Spring, 1930, and there is a problem with the Barleycorn Brewery in the North Riding of Yorkshire. The accounts don’t seem to tally and, fearing the worst, the owners call in Private Investigator Kate Shackleton and her team. They soon realise that one worker at the brewery office would certainly know what was going on – but before they can ask her, she is killed in a hit and run “accident”.
When a second death occurs on the day of the crowning of the Yorkshire Brewery Queen, it seems that things are even more complicated than they first appeared. Someone seems determined to kill to keep the secrets of the brewery – or to run it into the ground.
The twelfth Kate Shackleton mystery, a series that I’ve been following since the beginning of the blog, and I need to apologise to Frances Brody. I was sent this book to review back in October and I’ve been putting off reading it for a while. As I’ve intimated before, for the past few months it’s been difficult to simply relax with a book, and this is the sort of book that I want to relax with.
You see, along with the mystery – well, mysteries, really – this is an historical tale as well. There are two comparisons I could make. Michael Jecks’ Knights Templar series, where the background and the day to day lives are just as important as the plot springs to mind. As there, the central characters/suspects have their own lives, and Frances has given each character their own major or minor arc in the story.
The other comparison would be a very specific one, John Rhode’s Death In The Hopfields. Admittedly, he was writing in 1937 about an unknown-to-most part of present day brewing, here we have a meticulously researched tale about 1930s brewing. Both of them are fascinating, although admittedly Rhode didn’t have a Brewery Beauty Contest – a real thing, by the way. This is a meticulously researched book, and the presentation of 1930’s Yorkshire life is never less than convincing.
If you’re reading this for an out and out mystery, then you may be disappointed. There is a well-hidden clue for one of the deaths, but while there is a crime thriller running throughout the narrative, the reveals of who did what are atypically paced – to be honest, the main thread of the book is not the mysteries.
That does not, however, prevent this from being a very satisfying read, one of the strongest in the series. If you are a fan of between-the-wars crime fiction, then I strongly suggest you check this out.
Death And The Brewery Queen was released by Piatkus on 29th October 2020 in ebook and paperback.