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Death and the Brewery Queen

Death and the Brewery Queen Murder is in the Air

In the Spring of 1930, Kate Shackleton responds to a call for help from the owner of Barleycorn Brewery in the North Riding of Yorkshire. Financial whiz Jim Sykes suspects threats to the brewery's business. When the one employee who may have an insight into what's really going on meets with a fatal accident, Kate's investigation intensifies.

Kate and her niece Harriet move off the beaten track into Oak Cottage. On the day of the brewery garden party, Harriet helps newly crowned Yorkshire Brewery Queen Ruth Parnaby to entertain the children. Planned pony rides are cancelled because pony and drayman have gone missing. It's Kate who opens the wrong door in the brewery. She finds herself staring at a body, and in danger of asphyxiation.

Against a background of family secrets, the lure of a much greater prize for the Brewery Queen and the strong possibility of a miscarriage of justice, Kate's wit, skill and passion for truth are tested to the limits.


" ... combines clever detection with a sympathetic understanding of human frailty."

Daily Mail

"Britain between the wars provides the backdrop for murder and an engrossing look at women's place in society."

Kirkus Review

"One of the great strengths of these novels is that all the characters are well-rounded and believable... Death and the Brewery Queen is a page turner, which I thoroughly recommend."

Promoting Crime Fiction

"I really adore this series ..."

Woman's Way

"There's good background on the brewing process, along with the dangers it presents and the perks of free beer. I loved the shire horses!

"... still as fresh and clever as ever.... a cracking-good story ..."

The Bookbag

"Smooth prose and nice local color ..."

Publishers' Weekly


The twelfth Kate Shackleton mystery was published in the US on October 6th 2020 by Crooked Lane, under the title Murder is in the Air (ISBN: 978-1-6438-5466-3).

The UK edition, Death and the Brewery Queen was published by Piatkus on 29th October 2020 (ISBN: 978-0-3494-2308-1); also available in a Kindle edition and as an Audible audio download, read by Anne Dover.


Frances gives a little background...

... to the inspiration for the story of Kate Shackleton's encounter with my imagined Brewery Queen Ruth:

Death and the Brewery Queen, set in 1930, was inspired by Queens of Industry, a temporary exhibition at Leeds Industrial Museum, 2017-2019. The exhibition celebrated "the untold histories of the working class women elected to represent some of Britain's greatest industries, from coal to cotton."

The Cotton Queen and the Wool Queen modelled garments that promoted much-needed sales. They acted as ambassadors, sometimes pressing their industry's case in Parliament. Coal queens were selected from those who had a father, brother or husband working in the mines. One such queen descended to the coal face, a morale-boosting event to encourage the use of safety equipment.

Here's a piece about the exhibition, by Helen Ridd and Beatrix Willimont for the Guardian; and here is some material from the exhibition on the Google Arts & Culture pages.

In Making the Mill Girl Modern?: Beauty, Industry and the Popular Newspaper in 1930s England, Rebecca Conway provides a fascinating background to the times when "commentators like J. B. Priestley were beginning to observe the emergence of factory girls who looked 'like actresses'. (Twentieth Century British History, Volume 24, Issue 4 December 2013, Pages 518-541.)


Header photograph, Ingenues arrive, Central Station, Sydney, 1928-1929, by Sam Hood from the collection of the State Library of New South Wales.