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The Return of Captain John Emmett by…

The Return of Captain John Emmett

by Elizabeth Speller

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It’s 1920. A troubled war veteran, John Emmett of the title, commits suicide and his sister asks Laurence Bartram, fellow veteran and former school chum, to find out why. At first, Bartram is hesitant. He has his own demons and fears that looking into the death will just stir them up. But he soon finds himself intrigued, not by the mysterious death alone, but by John’s sister, Mary. His sometime Watson is his friend Charles, who tags along and uses his contacts to ferret out information.

They soon discover that Emmett’s death may not have been suicide. And that there are other suspicious deaths tied to a World War I battlefield tragedy.

Every time a new mystery comes out set in the years between the World Wars, some reviewer somewhere compares it to Jacqueline Winspear’s multi-award-winning Maisie Dobbs series. For the most part, the only thing similar is the time period in which it occurs. I’d put this book in that category.

Whereas Maisie’s stories always have comparatively light moments interspersed with the dark, The Return of Captain John Emmett is unremittingly dark. I don’t believe the characters are as absorbing, or the writing as polished as with Winspear’s books. Still, once the story got moving it was interesting enough to keep me engaged ‘til the end. ( )
  NewsieQ | May 21, 2015 |
Just started this book and although I am only 20 pages in and some might find it a bit of slow-starter, I am enjoying this work.

Gave up forty pages later. The enjoyable slow start turned into complete and utter drudgery.

Do not recommend. ( )
  autumnturner76 | Sep 22, 2014 |
This book was extremely well written, but painful to read. Laurence Bertram, a survivor of WW I, is asked by the sister of a friend to help her understand and make peace with her brother's suicide. John Emmett, her brother, survived the war physically, but lost his way in guilt and grief, committing suicide three years after the armistice. ( )
  cfk | Sep 19, 2014 |
One quickly discovers the brilliance of Elizabeth Speller's writing in this, her first novel. The material appears well researched and is deftly presented. The story is complex and intelligently presented. The reader is well guided through the twists and turns of an ever-developing plot with multiple mysteries embedded within. I'll definitely recommend this book to all my local history and mystery buffs.

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 Emmett’s 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 Emmett’s regiment, and a hidden love affair? Was Emmett’s 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. ( )
  KateBaxter | Aug 29, 2014 |
Unable to be at peace with her brother, John's, suicide, Mary Emmett turns to his old school chum, Laurence Bartram, to find out whatever it is possible to know about the circumstances leading to her brother's death. She also wants to know more about the beneficiaries of John's will, none of whom were family members. Laurence begins by interviewing the heirs, who seem to have crossed paths with John during the Great War. After visiting the sanitarium where John had resided since the war, Laurence begins to question the suicide verdict. His suspicions are further aroused when he learns that more men connected with John had survived the war only to die in accidents or, in at least a couple of instances, by murder.

Laurence has had no training in investigation, but he is methodical and persistent. He makes mistakes along the way, but he learns from his mistakes. His friend Charles is always ready to lend a hand, using his military and club connections to find information for Laurence, accompanying Laurence on some of his visits to John's acquaintances, and sharing useful insights gleaned from whichever mystery novel he's currently reading. Laurence's interviews reveal both the psychological impact of the Great War on its veterans and its effects on the families of its casualties – their parents, children, siblings, wives, and sweethearts. The narration by Matthew Brenher is excellent, and I'll stick with the audio format for this series as long as he continues to narrate it. ( )
  cbl_tn | Aug 20, 2014 |
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For my brother, Richard, and for my nephews Dominic, Tristan, William, Barnaby and Charlie, who, had they been born exactly one hundred years earlier, might all have found themselves on the Western Front.
You were only David's father,
But I had fifty sons,
When we went up in the evening
Under the arch of the guns.

Lieutenant Ewart Alan Mackintosh
(died Cambrai 1917)
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In years to come, Laurence Bartram would look back and think that the event that really changed everything was not the war, nor the attack at Rosieres, nor even the loss of his wife, but the return of John Emmett into his life.
They gathered in the dark long before the train arrived at the small station. (Prologue)
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1920. The Great War has been over for two years, and it has left a very different world from the Edwardian certainties of 1914. Following the death of his wife and baby and his experiences on the Western Front, Laurence Bartram has become something of a recluse. Yet death and the aftermath of the conflict continue to cast a pall over peacetime England, and when a young woman he once knew persuades him to look into events that apparently led her brother, John Emmett, to kill himself, Laurence is forced to revisit the darkest parts of the war. As Laurence unravels the connections between Captain Emmett's suicide, a group of war poets, a bitter regimental feud and a hidden love affair, more disquieting deaths are exposed. Even at the moment Laurence begins to live again, it dawns on him that nothing is as it seems, and that even those closest to him have their secrets ...
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Mary Emmett's brother John, an officer during the recently ended World War I, has apparently killed himself while in the care of a remote veterans' hospital, and Mary needs to know why. She contacts an old flame, Laurence Bartram, who has turned his back on the world to help her find answers.… (more)

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