Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dying in the Wool, by Frances Brody ($14.99)

This is a surprisingly tart book about post-WWI England, with a peek into the world of wool textile mills of the time. Despite the bucolic picture on the book cover, the Yorkshire area depicted in the book is more "Hound of the Baskervilles" than Agatha Christie. There's a sense of desolation and dark, eddying village connections, covered by the miasma thrown up by a thundering mill.

In many ways this new series is like the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. Kate Shackleton, like Maisie, has lost the man she loved in the war. Each becomes a private investigator. Each knows the upstairs-downstairs elements of a stratified society. Frances Brody's Kate is less angelic than Winspear's Maisie. Kate seems more human and a little more bumbling, sometimes blurting out a discovery to the discomfort of her listeners. Each author creates a whole, believable post-war England very well. 

Kate is more queen than commoner. Her father is a police officer, her mother a Lady, with a capital "L." Kate's late husband -- for whom Kate, in vague denial, still searches -- was a surgeon. Her housekeeper, Mrs. Sugden, is Kate's Mrs. Hudson, if Mrs. Hudson had a manure pile in the back yard. Her friends are upper crust, and her new assistant, the redoubtable Sykes, is working class. In order to solve the central mystery, Kate interviews upper and lower classes and appears comfortable talking with both.

A friend from her war days with the VAD -- volunteers who helped as nurses and medical staff -- has asked for help locating her father, who has been missing, presumed dead, for many years. Tabitha Braithwaite is soon to be married and she wants her father to walk her down the aisle. That is a big problem, since Joshua Braithwaite ran away from a psychiatric hospital in which he was confined after the police arrested him for attempting suicide and never seen again.

Kate is less scientific in her investigation than Maisie would be, but she efficiently manages to uncover all sorts of information many people would prefer be kept hidden.

This was an enjoyable read -- although one of the characters, the psychiatrist, still puzzles me a bit. Brody did a great job stepping back into the past without overemphasizing and banging on about what was different about that time from the present. She gives us a tour of a textile mill of the time, and it would be difficult to imagine a less wholesome work place, unless it were a coal mine or munitions factory.

I liked Kate and wish her well in her next adventure.

P.S. When various characters sit on a "buffet," they are not sitting on a variety of food dishes. It's northern England slang for a low stool.

No comments:

Post a Comment