Death in the Stars (Kate Shackleton Mysteries) by Frances Brody

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Death in the Stars(Kate Shackleton Mysteries) by Frances Brody

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Category: Crime (Historical)
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A popular comedian collapses on a trip to Giggleswick to see the 1927 eclipse, but why did The Silver Songbird invite Kate Shackleton along on the trip? An excellent, well-researched read and highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400/10h23m Date: October 2017
Publisher: Piatkus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0349414317

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Much as it did in 1999, eclipse fever gripped the country in 1927, but private investigator Kate Shackleton couldn't understand why theatre star Selina Fellini had approached her for help when it seemed that all she needed was for a flight to be arranged to take her from Leeds to Giggleswick School, where she was to view the eclipse. Surely she didn't need a sleuth for this? Kate went ahead and organised the flight, which collected Fellini, comic Billy Moffatt and Kate from Soldiers' Field in Leeds and landed them at the school in good time. It was obvious that the singer was worried about something, but she didn't seem able to explain what it was.

Billy Moffatt made his living by making jokes out of disappointments: he was hoping that clouds would obscure the eclipse (he'd have got his wish in 1999) and that it would provide material for numerous routines. It wasn't to be though - the clouds parted and hundreds of thousands of people had the best view they could have hoped for. Preparing for the flight back to Leeds, Kate and Selina were concerned that they couldn't immediately find Billy, then worried and finally distraught when they were told that he was in the chapel and the doctor had been called.

The company of which Selina Fellini was a part had had a run of bad luck. There was Dougie Doig, dog trainer and performer, who stepped out in front of a tram and was killed instantly and Floyd Lloyd, killed when a sandbag fell from the flies as he was rehearsing alone on stage. Fellini's nervousness is understandable, but quite how does her husband, Jarrod Compton, fit into the story? A once-handsome man, he returned from the war facially disfigured and subject to violent mood swings. Could his jealousy of the men closest to his wife be getting the better of him?

Whenever you read a Kate Shackleton mystery you're conscious of the depth of research which backs up the story, not because every fact has been mercilessly shoe-horned in, regardless of context, but because the knowledge is worn lightly and you sense that a lot more is known, if you cared to ask. Frances Brody has the ability to transport you to any scene, be it the crowds watching the eclipse in the Yorkshire dales or the tunnels under the centre of Leeds which linked the old theatres. She's excellent too at evoking the music hall scene - a form which was steadily failing and being replaced by the new, although whether or not those talking pictures would catch on was anybody's guess.

As always, the characters come off the page well. It's not just our regulars: Shackleton, her assistant Jim Sykes and housekeeper Mrs Sugden or the theatre coterie surrounding Selina Fellini. Even the bit players - the tram driver devastated by having killed a man or the ventriloquist's granddaughter are all fully formed. But none of this would be worth much if the plot wasn't good. I constantly marvel at how Brody comes up with a new milieu for each book and then develops a convincing story which grips you from beginning to end. The identity of the murderer evaded me until it was revealed: it wasn't the name I had pencilled in but it was absolutely right when I looked back. All the clues were there.

It's another excellent read from Brody and Shackleton and I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag. Each book reads well as a standalone, but if you'd like to read them in the order in which they were written, you'll find a chronological list here.


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