The Three Dahlias by Katy Watson – review

Published by Constable

Publication date – 21 July 2022

Source – Harrogate giveaway copy

Three rival actresses team up to solve a murder at the stately home of Lettice Davenport, the author whose sleuthing creation of the 1930s, Dahlia Lively, had made each of them famous to a new generation. 

In attendance at Aldermere: the VIP fans, staying at house; the fan club president turned convention organiser; the team behind the newest movie adaptation of Davenport’s books; the Davenport family themselves; and the three actresses famous for portraying Dahlia Lively through the decades.

There is national treasure Rosalind King, from the original movies, who’s feeling sensitive that she’s past her prime, TV Dahlia for thirteen seasons, Caro Hooper, who believes she really IS Dahlia Lively, and ex-child star Posy Starling, fresh out of the fame wilderness (and rehab) to take on the Dahlia mantle for the new movie – but feeling outclassed by her predecessors.

Each actress has her own interpretation of the character and her own secrets to hide – but this English summer weekend they will have to put aside their differences as the crimes at Aldermere turn anything but cosy.

When fictional death turns into real bodies, can the three Dahlias find the answers to the murders among the fans, the film crew and the family – or even in Lettice’s books themselves?

Fans are gathered at Aldermere, the home of the late Lettice Davenport, author and creator of beloved fictional detective Dahlia Lively. So too are the current residents of Aldermere, Hugh Davenport and his wife and granddaughter, film crew and the three screen incarnations of Dahlia. Thrown together for a murder convention things take a dark turn when the murder mystery game becomes real. The three Dahlias join forces to discover the killer.

The three women are thrown together by accident and wouldn’t appear to have anything in common, except for portraying the same character. Rosalind is the original, first to immortalise Dahlia on screen. Caro starred in the TV adaptations and played the detective for so long she has confused the lines between fictional character and her real life. Posy finds herself floundering. A former child star who has been in rehab, she wonders how she has been cast as Dahlia given she has never even read one of the books. They are soon drawn together by the fact they are all Dahlia Lively and are determined to prove there has been a murder, even though the police aren’t so sure.

There’s a lovely mixture of modern and vintage to the book. The setting is present day but the theme of the weekend is 1930s so there’s hints at both times which works well. This is also set off by the fact the action takes place in a country house, which even boasts a gate house and a folly, classic scenes for a vintage murder mystery.

There are a whole host of characters, all with something to hide, which is handy given there’s a blackmailer about and the three women are looking for people with motives for murder. There are super fans who are immersing themselves in the house of their author hero, the movie director and script writer who have to persuade Hugh Davenport to sign off on the script. There’s Hugh’s wife, Isobel, uncomfortable with strangers in her home, her granddaughter Juliette, itching to feel important and the organisers Marcus and Clementine, one of whom is in everyone’s business and the other seemingly at a distance.

The clues to the culprit and what really happened are dotted throughout the story so that the reader can play armchair detective whilst the three Dahlias wade through information and misdirection to discover the truth. I had worked out who the killer was before the reveal but when it came it was done in style.

An entertaining, clever homage to golden age fiction, I enjoyed it hugely and it left me wishing Dahlia Lively’s stories were real. I’d have binge read them if they were.

I’m already looking forward to book two.


You can buy a copy of The Three Dahlias here.

(This is an affiliate link so I may make a small amount should you purchase through it. You can also buy the book from your local independent bookshop.)

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