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The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton by…

The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton

by Elizabeth Speller

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17012103,706 (3.76)31

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I was both charmed and moved by Elizabeth Speller’s first novel, The Return of Captain John Emmett.

I hadn’t expected to the man who had led me through that story again, but when I picked up The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton I found that I would.

Six years after the end of the Great War Lawrence Bartram was travelling to the Wiltshire village of Easton Deadall, to help and support an old friend who had been commissioned to create a war memorial.

Because nearly all of the men of the village had joined up together, and they had died together too.

But a shadow had hung over the village, and the Easton family who lived in the manor house, long before the war. Because five year-old Kitty Easton had disappeared from her home years before, leaving no trace.

And then Kitty’s father died in the war, leaving his widow holding the family estate in trust, for the missing daughter she could not believe to be dead.

She was supported by her sister, by the family’s loyal staff, and maybe by her husband’s two younger brothers.

For a while the story moves slowly as Elizabeth Speller paints this picture, of places, of lives, of relationships. She writes beautifully, and every detail, every nuance is right.

And, in time, a plot begins to build. A village child slips away from a group on an outing, and the search for year uncovers a woman’s body on the estate. And maybe that disappearance, that death, are related to the earlier disappearance of Kitty Easton.

Lawrence, as the outsider, the neutral party, becomes the confidante of many, and he begins to investigate.

Eventually all questions would be answered, and answered well.

Those questions, and the facts that emerged, were intriguing, but this book held much more than mysteries. It was a human story, with characters and relationships quite beautifully drawn.

And, though the story was set in England after the Great War, its themes were timeless.

You see, it was a story that said a great deal. About how we deal with grief, and how it changes our futures. About the secrets we keep behind the faces we present to the world. And about how much we will do to protect the people and things we love.

The ending left a lump in my throat.

Because the answer to the question of Kitty’s disappearance was so unexpected, and yet so right.

And because I had seen Lawrence, the man who had been paralysed by the loss of his wife and child when we first met, coming out of himself just a little more, accepting that he had to go on living.

And the hints about what his future might hold were very interesting.

I suspect that we will meet again. I do hope so. ( )
  BeyondEdenRock | Sep 5, 2016 |
This was JUST the book I needed when I read it. I’d had a couple of DNFs and one of those put some truly despicable people and deeds into my head so I needed something that I could relax into. It seems the author felt the same when writing the story; she eases into it with a decent set-up and no obvious bad guy. The action takes place over months and has plenty of atmosphere, but still keeps things interesting.

There are a couple of recurring motifs in the book; one is World War I and the other is mazes or labyrinths which affect our hero Laurence very badly because of their similarity to the hideous trenches of that war. It isn’t all dark and misery though; the war imagery is done with spare, but affecting prose which the author wisely reins in so that it doesn’t become a huge downer. It is poignant though and I found her treatment to be in good taste, but acute just the same. This is as much a novel about that war as it is about the fate of Kitty Easton.

The maze bits are a great hook and are used very well in the story. Patrick, the youngest of the Easton brothers is an archaeologist recently returned from Crete, the site of the maze of mazes; the Labyrinth at Knossos. Combined with William’s commission to create a new maze on the estate and the mosaic in the church; the mazes keep teasing us with their secrets and it’s not surprising how deep they go with regard to Easton Deadall.

Many comparisons have been made between this book and Agatha Christie’s manor-house mysteries and Speller acknowledges her literary forbear by having Laurence read Murder on the Links on the sly. He seems embarrassed by it and I think that reflected the attitude of the time which held that mystery novels were quite lowbrow. There is a lot of propriety clinging to how people interact; I loved how none of them could bring themselves to say syphilis. It reminded me that my Pepere couldn’t say pregnant. He’d always say “in the family way”.

There aren’t many surprises in the book because I read a lot of this kind of thing and because there’s a lot of hinting done by the author. Suspicions abound, but the fate of Kitty Easton is something I didn’t predict. It’s bittersweet and I thought it wrapped up well. I am going to read the first book in this series both because I liked this one and because of what was alluded to about what happened in that book. I hope Ms. Speller writes more. ( )
  Bookmarque | Jul 19, 2016 |
This is the sequel to The Return of Captain John Emmett, although it would be ok to read as a stand-alone novel as there is no direct continuation of any storyline from the previous book. It's 1924, 3 years after the events of the first book, and Laurence Bartram sets out to the small village of Easton Deadall to join his friends the Bolithos to help create a maze as a memorial to the fallen men of the area and restore a church. It soon becomes clear that everyone at Easton Hall still lives under the shadow of a tragedy that happened 13 years earlier - five-year-old Kitty Easton had disappeared from her bedroom in 1911 and was never seen again.

The story unfolds very slowly, very subtly in a seemingly aimless way; this is not an action-packed mystery. I'm sure some readers will be put off by rather expansive descriptions of the maze, the estate and church architecture in general and I can understand where they're coming from, although it didn't worry me too much. I have to admit though that I found the first 100 or so pages fairly tedious, as there was a rather large cast to get aquainted with, as well as their backgrounds and their relationships with each other to establish; obviously necessary (it does make sense in the end), but at that point I wasn't exactly thrilled. However, once things start to happen, I found myself drawn into the story and I enjoyed it a lot more than I would have thought at the beginning. As with the previous book, the author brilliantly highlights the effects and ongoing fallout of the Great War on everyday lives and takes the reader to that time and place.
( )
  SabinaE | Jan 23, 2016 |
There seemed to be much going on with this, but I'm not sure it gelled successfully. But as with the preceding novel (Return of Capt John Emmett) the message about the destructive nature of WW1 on individuals, families and communities was loud and clear. I hope Lawrence Batram appears again. ( )
  GingerCrinkle | Apr 5, 2014 |
THE STRANGE FATE OF KITTY EASTON (Mystery Fiction, 1920s England) 3.5 star rating

This is the highly anticipated sequel to The Return of Captain John Emmett which was a great success in 2011. WWI veteran Lawrence Bertram returns in his role of a gentleman in reduced circumstances and accepts an invitation of an old friend to spend some time at his country estate. Once there, he learns that several years before, six-year-old Kitty Easton, heiress of the house, had disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

I greatly enjoyed the setting, and very much like Lawrence, but I found the mystery meandered just a little much. I’m undecided as to whether I’d read a sequel.
Read this if: you enjoy the 1920s English country house setting. 3½ stars ( )
  ParadisePorch | Jul 27, 2013 |
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While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, Oh human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
W.B. Yeats, ‘The Stolen Child’
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Laurence Bartram was waiting for a connection at Swindon station.
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Book description
When former infantry officer Laurence Bartram is called to the small village of Easton Deadall, he is struck by the beauty of the place: a crumbling stately home; a centuries-old church; and a recently planted maze, a memorial to the men of the village, almost all of whom died in one heroic battle in 1916.

But it soon becomes clear to Laurence that while rest of the country is alight with hope for the first time since the end of the War, as the first Labour government takes power, the Wiltshire village is haunted by its tragic past. In 1911, five-year-old Kitty Easton disappeared from her bed and has not been seen since: only her fragile mother believes still she is alive. When a family trip to the Great Empire Exhibition in London ends in disaster and things take an increasingly sinister turn, Laurence struggles to find out what has happened as it seems that the fate of the house, the men and of Kitty herself may be part of a much longer, darker story of love, betrayal - and violence.
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Struggling with trauma in the years following World War I, veteran Lawrence Bartram arrives in the village of Easton Deadall and is embroiled in a dangerous case involving a murdered woman who may be linked to the disappearance of a child years earlier.… (more)

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