I have written about Conrad Allen‘s Dillman Mystery Series before. (Actually, it’s called the Dillman and Masefield Mystery Series, but I find that to be a little bit of a SPOILER!) Well, since I just finished reading one of the Allen’s Dillman mysteries, I thought I would (again!) tell you about this series. I consider this series something of a “classic”, the Dillman and Masefield Mystery Series all takes place in a series of interesting venues – trans-Atlantic voyages at the turn of the 20th century.
Besides fitting comfortably within the Cozy Mystery formula, the Dillman and Masefield Mystery Series also qualifies as something of a historical mystery. Though started by Conrad Allen in 1999 with the release of Murder on the Lusitania, the books all take place in the early 20th century, with the first taking place on the maiden voyage of the Lusitania in 1906, the vessel whose sinking in 1915 would eventually lead to the entrance of America into World War I.
As with most good historical mysteries, the Dillman and Masefield series takes full advantage of its setting, using the bygone era to help paint a more “ideal” version of the setting, rather than the often more messy reality of the time. For a novel to truly qualify as a historical novel, it can’t take place during the author’s own time – so novels such as Agatha Christie’s Poirot series, which take place in what would now be considered the past, don’t usually qualify as historical since they took place in roughly the same era that Christie herself was writing.
The specific setting Allen selected, the early 1900s, make a particularly good period to set such novels due to the relatively peaceful nature of the decade. At the same time, the rising tensions before the actual outbreak of war are enough to help set the stage for intrigue among the passengers. The decade also benefits from perhaps being a bit less well entrenched in the minds of many readers than some alternatives – it manages to possess the prosperity of the roaring ’20s, without necessarily possessing the widespread cultural change from that particular decade.
Besides the charm of the setting, Allen also does a good job of making likeable protagonists and supporting cast. The first novel in particular is interesting since he takes his time in revealing the secrets and pasts of the main protagonists. Many authors are in too much of a hurry when they first introduce their sleuths, quick to drop as much exposition as possible to help get their characteristics across. Instead, George Porter Dillman and Genevieve Masefield are introduced more gradually, letting the reader come to like them through their interactions with the rest of the cast, so that when we learn about their pasts we’re more interested in them as characters whose company we already enjoy.
All told, I thoroughly enjoy this series and can recommend it to anyone seeking quality Cozy Mystery reading. The only suggestion I would make to readers is that perhaps they should space out their Dillman and Masefield mysteries. The setting of a grand ship making the trans-Atlantic passage in the 1900s is certainly interesting, but reading several novels with the same interesting setting in quick succession might wear slightly on the novelty. Conrad Allen has also written several other series, under his actual name of Keith Miles and his Edward Marston pseudonym.