Dying in the Wool: A Kate Shackleton Mystery by Frances Brody

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!

Lady Takes the Case by Eliza Casey

Lady Takes the Case by Eliza Casey caught my eye the minute I saw the cover illustration and read a quick summary of the book.  I’m a huge fan of the traditional “cozy” mysteries and this book, first in the Manor Cat Mysteries series, takes place in rural England during the spring of 1912.

Lady Cecilia Bates spends the majority of her time on the grounds of her family’s estate, Danby Hall, living a life of leisure by assisting her mother, the Countess of Avebury, with parties and other domestic duties.  Her family’s estate is run like clockwork by a household of servants who cater the the family’s every whim.  Cecilia lives here with her brother, Patrick, who is the heir apparent of the estate.  To an outsider, Patrick seems an unlikely heir, as he would much rather be alone with the exotic plants he lovingly cares for in his laboratory.

As Danby Hall has increasingly become more difficult to maintain with the family’s finances, a glimmer of hope arrives in the form of Miss Annabel Clarke from the United States.  She, along with her vast wealth, arrive for a host of parties with the hope of an engagement to Patrick Bates who will become Earl of Avebury in years to come.

Immediately upon Miss Clarke’s arrival, an elaborate dinner party celebrates all that is best of Danby in order to impress the American heiress. What the residents of Danby Hall did not count on was the murder of a guest by poison just as drinks were served!  The victim is a renowned naturalist in between explorations who was making a quick stop at Danby Hall, but it quickly becomes apparent that maybe the poison wasn’t meant for him.

Lady Cecilia, along with Miss Clarke’s maid, Jane and her stowaway marmalade cat Jack, hit the ground running in an attempt to find the culprit and save Danby Hall from further scandal.  With the amateur sleuths finding clue after clue within the house, evidence points to someone close to the family or someone attempting to capitalize on the family’s dwindling fortune.

I thoroughly enjoyed Lady Takes the Case by Eliza Casey.  Some of the twists and turns were to be expected, but the mystery kept my interest and was a true “cozy” mystery.  My only criticism is that I would have liked the manor cat, Jack, to have more of a starring role.  Maybe he will in the second installment, due in the summer of 2020.

An Act of Villainy : An Armory Ames Mystery by Ashley Weaver

An Act of Villainy is the fifth book in the delightful Armory Ames Mystery series written by librarian Ashley Weaver.  The series of mysteries jet-sets across Europe in the 1930s with amateur sleuths Armory Ames and her husband, Milo.  In this installment, Armory and Milo find themselves back at home in London and during a night on the town, the couple runs into old friend and playwright Gerald Holloway.

Holloway invites Armory and Milo to a dress rehearsal of his latest play and the couple readily accepts the chance to be among the first to see the production.  It is only when they arrive at the theater do they realize that Holloway has cast his mistress, Flora Bell, in the leading role.  The duo quickly find out the real reason for the invitation to the dress rehearsal is that Ms. Bell has been receiving threatening notes slipped under her dressing room door.  The anonymous author has detailed her demise and Holloway needs their help, imploring Armory and Milo to investigate and find out who is threatening his lady-love.  Time is of the essence when the threats increase and Flora Bell’s life could be in danger.  It is clear that many others have motive to cause harm to the rising starlet and Armory and Milo are bound and determined to get to the bottom of the mystery before opening night.

Ashley Weaver has created two clever and enchanting characters, whose banter with each other has the ability to sting.  I have enjoyed the complicated relationship between Armory and Milo and their growth and development throughout the books from newlyweds to established couple and, at times, everything in between.  Weaver brings Armory to life with her stylish wardrobe, wealthy hobbies and pampered lifestyle.  If you are a fan of cozy, traditional mysteries with two adventurous personalities, try the Armory Ames Mystery Series!

 

Mystery Series Debut! Toured to Death by Hy Conrad

Toured to Death

In Toured to Death, mystery writer Hy Conrad launches the exploits of Amy and Fanny Abel, a mother-and-daughter team of New York City travel agents unexpectedly turned sleuths.  Join this promising start to the Amy’s Travel Mystery series on the Monte Carlo to Rome Mystery Road Rally, the first European tour offered by our heroines’ fledgling niche-travel business.

With her mother Fanny’s support from across the Atlantic, Amy leads a group of twenty-four tourists through stylish French and Italian destinations as they hunt for clues to solve a fictional murder mystery.  Amy’s ambitious idea to combine a game of Clue with an Amazing Race-like competition unfolds smoothly…until actual murders begin to take place!  When one of of the tourists and the man hired to write the plot line for the mystery excursion are found dead, Amy and Fanny must put their heads together to keep the killer from striking again.  They soon learn that the writer’s story was based on a real-life murder case involving two of their current tour customers.  Working in tandem to solve the crimes, mother and daughter begin to overcome the loss of their partners, strengthen their relationship, save their agency’s reputation, and prepare for their next adventure!

If, like author Hy Conrad, you enjoy both mysteries and travel writing, pack your bags (including a magnifying glass) for Toured to Death and the Amy’s Travel Mystery series. Readers of “cozy” mysteries will be interested in this book’s unique take on the genre, and fans of TV’s Monk can compare how Conrad (a writer and producer for the series, as well as the author of novels based upon it) develops his detectives and other key characters for different formats.