Book Blog Tour ~ Death in the Stars by Frances Brody

Eclip9780349414317 (1)se fever has gripped Britain in 1927; in Yorkshire, trusted sleuth Kate Shackleton has been approached by theatre star Selina Fellini to accompany her to a viewing party. Kate, canny and wary as ever, suspects an ulterior motive, and when Selina’s friend and party guest Billy Moffatt dies in mysterious circumstances, Kate can’t help but start investigating.

This is the fourth year in a row that I have been asked to read a Kate Shackleton Mystery for my blog, and I have to say, I do look forward to that email arriving! This is the ninth in the series by Frances Brody, and though I have enjoyed the preceding three mysteries that I have read, there’s no worry here that you have to go back to the start in order to enjoy the newest one.

The mystery itself is self-contained, as always, so the enjoyment comes from simply going along for the ride, and trying to work out who the villain is. And this is a book set in the theatre world of the 1920s, meaning there’s glamour and excitement to be enjoyed, alongside the sense that it won’t be long until these music hall performers find their stars eclipsed by movie stars.

As I’ve noted in previous reviews of Brody’s mysteries, I am always struck by the carefulness with which a woman’s place in society is handled. Kate Shackleton is not a 2017 version of a 1920s woman; she’s a woman of her time – confident and sure in her ability to solve these cases, but conscious of how she is viewed and treated by the men around her.

The mystery itself is a fun one to try and work out; I was none-the-wiser as to the identity of the villain throughout the book until the final reveal. There are plenty of red herrings to contend with, as with all the best mystery novels, and I was well and truly left guessing.

Death in the Stars
First published: 5th October 2017
ISBN: 9780349414317
Review copy provided by publisher

Book Blog Tour ~ Death at the Seaside by Frances Brody

9780349406589-1Amateur detective Kate Shackleton has decided to take a break; nothing ever happens in August, so she heads to Whitby for a holiday, meeting up with her old school friend Alma whilst there. But mystery and crime tends to follow Kate around, and she finds herself caught up in the investigations into the murder of a jeweller in the town, who happens to be Alma’s current love interest, and who has also recently lent Alma’s daughter Felicity some money so she could run away with her beau to find her father.

This is the third year in a row that I have had the pleasure to review a Kate Shackleton mystery here on my blog. Affectionately referred to as ‘cosy crime’, they aren’t the sort of books that are going to present violently graphic murder scenes, or end in a thrilling chase to nail the killer. Things trot along at a pleasant pace, and much like an Agatha Christie novel, build to an exciting climax in which the perpetrator, along with his or her motive, is finally revealed.

Kate Shackleton is an interesting heroine; bound by the societal rules of the time (post World War I), but written as an independent and intelligent woman who can’t resist the lure of a mystery that has to be solved. Kate’s lovable sidekick, Sykes, is once again on hand to assist her, as is her housekeeper, Mrs Sugden.

When I read my first Kate Shackleton Mystery, I was worried that I might feel as though I had missed something; often when reading a series, you feel that you have to start at the beginning. While of course there would be some benefit to reading the series in order, these are self-contained cases, and it’s only the ephemera of Kate’s life that continues with any consistency. But Brody is able to build the backstory without including pages of exposition; it’s always introduced gently that Kate is a widower who lost her husband during the war, and everything else is mentioned only if necessary. It doesn’t necessarily matter that Kate solved the mystery of a murder in a library two books ago, but if something like this needs to be mentioned, it is done with a deft hand.

I can’t recommend this series of books enough to someone who enjoys this kind of cosy crime; it’s not unlike an episode of Midsomer Murders or Morse; just fantastical enough to be entertaining, but moving along at such a pace that you never feel as though you are being left behind.

Death at the Seaside
First published: 6th October 2016
ISBN: 9780349406589
Review copy provided by publisher

Book Blog Tour ~ Death of an Avid Reader by Frances Brody

Death of an Avid Reader is classified as ‘Cosy Crime’; taking her lead from the likes of Agatha Christie, Frances Brody invites readers to join her amateur female detective, Kate Shackleton, as she unravels the mysteries of a long-since adopted illegitimate child, and a library-based murder.

The story begins with Kate Shackleton being invited to London to meet with an aristocratic woman who has a secret: many years before she had an affair and fell pregnant, and to avoid scandal, the baby was adopted. Now she is dying, she wants to know that her daughter is well, and she employs the widowed amateur detective to do some digging around. Of course, that’s not a story that would fill a book, so alongside that, we have the mysterious murder of Horatio Potter, a local mathematician who, along with Kate herself, serves on the board of the local library.

Death of an Avid Reader is the sixth Kate Shackleton Mystery. It’s always a worry when the first book you pick up in a series isn’t the first chronologically, because you have to rely on the author’s deft touch at filling in any gaps in knowledge you may have, without spending chapters setting the scene, and explaining each character’s backstory. Luckily Brody manages this well; I was never left to wonder for too long over the motives for Kate Shackleton’s decision to become an amateur detective, nor was I confused as to how each character fitted into her life. In the same way that I have never felt the need to read the Poirot series chronologically, I don’t think it matters which is the first Kate Shackleton Mystery you read.

The plot was entertaining; just enough melodrama to keep things interesting, with the odd hint that things were going to get supernatural before pulling back to reveal that there was a feasible explanation for everything. Kate Shackleton is a well-written main character; rather than trying to make her a woman who is decades before her time, Brody makes sure she is a woman of the era, who tries her best to overcome the limits that society places on her while accepting that there are some things she cannot do. She engages the help of Sykes, a former policeman, who assists her on her cases. Having a man around simply makes things easier for her in a society that doesn’t always value women who want to work outside the home.

The title, Death of an Avid Reader, gives some clue as to the setting of the book, and if that wasn’t enough, the lovely retro-inspired cover does the the rest of the work. Horatio Potter is murdered in the library, and that’s where a lot of the action takes place, amongst the dusty tomes and with the librarians and patrons.

There’s a reason this type of book is called Cosy Crime; there’s no gruesome crime scenes to contend with, the villains are villainous without being brutal, and the heroes are down-to-earth, sympathetic characters you root for throughout the story. Everything is tied up in a neat bow, ready for Kate Shackleton to move on to her next mystery, and fans of this type of novel know exactly what they are going to get. Whilst it won’t set the world alight, it’s a perfectly enjoyable way to spend time, immersing yourself in post-war Leeds and going along for the ride, trying to work out who the killer is.

Death of an Avid Reader
First published: 2nd October 2014
ISBN: 9780349400570
Review copy provided by publisher