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Thursday, 12 February 2015

Book Review: A Medal for Murder by Frances Brody

A Medal for Murder is the second book in the series of 1920s detective novels centred around the character of Kate Shackleton (of which I've read books one and four already). This one begins with Kate and her partner Jim being hired to investigate a robbery at a pawn-shop which could prove embarrassing for both the owner and his clients. She combines a trip to Harrogate to watch an amateur production of Anna and the Five Towns with delivering the news of the theft to one of the clients, but she finds the house doesn't exist. More pressingly, as she leaves the theatre later that night she stumbles over the dead body of local car salesman Mr Milner. The leading lady of the play has gone missing and a ransom note delivered and Kate soon finds herself tangled in a web of deceit that goes back to the Boer War.

As with the other books in this series, I enjoyed A Medal for Murder. I think what I especially like is the location, unsurprisingly enough. I adore being taken through Yorkshire in the 1920s and Brody is excellent at evoking both the time and place. Kate Shackleton is a very good protagonist to take us on the tour too, with a forward-thinking attitude that captures the essence of the era whilst still appealing to a modern reader.

The murder mystery itself was cleverly constructed and, though I knew the main suspects couldn't be the killer, I couldn't put my finger on who it was until Kate herself did. As with the other two novels, I enjoyed the ride and the amusing asides littered throughout the narrative. Brody's good at developing self-centred characters and there are some crackers in this novel. However, it also asks some powerful questions about guilt and responsibility, ending up ambivalent about punishment in more than one strand of the plot. That's something I noted in Dying in the Wool too and I appreciate the indecision - it makes the series feel very human.

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