Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Return of Captain John Emmett

The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011
440 pages
Mystery; Historical Fiction
4.5/5 stars

Source: Received an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I wasn't entirely sure about this book when I started reading it-what was it about? Where was it set? Is John Emmett the main character? Thus I didn't have any expectations and was prepared to be blown away.

What I received was a historical mystery set around post-WWI London with a widowed discharged soldier, who physically survived, but who becomes entangled in a mystery surrounding the death of Captain John Emmett.  Emmett was a soldier who had kept himself at a distance from his family and friends; when he commits suicide after seemingly overcoming depression, his sister wants to know more about him.  Thus she enlists the widowed Laurence Bartram, a school friend of Emmett's, to investigate.  He, with the assistance of his delightful friend Charles (an avid consumer of mystery novels such as Agatha Christie's) discover a conspiracy surrounding Emmett's time in the war.

I don't want to spoil anything because this book was quite a delight for me.  Although I mostly read and review YA, I love mysteries and historicals, which this book combines.  I thought the writing was fantastic and it drew me deep into the book.  Although it's pretty long, the pacing was mostly spot-on and suspense was sustained.  I just wanted to know more and more about each character and his/her history.

My one complaint is about the solution to the mystery, which I don't think the reader could have solved.  We are about as blindsided as Laurence himself is and the conspirator then spends several chapters telling the backstory for his/her crimes.  I mostly enjoyed that but I think some people would find it long-winded and unnecessary.

Overall: Great book; I'm already looking forward to Speller's next book, The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton, which appears to be a sequel with Laurence Bertram.  It looks like it comes out this month for British readers; not sure about us Americans-we may have to wait.

Read for Ebook and British Book Challenge.

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