After WWI it was very hard for the soldiers who came back. For captain John Emmett it all became too much and he was hospitalized. He managed to get out and shot himself.His sister Mary wants to understand her brother’s death and why he committed suicide while he just survived the war. She asks John’s old friend from school to visit and talk to her about John, so she will perhaps get to know her brother a little better.
Laurence Bartram is also a bit lost now the war has ended. He had a relatively ‘good war’, but he did lose his wife and son. He tries to write a book about church architecture, but this does not go very well. Mary’s request is not welcome, but Laurence cannot find an excuse not visit her.
When Laurence talks to people who met John during the war, he gets involved almost despite himself and he wants to solve the mystery of John’s death.
Did John kill himself because he could not live with his memories anymore? This is plausible, especially when Laurence finds out John was involved in the execution of an officer who was sentenced for cowardice. An execution that did not go as planned. But slowly Laurence finds out there is more to this than he thought and all the people involved in this incident have to suffer the consequences.
Elizabeth Speller managed to get across how difficult it must have been for the soldiers who returned in a very beautiful way. She obviously did her research, but this never gets in the way of the story.
The book started out as an ordinary novel, but then went into a direction I did not expect, it became a sort of detective. But it is a very well written detective. The return of captain John Emmett has a tight plot, a good structure and a very nice leading character. I really liked Laurence Bartram and I was pleased to realize this is not the only book he appears in, Elizabeth Speller wrote another book with him as the protagonist.
Needless to say that book is also on my list.
Published in 2010Pages 436