Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"Dying in the Wool"

Frances Brody lives in the North of England, where she was born and grew up. Brody started her writing life in radio, with many plays and short stories broadcast by the BBC. She has also written for television and theatre. Before turning to crime, she wrote sagas, winning the HarperCollins Elizabeth Elgin award for most regionally evocative debut saga of the millennium.

Brody applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Dying in the Wool, and reported the following:
The search to discover what happened to her husband Gerald, missing in action in 1918, draws Kate Shackleton into sleuthing. In 1922, she takes on her first professional case. Tabitha Braithwaite seeks Kate’s help. Tabitha hopes and dreams that her millionaire mill owner father, who vanished in 1916, will be found within the next six weeks, in time to walk Tabitha down the aisle when she marries.

Page 69 sees Kate in the village of Bridgestead, talking to the village bobby, who shows Kate newspaper cuttings of the old case. The cuttings suggest that Joshua Braithwaite attempted suicide. This was, of course, a crime. Constable Mitchell waits until Kate has finished reading an account of Braithwaite being pulled from the beck (stream), and then he says:
‘It was one of the worst days of my life, having to arrest Joshua Braithwaite for attempted suicide. And the man was in no fit state.’

‘Tell me about it.’

‘I’ll do better than that. I can give you my report from the time.’ He opened a desk drawer and lifted out several notebooks, looking at the covers for dates. ‘It didn’t help that he was found in a spot where a suicide had happened three years earlier.’

The image made me shudder. ‘How awful. By the waterfall?’ This was what Mrs Kellett had said, although Tabitha had pointed out the shallow area near the stepping stones.

‘Yes, by the waterfall. If Braithwaite hadn’t been pulled out when he was, he would have drowned, like the weaver and her children.’
Kate spots discrepancies between the different accounts of what happened that fateful day. Has the fact that a previous soul in despair ended her days at this spot coloured interpretations placed on Braithwaite’s actions? Tabitha had insisted her father would not have attempted suicide. Kate pushes the constable a little.
‘I can imagine a woman might seek to end her life in that way, if she is truly despairing. Perhaps it’s my prejudice, but it seems to me a more female method of dying. Would Mr Braithwaite have chosen that way out?’

‘Men are just as likely to drown themselves. Mills are all built by the water. Canals and becks have made a last resting place for many a poor labourer.’

He found the page in his notebook. ‘My writing’s not very legible. I’ll read it to you.’
Kate will have a great deal of unravelling to do before she finds out what really happened, and whether she will make Tabitha’s wish come true by finding her father.
Learn more about the book and author at Frances Brody's website.

--Marshal Zeringue