"Sometimes the mini vacation includes tea, crumpets and murder!"
Reviewed by Patricia (Pat) Pascale
Posted December 9, 2017
Mystery Historical | Mystery Woman Sleuth
Kate Shackleton is off for a long overdue vacation. It is
August, so probably not much will happen in her Private
Investigation business. She has selected Whitby, a charming
seaside location where she plans to meet her school chum,
Alma, and her God-daughter, 16-year-old, Felicity. Kate
plans to drink lots of tea and eat fresh baked scones at the
tearooms there and read lots of books at the beach.
While getting her first glimpse of the sea, Kate could feel
her feelings lifted as she recalls happier times in the
resort area facing the North Sea and the wild moors behind.
She spent many happy hours there with her husband Gerald,
before he was MIA. The Royal Hotel was as she remembered
it. Quiet refinement was how she would describe it. Checking
in for two weeks, she was shown to a large airy room facing
the sea. A maid appeared, introducing herself as Hilda and
offered to unpack for Kate. Great idea as Kate wanted to get
out to stretch her legs and find a cafe. She read a
welcoming note from Alma inviting her to come to the Pepper
Pot on the pier and to be prepared for a surprise.
Walking into town, Kate stopped to look in shop windows.
When she came to the J. Philips High Class Jeweller, Kate
recalled Gerald had bought their weddings rings there. She
noticed a pretty bracelet that she thought would be perfect
for Felicity and went into the shop. She almost tripped over
the dead body of Mr. Philips. She ran out to find the police
and report the crime.
So begins a twisty who-done-it that is enhanced when
Felicity disappears. The search is on to find Felicity and
the murderer of Mr. Philips. Alma's surprise to her old
school chum is that she rents space at the pier and acts as
the local fortune teller. It is only temporary until they
can find a real one. But in the meantime, Alma is having fun
being a clairvoyant. She is a very complex lady with many
secrets and romantic plans for her future. Kate is not
accepted by the locals, and she even spends time in jail
until an old friend and admirer, Marcus Charles returns and
DEATH AT THE SEASIDE is the 8th in the Kate
Shackleton mysteries. If you like an English cozy
with a cast of colorful characters in a lovely locale, you
will enjoy this one. Set in the 1920's before computers,
cell phones, and DNA, Kate is a refreshing heroine. She is a
free and independent spirit who works tirelessly to find the
guilty person and seek justice. I enjoyed it and so will you.
Frances Brody returns with an intricate, absorbing plot
while capturing the atmosphere and language of 1920s
England in the eighth book of her cozy mystery series.
Nothing ever happens in August, and tenacious sleuth Kate
Shackleton deserves a break.
Heading off for a long-overdue holiday to Whitby, she
visits her school friend Alma who works as a fortune
teller there. Kate had been looking forward to a relaxing
seaside sojourn, but upon arrival discovers that Alma's
daughter Felicity has disappeared, leaving her mother a
note and the pawn ticket for their only asset: a watch-
What makes this more intriguing is the jeweler who
advanced Felicity the thirty shillings is Jack Phillips,
Alma's current gentleman friend.
Kate can't help but become involved, and goes to the
jeweller's shop to get some answers. When she makes a
horrifying discovery in the back room, it becomes clear
that her services are needed. Met by a wall of silence by
town officials, keen to maintain Whitby's idyllic façade,
it's up to Kate - ably assisted by Jim Sykes and Mrs
Sugden - to discover the truth behind Felicity's
And they say nothing happens in August...
ExcerptKate has arrived in Whitby for a holiday …
The wind suddenly gave a fresh gust as if to puff my sails
as I left the hotel. Gulls squawked their derision as I
debated which way to go, not remembering my way down
higgledy-piggledy streets. I would keep to the main
thoroughfares, if the streets of Whitby could be called
Reluctantly turning my back on the sea, I took a turning
that would lead me into town, passing large dwellings,
many kept as boarding houses and with most of their signs
stating “‘No Vacancies”’.
As I walked onto Skinner Street, I paused to look in shop
windows. Some were familiar from years ago. There was the
post office, and when I saw that I remembered. This was
the street where Gerald bought my rings. The thought
should not have had such a powerful effect on me but it
did. Putting off the moment when I would be drawn to the
jeweller’s window, I went into Dowzells newsagents shop
next door. Here I would buy postcards and a copy of the
local paper for Dad. My father is superintendent of the
West Riding Constabulary and whenever he goes away he
likes to have a local paper, to see what preoccupies
people in areas outside his own patch. My mother’s
neighbour has a sweet tooth so I would buy a slab of
The woman at the counter tilted her head and gave a smile,
almost as if greeting an old friend. She looked so happy,
as if she had just come on holiday herself.
She was a little taller than me, and a little older,
chestnut hair streaked with grey, shining eyes that
appeared flecked with sunlight. She wore a cotton frock,
patterned with geraniums. While I chose postcards, she
stocked a shelf with chocolate bars, and then served
boiled sweets to an old lady.
As I paid for the postcards, Whitby Gazette and toffee, I
exchanged a few words with the assistant about the fine
weather and number of holidaymakers coming to Whitby this
‘Have you just arrived?’
‘Yes. I’m off to hunt down a cup of tea and a bun.’
‘Walk along the shore to Sandsend when the tide is out,’
she suggested. ‘There’s a nice little café there.’
I paid her and she offered to make space for me to write
my postcards on the counter.
‘Thanks, but I’d be here an hour. It takes me ages to
think what to say on a postcard.’
She laughed. ‘I’m just the same. Sometimes it’s the
simplest things take the longest time. Where are you
‘At the Royal.’
‘How lovely, and do you have a view?’
There was a small poster taped to the counter, advertising
a fund raising Bazaar, Sale of Work and Concert at the
Seaman’s Mission the next day, Sunday.
She saw me read it. ‘It’s in aid of the Seaman’s Mission.
I do hope you’ll come along. It should be an enjoyable
afternoon, and for a good cause.’
‘Yes, I’d love to.’
‘Excellent! I have some tickets if you’d like to get yours
‘I’ll take three tickets then, no – four.’
Alma and Felicity might want to come and Felicity would be
bound to have a friend.
As I left the shop, a tall, rotund man strode in, dapper
and lively in striped suit and heavy watch and chain. He
went behind the counter, saying to the assistant. ‘I
expect you want a break.’
I smiled to myself as I heard her say, ‘Then you expect
As I left the shop, a river of holidaymakers flowed
downhill towards the town. I turned to join them, and then
suddenly there was the jeweller’s shop. J Philips, High
I stopped so abruptly that someone bumped into me. We both
apologised, though the fault was mine for coming to such a
It had been my intention to walk past, without looking,
without thinking about that day so long ago. Yet look I
must. Suddenly, nothing else mattered. There was the
window display, hardly changed. The sensation gave me a
slight shudder. As I stood in the here and now, my other
self from years ago also looked into the window. I was
here, alone, and also standing beside Gerald as we rather
self-consciously look at rings. Our fingers touch. The
memory of that moment was so strong that all that has
happened since fell away.
Perhaps the wind did not entirely drop to nothing, and the
gulls continued their cry, but I was trapped in the past
so intensely that I could not catch my breath and could
not shift my gaze from the tray of rings.
For a moment, I did not realise that someone was speaking
to me. Bringing myself back into the present with a little
shake, I saw that the man who had entered the newsagents,
the owner I supposed, now straightened papers in the rack
outside. He looked at me in an odd way. He was waiting for
an answer, having said something – but I did not know
He covered the awkwardness. ‘Are you all right, madam?’
‘Yes. Thank you.’
He straightened his cuffs and his gold cufflinks shone in
the sunlight. ‘Nice display, eh?’
The man’s voice and my inane reply had broken the spell.
The window was no longer completely dominated by rings.
There were china ornaments, bangles, brooches and
earrings. There was even a bracelet that would go
perfectly with the black and white dress I had bought in
Schofields for my goddaughter, Felicity.
The writer of a syndicated fashion column that appeared in
our local paper gave her opinion that a black and white
frock was very useful to a girl in mourning, or not in
mourning. The sleeves could be either black or white. The
columnist also suggested buying under-slips in both black
and white. This particular frock had kilt pleats at the
front, which seem to be coming in again. Not that Felicity
is in mourning – that I know of – but it will be useful as
well as pretty, just in case. Besides, someone is always
This bracelet would definitely chime with the dress. It
had a delicate gold chain set with stones, alternating
tiny pearls with jet beads – the jet Queen Victoria made
famous and desirable when she chose it as her mourning
jewellery after Prince Albert died.
It amused me to see that Victoria’s favourite gemstone,
readily found along the coast by fossil hunters, was now
being sold in long necklaces for young flappers.
Step into the shop. That’s what I must do. Otherwise, each
time I came along this street I would be stopped in my
tracks, caught in another time, and it would not do. After
a different purchase, I would be able to walk by the shop
with only the smallest pang of sadness and nostalgia, and
not be overwhelmed. Besides, the bracelet would be
Would the jeweller be the same man? The name scrolled in
gilt across the window was the same: J Philips High Class
Jeweller. I remembered him as tall and thin with bright
red hair, but he was not so very old and that was before
the war. Perhaps, like Gerald, he had not come back.
The clapper sounded as I entered the jeweller’s shop. A
glass cabinet on the opposite wall contained dainty and
elegant clocks. One in particular caught my eye and asked
to be taken home. It was a pretty thing, with an embossed
tulip design. Sorry, clock, but I have one similar to you
The long glass-topped counter was divided into sections
for watches, bracelets and rings. I looked at the
bracelets under the glass of the counter but didn’t see
one I liked half as much as the one in the window.
I waited. No one came. I pressed the counter bell, and
waited. A grandmother clock ticked. The minute hand moved.
One minute, two, three. A shop with such valuable goods
should not be unattended. Whitby must indeed be an honest
Now that I was in the shop, sealed off from the world
outside, the memories returned, but not painfully. We had
chosen my ring from the window. Mr Philips had checked my
ring size. He was a charming man. His ginger hair had a
natural wave. His skin was a pale pink shell colour. He
would need to keep out of the sun so as not to burn. One
of the clocks chimed.
Another minute ticked by.
Some quality in the tick-tock quiet of the place made me
uneasy. A shop with such valuable goods should not be
deserted. Perhaps that was why I went behind the counter
and tapped on the door that connected to the room at the
back. I called out, knocking as I did so, calling, ‘Hello.
The room beyond was dimly lit, the curtains closed. Yet I
sensed that there was someone there and was drawn into the
I glanced about. The figure - – the shape - – I did not
straightaway realise it was a body, lay face down in the
centre of the faded square rug that covered much of the
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