Reviewing Frances Brody’s Death in the Stars (Kate Shackleton mystery)

Kate Shackleton is back! She is one of my favourite book detectives and in Death in the Stars she is solving the murder of comic Billy Moffat. It’s 1927 and eclipse fever has taken over the country. Kate is asked to arrange a flight for a music hall star, Selina Fellini and Billy from Leeds to Giggleswick School. The school happens to be one of the best places to view the eclipse. Two things stuck me about this:

  • Why would anyone hire a private detective to sort out travel arrangements for them? There has to be something more.
  • Someone called a school ‘Giggleswick’ and thought it was a good idea.

With the first point of course there was something more: Selina is convinced that something more sinister is afoot than people she loves accidentally dying. With the second point sadly none of the other characters found the name of the school as funny as I did. No one even commented on it!

Like every good detective story there are multiple suspects, multiple solutions, and at the beginning at least no clue if there is actually a crime to solve. Kate has her work cut out and with Mrs Sugden and Jim Sykes they eventually start to piece everything together.

With every single Kate Shackleton novel I have ever read I am always astounded by the level of research Frances Brody does. The eclipse, music hall stars, variety shows, the beginning of moving pictures, secret underground tunnels – it’s all there in rich, technicolour detail. There were points when I thought some of this research was given to me on a plate – there was one scene when one character was explaining to Kate how the underground tunnels between theatres worked – and I have to admit I was impatient for all that exposition to end. However this was very rare. Throughout the rest of the novel the research fits in seamlessly. I was transported from 2017 London to the scenes in the book so completely – so much so that even I was wondering if moving pictures would ever really take off.

I have always loved Frances Brody’s writing style and how she changes her tone and way of writing depending on the characters in focus. Kate is very different to Jim Sykes and their respective chapters reflect this. As a reader I thoroughly enjoyed moving from one person’s head to another. Not that this helped me figure out who the killer was; no this evaded me until very close to the end when it really couldn’t have been anyone else.

This is another excellent read by Frances Brody in the Kate Shackleton mystery series. I want to extend my thanks to the publisher, Piatkus, for sending me a review copy.

I am part of a brilliant blog tour for Death in the Stars. Have a look at the other amazing people taking part and make sure you check out their posts!

Disclaimer: I was sent this book for free as part of the blog tour. This has not influenced my review at all. 

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