Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Return of Captain John Emmett

Ah...The Return of Captain John's a little bit Maisie Dobbs a little bit Ian Rutledge, a little bit  Regeneration triliogy with a dash of the for God and country innocence and awakening of R.F. Delderfield. It has an intriguing start followed by weak plotting but I still enjoyed it very much. It's not trashy at all so it doesn't count as guilty pleasure but I am a bit stymied by how much I liked it given what a pedestrian novel it is.

Captain Emmett has managed to survive World War One. He left to fight a brilliant scholar, friend to the downtrodden, loving to his family and loyal to England young man. Four years later he was a moody, occasionally violent lost soul. In an effort to help him recover from the catch-all diagnosis of being shell shocked his mother and sister place him in one of many institutions now overrun with soldiers needing help. It doesn't work. Emmett seems to be getting better and then...

Then I stop giving away storyline info because this a mystery and discover is all. Suffice to say that sister asks for help from an old school chum of Emmett's, things get complicated, things get dangerous and things get sorted out. It's a mystery. It follows the same patterns that mysteries follow.

So why did I like this book? You know I'm going to go with atmosphere, characterizations and back-story. The novel begins after the war and travels back forth from happier times to the trenches to 1920. The author, Elizabeth Speller, hits the right notes for each of those three distinct moments in time. Each is so different from the other and each carries their own highs and lows.

Right from the start Speller gives us enough believable background on the main characters lives prior to the war to whet your appetite but not enough to make the novel's (pretty mild) revelations pointless. There's a little happy, a lot of promise and then terrible losses as the war begins for these characters as there was for everyone in 1914 and after. Their appeal and my sympathy married up to make this read very enjoyable.

While The Return of Captain John Emmett is just published here in the U.S. it already has a sequel out in Great Britain. If the Captain does well enough over here for the publisher to bring out the sequel as well will I read it? Yes, I will.

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