Secrets and the inability to share them create a tense and wonderful mystery story set in the English countryside during World War II. Farleigh is the ancestral home of the Sutton family. One morning a soldier dressed in Royal West Kent uniform is found dead in the fields of the grand home. His parachute failed. When examined more closely, the soldier is deemed a spy. The question is, why would a spy even attempt to land at this remote and rural location? What was his objective?
The author provides a lovely little bit of history with the inclusion of the seven rules for the civilian population of Great Britain during the war. This was circulated throughout Great Britain in 1939. One of the most important: Keep All Information to Yourself. Within the story the question then becomes, how will anyone solve the case in an era of secrecy so severe that you could not even tell your family the nature of your job?
While solving the delightful mystery this story simultaneously highlights the tireless, important and sometimes overlooked work of women during World War II. I think anyone with a basic knowledge of history remembers that women played an essential role in the war effort. But even with a background in history (American though I must admit), the book reveals to me more of the countless ways women were vital to the war efforts. For example, there are a number of references to Land Girls. I had to look this one up and I was fascinated to learn that by 1941 women were conscripted into the Women’s Land Army to provide agricultural support. These women had a non-compulsory uniform and were referred to as Land Girls. And, please, pay attention to how they determined that the soldier was a spy.
Bowen focuses her story on the Sutton family since Lord Westerham, his wife Esme and their five daughters call Farleigh home. I genuinely appreciated that these five women were a diverse group. All of the women’s personalities and responses to the needs of the times were vastly different. I must admit, there was one daughter I adored and one I would pay good money to slap. Amazon put together this adorable little infographic but pay attention to the author’s cast of characters as well.
Rhys Bowen is a prolific writer and this stand alone novel is my first experience with her mysteries. This, to me, is truly a gift. I read an exceptional story and found a new author to obsess over.