 'heirs of the body,' but I can't make out why."
"It'd be because she and Lord Dalrymple have no children. It's just a legal term for legitimate offspring, and their legitimate offspring, ad infinitum."
Daisy cast an anxious glance at her stepdaughter.
"It's all right, Mummy," Bel said indulgently. "I know what legitimate means, and illegitimate. It's whether the mother and father are married or not."
How did children find out such things? Daisy wondered. She was sure she hadn't been aware at the age of thirteen that procreation without matrimony was even possible. Times had changed between 1911 and 1927!
"I read it in a book." Bel answered her unvoiced question. "And looked it up in the dictionary."
"Well, darling, I'm glad you're using your dictionary. But I was rather hoping you didn't know what it means."
"Oh, Mummy, how positively Victorian!"
Since Daisy frequently decried the persistent influence of Victorian attitudes in older generations, she was left speechless.
Alec had set aside his paper to fill his pipe. Now, between the vigorous puffs required to get it burning, he said, "I'm not really up in all that stuff, but the 'body' bit must mean that step- or adopted children don't count. And the original entail, or patent, or will, or whatever must have specified heirs male of the body. Otherwise, your brother having died, love, I think your sister's eldest son would have inherited the estate and title from your father. Or perhaps Violet first, and then Derek. But don't quote me on that."
"Derek?" said Bel. "Oh, wouldn't it be fun if he was Lord Dalrymple!"
"A new law was passed just last year, though, and I'm not sure what effect it has in a situation like this."
"Tommy Pearson must know."
"He's your cousin's solicitor?"
"Yes. Cousin Edgar always felt Father's lawyer — the old family firm since forever — condescended to him because he'd been a schoolmaster, not brought up to his new station in life. He was very impressed with Tommy's part in that kidnapping business. ... You didn't hear that, Bel."
"I think I'd better go and read in bed," said Belinda with dignity, "if you're going to keep talking about things I'm not supposed to hear."
"Heavens yes, it's after ten. Past your bedtime."
Belinda kissed each of them goodnight, then said, "Mummy, may I go and see the twins? Just a peek?"
"Of course, darling. You don't need to ask. Quiet as a mouse, though."
"I know. I just like to ask in case Nurse Gilpin catches me. She can't fuss if you've said yes, can she?"
Alec grinned. "I wouldn't count on it. Every victory over Mrs. Gilpin is temporary."
"I don't care much if she does fuss. They're my brother and sister, after all. Daddy, is Oliver your 'heir male of the body'?"
"He would be if I had a title, pet, but you can't inherit a job with the Metropolitan Police. As it is, you're all my heirs."
Daisy was not prepared to go into the business of a father's part in the bodily side of parenthood. "Run along and tackle Nurse, now, darling," she said firmly.
Looking determined, Belinda left the room.
Daisy sighed. Sometimes life seemed to be a perpetual battle with Oliver and Miranda's nanny, whose Victorian attitude dictated that parents had no business in the nursery.
She returned to consideration of Lady Dalrymple's news. However unrewarding, it was bound to be infinitely preferable to the letter that had lurked beneath it in the pile, from Daisy's mother, the dowager viscountess.
"I'm surprised Pearson didn't find out who the present heir is when he took over." Alec poked disgustedly at the bowl of his pipe with a used matchstick, then reached for the matchbox and started the flare-puff routine again.
"It may not have crossed his mind. Cousin Edgar probably has a perfectly sound will leaving everything to his wife, and Tommy doesn't go in for aristocratic clients. In fact, I think he does his best to avoid them, because of Madge being Lady Margaret. She told me he's too independent to want to take advantage of her family connections."
"I expect all he really wants is to avoid the complications of entailed estates."
"I wouldn't blame him," said Daisy, trying to make out what Cousin Geraldine was going on about. Her writing was the kind that looks very neat but is difficult to decipher. "Oh, she's complaining about the Dalrymples not being prolific in the production of sons. What cheek, when she hasn't produced a single heir of the body herself, male or female. Besides, it worked to her advantage. If I'd had lots of brothers, she wouldn't be a viscountess."
"What exactly is Edgar's relationship to you?"
"I've never worked it out." Daisy had next to no interest in the ramifications of aristocratic family trees, unlike her friend Lucy. Possibly as a result, Lucy had married the younger son of a marquis and was now Lady Gerald Bincombe, whereas Daisy had married a Scotland Yard detective. "Some sort of second cousin, I think. Or third. Once removed, I'm pretty sure of that. Geraldine says they're having to go back to my great-great-grandfather's descendents now. That would be my great-grandfather's brothers, I suppose."
"Great Scott! They must have been born about — let's see — 1800, or so." Smoke spiralled up and Alec sat back contentedly.
"The second brother was Edgar's grandfather. Apparently the third never married. The fourth and youngest got a governess into trouble and was shipped off to the West Indies — at least, that's the family legend."
"Not one either your father or your mother would pass on to you."
"How right you are. Gervaise told me." And Gervaise had gone off to war when she was sixteen, so perhaps she had known about unmarried mothers when she was thirteen. "According to the story, the black sheep wrote to his mother when he married, but when he and his bride were not welcomed home with open arms, he was never heard from directly again. A trickle of news came in from travellers. Rumour reported that he had a large family living on the edge of respectability."
"Who were not listed in the family bible, I take it."
"I can't say I ever looked, but I suppose not, or Edgar wouldn't be having so much trouble now. My — let's see — my grandfather also had a lot of children, a typical Victorian family, so they must have assumed the direct line was well assured. Geraldine says Tommy started the search by hiring someone to go through all the musty old papers in the muniments room. Oh, I think this says —"
"Is there an end to this story, Daisy?"
"Aren't you itching to make the acquaintance of all the skeletons in my family's cupboards?"
"Geraldine does go on a bit. Six pages! Let me see if I can find ..." She skimmed through the rest, picking out phrases here and there. "Advertised in newspapers throughout the Empire. ... Three claimants responded already — Good heavens! They'll be at each other's throats — Tommy thinks — No! She can't be serious. Or am I misreading? ..." She went back to the beginning of the sentence and pored over it word by word.
"'No' what?" Alec's attention was caught.
"I don't believe it! She wants me to be present when Tommy interviews the would-be heirs. Tommy wanted Edgar, as head of the family, but Geraldine says he'd be completely useless."
"I'd agree with her there. Unless one of them turns out to be a fellow lepidopterist, in which case he'd be biased in his favour."
"And Geraldine herself is not a member of the family by birth."
"What about your mother — No, the same applies. Though I hardly think she'd appreciate anyone reminding her of the fact."
Daisy giggled. "Darling, can you imagine either of them in attendance? The poor heirs would turn tail and decide the game wasn't worth the candle."
"Your sister? No, I suppose not."
"I doubt if she's ever spoken to a solicitor in her life. If Tommy really considers it necessary, I'll do it."
"Come off it, love. Don't try to tell me you're not dying to listen in."
"It might be interesting. And, you never know," she added persuasively, "I might spot something proving one of the claimants is a fake."
"I presume that's why Pearson would like a family member present. Don't worry, I shan't try to stop you, if he's agreeable. In fact, I'd bet he approached Edgar first only as a matter of etiquette and he was really angling for you all along."
Such a vote of confidence deserved a kiss, which Daisy duly bestowed. The rest of Geraldine's screed and the dowager's letter did not get read that evening.CHAPTER 2
A fresh crop of envelopes, the first post, was waiting beside Daisy's place at breakfast next morning.
"Heavens, what a pile!" she exclaimed, sitting down.
"There's some of yesterday afternoon's post, too, madam," said Elsie, the Fletchers' parlourmaid, "that you didn't open last night. You left it in the sitting room. I put it on your desk. Tea or coffee, madam? And how would you like your eggs?"
"Just tea and toast today, thank you." Daisy was beginning to fear that bosoms and hips had gone out of fashion forever. She tried, she really did, but her curves just would not go away.
As Alec and Belinda decided what kind of eggs they wanted, she flipped through the post. Mostly tradesmen's bills and circulars — she'd deal with those later. As Alec disappeared behind his Daily Chronicle, she slit open an envelope addressed in her Indian friend Sakari's beautiful and beautifully legible hand.
"Bel, Mrs. Prasad's invited you to go to the zoo with Deva today. She's invited Lizzie as well, and two other girls. Brenda and Erica, Do you know them?"
"Oh yes, Mummy, don't you remember? They were at school with us before we went away to school. May I go? Please?"
"Anyone would think you'd never been to the zoo before," said Alec.
"Darling, it's as much about seeing her friends as seeing the animals. Yes, of course you may go, Bel. Eleven o'clock, she says. Do you want to bike down or would you like a lift?"
"I'll bike. It's fun going downhill, and I expect Mrs. Prasad will have Kesin put my bike in their car and drive me home."
"All right, but if she doesn't think to offer, make sure you set out in time to get home before dark. You'd better ring up right after breakfast to accept."
Daisy had three postcards and a couple of letters from friends, which she read as she absentmindedly consumed several slices of buttered toast. When Alec left for the Yard, she and Belinda went up to the nursery to play with the twins.
At two and a bit, Oliver and Miranda were very active. Their stepsister was very good about letting them climb all over her, even when the dog, Nana, joined in. When they quieted down, Miranda liked looking at picture books and listening to stories, her dark head resting warmly on Daisy's shoulder. Oliver's rusty-brown head was more often bent over his wooden blocks. Belinda helped him build, fending off Nana and straightening his towers before they tumbled.
Belinda departed at ten. Daisy went to the kitchen for her daily consultation with the cook-housekeeper, Mrs. Dobson, then settled in her office to tackle the bills. As always, when she set about this task, she was grateful to Alec's estranged great-uncle for the legacy that made it unnecessary to juggle creditors.
Business dealt with, she finished reading Cousin Geraldine's letter. However, just looking at the envelope from her mother made her feel craven. She put off opening it till the evening. In Alec's presence, she didn't care a farthing for the Dowager Lady Dalrymple's inevitable disapproval of her younger daughter's every action.
Besides, she had to translate from shorthand to typescript the notes she had taken yesterday at Westminster Abbey, before she forgot what the squiggles meant. When she had sorted them out, she got down to writing the article for her American editor. She decided she had plenty of information to make two articles, one on famous people buried in the Abbey, from Oliver Cromwell and Henry Purcell to Charles Darwin and Alfred Lord Tennyson, and one on kings and queens. Americans, having rid themselves of the monarchy, apparently found it fascinating.
After lunch, she went for a walk on Hampstead Heath with the twins, the dog, and the nurserymaid. On their return a message was waiting for Daisy. Mr. Pearson had rung up and would like her to ring back, at her convenience.
Had he, too, received Geraldine's suggestion? Was he about to squash any notion Daisy had of attending the interviews with the claimants to her father's title? Surely not. He wouldn't have telephoned to tell her in person that she was unwanted; he'd have written a polite, discouraging note.
Elsie had carefully written down his telephone number. Daisy sat down on the chair by the hall table, took the receiver from the hook, and dialled.
"Pearson, Pearson, Pearson, and Brown," said a crisp secretarial voice.
Daisy knew that the first Pearson had retired, but she wasn't sure about the second. "Mr. Tommy — Thomas Pearson, please. This is Mrs. Fletcher, Mrs. Alec Fletcher. He rang me while I was out."
"Oh yes, Mrs. Fletcher, would you mind holding the line a moment while I see if Mr. Pearson's free?"
She didn't wait for an answer. Daisy wondered what would have happened had she been given time to say yes, she'd mind, and Tommy could jolly well call her back. However, she wasn't given much time for pique, either.
"Daisy? Tommy speaking. Thanks for ringing back so quickly."
"Hello, darling. I —"
"Daisy, not 'darling' in business hours, please!"
"Sorry. Is 'Tommy' all right?"
"I suppose so, as I find myself addressing you as Daisy," he said ruefully.
"No, let's start again. I take it, Mr. Pearson, that you've heard from Cousin ... from Lady Dalrymple?"
"Several times. And her latest suggestion is actually quite sensible. We can't discuss it over the phone, though. Do you mind coming in to Lincoln's Inn, or would you rather dine with us and talk afterwards? The invitation has Madge's blessing, of course, and includes Alec."
"Which suits you better?"
"You coming to chambers." Tommy, a daring, much-decorated soldier in the war, had become rather staid and proper since joining the family firm, but Daisy heard the grin in his voice. "That way our meeting can be billed to the estate with a good conscience. Difficult to explain away a dinner party on the account. ..."
"Besides, much as I love Madge and Alec, it will be easier without them putting in their two pennyworth."
He laughed. "True, though I hope you'll consult Alec before coming to a decision."
"Assuming this is about what I assume it's about, he's already granted his approval."
The cautious lawyer came to the fore. "Oh? I wouldn't have expected ... But that's not my affair. Let's set a date and time, and Madge will get in touch about a business-free date for dinner."
Daisy checked her diary and suggested the following afternoon. Tommy was going to be in court all day.
"There's no hurry," he assured her. "This is going to drag on for months."
"Jarndyce and Jarndyce?" she asked forebodingly.
"No, no. There's no question about the will, or rather the letters patent."
"Letters ...? No, don't tell me!"
"It's just a matter of carrying on until we're as certain as possible that we've heard from all claimants and discovered the proper heir."
"More like the Tichbourne claimant, then. That dragged on for years, didn't it?"
"We'll just have to hope it won't come to that."
They made an appointment for the following week. Daisy returned to her office. Having decided to give famous people precedence over monarchs, she now had to write about Mrs. Aphra Behn, who died in 1689 and whose monument, according to Daisy's notes, read Here lies a Proof that Wit can never be Defence enough against Mortality. She didn't remember learning about Aphra Behn at school. She turned to Nelson's Encyclopædia, Volume 3, B-Ble.
A spy for Charles II and a successful professional playwright, making her living by her writing in the seventeenth century! Daisy wanted to know more, but the encyclopædia entry was quite short. Reminding herself that all she needed was a snippet for a travel article, she moved on to Sir Isaac Newton.
Excerpted from Heirs of the Body by Carola Dunn. Copyright © 2013 Carola Dunn. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Very downtown abbey ish. Totally enjoyable. I'll buy more.
Oh, no. I only have one more published book to go before I've completed the Daisy books (at least those written thus far). This was another really great read - but could be confusing to keep all the possible heirs straight. It was lovely to get to know more of Daisy's family - and learn more about the complications of inheritance. And fun to keep us guessing what was going on throughout the book. Really fun. And now I am on to reading the last Daisy book. Then I'll just have to read all the other books by Carola Dunn - while I wait for another Daisy book to be published.
Thoroughly enjoyed this . Love these characters.