Paperback review: A Woman Unknown, By Framces Brody

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The Independent Culture

The fourth in Brody's detective series about 1920s private eye Kate Shackleton, this instalment features many of the staple characters of a classic Golden Age whodunnit: a blackmailer, a ruined banker, a woman of questionable virtue, a missing person, a Scotland Yard detective and an American bootlegger, plus aristocrats, servants and nuns – all minus the vicious snobbery of the period.

It's not exactly a pastiche, but it's as consciously retro an exercise as the cover design suggests. Shackleton is a clever choice for a heroine: she's a proto-feminist making her way in a man's world after her husband has gone missing, presumed dead, in the Great War. It's neatly plotted but, for me, the writing never really catches fire, and the technique of switching irregularly between first and third person is slightly offputting.

Piatkus £8.99