This is the seventh book in Frances Brody’s historical Kate Shackleton series.
A Death in the Dales finds Kate taking a break from detecting to holiday in the village of Langcliffe, England, with her niece Harriet, who is recuperating from a long illness. Kate has been invited by her suitor, Dr. Simonson, to stay at his recently departed Aunt Freda’s house, but she is barely installed there before a neighbor of Aunt Freda’s comes by and tells Kate about a murder Freda saw from her bedroom window. Seems Freda went to her grave tormented by the belief that the wrong man was executed for the crime, and Freda had always meant to ask Kate to look into it.
When Dr. Simonson finds out about the investigation, he’s horrified and annoyed with Freda’s neighbor, but Kate is indomitable and gets to work on the coldest of cold cases. She’s also drawn into some corollary mysteries Nancy Drew style—the hunt for some missing letters and a missing brother—and these serve to take readers around the Dales and familiarize them with the different characters who live there.
I really enjoyed Brody’s cast of memorable characters—all of them, not just Kate and Harriet. Set in 1926, Kate is scarred by the war, as were so many of her generation. Jacqueline Winspear and Charles Todd have covered this period, but Brody is a softer companion to these writers. She’s cozy without being twee and covers some serious issues. The storytelling style is soft, but the actual threads of the story are taut. Kate uncovers some very dark happenings in the most unexpected of places. And unlike Winspear or Todd, Brody lives in the UK. Her familiarity with the landscape, culture, and dialect is very natural and adds to the story she’s telling in this delightful read.