The third sedate appearance of the Hampshire Constabulary’s DCI Thomas Lamb continues Kelly’s project to show that beneath the veneer of village courtesies, British life in 1942 was a good deal more fraught than you might suspect.
And that’s even before the Luftwaffe bombers return, as they briefly do late in the game, to absolutely no effect. Long before then, Kelly has already marked out the real conflict down below as pitching some denizens of The Elton House Sanitorium for invalided ex-servicemen against the staff, the citizens of nearby Marbury, and each other. The low-intensity flashpoint is the discovery of Elton House gardener/handyman Joseph Lee’s body floating in the pond. Sanitorium volunteer Janet Lockhart, who found Lee’s body, and Lt. James Travers, the convalescent she first alerted, agree that no one much liked Lee. But only one person quarreled with him and knocked him down on the night he died: wealthy, rakish painter Alan Fox, who says he was defending himself from Lee even though it seems more likely that he was defending the reputation of Theresa Hitchens, the local publican’s daughter, whose reputation, it turns out, could use defenders. Aided by a crew that includes DS David Wallace, who was seriously wounded in Lamb’s last case (The Wages of Desire, 2016), and his driver and daughter, Vera Lamb, whose not-so-secret relationship with Wallace makes her especially sympathetic to the pressures on Theresa Hitchens, Lamb uncovers unsavory links to not one but two earlier murders involving Lord Henry Elton, whose estate the sanitorium now occupies, and Lady Catherine Elton, the wife once tried for killing him.
A slow-burning blast from the past that reminds you that the sins of the fathers were already an inheritance from their own parents. Next time, let’s hope Kelly’s hero doesn’t feel the need to keep reminding everyone, “I was on the Somme…for an entire bloody year.”