Dying in the Wool – Frances Brody

Kate Shackleton  has gained a reputation for solving mysteries and finding people, in the past she has mainly done it for friends and family. But now an acquaintance come friend from her days as a VAD during the First World War wants to actually pay her for her services.

Trouble is Kate is a widow, it may well be the 1920s and times are changing for women, but really Kate should not be embarking on such adventures. Kate is strong willed and rather determined and I liked her from the start of the novel “hanging onto freedom by the skin of my teeth”.

In a world where it was still rather odd to see women working in male roles, Kate’s father, who in fact is a superintendent steps in to help. He makes sure she has some professional experience on her side in the introduction of the character Jim Sykes a former policeman who Kate reluctantly lets help to appease her father. They make a rather quirky and humorous pairing from the moment they meet. 

So Kate’s first professional case; is the disappearance of Joshua Braithwaite, father of Kate’s acquaintance and friend Tabitha. She wants to know where her father is before she gets married. It is this missing piece of the jigsaw which is stopping Tabitha from moving forward with her life. The trouble Kate is finding is that Joshua’s disappearance does not seem to be that straightforward and as she discovers one part of the story, she starts to uncover information which Tabitha may not like.

Set in a Yorkshire village where the mill is the heart and soul of the community, providing housing and work over many locals heads, it seems that there are some who know more than they care to admit and maybe they hold the key to where Joshua is. The author takes us very much into the heart of the village and the mill, and you can almost hear the deafening noise of the workers as the material is created. In fact the definitions for some of the terminology used subtitles some of the chapters. You will have a greater understanding of how the wool industry in the 1920s works and how the cloth is created by the end of the novel.

Scattered throughout the book, the voice of the story changes from Kate, the main narrator to varying different characters as they tell their sides of the story from when Joshua disappeared, it is not quite in the dual narrative that some books use frequently. Merely flashbacks into a past of no more than 6 years or so to give the reader more background to see if they can solve the mystery before Kate. I was mystified up to the denouement when it all fell into place neatly like a perfectly dyed piece of cloth.

An ideal cosy crime mystery where it certainly harks back to a past age and does it with aplomb which sometimes historical mysteries can miss completely. I look forward to seeing what Kate may well investigate next.

The book was slightly slow and gentle in parts and actually that was a good thing because I think you appreciated the depth of description of the area especially more and gave the mystery the mystery the right setting. 

I am intrigued to see what Kate get’s up to next in the second of the what is becoming a series of books, I think the combination of this widowed women in her thirties, who likes photography and can drive a car coupled with a married an ex policeman who cannot drive makes for interesting developments. Not your normal pairing you could say.