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Spy story mentally unstable wife suspects returning husband is imposter (WWI?)

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1InkScribe80
Apr 13, 5:47am Top

The primary character returns to his ancestral home from abroad, after deployment somewhere in the continent of Africa for years. He's been gone so long, people really don't recall what he looked like, even his household staff.

His wife is mentally unstable and I believe holds a grudge for some reason . . . there is one chilling scene I remember vividly where the primary character awakes in bed to see his wife looming over him with a knife. She'd entered via a secret passageway, and after looking him over, she whispers something to the effect of "you are not him," and leaves. I think she put the knife to his throat and even drew blood before he awoke.
Over the course of the story, the reader begins to question if perhaps the mad wife is not so mad at all, and if perhaps he is an imposter. The question is resolved at the end of the book.

I believe the story is set shortly before the outbreak of one of World War one or two . . . I do remember a scene in a traincar towards the end of the book, but nothing else to give an accurate time setting.

The opening chapter is set somewhere in Africa or India before his reaurnhome (home being England, I think.) He and a comrade are sharing a drink and talking about what he will do when he goes home.

I read this story in an old, thick hardcover book that contained several complete novels and perhaps a few short stories. This story may have been closer to a novellete in length than a true novel, but it's been 15 years and I only ever read it once.
I think the book was actually a required reading collection for highschool kids from the 40s or 50s - at least, it was similar to those collections.

Any help would be GREATLY appreciated! I've been hunting for this story for over a decade & a half now, and have just spent two more fruitless hours on google.

2libraryperilous
Apr 13, 8:23am Top

The Great Impersonation, by E. Phillips Oppenheim?

From Goodreads, "1913: An English aristo is murdered by a look alike double in Africa who resumes the dead man's identity back home. The dead man's wife is thrilled with her 'different husband' and keeps her mouth shut. Then comes the twist"

I found this suggestion by Googling "spy novel like Martin Guerre." You might try an iteration of that search if this isn't the right book.

3Foretopman
Apr 13, 4:52pm Top

Almost certainly The Great Impersonation. I've read it relatively recently, and the details all match perfectly.

4InkScribe80
Apr 16, 1:01am Top

THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I just looked at a synopsis and I'm positive you are correct - I am over the moon! 15 years of fruitless search, and all it took was a single post on this website and I have my answer with hours! Bless you!!!

5InkScribe80
Apr 16, 1:02am Top

Thank you both - I will finally get to reread the book that has been haunting me for nearly two decades!!!

6libraryperilous
Apr 16, 2:37pm Top

>5 InkScribe80: You're welcome. I hope you enjoy the reread! It sounds like a fun book.

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