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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 13 October 2010
'Medal for Murder' is the second Kate Shackleton mystery by Frances Brody, eagerly awaited and highly enjoyable! Murder mysteries always elude me - watching the detectives is more my style - but the puzzle kept me engrossed, and I was surprised by certain twists and false clues.

Now a fully fledged private investigator, with an assistant and a cherrywood filing cabinet, Kate Shackleton is hired to investigate a robbery at a pawnbrokers in Leeds. A strange coincidence leads her investigation to Harrogate, where an eccentric theatre acquaintance is also staging her first production. After the play, Kate and her friend find the body of one of the sponsors in a doorway, and a starlet from the cast goes missing. Her grandfather, a veteran of the Boer war, is sent a ransom note, and asks Kate to help find her. Involved in three apparently separate cases, Kate's inquisitive nature is aroused, but the deeper she delves, the more secrets are uncovered.

I vastly prefer 'cosy' detective mysteries to the more hardcore police procedural series out there, and the Kate Shackleton books have the added bonus of being set in 1920s Yorkshire! Kate is a thoroughly modern lady of independent means, running a business with a former policeman as her assistant, driving her own car, and flirting with Scotland Yard detectives. Although Frances Brody keeps the post-WW1 era in mind, her brave and intelligent heroine is never held back in her determination to find the truth, and even uses her 'gentle sex' and genteel appearance to her advantage. The only time in this novel that I thought Kate was perhaps being rather too daring was the romantic development towards the end, but I suspect that relationship is going to continue with the series, so maybe Kate knows best after all!

I really enjoyed the South African backstory and the guided tour around Harrogate, which Frances Brody obviously researched well, and I didn't suspect the real murderer at all. My only gripe is that I had to wait so long for the sequel!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Set in the early nineteen twenties, this is a fascinating story of a murder, a potential kidnapping and blackmail with theft thrown in as well. Kate Shackleton - private investigator - and her employee Jim Sykes, a former policeman are asked to contact a pawnbroker's clients for him after he suffers a robbery at his shop. This leads Kate to Harrogate where she is to watch the last night of a play produced by an acquaintance. But it seems murders follow her around and she finds the body of a local businessman, Laurence Milner, as she leaves the theatre. This brings her into contact again with Inspector Charles from Scotland Yard who featured in Kate's previous case Dying in the Wool (Kate Shackleton Crime Story)

I really enjoyed this quite complex and far ranging story. It is narrated by Kate herself for the most part but there are some chapters which reveal other parts of the story to the reader. There are many twists and turns before everyone's secrets are revealed and both for the reader and for Kate it is not always easy to see who can be trusted and who can't. I can empathise with Kate and the restrictions placed on women in that era in spite of their newly acquired right to vote. In some ways Kate is fortunate being a widow as she has rather fewer restrictions on her than others have. Even so, reputation is all and she has to be careful what she does.

I like the author's style of writing and it makes a refreshing change to find a book set in other parts of the country than London. Most of the action in the book takes place in and around Harrogate and Kate herself lives near Leeds. This book is well worth reading if you want a crime novel which is a little out of the ordinary - I recommend it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 29 August 2011
At the end of the Great War seeking information as to what happened to her husband Gerald, posted missing, Kate Shackleton undertook to locate missing persons as a kindness to other women in situations such as herself. Although still unclear as to what happened to Gerald, Kate has now in 1922 set up as a Private Investigator and following a robbery at a pawn-shop Kate is retained by the distraught owner to advise his customers of the loss of their items and if possible to track down the culprit.

Visiting Harrogate to carry out her contractual obligation for the pawn shop owner, and taking the opportunity to see a play, Kate virtually trips over a dead body outside the theatre. Seeking another pawn shop customer Kate is approached by Captain Wolfendale who fears his granddaughter Lucy who was in the play has been kidnapped. Soon Kate is drawn into the lives of the actors.

The story is told with a series of flash backs to the turn of the century when Lucy's grandfather was a Captain during the Boer war. The descriptions of the scenes are quite harrowing, and invoke a terrible period in British history.

In 'A Medal for Murder', Frances Brody had produced a fascinating tale of deception, and murder, as she skilfully negotiates the reader through a tangle of fraud and dishonesty.

The characterisation is superb. Interestingly, one of Kate's decisions brings her into direct conflict with her trusty sidekick the ex-policeman Sykes. Whilst I could see Kate's point, I felt that the reader knew more about the character in question than did Kate, and I wondered if Kate's decision would come back to haunt her.

An excellent story well paced that keeps the reader turning pages. One of those unable-to-put down books. Highly recommended.
Lizzie Hayes
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 3 November 2010
Feisty sleuth Kate Shackleton embarks on her second case - or, more accurately, her second, third and fourth cases, as a search for stolen property expands to include a murder mystery and a missing person enquiry. The setting is 1920s Harrogate and the local and period flavour is genetically part of the style, with no apparent special effort. The three parallel mysteries mesh and writhe together like anacondas, with more red herrings than a fisherman's basket, and if the final resolution is the merest tad forced it does not detract one whit from the enjoyment. The author uses both first and third person narration, which in less accomplished hands could be a recipe for disaster, but here it works admirably, and digressions into the Boer War (lots of research here, incidentally) serve to give an extra dimension to Kate's first person storytelling.

Frances Brody has a flair for creating distinctive characters and the story is peopled by memorable individuals who prevent the intricate plot from ever becoming mechanical. For good measure Kate is confronted by moral dilemmas - how much of what she knows should she reveal? where is the line between the law and justice? - and there is (possibly, probably) the beginning of a romance, with tantalising hints that it could progress further in forthcoming adventures.

Elmore Leonard this is not, and if you want gritty realism stay with Rebus, but if you are a fan of the classical, 'golden age' detective story and you appreciate stylish, literate writing, then this is emphatically one for you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 15 February 2012
Even though I loved the 1st book (Dying In The Wool: A Kate Shackleton Mystery)I think this one is even better!

When Kate is asked to inform the robbed pawnshops customers of their stolen pledges she travels to the lovely spa town of Harrogate where, by coincidence, she also becomes involved in a murder mystery and is asked to look for the missing daughter of a Boer War hero (who served in the war with the murder victim) and who has received a ransom demand that doesn't quite ring true. Are they connected in any way - if so, how and why?

As Kate tries to find the answers, we are taken from the streets of Harrogate to the battlefields of the Boer War in 1900 and the relationship between Captain Wolfendale and his batman, which I found really informative as I knew very little of that particular conflict.

There is so much going on in this book that it is never boring and speeds along at a pace that's not too slow or too fast. There are so many suspects and so many surprises that I just did not have a clue which way the story was going to go. What more could you want in a mystery?

Kate is a really good judge of people and her observations are usually spot on, she is independent and observant and I really warmed to her, and I loved it when a little romance came into her life!

Highly enjoyable and ideal for cosy mystery readers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 12 March 2013
I read a lot of thriller/mystery books. Many are violent with swear words. Maybe these are typical of the characters but I was brought up on the old classic writers. France's Brody writes more in a style which is relaxing rather than shocking. There are few gory details and the plot and characters are entertaining, and with some redeeming features. This book can be recommended to any age or sex. I will read more of them.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 September 2014
Frances McNeil, writing as Frances Brody, has now published six novels featuring Kate Shackleton, a private detective who lost her husband in the Great War. This is the second, published in 2010, set in Yorkshire, mainly in Leeds and Harrogate, that also features her co-investigator, ex-policeman Jim Sykes.

There are many strengths to the book, its authentic settings, historical authenticity [not least in its references to clothing], convincing dialogue and complex plotting that involves, as Kate thinks to herself ‘murder, blackmail, pregnancy, an engagement, extortion’. The book opens with Kate and Sykes being retained by a Leeds pawnbroker to track down a thief who stole pledged valuables and, if possible, to recover them.

This takes Kate to Harrogate where she has also been invited to see a performance of an adaptation of Arnold Bennett’s ‘Anna of the Five Towns’, which a friend of short standing, Meriel Jamieson, is directing. Following the play, Kate and Meriel stumble over the body of Lawrence Milner, a rich but loathed car salesman who fancies himself as the husband of Lucy Wolfendale, star of the show, despite his son’s friendship with her.

Lucy disappears and, when her grandfather, an ex-army captain who served with Milner in the Boer War, receives a ransom letter, he asks Kate to find her. This leads Kate to look into the behavior of the other actors, mostly amateur and including a Belgian couple, the Geerts, who are not alone in being slight caricatures. However, the author keeps the reader engaged even with characters who are essentially unsympathetic. Brody also interweaves two contemporaneous story lines, the search for Lucy and also what has happened to her.

Brody also shifts her story back to the events of the Boer War to explore the interactions between Milner, Wolfendale [who won the Victoria Cross but was, strangely, later put in charge of concentration camps] and the latter’s long dead batman, Sergeant Lampdon. The backdrop to these scenes reflects the horrific treatment of Boer civilians by the British.

The Harrogate investigation is led by Inspector Marcus Charles of Scotland Yard who develops an increasingly close friendship with Kate, much to her mother’s delight. Brody sets up a number of suspects, some of whom confess their guilt. Kate teases out the relationship between the pawnshop theft and the murder, and her characterillustrates the difficulties that educated women faced in society as peacetime asserted itself. That said, she is the daughter of a titled mother, Lady Elizabeth and so lives a rather protected life. Kate, Sykes and Charles offer different perspectives on whether it is ethical to interfere with the due process of law – something which had earlier almost severed the formers’ professional relationship.

British society in the early 1920s was one where women were just beginning to envisage having careers independent of marriage, but it was also one where reputation, especially of marriageable daughters, was crucially important. In general, a successful marriage and motherhood was still the aim for daughters from many middle-class families. Kate’s husband, Gerald, disappeared during the war and she has received no news of his fate. Four years after the Armistice, her life is in limbo and, although she believes he is dead, she has no certainty; her professional investigations began through her support of women in similar situations. However, she is not overwhelmed by her loss and uses her wit and femininity to gain information that would probably be lost to male investigators.

My main criticism is that the book is too long, containing too many references to the minutiae of life at the time, and its pace. Just one example ‘Meriel stood over a cast-iron frying pan of spluttering fat. I placed the basket on the chair and handed her the duck eggs. She cracked the first directly into the pan. ‘Isn’t it huge? Shall we share?’ ‘Yes. Will you scramble it?’ ‘I will. A drop of milk, I think. Will you pour?’ I retrieved the milk and poured a drop into the pan, listening to it sizzle as Meriel stirred.’ Otherwise this is a very entertaining mystery, even if Kate does not do a great deal of sleuthing, 9/10.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 30 September 2013
After reading the Stieg Larsson trilogy (which I thoroughly enjoyed) I decided to try something a bit more gentle. I discovered Frances Brody's first Kate Shackleton novel by chance while on holiday in Yorkshire and I found It easy to read and get involved with the characters right from the start. I then decided to try this second novel which didn't disappoint. If you like a simple murder mystery (Ilike TV's Morse and George Gently) then I think you will enjoy this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 1 March 2013
Very pleasant read and some red herrings to keep you hooked .
Liked the non graphic reference to a night of sex bit like a 40s movie scene.
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on 30 January 2014
If Kate Shackleton was a man she would be a gentleman detective. She is a well-healed (titled mother) 1st WW war-widow (husband missing presumed dead). The story is set in the early 1930's. Kate and her Sykes her taciturn employee (ex-police) are investigating a theft from a pawn shop in Leeds. One thing leads to another and when Kate travels to Harrogate to attend the performance of a play directed by an acquaintence of her's her personal life and crime investigatory life converge in the same street and even in the same house. A fortuitous coincidence.

This formerly genteel residence is divided into flats and each of its residents has a place to play in the developing tale of theft, blackmail, 'kidnap', murder and suicide. The sins of the past, not so distant Boer War, haunt the characters. Kate breezes through it all enquiring and detecting and getting friendly with the real detective, eligible 40 yr old widower, Marcus Charles, who is tasked by Scotland Yard to investigate the murder.

An entertaining story which is a quick and easy read.
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