Friday, October 3, 2014

Dying In The Wool by Frances Brody


Take one quiet Yorkshire village, Bridgestead is a peaceful spot: a babbling brook, rolling hills and a working mill at its heart. Pretty and remote, nothing exceptional happens.

Add a measure of mystery ...

Until the day that Master of the Mill Joshua Braithwaite goes missing in dramatic circumstances, never to be heard of again.

A sprinkling of scandal ...

Now Joshua's daughter is getting married and wants one last attempt at finding her father. Has he run off with his mistress, or was he murdered for his mounting coffers?

And Kate Shackleton, amateur sleuth extraordinaire!

Kate Shackleton has always loved solving puzzles. So who better to get to the bottom of Joshua's mysterious disappearance? But as Kate taps into the lives of the Bridgestead dwellers, she opens cracks that some would kill to keep closed.


As a fan of Historical Cosy Mysteries, and an author of my own series, I admit I bought this book to see how the experts did it.  I wasn’t disappointed as the writing style is beautifully done, smooth and full of images, while the characters have quirks and faults which make each of them well rounded and intriguing.

The reason for Kate Shackleton’s interest in sleuthing professionally is understandable – her husband was missing believe killed in action five years before. As an independent widow in a position to choose how she lives her life in an age when women were still expected to be led by the nose – by a man – Kate is outwardly strong and runs around in a motor car, much to the approbation of those she meets. For her part, Kate is emotionally damaged and has not discovered how or why she ought to let go of her husband as there is a tiny voice telling her he may still be out there, somewhere. I really liked her.

The author’s research into running a textile mill in 1920’s Yorkshire is masterful, and she comes down on just the right side of info dumps in her descriptions, the attitudes to the owners and the way they treated their workforce.

Kate also takes on an assistant, an ex-policeman of whom she isn’t sure, but who proves a valuable asset in her investigations. He also grows to like him as he treats her as a professional colleague not an empty-headed woman.

There were a couple of details I found unusual, in that even taking into account the ‘surplus women’ left over after the First World War, would the wealthy socialite Tabitha Braithwaite really marry a man ten years younger, who was a boy scout when his fiancĂ©e was tending the wounded as a VAD? Hmm, not sure about that one.

Kate's methods are very practical, in that her interest in photography doubles as a way of collecting evidence, but just when a second body turns up in suspicious circumstances, Kate takes herself off for a week to attend a family dinner which, for me, dragged the story down just when it was picking up pace.

Kate’s friends aren’t quite as loyal of forbearing as she is, and the aptly named Tabby, turns on her when the investigation appears to be going in a direction she doesn’t like. Kate comes close to death at one point and the ungrateful girl revokes Kate’s invitation to her wedding.

The plot is very complicated, and interspersed with flashbacks to 1916, a device used to show what motivated the other characters as the story is told in Kate’s PoV. The reader needs to pay attention or vital nuances will be missed, which is where I found the flashbacks distracting and felt the story was strong enough without the additional characters putting in their own penn’orth.

Saying that, I fully intend to read the other five books in this series. Ms Brody’s narrative is easy to read, nostalgic and so English.  I hate to admit it but I recognised some of the idioms, i.e a 'tanner' was still being called that when I was a nipper. Oh dear.

Anita Davison also writes as Anita Seymour, her 17th Century novel ‘Royalist Rebel’ was released by Pen and Sword Books, and she has two novels in The Woulfes of Loxsbeare series due for release in late 2014 from Books We Love. Her latest venture is an Edwardian cozy mystery being released next year by Robert Hale.

TWITTER: @AnitaSDavison

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