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After the Armistice Ball (Book 1)

Shortlisted for the Ellis Peters Dagger Award, 2005

After the Armistice Ball is set among the struggling upper classes of 1920s Perthshire as, in the aftermath of the First World War, their comfortable world begins to crumble. Dandy Gilver, her husband back from the War, her children off at school and her uniform growing musty in the attic, is bored to a whimper and a little light snooping seems like harmless fun. Before long, though, the puzzle of what really happened to the Duffy diamonds after the Armistice Ball is swept aside by a sudden death in a lonely seaside cottage in Galloway. Society and the law seem ready to call it an accident but Dandy, along with Cara Duffy's fiance Alec, is sure that more is going on than meets the eye. What is being hidden by members of the Duffy family: the watchful Lena, the cold and distant Clemence and old Gregory Duffy with his air of quiet sadness, not to mention Cara herself whose secret always seems just tantalizingly out of view? Dandy must learn to trust her instincts and swallow most of her scruples if she is to uncover the truth and earn the right to call herself a sleuth.

A note from Catriona: "Right at the end of ATAB, because it was my time and I was learning on the job, I decided to leave the answer to a question . . . not exactly dangling, but not exactly tied up either. Over the years, lots of people have emailed to ask what the answer is. Here's what I tell them - re-read the prologue; the frist clue is there. (I've never done it again. Sorry.)


Book Club Questions

  1. This was my first published novel. (Please read gently!) Can you tell? If so, how?
  2. I wanted to write a book people might believe was old rather than historical – I wanted to move myself back to then and write about it, rather than look back from now. Do you think this worked? What would be different about the book if it was written with a modern voice?
  3. Do you like Dandy Gilver when you first meet her in the novel? Why (not)?
  4. What do you think of Hugh and Dandy’s marriage? You could consider it in its context or in today’s terms.
  5. How about the puzzle plot? Did you guess whodunnit?
  6. What do you think of Dandy as a mother? And as a friend?
  7. The detective novels of the Golden Age tended not to focus on the aftermath of WWI. Why do you think that was? Do you think I was right to add some of Alec’s past to this story?
  8. At the end of the book, a question is left unanswered. What did you make of that decision? (Full disclosure: I’ve had more emails about this than every other writing decision put together, over the last fourteen years, and I’ve never done it again.) By the way, the answer is there. The first clue is in the prologue.


Buy it

" ...the most engaging and ingenious crime-cracker I've met in ages..."

Scotland on Sunday

"A thoroughly entertaining debut..."

Book & Magazine Collector

"Memorable supporting characters ... a compelling mystery, but it is Dandy who shines."

Publishers' Weekly (starred review)

"McPherson is an exemplary crime writer"


"a novel that even Dorothy L. Sayers would have been pleased with."