The Bottom Line: A highly engaging World War II mystery with a remarkable amateur sleuth at the helm.
Set during World War II, D for Daisy begins as the eponymously named British bomber returns to base. The landing is a harrowing one, as the plane’s pilot, Ralph Prendergast, is dead on arrival. It’s up to the flight engineer to take the controls while the rest of the crew hangs on for dear life.
Ralph’s 21-year-old wife, Daisy, has seemingly been prepared for each of her husband’s missions to be his last. As such, she’s remarkably composed when told of Ralph’s passing. Initially, she assumes he’s been killed by a stray bullet or piece of flak. But in the emotional scene where Daisy, who is blind, feels his corpse, she discovers that her husband has no external wounds.
Daisy’s demand for an autopsy is denied. But after collecting Ralph’s suitcase, she discovers the flask he had taken with him on his last mission and takes it to a pharmacist for analysis. Arsenic is discovered in the sample, which is all the evidence Daisy needs to set about attempting to solve her husband’s murder.
In Daisy, author Nick Aaron has created a remarkable amateur sleuth. At times, her formidable powers of deduction seem to be enhanced by her blindness, and she is somehow more observant than her peers when it comes to her insight into human psychology and motive. Daisy’s own telling of her experience throughout (“Do you realise that I have no way of picturing how gold or crystal glitters?”) make her all the more sympathetic. In a moment of meta-awareness shortly after inspecting her husband’s body, she declares, “let’s see, what would you have to do as an amateur sleuth?” As sleuths go, she’s also remarkably patient. Once she determines who has murdered her husband, she’s content to wait until just the right moment to attempt to pounce – even if justice will be years in the making.
The novel’s strengths lie in how well Aaron draws Daisy’s character, the tantalizing mystery of Ralph’s death and an unsettling romantic suspense that carries the plot forward. Aaron’s prose is primarily driven by dialogue and exposition rather than evocative description, which makes this first entry in Aaron’s Blind Sleuth series a quick read that can easily be devoured over a weekend. Fans of World War II period fiction will relish the unconventional chess match between Daisy and her husband’s killer, which simmers throughout the narrative until its satisfying conclusion.