We meet amateur sleuth and former World War I nurse, Kate Shackleton a few years after the conclusion of the war in her small village of Bridgestead, England in the first book of the Kate Shackleton Mystery series, Dying in the Wool by Frances Brody. Kate is still reeling from her husband being declared missing in the war but, at the same time, continues to hold out hope that he is alive. As a nurse in the war, Kate has picked up the skills of a sleuth in helping a few fellow nurses find missing loved ones. She has gained quite the reputation as a novice detective and based on her reputation one fellow nurse, Tabitha Braithwaite, calls on Kate for a mystery of her own.
Tabitha is engaged to be married within weeks and her wish before she walks down the aisle is to find her father, Joshua Braithwaite, who mysteriously disappeared and no trace of him was ever found. Was Mr. Braithwaite, the owner and operator of a textile mill, a victim of someone with a grudge, did he stage his own disappearance or is the truth something more sinister? Kate has little time to dig to the bottom of the mystery before Tabitha’s wedding day. She meets a cast of characters in the village, including many mill workers who may have a grudge against the powerful mill owner and are potential suspects. Kate, along with Sykes, a former detective who she hires as an employee, get closer and closer to finding the truth with potential murderous results. Told in alternative chapters merging past and present, Dying in the Wool gives the reader a glimpse into British society and culture in the early 1920s within a cozy mystery.
One of the most unique aspects of this mystery is the detail that Brody adds to the novel regarding the British textile mill industry immediately following WWI. It is clear she has done her research, giving the reader a sense of the intricacies of how this industry was run. Readers of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series may want to consider starting this series (the eleventh book in the series came out in November). I’m already nearly done the second book, A Medal for Murder, and am looking forward to the third!