A Death in the Dales – Frances Brody

If you had told me a couple of chapters into this book that I would be giving it four stars, I would have given you the full-on Spock eyebrow. The writing was a little stiff, a little stilted, and I was pretty sure this was going to be a bomb.

It’s the seventh book in its series – I really do try to avoid doing that, and keep failing. But I think it worked on its own. I felt I was adequately introduced to Kate Shackleton and her life and career, without being completely spoiled (as far as I know) for the earlier books. I have no idea how the main character’s love interest, Lucian, was introduced and built up prior to this installment, but here things are coming to a head: her thirteen-year-old niece is recovering from whooping cough (?), and she has decided to take the girl away from the home where she would be kept busy looking after younger siblings, to a village where she might have the chance to rest and actually recuperate. And Lucian just so happens to have a cottage, left him by his aunt, which will be just the place. And if her stay there – with his frequent visits – lead her to finally agreeing to marry him, well then.

Kate is barely there a minute when a mystery falls into her lap. Apparently her reputation as a detective has preceded her, and as it turns out Aunt Freda witnessed a murder some ten years ago. Despite her eyewitness account that he couldn’t have done it, despite her constant campaigning, a young Irish laborer was arrested, tried, convicted, and hanged for the killing. Now, years after her own death, all of her notes on the case are foisted upon Kate, and whether she wants the job or not she is duty bound to try to clear the name of the man who was executed.

Meanwhile, of course, there are a number of smaller mysteries to clear up along the way, not least of which is what exactly her feelings really are toward Lucian, and which path her life will take.

By the end of the book I was surprised at how much I was enjoying myself. I don’t know if I’ll make the effort to read the rest of the series, or any books which follow this, but I admit I am curious about the Lucian story thread – so it’s not impossible I’ll read more. Not overly likely, but not impossible.

One small detail I absolutely loved was:

“Once settled, she banged her head on the pillow eleven-and-a-bit times, to be sure of waking before midnight.
“‘What you doing?’ Madge asked.
“‘Reminding meself.’”

This is a trick I’ve only ever read about before in E. Nesbit, and it’s something I’ve done ever since: if you want to make sure you wake up at nine o’clock, lift and drop your head on your pillow nine times. I’m not going to say it’s infallible – but I’m also not going to say it doesn’t work.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.

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