This review originally appeared in Historical Novel Reviews and can be found online here.
Hugo Hawksworth, an injured WWII intelligence officer, grudgingly accepts a desk job in the country and takes up residence in Selchester Castle with his spunky kid sister, Georgia. Struggling with his own demons, Hugo must make a life for himself and Georgia after the death of their parents. The castle itself is full of its own secrets, however, including the whereabouts of the last earl, who disappeared during a blizzard seven years before, never to be heard from again. When the late earl’s body turns up under the flagstones of the castle’s Old Chapel, the real questions become who killed him and why. With the late earl’s niece Freya, Hugo, Georgia, and their uncle Leo work to solve the mystery of who killed Lord Selchester, why the murder was concealed for so many years, and what broader implications the earl’s death may have had for post-war national security.
Full of small-town charm and colorful characters, the book is an enjoyable escape into post-war Britain. The only difficulty is that the mystery itself is the weakest point of the narrative. The secondary characters are all thinly drawn and mentioned sparingly, resulting in a murder investigation that feels anti-climactic. Witnesses described as “buttoned up” become conveniently talkative, suspects feel compelled to spill all when put on the spot, and much of the middle hardly mentions the murder investigation at all, all of which diminishes the plot. Hugo, Freya, Georgia, and Leo are intriguing characters – appealing, witty, and well-drawn – but the mystery itself will leave thriller/suspense enthusiasts wanting more.