Kate Shackleton Mystery #6

Publisher: Piatkus

Publication date: 13 September 2016

Page count: 482 pages

Publisher Synopsis:

An intricate plot in the post-WWI English countryside and Frances Brody’s “refreshingly complex heroine” (Kirkus) make for absorbing 6th installment in this mystery perfect for fans of Jacqueline Winspear and Agatha Christie.

The Search for a Daughter
Lady Coulton gave up the baby that would have ruined her marriage, born when Lord Coulton was abroad. Now that her husband is dying, she asks Kate to find Sophia.

A Haunted Library
It is forty years since the ghost of a dead librarian haunted the old library, yet the stories have begun again. Kate does not believe in ghosts but obligingly takes part in a ceremony to expel the restless spirit. Shockingly, there is a body in the basement, strangled, and covered in dusty volumes from a fallen bookcase. It is Dr. Potter, a mathematician.

A Killer on the Loose
Dr. Potter’s body is taken away. The police find a sick man sheltering in the basement. He is an Italian, Umberto, an organ grinder and owner of a lively Capuchin monkey. Umberto becomes the prime suspect and will be charged with murder. Kate goes with Umberto to the infirmary. But he is too weak to be a suspect. And now Kate must set out to find the real culprit…

I have been planning to read a Kate Shackleton mystery by Frances Brody, all of which are based in Yorkshire, my home county, for a while now. While this is the 6th Kate Shackleton mystery it is not necessary to have read any of the previous books as it successfully stands alone; nor is it necessary to be familiar with Yorkshire, although, it does add an additional layer of interest for those that are.

I decided to begin with this particular novel because it is set in Leeds, the city in which I work, and surrounding The Leeds Library in particular. The Leeds Library is a unique library in the city centre which I had a tour of a few years ago during an open day. It is one of the oldest (founded in 1768) and last subscription libraries in the UK and is now a charity. The library itself (purpose built and opened in 1808) is an architectural gem as well as holding many amazing books in its collection. Visit their website for further information here.

The book is set in the 1920’s an era I am particularly enjoying reading about at the moment. As you will see from my earlier reviews of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King and In the Market for Murder by T.E Kinsey (not quite the 20’s but just before in the 1910’s). Kate is a female private detective, ably assisted by former Policeman Jim Sykes, and is a member of the apparently haunted Leeds Library. The book begins when Kate takes on a very delicate case for the well-to-do Lady Coulton but events at the Leeds Library soon overtake her. Kate happens to be present at the discovery of a crime scene in the library basement and she feels she has no choice but to investigate the murder of fellow library member, the mathematician Dr Potter, when the police seem to be pursuing the wrong suspect.

It took me a little while to really get into this novel because real life kept interrupting, but I really became hooked at the point when we learn more about Kate’s back story and her emotions threaten to overwhelm her at the hospital. At this point, she became real to me and I was fully engaged.

This is a well-plotted and intricate mystery novel which I thoroughly enjoyed. Frances Brody’s great story telling draws you in a certain direction, then, just as you believe it is the correct one, another piece of information or evidence appears in contradiction and sets things asunder once more.  The various sub-plots are woven together masterfully and they all come to satisfying conclusions. As an Agatha Christie fan, I would agree that admirers of hers may well enjoy this book as there is also a subtle humour in it, which also reminded me of Ms Christie’ works.

I will definitely be reading more Kate Shackleton mysteries.



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