First Line: It had been unusually hot all summer.
World War II has come to the great estate of Farleigh Place, home to Lord Westerham and his five daughters. A large portion of the country house has been commandeered by the Army. While Lord Westerham blusters about being shut away in the most inconvenient wing of the house, oldest daughter Livvy is living at home with her small son while her husband is abroad with the Duke of Windsor. Second eldest Margot is pursuing fashion design in Paris, which is under German occupation. Middle daughter Pamela is working at Bletchley Park, and while eighteen-year-old Diana complains to anyone who'll listen about missing her debutante season, the youngest, Phoebe, tries not to miss a thing that's going on at the estate.
And there's plenty going on. A soldier falls to his death on the property when his parachute fails to open, but inconsistencies found on the body raise the suspicions of MI5. Family friend Ben Creswell is sent on a covert mission to find out if the man was a German spy. Ben soon finds himself following a trail of spies and traitors, and with the help of Pamela, he hopes to avert disaster.
Rhys Bowen has painted a broad canvas, and it's filled with action, suspense, and the period detail and fascinating characters that she's known for. With a length of almost four hundred pages, I am happy to report that I wanted it to go on for at least another hundred. There are many characters in this story, and although I didn't have a speck of trouble keeping them all straight, inevitably one or two whom I was most interested in got (what felt like) short shrift.
Two of the period details that I really appreciated were Bowen's giving readers a feel for living in an English country house during the war, and how there were so many clandestine agencies at work in England-- and they were all trying to keep what they were doing secret from all the other agencies.
Even though there's not really anything trailblazing in In Farleigh Field, it is such a joy to read that it doesn't matter. Danger. Spies. Traitors. Romance. Everything combines for an absorbing read that is finished much too quickly. Readers can pit their skills at playing Catch the Spy and form their own close attachments to one or more of the characters. My favorites? The youngest daughter, Phoebe, and her partner-in-crime Alfie, a young Cockney boy evacuated to Farleigh Place due to the Blitz.
Are there any fellow fans of Susan Elia MacNeal's Maggie Hope series reading this? I think you'll love In Farleigh Field (and so will most of the rest of you)!
In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen
Lake Union Publishing © 2017
eBook, 398 pages
Historical Mystery, Standalone
Source: Net Galley