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Thursday 3 November 2016

‘Death at the Seaside’ by Frances Brody

Published by Piatkus,
6 October 2016.
ISBN: 978-0-349-40658-9

Kate Shackleton first became an investigator after the Great War when she developed her detective skills to hunt for her husband, Gerald, who was listed at Missing In Action. Soon Kate was helping other distressed and desperate people to seek out their missing loved ones and this turned into a Private Investigation business, still focusing mainly on locating the missing.

Some years after the end of the War Kate received proof that Gerald was dead and she has learned to accept her loss. However, her detection business continues to thrive, aided by her assistant, Jim Sykes, and her housekeeper, Mrs Sugden.

It is the middle of the summer and Kate and her assistants all agree that nothing happens in August and they might as well take a well-earned break from detection. They depart to their holiday destinations, all of them in Yorkshire. Kate chooses Whitby, the seaside resort where she and Gerald first met and became engaged. It is also the town where Kate’s old school friend, Alma, lives. Alma’s daughter, Felicity, is Kate’s god-daughter and Kate is very fond of her.

On the first afternoon of Kate’s holiday she makes a nostalgic visit to the jeweller’s shop where Gerald had bought her engagement ring and discovers the shop owner dead in his back room. Things get even more complicated when Kate hears that Felicity has disappeared. Worse is to follow. Alma’s husband had vanished years before and she is scraping a precarious living as a fortune teller on Whitby pier. She had hopes of marrying the jeweller but everybody else who knew him was convinced that marriage to Alma did not figure in his plans. Kate realises that Alma could be suspected of lashing out in anger if she discovered the unwelcome truth. Even more worrying for Kate is the knowledge that Felicity has never ceased to hope her father would return. It is known that she went to the jeweller’s shop to pawn the watchguard that is her family’s only valuable possession. Kate is racked by the fear that Felicity resented the jeweller’s attentions to her mother enough to lash out and kill him and then ran away in panic.

When the local police sergeant indicates that he suspects Kate of involvement in the murder and of signalling to smugglers, she knows she needs help to discover the truth. Fortunately, both Jim Sykes and Mrs Sugden are happy to cut short their holidays and rally round.

Death at the Seaside is the eighth book in the Kate Shackleton series and it is definitely a series that moved from strength to strength. Kate is a delightful protagonist, honest, honourable and brave. She is a wonderful depiction of the young, childless widows that were so numerous after the First World War; not bitter but regretful and taking a strong interest in the nieces, nephews and godchildren who, in some measure, fill the gap left by the children she never had. All the other characters are skilfully portrayed and, although this is part of a series, it is not necessary to have read the earlier books to enjoy this novel. Although I would recommend any reader who likes historical crime fiction to read them all – you are in for a treat. The plot is intriguing and, true to its title, Death at the Seaside has superb descriptions of Whitby and its surrounding countryside. Definitely a page turner.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Frances Brody is a pseudonym of Frances McNeil who lives in Leeds where she was born and grew up. She worked in the USA as a secretary in Washington DC and New York. Frances studied at Ruskin College, Oxford and read English Literature and History at York University.Starting her writing life in radio, she has written scripts for television and theatre. Frances turned to crime for her first novel, Dying in the Wool, set on the outskirts of Bradford, Yorkshire in the 1920s.  Four further books have followed featuring Kate Shackleton,

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Her latest book The Fragility of Poppies was published 10 June 2016.

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