Murder is in the Air: A Kate Shackleton Mystery

Written by Frances Brody
Review by K. M. Sandrick

Business mishaps, muddled business accounts, a gallivanting heir apparent and right-hand man send Barleycorn Brewery owner William Lofthouse to private investigator Kate Shackleton and her associate Jim Sykes to look into the business side of things. Murders soon follow: Lofthouse’s savvy assistant, Miss Crawford, is run over while pedaling her bicycle on the way to work a day after she tried to tell Lofthouse some important news. The drayman who tends the brewery’s delivery horses is found dead from asphyxiation in the airless fermentation room.

Murder Is in the Air is the 12th in author Brody’s Shackleton murder mystery series. It takes place in 1930 in the small North Yorkshire village of Masham. Details about brewery workings and village life provide an atmospheric period backdrop. Layered interactions give flesh to characters.

The unfolding of the mysteries falls short, however. The first murder is resolved quickly, without sufficient attention to the motive behind the hit-and-run and the perpetrator. The second murder seems an afterthought and tangential to the overall story arc. The plot meanders, with chapters often lacking continuity. While Sykes’s actions and analysis reveal the inner workings—and tensions—of a family-owned business, Shackleton’s investigative skills move in fits and starts, making for a haphazard inquiry. The air of this mystery is a bit off.