Publisher: Lake Union
Published: March 1, 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Obtained via: Publisher
Reviewed by name and email address: Gina Ginalrmreviews@gmail.com
As Hitler continues his march across Europe in May of 1941 the English live with nightly bombings and what they fear will be imminent invasion. An hour away from London the people of Farleigh Place try their best to live what was normal before the war. But each family does their part. Injured in a plane crash before the war vicar’s son, Ben Cresswell, works for a special government branch in London. Even though Lord Westerham’s five daughters could stay safe and cozy in the country, they step up to do their part—Margot remains in France with her lover, Pamela heads to London to work as a code reader and even twelve year old Phoebe contributes to the cause.
But then something happens no one quite anticipated—a body is found in Farleigh’s field. It appears to be a member of the West Kent army, but none of their number is missing and the body is too disfigured to identify who he is. He has no identification and the only item they can find on him is a photograph. The bombings no do not just continue—they seem to come closer and closer to Farleigh. As Ben and Pamela delve deeper into the photograph and some odd messages received in their respective headquarters a horrific plot begins to unfold—one that could implicate one of their own bringing about the downfall of England.
I’m a fan of Rhys Bowens’ Royal Spyness Mysteries so when I saw she had written a standalone historical novel, IN FARLEIGH FIELD, I had to pick it up. I’m not a fan of books set in any of the 20th century wars, but I do like a good mystery and this one sounded really good. Bowen has a wonderful writing voice. She takes you into the heart of the families and locales. You know what Ben feels when he gets on a bicycle for the first time in years with an injured knee. You know on a visceral level just what Pamela is feeling when she is confronted by her life time love, Jeremy’s aggressiveness in moving their relationship to a physical level. The pain and devastation when Margot hears that the man she loves above all else cares not one bit for her. The privation felt in the British during the war and their hopes pinned on the United States stepping in.
In some ways I felt this book was autobiographical of something Bowen experienced either herself or through her family during WWII. If it is, kudos to her for bringing it to light.
I spent the first two third of the book waiting for something to happen. The characters’ individual stories were interesting, but it was like reading someone’s memoir rather than the mystery I was anticipating. The last 75 pages were definitely action packed with a number of white knuckle moments. When I finished reading it occurred to me that some of the dullness I found in the story could well have been a reflection of the British “stiff upper lip”, something a couple of the characters commented on themselves. Even little Phoebe wanted to cry at one point but held first saying she was a Lady and therefore not appropriate. I was definitely shocked when the key to the true spy was revealed—I definitely didn’t see that coming.
And in respect, there weren’t any scenes that could have been left out. Each character’s story was a key component leading up to the final scenes.
IN FARLEIGH FIELD is not an easy read. As I said, I’m not a fan of books set in the wars of the twentieth century and would not have picked this one up if Bowen wasn’t an author I enjoy. It is a book that anyone, from young adult to senior citizen, male or female, can pick up and enjoy. It has a bit of romance, a good mystery that takes the reader down some serious white-knuckle paths. I am curious what she will do next. There is definitely the potential for Pamela and Ben to uncover more plots.
This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.