after the Great War, Kate Shackleton learned the skills of investigation as she
attempted to discover the fate of her husband, who was missing in action; from
this personal experience, she progressed to helping other families look for
their loved ones. It is now 1930 and Kate’s business as a Private Investigator
has grown; she and her assistant, Jim Sykes, have an excellent reputation and
are called in to investigate a large range of crimes, and are often consulted
by Scotland Yard.
William Lofthouse, owner of the
Barleycorn Brewery in the North Riding of Yorkshire, has been persuaded by his
young wife, Eleanor, to consult Kate. However, William is clearly hesitant to
talk about his problems and it is not clear whether there is a crime to be
unravelled at the brewery or their misfortunes are due to mismanagement and
ill-luck. William is worried that there have been errors in the accounts, which
he admits may be due to the inefficiency of the elderly employee in charge of
the department, but also they have recently lost several orders to supply beer to
local pubs. Kate can see that William is unwell and he tells her he is longing
for his nephew to return from his extended tour of breweries in Germany, so
that he can take over the day-to-day running of the brewery. Kate sends Jim
Sykes to the Barleycorn Brewery to check whether there is anything to
investigate. He soon discovers that somebody has been targeting the brewery,
and this is confirmed when the new beer they are developing is sabotaged. Even
worse, a trusted employee dies in a way that may have been an accident but to
Kate and Sykes it has the hallmarks of murder.
One of the ways in which Eleanor
Lofthouse has been encouraging her husband to improve the image of the Barleycorn
Brewery is by entering a contender for the title of Brewery Queen. Eleanor has
supported their entrant, Ruth Parnaby, in many ways, including getting her
diction lessons from a retired opera singer, and Ruth is a strong contender for
the prestigious title Northern Brewery Queen. Ruth works in the Accounts
Department of the brewery and the opportunities offered by becoming Brewery
Queen mean a great deal to her, as the financial rewards would make her
independent of her violent father. Slater Parnaby is a skilled craftsman, but
he had been a brutal husband and is now a cruel father to Ruth and her brother.
Kate has come to the North Riding to
help Sykes with the investigation, and she and her niece, Harriet, befriend
Ruth and provide her with a place of refuge. Between them, Kate and Sykes soon
discover who is behind the sabotage and violence and the brewery seems to be on
course to become prosperous again, but then, in the middle of a garden party,
Kate discovers another body. It seems that the troubles surrounding Barleycorn
Brewery are not over.
Death and the Brewery Queen is the twelfth novel in the series featuring Kate
Shackleton and it is as excellent as its predecessors. The plot is interesting,
the historical detail impeccable, the characters engaging, and the backstory is
made clear without slowing the pace of the novel. One of the great strengths of
these novels is that all the characters are well-rounded and believable and
there is a whole community of likeable people that help Kate and Sykes in their
investigations. Death and the Brewery Queen is a page turner, which I
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. Eight further books have followed featuring Kate Shackleton.
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 the first in her Scene of Crimes novels,
was published July 2013. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People.
To read the interview click on the link below
To read a review of Carol latest book Strangers and Angels click on the title.