Thursday, 1 May 2014

The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller

Among the throng of new novels set during World War One and its aftermath, Elizabeth Speller is making a name for herself as an author to watch. The Return of Captain John Emmett introduces us to Laurence Bartram who, while writing a book about church architecture, has enough time on his hands for a bit of sleuthing.

In this story, he is approached by Mary Emmett, the sister of an old school friend who is disturbed by the apparent suicide of her brother – once a fit and confident young man but who had been traumatised by his experiences at the front. A sequence of clues leads Bartram to unravel a story concerning the execution of a British officer; and as if this isn't bad enough, the members of the firing squad aren't faring too well, with several unexplained deaths.

There are odd bouts of danger, too. Thank goodness Bartram’s other school chum, Charles, is at hand with his trusty service revolver. Charles has had a better war than many and relishes the opportunity for a bit of action.

While there is all the drama of a good mystery novel here, Speller doesn't shy away from adding the details that make for a satisfying read with well-rounded and appealing characters. Bartram has his own personal tragedy and is made all the more interesting for it. In the background is added insight about shell-shock and battlefield justice to add a bit of depth. I shall certainly be keen to read more of Mr Bartram’s investigations and hope the author has plenty more in mind for him.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue Link: The Return of Captain John Emmett

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