"Kate Shackelton Faces More Than Murder."
Reviewed by Leanne Davis
Posted June 20, 2014
Something strange is going on at the quarry. Austin and his
sister, Harriet search for their dad. When they find him, he
is lying dead on the ground of the hut in which he was
working. Yet, when the police arrive, the body is nowhere
to be found.
Mary Jane has come to Kate for help, not just because of
Kate's skill, but because there is a relationship there that
Kate knows nothing about. Ethan was a talented mason and
with the job came a house and the respect of many of the men
who worked there. With his disappearance, Mary Jane and her
children may soon find themselves without a home. Ethan was
also pushing for a union, a fact which didn't make him
popular with management.
There are too many disparate facts out there so Kate will
call on Jim Sykes for his help again. With Jim, focusing
on the quarry, Kate can deal with other aspects of the case.
When others start turning up dead, Kate sees that this goes
beyond just a family squabble. There are more people
involved than just those in the quarry. Kate and Jim will
have to weave together the threads and resolve the questions
as they search for Ethan's killer. Danger comes in
unexpected forms as they draw ever closer to the identity of
Frances Brody has written a compelling book, which will keep
the reader guessing as the facts of the case in MURDER IN
THE AFTERNOON are pulled together. Her characters are
interesting and complex. I look forward to more from Frances
Brody and the Kate Shackleton Mystery series.
An intricate plot in the post-WWI English countryside and
Frances Brody's "refreshingly complex heroine" (Kirkus)
combine in Murder in the Afternoon, an absorbing mystery
perfect for fans of Jacqueline Winspear and Agatha Christie.
Dead one minute...
Young Harriet and her brother Austin have always been scared
of the quarry where their stone mason father works. So when
they find him dead on the cold ground, they rush off quickly
to look for some help.
Alive the next?
When help arrives, however, the quarry is deserted and there
is no sign of the body. Were the children mistaken? Is their
father not dead? Did he simply get up and run away?
A sinister disappearing act.
It seems like another unusual case requiring the expertise
of Kate Shackleton--and Mary Jane, the children's mother, is
adamant that only she can help. But Mary Jane is hiding
something--a secret from Kate's past that raises the stakes
and puts both Kate and her family at risk.
ExcerptSATURDAY 12 MAY, 1923
Born on a Monday,
Christened on Tuesday,
Married on Wednesday,
Took ill on Thursday,
Grew worse on Friday,
Died on Saturday,
Buried on Sunday.
That was the end of Solomon Grundy.
Harriet held the cloth-covered basin in her thin hands,
She and Austin trod the well-worn path from their long strip
on Nether End.
Mam wasn’t home. She’d hurried off to Town Street, to buy
Harriet accidentally on purpose forgot when she and Austin
went to do
Saturday shop. Mam wanted a new house. She was sick to death
the back of beyond’s backside.
The path led through a meadow of primroses, buttercups and
the church clock struck five.
Austin puffed at a dandelion clock. ‘It doesn’t work. This
Harriet, never short of an answer, sighed at his babyish ideas.
clocks have Saturday afternoons off. They belong to the
He always believed her, believed her every word.
‘Why is Dad still at work?’
‘He has a special job to finish.’
When they reached the stile Harriet handed him the basin,
till she got
the top. He passed it back to her and she climbed down. Some of
sheep grazed here with their new lambs. One of the sheep
would let you
her, because she was hand reared, and called Mary; but Mary
today, busy with her lamb. In her composition at school,
written, “Autumn is my favourite season”. But perhaps it
or summer, or even winter.
When they were halfway across the field, a dark cloud
covered the sun,
turning the world to gloom. A thrush made a fuss in the
complaining about the dust that turned leaves white.
From here, you could smell the quarry – stone and dust.
There would be
one working, except Dad. At this time on a Saturday, no
your ears. No crushing machine would puff itself up, ready
and grind their bones. Austin dragged his feet.
‘Can you do this?’ She clicked her tongue to make the sound
of a clop
In silence, blown by the east wind, they slip sloped to the
The quarry grew and grew, like an inside out monster, bigger
hungry jaws ready to snap you up and turn you to stone. Keep
The ground dipped and rose, puddles here, rocks there. On
the far steep
slope, a tree clung hopelessly to the side of the blasted
rock. Next to
was a new mountain of fallen stone.
They walked the rough path passing foreman’s hut and big
the view when you were close enough. Beyond came emptiness,
of huts and the far slopes.
The first drop of rain fell.
Shielded by the wagon, Harriet put her fingers to her lips and
long whistle, one short – their signal. If Dad heard her,
need to pass the empty sheds where goblins played hide and
No whistle answered hers, only an echo.
‘I don’t like it.’ Austin clutched her arm with his small,
‘Whistle him again.’
On a weekday, or Saturday morning, there would be quarrymen
to yell to Ethan that his bairns were here.
No reply. When Dad worked, he shut out the world. He heard
one. So Mam said.
‘Whistle louder,’ Austin whined.
‘Don’t be scared. The goblins aren’t here.’
‘Where are they?’
‘They go to Yeadon on Saturdays. Come on.’
The sloping, bumpy ground turned walking into a half run,
looking at the crushing shed, the towering crane, the
sheds. A person’s shadow grew longer in the quarry than
earth. Pushing Austin to avoid a puddle, she stepped into
Bomnation! Now her boots would be soaked through.
By Dad’s mason’s hut, the blue slate sundial shone grandly.
out and touched it. He traced the lines on the dial, placing
as if the slate would feed him a story through his skin.
Harriet put the plate of food on the sundial. ‘Wait here.’
Afterwards, she could not say why she went into the hut.
First she saw
boots, toes pointing to the corrugated roof.
Why would Dad be lying down?
Her head turned strange, as if it might split from her and
balloon. She could not breathe out. Quarry dust dried her
funny went on with her knees. Her skin prickled. She
when old Mr Bowman lay in the road outside the Fleece, and the
horse and cart went round him.
Harriet dropped to her knees.
Dad’s hard hand felt cold. His face looked away from her.
His cheek was
so cold. His hair stuck up. She did what she sometimes did:
fingers through his hair, smoothing it. Some wetness from
the hair came
her hand. His scalp and hair smelled the same but different.
his cap but it did not want to go back on his head, as if it
dislike to him, no longer recognised him. She set Dad’s cap
down on the
bench, but it slipped.
From a long way off, she heard Austin making little sounds
Harriet shoved herself to her feet, pushing against the
bench to help
Hurrying to her brother, she pulled him close.
‘What’s the matter?’ he asked, in a weepy little voice.
She said. ‘Just … Come on …’
She placed her hands firmly at the top of his arms and
point him homewards. He would not or could not budge.
‘Shut your eyes, Austin. Shut your eyes tight and I’ll lead
He did as he was bid, letting himself be spun round and
dreamland. She guided him over bumps and hollows, telling
gingerbread house to his left, all trimmed with barley
sugar. No it
raining. The fairy fountain spurted dandelion and burdock.
And she told herself that the dampness on her hand was
But a country child knows a dead thing when she sees it.
Pipistrelle Lodge, Headingley
Time goes by turns,
And chances change by course,
From foul to fair
From better hap to worse
The railway carriage lurched, flinging me forward. Bolts of
as the carriage toppled. Gasping, I grabbed for something to
screech of brakes jerked me awake. I opened my eyes to find
the journey from Kings Cross to Leeds completed hours ago,
What woke me was the persistent, loud knocking at my front
room is at the back of the house, overlooking the wood, whoever
from slumber hammered the knocker as if to tell me the house
The clock on my bedside table said four o’clock. Sookie had
my dressing gown and did not take kindly to having it pulled
an unseemly intrusion for a cat in her delicate condition.
At the bottom of the stairs, I stubbed my toe on the
there last night by the taxi driver. I flicked on the light
Turning the key in the lock and opening the door, I peered
expecting some messenger of doom.
A woman, wearing cape and hood, stood in the shadow of the
‘Mrs Shackleton?’ Her voice was slightly breathless, as
nervous or had been hurrying.
What sort of mad woman rushes out in the middle of the night
through the streets in the pouring rain?
‘Yes. I’m Mrs Shackleton.’
‘I must to talk to you.’
When I did not straightaway open the door wider, she added, ‘My
I felt groggy with tiredness. ‘You best go to the police.’
They would have detectives on night duty.
Her snort, part laugh, part groan, dismissed my suggestion
‘The police? I’ve tried. They’re neither use nor ornament.’
She seemed unaware of the time and offered no apology for
north wind howled down the street, driving horizontal
bullets of rain.
Imagining that a person intent on foul play would not hammer
knocker loudly enough to wake half Headingley, I fumbled to
chain. As the light from the hall fell on her face, she
and pale as the moon.
Without waiting for an invitation, the woman stepped inside,
onto the mat.
I shut the door behind her. ‘Let me take your cape.’
She unhooked and shook off a dark plaid cape, creating a
pool of water
the polished wood floor.
‘Thank you.’ Her lips were pale but two unnaturally bright
her cheeks. Perhaps she suffered from consumption. The
pulses in her
‘I left my umbrella on the train. I caught the milk train.
I hung the cape on the newel post, again stubbing my toe on the
‘You’d better come through, Mrs …’
‘Armstrong. Mary Jane Armstrong.’
The dining room doubles as my office but no fire had been
lit in there
week, since before I left for London. I led her through to
‘This way. The fire will be out, but we’ll be warmer in
me. I handed her a towel. ‘Dry yourself a little.’ She
who had walked out of the sea and would shortly return to
‘I don’t care about being wet.’ But she rubbed at her hair
damp wavy strands below her ears. Her hooded cape had
protection from the deluge.
She was in her mid or late thirties, about five foot four,
with unblemished white skin and abundant hazel nut brown
hair, swept up
caught with tortoiseshell combs and pins. It looked as
though it may
started out neat but now wavy tendrils escaped the combs.
hung below her shoulders where the pins had fallen out. She
wore a calf
length bottle green skirt and white blouse, with a locket at
shoes were so well polished that the rain slid off the leather.
I drew out a chair, leaving her to recover for a moment,
while I went
the dining room.
Who was she, and what brought her here at this hour?
seemed so very familiar. She reminded me of someone, and I
I lifted the decanter from the sideboard, along with a
the kitchen table, I poured brandy into the glass. ‘Here.
look as if you need it, and then you can tell me what brings
She cupped the glass in both hands and stared intently into
it, as if
amber liquor created a crystal ball and the future would become
clear. Then she looked at me from eyes that were the same
her hair. There was intensity in her gaze, as though what
she did not
in the brandy balloon, she would see in my eyes.
Where did I know her from?
The impression fled as she screwed her eyes tightly, sniffed
and knocked it back in one quick gulp. She coughed and began
saying between splutters. ‘Eh, I thought it were ginger ale.
Right burns my throat.’
‘Brandy. It’s brandy.’
‘You should’ve said. I’ll have another and take it more
I lifted the decanter and poured another finger of brandy.
does it.’ I had come back from London feeling a little
tired, but now
tiredness fled. I said encouragingly, ‘You’d better tell me
She squeezed the glass so tightly it was in danger of
cracking. ‘Like I
said, my husband’s gone missing.’ Mrs Armstrong spoke in a
voice. ‘I don’t know whether he’s alive or dead. I thought
well I’ve heard that you find people.’
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