Mondays are for Murder: Dying in the Wool…

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I’ve decided not to let you wait too long before presenting another Murderous Monday and today’s offering is the first in a new (to me) series set in the 1920s or thereabouts in England.  I must admit that I always feel a bit uncomfortable reading books set in England between the two world wars, because the people always seem so happy to be recovering from the travails of World War 1 and have no idea what’s coming for them in a very short decade.  But I digress.  Today’s book is Dying in the Wool: A Kate Shackleton Mystery by Frances Brody.  I really enjoyed this involving mystery set in Yorkshire and based around the closely guarded secrets of a family of Mill owners and their workers.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Take one quiet Yorkshire village..

Bridgestead is a peaceful spot: a babbling brook, rolling hills and a working mill at its heart. Pretty and remote, nothing exceptional happens.

Add a measure of mystery …

Until the day that Master of the Mill Joshua Braithwaite goes missing in dramatic circumstances, never to be heard of again.

A sprinkling of scandal …

Now Joshua’s daughter is getting married and wants one last attempt at finding her father. Has he run off with his mistress, or was he murdered for his mounting coffers?

And Kate Shackleton, amateur sleuth extraordinaire!

Kate Shackleton has always loved solving puzzles. So who better to get to the bottom of Joshua’s mysterious disappearance? But as Kate taps into the lives of the Bridgestead dwellers, she opens cracks that some would kill to keep closed.dying in the wool

Plot Summary:

Kate Shackleton,  amateur photographer, wife (widow?) of a man missing-in-action in World War 1 and lady with a knack for chasing up lost loved ones, meets up with a friend from her VAD days and is given her first opportunity to use her skills professionally.  Teaming up with ex-policeman and friend of her father’s, Jim Sykes, Kate sets off for Bridgestead in an attempt to shed light on the six year old disappearance of her friend Tabitha’s father, the owner of the local mill and dye works.  Things are not as easy as Kate might hope, however, as everyone except Tabitha believes that the matter was over and done with six years ago and the fate of Joshua Braithwaite – whatever it happened to be – is one that need not be disturbed.  Nevertheless, Kate determinedly sets about leaving no stone unturned and with the clandestine help of Jim Sykes, may yet come up with an answer before Tabitha’s wedding…but will it be the result Tabitha was hoping for?

The Usual Suspects:

There are a shed full of suspects getting underfoot in this one: Braithwaite’s cold and dismissive wife; captain-at-the-helm for now, Joshua’s cousin Neville Stoddard; Wilson, disgruntled inventor of a new loom picker for the mill and his downtrodden, alcoholic wife; Paul and Lizzie Kellett, stalwart workers at the mill and confidantes of Joshua Braithwaite; Hector, Tabitha’s younger fiancée and witness to Braithwaite’s initial downfall and Dr Gregory Grainger, the psychiatrist in charge of the hospital to which Braithwaite was taken after his supposed attempt at suicide.

The Hunt for the Murderer/s:

Kate’s hunt for answers is one I found to be particularly engaging because the author has done a great job of drip-feeding secrets and tidbits of information throughout the tale.  No one seems to be wholly innocent in the dealings, but of exactly what they are guilty is also up for investigation.  There are a couple of extra murders thrown in partway through the tale to muddy the waters and the twists and turns kept me guessing right to the end.

Overall Rating:

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Five poison bottles for the steady drip of dye as it permanently stains the fabric of a life

Apart from the inexplicable appearance of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at a dinner party late in the piece, this was a fairly typical but deeply involving mystery.  It’s never certain that Kate is involved in a murder mystery because no body has ever been found and, as a known philanderer, the object of Kate’s investigation could well have nipped off somewhere to start a new life, with or without an extramarital partner in tow.  I particularly enjoyed the way that the characters all seemed to have layers and motivations that were peeled back with each step of the investigation; this added to the puzzle element of the story and ensured that I didn’t twig to the murderer/s too early in the piece.

The ending was surprisingly action-packed and I was impressed with the realistic way in which the characters’ reactions to the eventual solution to the mystery (including Kate’s own reaction) were written.  While it would have been easy to wrap things up neatly, certain characters including Kate herself – as well as the reader – are left to ponder the rightness of various outcomes and actions.

I feel like this could be another series that I would be happy to continue on with intermittently when time allows, provided the writing continues to be so twisty and layered.

Until next time,

Bruce

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