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Book Review: The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller

The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller

This intelligent and gripping novel is set nearly three years after The Great War ended. It is an atmospheric piece of storytelling with a mystery at its heart. Laurence Bartram has become a recluse after his experiences on the Western Front and the untimely death of his young wife and baby. But then Mary, a woman he once knew, asks him to look into the supposed suicide of her brother John Emmett. As he begins unravelling the connections between Captain Emmett’s suicide, a group of war poets, a court martial and execution, and a hidden love affair, he discovers other disturbing deaths and it seems that everyone around him has secrets. In his search for the truth, and his growing attachment to the lovely Mary, he also rediscovers a forgotten purpose and zest for life despite being forced to honestly confront his own immediate past.

This is an elegantly written novel that captures the private and individual tragedies of the First World War. The characters are believable, the setting rich with period detail, and the plot will keep readers eagerly turning the pages. The Return of Captain John Emmett is engrossing and sad, but also beautiful and tinged with hope.

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