2014: 28. The Return of Captain John Emmett

"They gathered in the dark long before the train arrived at the small station."

The Return of Captain John Emmett, Elizabeth Speller

Ok, get ready for a rave, because I LOVED this book.  And granted, it is basically Duns-nip - a well-written mystery that centers on the events of the First World War, and deal with what a tragic clusterschmuck the whole thing was, but even those of you who didn't grow up listening to the story of how your 101 year old great grandfather survived Passchendale (he was Canadian) will like this book because it is great.*

Laurence Betram is a veteran of the war. He survived physically intact, but his wife died in childbirth before he came home, and he spends the immediate post war years in a fog, with nothing left to live for.  One day, the sister of a friend asks him for help.  Her brother, another veteran, has committed suicide, and she wants to understand it better.  Laurence hasn't seen the brother (the titular John Emmett) since school, but he agrees to help out of fondness for her - and, honestly for something to do.  Soon he is finding himself engaged in the quest, and coming back to life as he comes to understand Emmett's death.

There are lots of mysteries set in this era - Maisie Dobbs, the Charles Todd books, even my very favorite detective, Peter Wimsey, gets into detecting to deal with his war experiences (and post-war crack up).  And the plot here is actually one that is pretty similar to a Maisie Dobbs book. BUT, this is so much better.  Maisie is a Mary Sue, (with her psychic ways and her class hopping).  Laurence and all the people he deals with seem like real people trying to grapple with the aftermath of an unexplainable catastrophe.  I just could not put this down as a novel - and the mystery part was just gravy.  Highly, highly recommended, and I'm about to go start the second book in the series.

*True story, this book is making me a better person.  As I walked home in the Noah-like deluge last night I kept thinking, if my Mampie could survive the trenches at Ypres (in a kilt no less - 42 Black Watch represent!), the least I can do is walk in the rain.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017