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Publisher's Summary

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.

What connects a group of war poets, a feud within Emmett's regiment, and a hidden love affair? Was Emmett's death really a suicide or the missing piece in a 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 survival may depend on uncovering the truth.

©2011 Elizabeth Speller (P)2012 Dreamscape Media, LLC

Critic Reviews

"Elegant, engrossing read." ( Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Love, Lies, Revenge, War and Truth.

So many of the historic mysteries I have tried miss the mark for me because the authors give their characters modern voices. These historic characters speak in current day slang and have a completely modern day point of view. It is a frequent failure in the historic genre for me.

This book does not make that mistake. These characters are amazingly accurate for their time. I know this because my grandparents were born in the late 1880s and I knew them well. For me Laurence could have been my grandfather. They had the same backgrounds, education, histories and experience of WWI battlefields. The voice the author gave Laurence Bartram was accurate. Careful, precise, overly polite, exhaustively educated and thoughtful--as was my grandfather. My only disagreement was that I do not believe that those that survived WWI battlefields go back to their previous lives and pick up living as usual. Many if not all people are changed forever by war.

The book is very well written and heavily based in history and research. The narration was calm, almost plodding, and precise. The book absolutely is a mystery-- but not your usual mystery. This is a slow sorting out and retelling of complicated events. To me a visit to the past. I enjoyed it very much. A sad, insightful story worth the effort if you are interested in WWI and its aftermath.

22 of 23 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic Post WWI English Mystery

I purchased “The Return of Captain John Emmett” by Elizabeth Speller as an Audible book for my Kindle. I wasn’t sure what to expect because this is a new author to me, and also the narrator of the audible book was one I had never listened to. The experience from this novel was nothing less than thrilling! Elizabeth Speller has created a character, Laurence Bartram, which touches the readers’ heart from the very start. The story is set in England, post WWI. England’s returned soldiers are facing their own horrors of surviving the war and having terrible experiences with shell-shock. Interwoven into this atmosphere is a mystery that kept me completely perplexed and “on the edge of my seat” until the very end. Laurence finds himself trying to investigate the death/suicide of an old school acquaintance. The mystery surrounding the death of Captain John Emmett takes Laurence to various locals in England and introduces lively characters along the way.
The narrator of this audible book, Matthew Brenher, was excellent in his portrayal of each character’s individual voice. I find it remarkable how he was able to sound as different in tone as each character “spoke”. His voice was pleasant with just the right amount of theatrics to make listening better than anything on TV or film.
Elizabeth Speller is an outstanding author and I am happy to see that this will be a series featuring Laurence Bartram. Needless to say, I can’t wait to read/listen to the next installment. I know that the author has a gift for creating webs of mystery that keep the reader in suspense until the end.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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hard to follow

what I really liked was the narrator and setting, but I didn't feel much mystery.

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Better history novel than mystery novel

WW I history comes alive with this novel set in early 1920's England. The main character, Laurence Bartram, is approached by the sister of Capt. John Emmett to discover why he committed suicide and left a substantial monetary bequeath to some unknown people. The story, especially about what soldiers had to endure during WWI is scary, sad and brutal. As I have read several books about WWI, including the mystery series of Jacqueline Winspear and Charles Todd, I found myself familiar with the term "shell-shock" (we know it as PTSD--post-traumatic stress disorder). The author, Elizabeth Speller, did a very good job of explaining how soldiers with the symptoms were treated during and after the war. Actually, I thought I knew a lot about the subject. I learned so much from this book.

The things I loved about the book was a great description of day to day living by former soldiers after WWI. The narrator was wonderful with the mood of the book and the English accents. The pace of the story was good and there were some twists and turns that were fun.

The things less than great about the book was that the final solution came out of the blue and sudden. It wasn't a solution that was anticipated from the clues provided. Also, I have a feeling that the author will see some improvement in character development going forward. I will definitely get the next book by Speller. I plan to refer this book to several of my friends that enjoy history novels.

3 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Very good for WW I interests.

Would you consider the audio edition of The Return of Captain John Emmett to be better than the print version?

I've never read the print version but very much enjoyed the audio version.

What did you like best about this story?

What I learned about desertion and military firing squads in WW1.

What about Matthew Brenher’s performance did you like?

Clear. No trouble or confusion moving from voice to voice.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Learning about the unfairness of military tribunals and firing squads and killing of one's own men during the war.

Any additional comments?

Good read. Not terribly cheery.

2 of 5 people found this review helpful