Monday, 6 June 2011

Monday Musings - Review of The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller

(Please note, this isn't a YA book, although despite a bit of sex and violence there's nothing particularly explicit and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to mature teens. It's just certainly not written for teenagers, unlike the majority of stuff I review on here.)

Back from the First World War, his wife and child dead, Laurence Bartram feels he's lost his place in the world. Depressed and wondering what to do with himself, he settles to writing half-heartedly before receiving a letter from the sister of an old schoolfriend which will set him on a course that will bring him back to living life at its fullest - assuming his investigations don't kill him, that is. John Emmett had survived the horrors of the war and returned home to his mother and sister. The fighting had clearly left its mark on him and he struggled to fit into civilian life again, eventually killing himself, Mary tells Laurence. She's distraught, and desperate to know what could have driven him to do such a thing. Promising the attractive young lady that he'll try and find out what happened to his old friend, Laurence is plunged headfirst into a dark and murky mystery.

I was expecting something quite different from what I got here - the cover and the back of the book seem to suggest something slow-moving, while we actually get a very enjoyable and rather pacy thriller. As Laurence and his friend Charles, who knows half of the important people in the country and has come out of the war rather better than Laurence or John did, try to track down Emmett's past, they get caught up in a series of events which may have rather too many coincidences to be completely plausible but which keep the plot moving brilliantly.

The best part of the book for me, however, was Elizabeth Speller's description of England just after the Great War. Wonderfully evocative, she captured the class system, the changing face of the country, and the troubles both those who fought and those who were left behind had in adjusting to life at peace again.

This is a high recommendation and I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for others by Speller.

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