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Death at the Seaside by Frances Brody

October 6, 2016

Nothing ever happens in August, and tenacious sleuth Kate Shackleton feels like she deserves a break. Heading off for a long-overdue holiday to Whitby, she visits her school friend Alma who works as a fortune teller there.  

Kate had been looking forward to a relaxing seaside sojourn, but upon arrival discovers that Alma’s daughter Felicity has disappeared, leaving her mother a note and the pawn ticket for their only asset: a watch-guard. What makes this more intriguing is the jeweller who advanced Felicity the thirty shillings is Jack Phillips, Alma’s current gentleman friend.

Kate can’t help but become involved, and goes to the jeweller’s shop to get some answers. When she makes a horrifying discovery in the back room, it soon becomes clear that her services are needed. Met by a wall of silence by town officials, keen to maintain Whitby’s idyllic façade, it’s up to Kate – ably assisted by Jim Sykes and Mrs Sugden – to discover the truth behind Felicity’s disappearance.

And they say nothing happens in August . . .

When I was offered the opportunity to review this book, I thought that it might be just the thing to read after a bout of deep, dark, gruesome psychological thrillers.

As it turned out, I also ended up reading it by the seaside. It did not take long for me to fall under the spell of Brody’s rather splendid writing style.

To my shame, I had not read any of the Kate Shackleton mysteries, and I found myself thinking of the detective as a Dorothy L. Sayers Harriet Vane type – a woman in her prime, an independent thinker, unafraid to strike out on her own in pursuit of solving a crime.

In Death at the Seaside, the Private Investigator is on holiday in Whitby, looking to meet up with her old friend Alma and and her daughter, Felicity. Drawn to the jeweller’s shop in the high street, she stumbles upon a dead body and it soon becomes clear that Kate’s services are needed by both her friend and the police.

I love the precision of Brody’s settings; she has a real flair for evoking a sense of time and place. Richly descriptive this book has a genteel decorum and precise prose that feel entirely appropriate for the setting. I felt drawn into Whitby and could see the characters in my mind.

Death at the Seaside is set in the post-war period, an era in which many things were about to change for women, but others were still firmly rooted in the past and as such it is fascinating to watch Kate Shackleton carve out the role of the ‘new woman’ owning her own detective agency. The tale takes us in a number of different directions before Brody draws it all together in a story that is both sad and altogether satisfying. Well plotted, with a good narrative and a well drawn conclusion, this is a gem of a book.

Death at the Seaside is published on October 6th 2016 by Piatkus

This review is part of a blogtour and the other reviews can be found here

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