Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

A Snapshot of Murder – Frances Brody

Crime Fiction
4*s

Despite coming to this historical crime series relatively late they have become a firm fixture in my autumnal reading with something so appealing in going back to seemingly less complicated times but of course not neglecting the fact that some people are always going to be bumped off! The bonus with this series is that the murder is more or less of page and the reader can enjoy the mystery without needing to get themselves overly anxious about the killing bit. And so it is for A Snapshot of Murder, the tenth in the Kate Shackleton series.

The year is 1928 and the Brontës are becoming big business, so much so that a museum is opening in Haworth and it’s big news. Back at home Kate is indulging in her other passion than sleuthing as a member of The Headingley Photographic Society. The young lad Derek proposes a group outing and although, as always when a committee is involved, there is plenty of huffing and puffing about the donation to be made and the location to be visited they eventually set off for the opening of the museum with the hope that they will capture some fantastic pictures in the bargain. One thing to say for these novels is that Frances Brody really knows how to lay the groundwork for book and luring you into a time and place.

As might be expected no sooner have they arrived in the picturesque location than there is a murder! As it happens the victim happens to be the most disagreeable male character so we can swiftly move on with nary a tear shed. Even better there is an instant mystery as his wife Carine, also a member of the photographic society, has just discovered that her fiancé a man she believed to have died in WWI is actually alive and well and returned ‘home.’ It also hasn’t escaped anyone’s notice that while Tobias Murchison was busy being disagreeable and boorish, young Derek had provided a bit of solace to Carine. The motives are stacked up, the opportunities catalogued and the local police predictably a little bit confused and so our intrepid sleuth Kate Shackleton is roped into the investigation.

As always with these books the chief protagonist comes over as a very capable woman. The setting may be many years ago but she is fairly modern in her outlook and not inclined to faints or vapours, or to be fair constantly underlining how difficult it is for women in society at the time. In fact I think I’d get on very well with Kate Shackleton who seems to have an abundance of intelligence and a fairly bright outlook on life when you take into consideration that she investigates the worst humanity can do to each other.

The settings are brilliantly done, with the link to the Brontë family and Wuthering Heights in particular the photographic theme lends itself so well to really setting the scene thereby conjuring up the much-loved book as well as setting the scene for murder in 1928!

As this is a series we meet some past characters including Kate’s bubbly niece Harriet but somehow unlike many other crime fiction series all the characters except those that take centre stage are more or less backdrops, so while it is nice to meet them the book really is focussed on the main players in the mystery itself.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Little Brown Book Group, and the author Frances Brody for a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable trip to Brontë land in A Snapshot of Murder!

First Published UK: 25 October 2018
Publisher: Little Brown
No of Pages: 448
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
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The Kate Shackleton Series

Dying In The Wool: 2009
A Medal For Murder: 2009
Murder In The Afternoon: 2012
A Woman Unknown: 2013
Murder on a Summer’s Day 2013
Death of an Avid Reader 2014
A Death in the Dales 2015
Death at the Seaside 2016
Death in the Stars 2017

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Death in the Stars – Frances Brody

Crime Fiction
4*s

Set at the time of the solar eclipse in 1927 with a cast of variety hall entertainers we are treated to a splendid mystery of the death of one of their number. Coming close on the tails of two other accidents Kate Shackleton has the job of unravelling the truth.

This is only the second of the Kate Shackleton series I’ve read, this episode being number nine in the series, but so well-drawn are the key characters that I feel I already ‘know’ them well. Kate is a business-like as usual ably supported by former policeman Jim Sykes and her housekeeper cum investigator, Mrs Sugden. Kate is ahead of her times in running her own PI business but not so far out of it that she comes across as unrealistic, there is no doubting that we are in the 1920s.

With show business being the backdrop to this novel we are treated to fabulous singers, ventriloquists, dancers, comics and acrobats all performing under the watchful eye of Trotter Brockett the man in charge of the whole shebang. Being of a cautious nature when Selina the star of the show is invited to watch the eclipse at Giggleswick School in Yorkshire he gives his permission on the proviso that she is back in time for a rest before the evening show. Selina invites her co-entertainer Billy Moffatt to accompany her and asks Kate to arrange transport, by helicopter no less. Selina is from an Italian family who are big in the ice-cream business and is a fantastic singer drawing crowds to the kind of show that is beginning to feel the threat of the moving picture especially as rumours about that soon the pictures will be accompanied by sound. Anyway the helicopter ride to Giggleswick is to follow a party at Selina’s house which is full of showbiz glamour and the trio joined by journalist who are attending to write a piece and to take pictures of the momentous occasion set off. Sadly tragedy strikes and Kate is employed to find out what happened, and of course why.

Although this is definitely at the cosy end of the crime fiction genre, it isn’t all lightness, jokes and fluff. The historical details set this apart with an appearance in this book of soldiers who fought in WWI and the injuries physical and mental that they returned with. But don’t fear not, there is a solid mystery, complete with the obligatory red-herrings to keep the reader entertained as Kate turns down blind-alleys in a bid to find out if the suspicious death that occurred on her watch was murder or not.

With more than a nod to the Golden Age writers the ending is spot-on in its execution with all the panache you’d expect from a showbiz tale which gave this reader no end of satisfaction even though, for once, I’d worked out (or luckily guessed) which of the many colourful characters should be in the hot seat for thorough questioning.

I was very grateful to receive a copy of Death in the Stars from the publishers Little Brown and this review is my unbiased thanks to them and to Frances Brody for thoroughly entertaining me with her latest Kate Shackleton story.

First Published UK: 5 October 2017
Publisher: Little Brown 
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

The Kate Shackleton Series

Dying In The Wool: 2009
A Medal For Murder: 2009
Murder In The Afternoon: 2012
A Woman Unknown: 2013
Murder on a Summer’s Day 2013
Death of an Avid Reader 2014
A Death in the Dales 2015
Death at the Seaside 2016
Death in the Stars 2017

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Death at the Seaside – Frances Brody

Historical Crime Fiction 4*s
Historical Crime Fiction
4*s

Well I came a little bit late to this party as this is the eighth of Frances Brody’s novels set in the 1920s featuring private investigator Kate Shackleton. I’m delighted to say it didn’t matter and I thoroughly enjoyed the character without needing the background from the previous books.

In this book Kate Shackleton is on holiday. She’s travelled to Whitby to visit an old school friend Alma, a woman she hasn’t seen for some time although she has met up with her daughter Felicity who is Kate’s god-daughter. The holiday begins well with Kate co-ordinating her plans with her assistant Jim Sykes and housekeeper Mrs Sugdon staying close by. Oh for the days when everyone was on holiday together and life was so much simpler!

Sadly Kate’s visit takes her past the jeweller’s shop where her husband proposed to her, sadly he lost his life during the war and there is a moment of poignancy before Kate decides to enter the shop to buy Felicity a present. What she finds instead of a gift is a dead body. In the 1920s phones were rare so Kate is forced to leave the jeweller’s shop and raise the alarm, this action, plus her being an outsider leads her to being suspected of committing the murder. Added to that Felicity has gone missing and Alma is frantic.

This is a solid mystery novel, in a wonderful setting at one of my favourite times in recent history, a time that lends itself to secrets required to maintain respectability to others, and we all know where secrets lead, especially in crime fiction! When Kate catches up with her friend Alma she finds her living in the most peculiar of houses, a grand place which is literally disintegrating around her and the man who owns the other half of the house! She also finds out that Alma rents a space on the pier and acts as the local fortune-teller, abiding by strict regulations about hours of occupancy to keep this position while a more genuine spiritualist can be found. All of which lends itself to a varied and colourful mystery, where any violence is ‘off-page’ and yet the strong character of Kate gives the book real structure and stops it slipping into fluff.

For the most part the book is narrated by Kate herself, she is a practical woman, but a ‘real’ woman, she misses her husband but doesn’t dwell too much on her loss, she is also open it would appear to another husband, but only if the right man makes the offer, she isn’t going to accept a life that won’t make her happy. And it appears that being a private investigator does make her happy, we get the feeling that she is better able to carry out her sleuthing when she is part of the community rather than in Whitby where she is an outsider but I’d need to read the other books to be certain. Because Kate is a practical woman, and one loyal to her friends, some of which lead to mini-adventures such as tracking down Alma who is busy ‘communing with the moon’ leading the local police to wonder if Kate knows about the local smuggling of whisky that they are trying to clamp down on but at least we have a woman who will climb a steep and unfamiliar hill in the dark with no wailing for a man to come and rescue her. The remaining parts of the book are narrated by Alma with very short sections by Felicity whose entries are much darker and more mysterious tone.

A very enjoyable read which despite the title made the perfect autumnal read. I was given my copy of this book by Little Brown Books, and I reciprocate with this honest review.

First Published UK: 6 October 2016
Publisher: Little Brown Book Group
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Historical Crime Fiction
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