A proper Edwardian lady vanishes, returning after WWII as a mummified corpse sealed in a Charnley chimney.
Beatrice Jardine appears to have led a perfect life. So why would she run off with Iskander, a Russo-Egyptian who guided her and her friend Millie in Egypt? In the wake of her disappearance, her husband commits suicide, her son Marcus is killed in the war and her daughters, Harriet, Vita and Daisy, pick up their shattered lives and move on. Harriet becomes a teacher but, haunted by her mother’s shadow, never marries her lover Kit. Vita weds wealthy Lord Wycombe, a friend of her father’s. Daisy goes into social work and marries a widower with a daughter, attractive and intelligent Nina. The body in the chimney brings back painful memories of the past for them all. Enter Tom Verrier, the illegitimate son of Marcus and Rose Jessamy, a painter who’d been redecorating part of Charnley in an Egyptian theme. Tom and Nina fly to Egypt to interview Iskander. Meanwhile, Harriet visits Kit and Millie, now attended by Clara, Beatrice’s former maid. Long-buried memories and an old diary finally lay Beatrice to rest.
This departure from Eccles’s Gil Mayo series (Untimely Graves, 2004, etc.) is a poignant look at a long-gone way of life. Readers may care so much about the characters that the solution will take them by surprise.