This is the first in a series of historical mysteries featuring World War I veteran Laurence Bartram as amateur sleuth. Haunted by war wounds and memories, Bartram is finding it difficult to focus on the book he is writing, which is why he finds himself investigating the apparent suicide of a fellow veteran he knew from his school days. This series will appeal to fans of Charles Todd’s Ian Rutledge series, having in common a protagonist haunted by the Great War and its depiction of post-war England. Bartram is not quite as tortured a soul as Rutledge, and the outlook and atmosphere of Speller’s writing is brighter and more hopeful.
Bartram is approached by Captain John Emmett’s sister after his suicide. Her brother was an enigma to her in life, and she is desperate for some clues to his life as well as his death. Out of attraction to Mary Emmett, and a desire for a distraction from the disturbing thoughts of his past and future, Bartram agrees to look into Emmett’s last weeks. All clues lead to events in Emmett’s past, but Bartram finds Emmett’s fellow soldiers suspiciously close-mouthed about his wartime service and begins to wonder if Emmett really committed suicide after all.
This is a strong start to a new series, and I’m already absorbed in Speller’s next entry, The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton.
Check the WRL catalog for The Return of Captain John Emmett.