1916, in the village of Langcliffe, Yorkshire, Freda Simonson was the only victim to a brutal murder, that of the landlord of the local tavern. But Freda is convinced that the wrong man was convicted for the crime, a conviction that she took to her grave.
1926, and Kate Shackleton, private detective, arrives at the village to stay in Freda’s house as an attempt to spend time with her new beau (and coincidentally, Freda’s nephew). Soon she finds a message from beyond the grave, asking her to bring the true killer of the landlord to justice. Initially reluctant, Kate finds herself taking on the case, only to find things in the village and in the surrounding farms are much more complicated than that. A case of potential blackmail and another suspicious death soon bring the past and the present crashing together…
Many thanks to Frances Brody for the review copy, timed perfectly for the release of… um, the next book in the series, Death At The Seaside. Sorry about that, I’ve got a bit behind. Never mind though, what about this one?
It’s the seventh in the Kate Shackleton series, from the “female sleuths between the wars”-genre, but that’s maybe treating the book with too little respect. Over the past seven books, Frances has grown Kate as a character, moving beyond the “is my husband ever coming back from the war?” attitude of the earliest books to a version of Kate who is now settled in her life as a detective and now looking to move on with her life. Langcliffe initially seems like the place to do that but of course things get in the way.
The structure is an interesting one, with the sections involving Kate being written in the first person but sections featuring other characters being written in the third. It sounds a bit odd, but it never seemed to be an issue – I noticed it, but it didn’t bother me at all. Which is a compliment, let me be clear, as often this sort of narrative jiggery-pokery can bug me, but it’s done so matter-of-factly, it’s not an issue at all.
The story is a fairly straightforward one, and the villain of the piece does become evident earlier than I would have liked from a mystery tale, but the motive is a good one (and that is kept hidden for a long time) and there’s a sting in the tale that makes what went before seem almost like a prologue, as, for me at least, this carried a lot more weight that the earlier revelations.
It’s a comfortable, easy read with a charming central character (and her new sidekick) and it’s clear to see why the series proves popular with so many readers. As I mentioned, Death At The Seaside is out now, and will hopefully be reviewed soon, but in the meantime, if you like the genre, then I heartily Recommend this series from beginning to.. well, present. I’d hate for it to end anytime soon.