Friday, December 16, 2011

The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller

Set in 1920 London, this mystery intertwines the horrors of World War I in a web of war survivors, murders, romance, social customs and history. Recovering from the trauma of both serving in the war and losing a wife and child, Laurence Bartram receives news of the suicide death of a classmate, Captain John Emmett. Feeling compassion for the family, Laurence comes to the aid of his sister to discover the why of the suicide and bequests to unknown individuals in his will. Laurence falls hopelessly in love with the sister, Mary. The investigation becomes one of can’t stop reading intrigue when it is discovered that Captain Emmett was a member of a firing squad for the execution of a British sergeant for desertion during the war.
Aiding Laurence in this investigation is good friend Charles. Charles knows everything and everyone and he steals every scene where he is placed and provides many light moments amid the darkness. The author does not spare the reader from the sad awfulness of World War I. This war destroyed a generation with over 1.6 million British men wounded, 662,000 men killed and 140,000 men reported missing in action. The novel’s core focuses on the psychological trauma of the survivors, shell shock, and vividly awakens the reader to current copings with the post traumatic stress disorder of contemporary military veterans.
This mystery has a lot to offer. While discovering the history of post World War I Britain, the reader can savor the puzzle of who, what and why.