Dying in the Wool
In post-World War I England, there’s a young woman of independent means who lost her beloved during the war, who is serving her country in the Voluntary Aid Detachment, who is driving a jaunty sports car, and has a knack for piecing together the truth about people. No, it’s not Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs, nor has Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher switched continents. Meet Kate Shackleton, heroine of a new entry in the growing amateur-turned-professional detective genre.
While Kate’s life bears a striking resemblance to Maisie’s and Phryne’s on the surface, underneath she’s her own person. Kate’s first paid assignment as a sleuth is to find Joshua Braithwaite, the father of her friend from the VAD, Tabitha. Braithwaite was the wealthy owner of a woolen mill, who one day was found face down and injured in a small brook; the assumption was that he was trying to commit suicide. When he disappeared from a hospital the next day, never to be seen again, more rumors swirled around, about his fleeing the country with ill-gotten gains. Tabitha wants Kate to locate Joshua, just as Kate has located other missing people. To succeed, Kate must find out the truth from Tabitha’s mother, her fiancé Hector, the mill workers, and the police. She is aided in her detecting endeavors by Sykes, a former policeman, who is a bit unnerved at finding himself employed by a woman.
This well-plotted mystery has some surprise twists, and reveals Kate to be thoughtful, resourceful, and well able to carve out a space for herself on a playing field next to Maisie and Phryne.