Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Medal for Murder by Frances Brody

Kate Shackleton versus Maisie Dobbs!

The jacket blurb compares 'A Medal for Murder, a Kate Shackleton Murder' with Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series. Both series feature an independent woman private investigator who served as a nurse in WWI and came back to England to start a business as a PI. Both feature 1920's settings in the U.K. Both detectives have a working class man as their investigating assistant. Maisie rose from the servant class to the monied class thanks to a benefactor and mentor. Kate seems to come from an upper class family; her mother is titled. So fans of Maisie Dobbs will probably enjoy this series too. The tone is not as somber and contemplative as Winspear's series. Kate is also a war widow like Maisie but seems to not ruminate or be as melancholy in temperament. Kate's investigative methods are more deductive and straightforward and she does not use the meditation and intuition we learn about in the Maisie Dobbs series.

'A Medal for Murder' finds Kate, who is based in the north of England, traveling to Harrogate to track down people whose pawned items have been stolen. While tracking down these victims, she becomes involved in a missing persons case and a murder with roots going back to the Boer War. The horrors of the Boer War are revealed and the aftermath reverberates in the plot some twenty years later. The descriptions of the spa town and theatre crowd are fun.  Chapters dealing with the theatre aspect of the plot begin with a bit of acting lore or language:
'Closet Drama: a play intended only for reading aloud'
'Masking: one actor blocks another from sight'
Some chapters begin with other bits of relevant historical information:
'English teachers do not try to teach Boer children to be English, but to know the English as their friends.'
 - Command Paper 934
begins the chapter flashback to South Africa, 1900 (p193, Chapter 22)

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