Authors: Frances Brody
Tags: #Crime Fiction
is a pseudonym for Frances McNeil, author of four sagas and winner of the HarperCollins Elizabeth Elgin Award. Frances has written many stories and plays for BBC radio, and scripts for television. Her stage plays have been toured by several theatre companies and produced at Manchester Library Theatre, the Gate and Nottingham Playhouse, with
nominated for a
Frances lived in New York for a time before studying at Ruskin College, Oxford, and reading English Literature and History at York University. She has taught in colleges, and on writing courses for the Arvon Foundation. She lives in Leeds where she was born and grew up.
A Medal for Murder
is Frances’s second Kate Shackleton Mystery.
To find out more about Frances, visit her website at
Dying in the Wool
Praise for Frances Brody
‘The 1920s are a fascinating and under-used period for new crime fiction, so it’s a particular pleasure to have Frances setting her story at that time. Kate Shackleton is a splendid heroine . . . I’m looking forward to the next book in the series!’
‘Brody’s winning tale of textile industry shenanigans is shot through with local colour’
‘The story, with its secure setting in the richly-detailed woollen industry, is an excellent read’
‘The background detail of milling and dyeing is spot on . . . as is her ear for the West Riding accent and dialect’
‘An enjoyable and gripping mystery story’
Published by Hachette Digital
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Copyright © Frances McNeil 2010
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.
Little, Brown Book Group
100 Victoria Embankment
London EC4Y 0DY
For my sister Patricia
It took the best part of an afternoon to cut out the letters. In spite of touching the pastry brush into the jar so carefully, glue still coated fingertips and had to be peeled off. Glue made your head ache, but your hopes soar.
The sheet of paper turned stiff when dry. It would be ludicrous if a letter fell off. In the end, there it was:
ONE THOUSAND POUNDS TO HAVE LUCY
CALL POLICE SHE WILL DIE
She would, too. Failure means curtains, success a new beginning.
Act One, Scene One.
On a muggy August Friday morning, we set out in my 1910 blue Jowett convertible for our 9.30 a.m. appointment.
Jim Sykes, my assistant, is an ex-policeman who endearingly believes he does not look at all like an ex-policeman. He just happens to be lean, mean, and alert as a territorial tom cat. During a ten-day holiday in Robin Hood’s Bay with his wife and family, he caught the sun, along with a carefree air that I suspected would not last long.
I braked sharply to let a crazed old woman, raising her stick to stop traffic, hurtle across Woodhouse Lane.
A rag-and-bone cart drew alongside, drawn by a patient shire horse. The lad seated beside the driver pointed at me. He called to Sykes, ‘Didn’t no one tell you women can’t drive?’
Sykes raised his goggles and drew a finger across his throat as he gave the lad a hard stare.
‘Let it go,’ I said, accelerating away. ‘That’s threatening behaviour.’
‘Threaten? I’ll throttle him.’
Sykes finds it hard to let anything go. If he were a duck, the water on his back would sink him.
We bore up manfully as I drove into Leeds city centre and parked outside the double-fronted jeweller’s shop on Lower Briggate. Three gold balls above the shop announced its pawnbroker status.
In the plate-glass window, I caught a glimpse of myself. What is the stylish lady detective wearing this season, under her motoring coat? A brown and turquoise silk crepe dress and jacket, copied from a Coco Chanel model, cloche hat and summer gloves echoing the brown. My mother frowns on brown, saying it is too much like wartime khaki sludge, but it suits my pale colouring and chestnut hair.
Jewellers’ shops have a subdued air, like churches and banks. This one smelled of lavender polish and chamois leather. The young assistant with neatly combed fair hair and dark suit could easily have worked in a counting house. Head bent in concentration, he showed a tray of rings to a young couple.
Mr Moony, a thin grey-suited man with shining tonsured head, gave us a Mona Lisa smile. He saved the introductions for the small back room.
‘One moment!’ He disappeared into the shop and returned carrying a chair for me. I am five feet two inches tall. Mr Moony’s courtesy in giving me the chair meant that he and Sykes, on high buffets, towered over me. Sykes handled the moment impeccably, concentrating mightily on taking out notebook and pencil.
I prompted Mr Moony to tell us about the incident, which took place last Monday, 21 August, 1922.
He sighed and stroked his chin. ‘In my thirty years here, we’ve never had such a thing happen, or in my
father’s time before me.’ As he began to tell his tale, he gripped the seat of the buffet. His knuckles turned white. He spoke fluently, having already told the story to the police. ‘At about noon, I went out for a stroll and came back half an hour later. My assistant, young Mr Hall, then took a stroll about. I insist on the efficacy of stretching the legs in the middle of the day.’ He paused, as if half-expecting some criticism for his theory.
‘I do just the same, Mr Moony,’ I heard myself lie. ‘Only yesterday, I walked from Woodhouse Ridge to Adel Crags.’
The energetic fib refocused Mr Moony on his tale. ‘While I was alone here, the chap came in. My one consolation is that I and not young Hall bore the brunt of the outrage.’
On the name Hall, Sykes nudged my ankle with his foot. I kicked him. As if I would not think to ask.
‘Has Mr Hall been with you long?’
A five-minute testimonial for young Albert Hall followed. I hoped Sykes was noting this while I concentrated on trying not to get the giggles. What Mrs Hall mother would name her son Albert? Call me Bert. Call me Al. Call me anything but a memorial to the late queen’s consort and lost love.
Having fully exonerated his assistant, Mr Moony took a deep breath before continuing his story, eyes narrowing as he remembered the distressing scene. ‘The man was about five foot six inches tall, slightly built, something of a stoop, a youngish fellow. He wore a darkish raincoat and a homburg. Had an item to put into pledge, that was his story. Swung out a twenty-two carat gold watch chain and asked for twelve shillings. I completed the paperwork, took the chain and handed
him the money. Transaction completed, I placed the chain in a bag.’
‘Can you remember any other details, Mr Moony?’