by Sandra Murphy
& Frances Brody
This week we have a review of the latest mystery by Frances Brody, A Death in the Dales. We also have a fun guest post from Frances about some of the books that she uses for her research. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of A Death in the Dales. We also have a link to order it from Amazon, and from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
A Death in the Dales: A Kate Shackleton series By Frances Brody
Review by Sandra Murphy
As Freda Simonson looks out her bedroom window, she sees a man being tossed out on his ear from the local pub. He’s obviously had too much to drink and lands in a heap in the gutter. Before the barman can go back inside, a man rushes from the darkness and in the following scuffle, the barman falls to the ground, dead. A crowd gathers, and it’s assumed the drunken man was the murderer. Only Freda knows the truth, and no one believes her.
Although Kate Shackleton never got to meet Freda, she is dating Freda’s nephew, the doctor. It was a last wish of Freda’s that Kate, a private detective, look into the death of the barman and clear his accused killer’s name. Kate’s reluctant to take on a cold case but finds herself drawn in, the more she learns about Freda.
Currently, there’s another mystery to solve. Kate’s traveling with her young niece, Harriet, who’s recovering from an illness. Harriet meets another girl her age whose brother is missing—sort of. They are orphans and were sent out to work, he on a farm. It’s hazy about which farm and why her brother didn’t show up for the May Day celebration since even farmers with livestock look forward to attending, if just for a while between chores. Kate agrees to find the boy and make sure he’s being taken care of and is happy at the job.
On the romantic side, the trip to stay at Freda’s house is a way for the doctor and Kate to spend more time together, he in hopes of proposing and she wary but with an open mind. On the surface, things seem to go well, but the more Kate investigates, the less the doctor seems to like it.
The original murder took place in 1916. The current situation is 1926, when gasoline is hard to come by and there are no modern conveniences like cell phones and Google. Kate is modern in her thinking, though, careful to find the right match in a husband or to go without.
Everyone has a secret—the woman who hires Kate to get her love letters returned, the man who has them, the barman’s wife and even the children. Kate, her assistant and her housekeeper each play a role in finding out all those secrets, especially since someone is determined they stay a secret.
This is a good mystery with several subplots to keep readers turning the pages. Kate is a woman you’d want as a friend and on your side should you have a problem that seems unsolvable. Harriet is determined to act as her aunt’s sidekick, so readers should look forward to seeing more of her in the future.
Off The Shelf
By Frances Brody
What sort of bookshelves do you have? Are they impressive glass-fronted oak numbers, handed down through the family, perfect for storing your first editions? Perhaps your books sit on shelves that came in a flat-pack, with an appearance that’s nothing to write home about, but an immense achievement for the person who put the thing together without losing any pieces.Let me introduce you to the bookshelves in my study, and some of the books I pick up for reference but also for diversion. It’s the detail of a story that makes fiction ring true, and I love details. If I’m stuck in my writing, I like to open a book and look at pictures or read a snatch of this or that.
My period is ‘The Twenties.’ That’s the title of Alan Jenkins’s book. It’s beautifully illustrated. There are flappers, vamps, gangsters, smoking suits, and two-tone shoes. The author handles facts lightly and wittily and with an eye for a pithy quote. Here’s an account of boyish heroines: “frank, fearless, straight, true, green hats bravely worn, kissing and not telling.”
My Gamages Christmas Bazaar dates from 1913, when Kate Shackleton would have turned twenty-one. People bought stuff to last in those days. I can’t quite see Kate buying Stein’s Moist Rouge, The most perfect Rouge invented, Absolutely pure, but she may have been presented with A compact Folding Mirror in a neat wooden frame that had the advantage of being easily carried in a pocket and was Marvellous Value.
My novels are mainly set in Yorkshire, and so I have books about the county’s people, places and events, and also The Penguin Dictionary of British Place Names. Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and Normans bequeathed names that now sound weird and wonderful. In a story that’s still in the pipeline, Kate visits Giggleswick. This is not a village where, upon entering, visitors fall into fits of giggles. Old English and Middle English, it’s Ghigleswic in the Domesday Book: Gikel’s or Gichel’s Dairy Farm.
The Great War, that “War to end all wars,” casts its long shadow into the twenties and thirties. Villages, towns, and cities raised “Pals” battalions, recruiting men from the same streets and workplaces who marched off together. In theory that sounded a splendid idea. The result was a huge loss of life leaving no street or hamlet untouched. At a book event, I listened to Caroline Todd, talking about the Charles Todd series. She said something very simple and true: there is not a village in Britain without a war memorial. Having seen so many war memorials, I had taken that awesome fact for granted.Being a private investigator, Kate frequently has to up and off at short notice. She travels by car and rail. I’m fortunate in having Noel Stokoe, Press Officer of the Jowett Car Club, as my motoring advisor.
The ABC Railway Guide provided the spine of Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders. For me, it is a great help in working out how soon Kate might arrive in Kings Cross, or Euston, if she sets off from Leeds. If questioned by a railway buff, I can defend myself. Although I do admire the writer who, when challenged that a train didn’t stop in a certain place, opened his novel, pointed to the page and said, “Oh yes it does. It says so here.”
What are your favorite volumes for research? The internet is a great resource, but I still prefer my books.
To enter to win a copy of A Death in the Dales, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “dales,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 4, 2017. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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