The Body on the Train: A Kate Shackleton Mystery

Written by Frances Brody
Review by K. M. Sandrick

Private investigator Kate Shackleton is hired by Scotland Yard to lead an undercover investigation of the circumstances surrounding the discovery of a man’s body, bundled in potato sacks among crates of rhubarb, by King’s Cross porters unloading the express train from Ardsley. Shackleton enlists her associates, Mr. Sykes and Mrs. Sugden, to take up the Yard’s line of inquiry concerning a foreign agent seeking to foment discord among miners three years after the defeat of the 1926 General Strike. Meanwhile, she poses as a photographic journalist assigned to write and illustrate an article about the Yorkshire countryside and Thorpefield, where long-time friend Gertrude and her husband Benjie Brockman reside.

The Body on the Train traces a connection between the murdered man and the killing of a Thorpefield shopkeeper, entangling the reader in discussions of rhubarb harvesting and transportation, the process of sinking a mining pit, the destruction of a home for orphans because of a supposedly threatening underground subsidence, and the Ryder Cup European-American golf tournament.

This is the 11th novel in the Kate Shackleton mystery series. It builds on previously developed characters and scenarios and introduces sympathetic and likable miner Stephen Walmsley, accused of the Thorpefield murder, and his friend, the maid Millie. But while the threads are all pulled neatly together by the end, there are many storylines to take hold of and some unraveling along the way. It is somewhat of a bumpy ride.