Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Anthem for Doomed Youth

by Carola Dunn

ANTHEM FOR DOOMED YOUTH, my 19th Daisy Dalrymple mystery, is now out. It's a bit different from the rest of the series, not only in having a serious theme that still resonates in our time, but in that Daisy and her husband, DCI Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard, are involved in two different cases... Or so it appears.

While Alec tackles the discovery--by a dog, of course--of three bodies buried in Epping Forest, near London, Daisy goes off with a couple of friends to visit their daughter at her boarding school (which just happens to be the school I attended a good many years later!).

With three 13-year-old girls to entertain, they visit a public garden that has a maze. One of the girls, lost in the maze, finds the body of a much-disliked teacher. When the local inspector proves incompetent, Daisy feels obliged to do a bit of sleuthing.

According to Publishers Weekly: "The aristocratic but very modern Daisy makes a formidable amateur sleuth." And this--I assume--is the aspect of the book described by Kirkus as "amusing and sprightly" (!). Mysterious Women, on the other hand, called it: "gripping and fascinating," referring perhaps to Alec's side of the story.

Alec, meanwhile, is trying to identify the three buried men, all shot to death. He has to find out the connection between them, so that he can stop the killer before he kills again. It turns out that all three were in the trenches in Flanders during WWI, and something that happened there may hold the key.

This is the poem that inspired me and from which I stole the title. I have to admit that however many times I read it, it always brings tears to my eyes.

by Wilfred Owen

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them from prayers or bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,--
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of silent minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Wilfred Owen was killed in action in France one week before the Armistice.

The UK cover reflects this side of the story better. This edition will be out in May.

Alec's race against time to prevent another murder converges with Daisy's efforts to find out who killed the teacher. They seem to be two aspects of the same investigation. However, as always, Daisy has her own opinion on the subject!

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