Today, the Femmes reach across the pond to welcome British cozy writer Frances Brody, who writes about her post World War I sleuth, Kate Shackelton. Here's Frances' latest, Death at the Seaside.
Nothing ever happens in August, and tenacious sleuth Kate Shackleton looks forward to a relaxing seaside sojourn in Whitby where she will visit her school friend Alma. Drawn into the jeweler’s shop to buy a gift, Kate makes a horrifying discovery in the back room -- Mr Philips the jeweler lies dead. Sworn to silence by police, Kate seeks out Alma, who works as a fortune teller on the pier. Alma's daughter Felicity has disappeared, leaving her mother a note and the pawn ticket for their only asset: a watch-guard. The jeweler who advanced Felicity the thirty shillings is the late Jack Phillips, Alma's gentleman friend. Kate can't help but become involved, and begins her search for answers. Met by a wall of silence by town officials, keen to maintain Whitby's idyllic façade, it's up to Kate -- ably assisted by Jim Sykes and Mrs Sugden - to discover the truth behind Felicity's disappearance.
And they say nothing happens in August . . .
Whitby, Queen of the British Seaside
By Frances Brody
Part of the good fortune of living on a small island is that we are never more than 80 miles from the sea. One of my favourite spots is Whitby on the North Yorkshire coast. This summer, a friend bought an old London black taxi – sadly, black taxis seem to be going cheap these days. Five of us set off on an adventure. I use the word ‘adventure’ somewhat loosely. Our plan was to have fish and chips and a walkabout on the sea front. We are easily pleased. The oldest member of our party has a wheel chair and an advantage of the taxi is plenty of space and a ramp.
We drove the 70 odd miles to Whitby via the scenic route across the moors. (Not to be recommended on a dark night when you are alone and the rain lashes down.) The taxi windows allowed for panoramic views.
Whitby, a former fishing and whaling port, is the place from where Captain James Cook, eighteenth century explorer, navigator, cartographer and former grocer’s boy, set sail on his voyages across previously uncharted seas. There is a small museum commemorating him, and a fine statue. Oddly enough, the statue does not face the sea but gazes across the estuary.
The parish church of St. Mary is reached from the old town by 199 steps which I have sometimes climbed. It is an easy climb because the steps are wide and deep and there are “coffin stops” on the way up where pall bearers rested on the way to the churchyard. This is the churchyard that inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula. The church is where poor, mad, tormented King George III worshiped when he was sent north for treatments and recuperation. I am not a royalist but always think of him with pity.
What I love most is the sheer variety and energy of the place, its annual Folk Festival, Goth Festival and Pirate Festival that allow day trippers and holiday makers the chance to let down their hair and play Dracula. The resident clairvoyant once told my fortune, and a very good fortune it was.
A favourite author of mine is Storm Jameson, not much read now but brilliantly insightful about the impact and aftermath of the First World War, the Great War as it was called, the war to end all wars. Storm Jameson was a Whitby lass who headed for London, as anyone with ambition did in those days. She later lamented that Whitby wasn’t what it was when she was a girl. That is the melancholy complaint of every generation in Whitby, and perhaps across the globe. But it is Whitby’s capacity for change and renewal that keeps it at the top of the list for those of us in the North of England who love the seaside.
And, dear Readers, I like to think that Whitby Library, looking across to the ruined abbey, has the best view of any library in the world.
Frances is at the Moerderische Schwestern conference in Germany -- giving the opening talk in German. She will respond to your welcome comments when she's back home.