Synopses & Reviews
London, 1920. In the aftermath of the Great War and a devastating family tragedy, Laurence Bartram has turned his back on the world. But with a well-timed letter, an old flame manages to draw him back in. Mary Emmetts brother John—like Laurence, an officer during the war—has apparently killed himself while in the care of a remote veterans hospital, and Mary needs to know why.
Aided by his friend Charles—a dauntless gentleman with detective skills cadged from mystery novels—Laurence begins asking difficult questions. What connects a group of war poets, a bitter feud within Emmetts regiment, and a hidden love affair? Was Emmetts death really a suicide, or the missing piece in a puzzling series of murders? As veterans tied to Emmett continue to turn up dead, and Laurence is forced to face the darkest corners of his own war experiences, his own survival may depend on uncovering the truth.
At once a compelling mystery and an elegant literary debut, The Return of Captain John Emmett blends the psychological depth of Pat Barkers Regeneration trilogy with lively storytelling from the golden age of British crime fiction.
"Londoner Laurence Bartram, three years after coming home from WWI a shell of his former self, starts to reawaken at the outset of this moving mystery debut from British classics scholar Speller (Following Hadrian). The young widower begins probing the apparent suicide of fellow veteran John Emmett whom he remembers most vividly as a fearless schoolboy primarily as an excuse to see Emmett's fetching sister, Mary. But as Bartram and his intrepid friend, Charles Carfax, uncover Emmett's role in the execution of a 'boy officer' court-martialed for desertion as well as discover how many others involved have subsequently met with suspicious ends the investigation becomes compelling in its own right. It also spurs Bartram to finally confront some hard truths about himself. Though Speller eventually falters with an overreliance on coincidence, for the most part she delivers an elegant, engrossing read. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Damaged but not broken by his service in the Great War, and living a solitary widower's life in a London attic, accidental detective Laurence Bartram looks into the suspicious death of an old friend and discovers much more than he wishes to.
Praise for The Return of Captain John Emmett
“A complex and gripping novel of post World War I England still devastated by violence and loss, Elizabeth Speller’s The Return of Captain John Emmett recreates a bygone era of great innocence and incomprehensible depravity through richly imagined narrative and characters.”—Kathleen Kent, author of The Heretic’s Daughter and The Wolves of Andover
“Haunting and beautifully written. A delicious journey into post-World War I England in all its trauma and angst.”—C. S. Harris, author of the Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries
“This fabulously enjoyable novel has absolutely everything . . . Speller’s writing is gorgeous, her research immaculate and very lightly worn. Sheer bliss.”—Times (UK)
“An intelligent thriller . . . An involving and sensitively written examination of guilt and moral culpability: a fine achievement.”—The Independent (UK)
“A remarkable piece of storytelling.”—Financial Times (UK)
About the Author
ELIZABETH SPELLER studied Classics at Cambridge. She has written for various publications, and has taught at the universities of Cambridge, Birmingham, and Bristol. She divides her life between Gloucestershire and Greece.