A Library Journal Best Book of 2014
A winning combination of both intricate plotting and nostalgic post-WWI English country setting, Frances Brody's A Woman Unknown will appeal to fans of both classic murder mysteries in the vein of Agatha Christie as well as readers of historical mystery series set in 1920s England, two popular subgenres.
The Woman Unknown: Deirdre Fitzpatrick is married to a man who wants to know where she really goes when supposedly taking care of her sick mother and calls on the expertise of Kate Shackleton, amateur sleuth extraordinaire to investigate.
The Gentleman: Everett Runcie is a banker facing ruin and disgrace. His American heiress wife will no longer pay for his mistakes, or tolerate his infidelity, and is seeking a divorce.
The Murder: When a chambermaid enters Runcie's hotel room, she is shocked to find that he is alone - and dead! Suddenly Kate is thrown into the depths of an altogether more sinister investigation. Can she uncover the truth of her most complex, and personal, case to date?
Set in England in 1923, Brody's fabulous fourth Kate Shackleton mystery (after 2014's Murder in the Afternoon) finds the savvy PI trying to help a distraught husband, Cyril Fitzpatrick, locate his wife, who has a habit of disappearing for days at a time. Meanwhile, Kate is shocked to discover that banker Everett Runcie, who was seeking a divorce from his wife, has been found dead in his room at the Hotel Metropole in Leeds. The two threads turn out to be ingeniously related. Humming underneath the main story line is Kate's continued mourning for her husband, who went missing in WWI. Such details as cloche hats, Yorkshire pudding, and "grand country houses" provide period flavor, while more serious historical matters, such as cultural attitudes toward divorce and adultery, prove germane to the plot. Snappy dialogue and a cast of well-developed minor characters are a plus.