The Body on the Train by Frances Brody – A Kate Shackleton Mystery of murder and more in 1929

The Body on the Train: A Kate Shackleton Mystery: 11: Amazon.co.uk: Brody,  Frances: 9781643851600: Books

The Body on the Train by Frances Brody

Kate Shackleton investigates many unusual things, but in this novel she has to push to the edge of friendship and a way of life that dominates parts of the north of England. When a body is found on a train bringing rhubarb to London she is contacted by Scotland Yard, not just because of the fact of an evident murder, but also because it came from a politically sensitive area of industrial unrest. This book is a worthy addition to the Kate Shackleton Mystery series, but also stands up well as a murder mystery on its own with shared characters and setting with previous books. As ever, it is an intense read with brilliant setting and a real feel for the atmosphere of the time; in 1929 Kate is a war widow with a depth of experience in nursing, detection and most importantly emotional intelligence where those around her are concerned. The research into the running of special trains is a worthy part of the novel, but Brody’s research is never intrusive or at the expense of the narrative. As ever the supporting cast of characters adds greatly to the story, as Sykes and Mrs Sugden use their own skills to discover different elements of the case. Kate manages to benefit from both of her family backgrounds, her adoptive influential parents with her father’s role in the local police and her birth family, here providing support when investigations take the trio into a different area. This is an entertaining read which never loses sight of the people involved in any murder case, and is an excellent piece of historical fiction.

The novel opens with Kate’s summons to London to discuss a case of a man’s body being discovered on the train. His identity is a mystery, and given the particular nature of the mining area from which the train has arrived, Scotland Yard is keen to keep a low profile and use more subtle forms of investigation which they believe Kate is able to undertake. She soon decides to go and stay with a childhood friend whose husband’s estate encompasses the area that could be the origin of the mysterious murder. While being confronted with some family secrets, Kate also learns of a second murder, which is causing a lot of local disquiet. Fortunately Sykes is also able to ask questions of those who may be able to shed some light on the original murder, while Mrs Sugden is aided and abetted by two young and enthusiastic helpers.

As usual for these novels, the chapters are mainly narrated by Kate herself, which allows her to explore her feelings about the people involved. A third person narration of the progress of the other investigators is also threaded throughout the book, with details that enlarge the reader’s understanding of the situation. In both cases the narrative flows well with effective hints about the developing storylines, allowing the reader to feel as if they can guess the outcomes. This is a well researched and written book which goes beyond a straightforward murder mystery, as it reveals a lot about the time in which it is set, and the people involved. There are flashes of humour which I enjoyed, as well as threats to safety and subtle changes of mood. As with the other books in this series, I recommend this as a fascinating read concerning the role of women in the interwar period, offering real insights into the period, and providing a satisfying mystery read.

A Snapshot of Murder by Frances Brody – Kate Shackleton in Bronte Country – and murder

A Snapshot of Murder: The tenth Kate Shackleton Murder Mystery ...

 

 

Kate Shackleton investigates a murder in the Yorkshire countryside. This is nothing new for the series of books from Francis Brody, as the young woman is a private investigator, often retained by a variety of clients to investigate mysteries of various kinds. In this story, however, it is a personal crisis she is investigating. This is a series which uses various situations to test a woman left widowed in the First World War. In this particular novel much of the action takes place in 1928, and in Harrogate. It is a special event there, as the Bronte Parsonage is being handed over to the Bronte Society. Kate is there as a result of a Photographic Society trip to the area which culminates in the official handover of the Parsonage. Unfortunately some of the people on the trip have difficult relationships and there are tensions among the party. With her usual careful assessment of people’s motives and actions, Kate must sort out the truth while emotions around her need to be dealt with carefully.

 

One of the most difficult things for Kate to cope with in this situation is the involvement of her niece Harriet. A young woman with an interest in the local films, she admires Carine who  runs a local photographic shop. She has a difficult history with a demanding father who she cares for, and a husband, Tobias, who has no real interest in the business, but who is very possessive. When a figure from Carine’s past mysteriously reappears, the upset that it causes has unforeseeable consequences for a group of people that travels with them to just outside Harrogate where the group stays, not realising the tensions that are building up from the locals as well as within the group. 

 

There is a lot of local description in this novel, of a house where some of the women stay with its shabby conditions and furnishing. It is only when Kate’s associates, Jim Sykes and Mrs Sugden make a chilling discovery that the whole situation gets really complicated. Kate must sort out past history and present grudges in order to establish  what really happened, so that everyone has some closure.

 

This book is a slow moving mystery, which leaves plenty of time to develop characters and themes, relationships and complications that result from them. The alternating narration switching between Kate and third party tends to slow the book down, but the reader does have the benefit of knowing more of what is going on than any of the characters. Kate’s own complicated family background is also explored in some detail, as she uses her parents’ influence to get to the truth. This book is the eleventh in the series which features Kate, and it shows another stage of her development as an investigator who becomes totally involved in her case. This is not a case which she works on from a distance; she knows too many of the people involved, is too close to the situation to be dispassionate. This is a thoughtful novel with the advantage of a carefully paced plot with many strands. A short story which tells the tale of Kate’s first case is also to be found in this book, which is an undoubted bonus for fans of this series.

 

  

Death in the Stars – A Kate Shackleton Mystery by Frances Brody. Murder and mystery onstage?

Image result for death in the stars frances brody

A tenth book in the series, and a successful novel in its own right, this latest mystery for the private detective Kate Shackleton brings in some new ideas and some new challenges. One of the popular wave of women detectives in the interwar period depicted in long series, this is one of the more serious books which depend on careful sleuthing rather than amusing adventures. While being undoubtedly well written, this is a rather earnest series of novels which feature a war widow who has constructed a new life as a detective for hire. She also has an interesting background as she was adopted into the family of a well off senior policeman and was brought up in very comfortable circumstances, with impressive social links, but her birth family was far more humble. These issues have been worked through in earlier books in the series, as well as her acceptance that her husband has died in the First World War. She has a helpful housekeeper Mrs Sugden and an employee, Jim Sykes, who have gained experience in enquiries, but it is Kate that takes the lead in discovering the true situation.

This book is set in 1927, when an eclipse is promised and many people are eager to witness it. Kate is approached by Selina Fellini, a famous singer and music hall star, to accompany her and her fellow star Billy Moffatt to a boys’ school to witness the solar eclipse in the company of many experts. Kate is intrigued by the request, especially when the singer asks her to charter a plane, which is a fascinating idea in that even at this point it was possible to bypass road and rail traffic. Billy is discovered unconscious and Kate promises to accompany him to hospital. As murder mysteries go, this is a studied and realistic death, rather a poisoning or quick death as mostly preferred by the traditional detective writer. As other mysterious deaths emerge, the stage is literally set for confusion and danger, as no one is above suspicion. Some of the characters still bear the mental scars of the recent war, and the waning popularity of music hall acts in the face of films affects how ambitious the acts involved can be at this point. To a certain extent it is not so much solving the mystery as observing the characters and settings which Brody handles confidently and well.

This is to an extent a book for fans of the series, but enough background emerges that I believe it would work as a standalone novel. It is not as amusing as some books of this type, but it is an enjoyable book which maintains the reader’s interest and is backed by convincing research. Brody succeeds in creating a world which convinces and characters who sound realistic. This is quite a tense read at points, but owes more to the tradition of Golden Age mystery than modern thriller.

One of the things I like about writing this blog is that I can review whichever books I wish; not always scholarly, sometimes almost light, and certainly not always new!  This series of books seems to be a reliable best seller, and it is one that I have enjoyed over the years. I hope that you find new books and authors from this blog, as I try to include something for everyone.

I have not tried to choose my top ten books of 2017, but I do enjoy popping back to track down which books I have included. Happily I have read the book for the next book group already; “Everyone Brave is Forgiven” by Chris Cleave, and have posted about it here  https://northernreader.wordpress.com/2017/04/11/everyone-brave-i…-by-chris-cleave/ ‎  It is a really good read!

 

A Murder Mystery and Hurrah for the Tyneside!

A third post in three days! It can’t last, I hear you say. You may be right; I’ve got a busy few days coming up so I may not have much time. So here are  two books – both by the same author, so something to keep you busy. Oh, apart from a quick mention of the published account of George VI’s speech therapist.

This book, which I’ve just started reading, is the account written by Logue’s grandson of the records he has pieced together. Or rather it is written by a combination of Mark Logue and Peter Conrad. It seems very interesting so far, and well written. Daughter has seen the film twice so far (once with a mystified Italian) and intends to see it again tomorrow. She says “Hurrah for the Tynside Cinema!”.

where she says the staff are very friendly. If only they had their own car park…

Anyway, two murders (at least). I cannot remember if I’ve mentioned her books before but I have recently enjoyed two books by Frances Brody. She also writes as Frances McNeil, but it is as Brody she has written Dying in the Wool

Dying in the Wool (Kate Shackleton Crime Story)

and A Medal for Murder.

A Medal For Murder: A Kate Shackleton Mystery

Both books are Kate Shackleton mysteries, centred on a woman whose doctor husband has gone missing in the recent First World War. She has money, time and the ability to investigate mysteries, and stumble across others. The second book takes place against the background of amateur dramatics, and is an interesting  examination of the times with the cars, jobs and expectations for women debated. It is not a feminist work in many ways, but it does involve interesting comments on what happens to women who do not simply marry and live happily ever after. I must confess to getting a bit confused about the main male characters, and I’m not sure that the main character, Kate, is strong enough to carry the novel. Her mother is a great character, however, and there are some well written scenes. This book is fine if you want something a little more complicated than Christie and a little more challenging than Daisy Darymple. I did enjoy it far more than M C Beaton’s (Agatha Raisin) Edwardian offering, and it is essentially a good read. If female detectives of the earlyish twentieth century are of interest, this is a good choice.