Mistletoe and Murder (Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries, No. 11)

Mistletoe and Murder - Carola Dunn While I truly enjoyed the first book of this series, I'd say that this book, "Mistletoe and Murder" is perhaps my favorite so far, because the mystery didn't feel "usual".The last few Daisy mysteries seemed silly, outrageous, or downright unbelievable. But this book was quite good. Maybe it's because I really didn't know Whodunnit until the end of the book! That's unusual for me, since I was practically weaned on mysteries and am usually more than 2 steps ahead in any mystery book, movie, or play. Of course, when the clues come together, there was no doubt. But it was an intriguing story!Daisy has convinced her second or third cousin-once removed, Lord Westcott, to let her do an article on the Westcott mansion, Baldeen. It's full of historical articles and will help Daisy with her Town and Country magazine quota. And it helps that Daisy is distantly related. Except that it's Christmas time, and her mother, the Dowager Duchess, decides that the entire family will spend Christmas at the mansion - expecting that Lord Westcott and family will be there, too. Not so. Then the plans change again when Daisy finds out old Mrs. Fletcher (Alec's mother) has decided not to come for Christmas, and Daisy's sister Violet isn't well enough to travel in her "expecting" condition. The poor relations (the Norvilles) live at Baldeen. And while there are servants to take care of the house for Lord Westcott, they don't serve nor interact much with the Norville family. Daisy finds this quite odd, until she meets old Mrs. Norville - obviously a woman from India.Of course, once the Dowager Duchess arrives with Alec, Belinda, and nephew Derek in tow; Derek decided that he wanted to be part of the fun and would have a "ripping" time with Belinda, since they're fast friends. The Dowager Duchess informs Daisy that she has it on good authority that the old Mrs. Norville was never married to Albert Norville! Which makes her two sons, Captain Norville and Godfrey Norville (the house's historian) illegitimate! The Dowager Duchess cannot believe that Daisy would allow the family to holiday with such people!But Captain Norville isn't alone. He's brought with him a Rev. Carrick, a gentleman around 70 who spent most of his life as a missionary in India. The Reverend is quite the sticky-wicket: he disapproves of the "idols" in old Mrs. Norville's sitting room, he loudly disclaims the "pagan" rituals of mistletoe and Christmas trees, and he scolds the youngest Norville, Jemima, for her many snarky practical jokes - mostly for trying to frighten him and Belinda playing a headless ghost in the dark of night. Daisy and Alec can't figure out why the Captain brought the Reverend with him; the Rev is usually displeased at what the family does.Meanwhile, Belinda and Derek and Bel's puppy Nana explore the house and grounds. Godfrey Norville told them that some of the furniture in the house contained secret panels, and that there's the legend of a lost Dutch treasure on the grounds. So, of course, the two find adventures trying to locate the treasure. Jemima skulks and sneaks behind them, throwing scorn at them and threatening to tattle if anything they say or do is remotely derisive of her or her family. In fact, Jemima creeps Daisy out! Before Bel and Derek arrived, Jemima followed her (Daisy) around; Daisy tried to draw out the sullen 14-year old, but to no avail. The only person Jemima seems to have any feeling for at all is her father, Godfrey.On Christmas eve, following a strained carol service (where the Rev was most displeased at some of the pagan carols sung), the Rev decides that he must go to a chapel on the grounds at the time the Christ child was born to pray and seek guidance. But on Christmas morning, no one sees the Rev at breakfast, and when the Norville and Fletcher/Dalyrymple families gather with the servants in the indoor chapel for a Christmas service, the Rev never turns up. A quick jaunt to the grounds chapel by Alec, the Captain, and his nephew, and they discover the Rev dead - stabbed in the back with a seaman's knife... the very one that Bel and Derek had discovered on one of their hidden treasure ventures.And so the story comes out... the Rev was present to validate the marriage between old Mrs. Norville (Susana) and Albert Norville. The Rev was the one who married them all those years ago. Except that when the Rev saw the family, he was unsure as to whether he could give his approval or not; thus his trip to the chapel to pray. But which of the family would possibly kill the Rev when he was the very one to legitimize their family connections? And, as it turns out, had the family been able to prove the two Norville men legitimate, the Captain would be the heir presumptive - next in line; and since the Captain had no heirs, his nephew Mel (Godfrey's son) would then inherit the title next.Since it's Christmas, and since the local police are used to only the occasional bar fight, Alec finds himself pulled in to investigate on behalf of Scotland Yard. So Tom Tring and Ernie Piper make their way to Beldeen to assist. But there doesn't seem to be a good suspect or a good motive! Can they solve this mystery? ===============I was so caught up in the story, I really wasn't sure who was whom or who did the deed! I had suspicions, of course, but none of them made any more sense to me than did Alec's, Daisy's, or Alec's officers' detecting. And while the ending seemed rather quick, it was full of action! Even Daisy's life is threatened!And for once, Daisy doesn't find the body!