by Madalyn Morgan
In 1949 after receiving treatment for shell shock in Canada, Claire’s husband disappears.
Has Mitch left her for the woman he talks about in his sleep? Or is he on the run from accusations of wartime treachery?
Claire goes to France in search of the truth, aided by old friends from the Resistance.
I didn’t realise that this is the 6th book in a series, but it didn’t matter one bit; there wasn’t anything I felt I missed or needed explained.
The gentle beginning belies the conflict and friction that surrounds the rest of the book. If the reader is paying attention, they’ll pick up on the tension and mystery circling round Mitch’s therapy at the beginning of the book. The writing creates a discomfort for the reader, a suggestion of fore-shadowing without being explicit. As we progress through the quest to find Mitch and what is at the bottom of his disappearance, the tension gradually becomes more and more palpable.
Told from Claire’s point of view, we discover that Mitch, her husband, is suffering from what we now call Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). His wartime experiences as an SOE Operative and prisoner have left him deeply scarred. He is receiving treatment, but Claire is concerned, not least because in his nightmare riddled sleep, he calls out the name ‘Simone’, and there was clearly an incident surrounding her which has left him with some level of guilt.
Has Mitch had an affair? Was Simone killed? What is going on? Claire can’t ask, she has been instructed never to question Mitch in case she triggers some devastating reaction from him.
With his disappearance, she comes to realise that the military now consider Mitch a traitor. Discovering that he might be back in France, Claire sets out to find him, and hopefully find answers to all the mysteries surrounding him, his condition, and his disappearance. She has to call on her wartime skills, and set aside her roles as wife and mother, and re-clothe herself in her coldly dispassionate former self:
She had a long journey ahead of her. She must call on her training, be detached and committed to the job she had to do. If she let sentimentality get in the way, she wouldn’t get beyond the next town along the railway track.
The development of the story and the central characters is superb. While I found some of the detail a little extraneous, it was easy to overlook as the author’s research is meticulous. She writes with great style, and certainly brings both periods of history to life. She builds the tension and drama step by step, and at various times you are relaxed and enjoying the pace and others it’s an edge-of-the-seat ride to get to the end of that particular episode of excitement.
While we are primarily concerned with Mitch and his suffering with PTSD, it would be easy to overlook the fact the Claire has her own issues. It is so subtly written, but it is interesting that Claire, who was a highly successful SOE Operative, frequently cries for example. On reflection, the reader should realise that this is peace-time and Claire’s reaction to her war-time experiences are most likely manifesting themselves this way, and in other ways too, that people would consider uncharacteristic of her.
The vivid descriptions and the haunting narrative pull at the heart. It is achingly painful in places. The fast-paced ending had me holding my breath and turning the pages as fast as possible. If you don’t read any of the others, do read this one. It is a fantastic novel and may well make it on to my Books of the Year. I highly recommend it to you.
PS: and while we should never judge a book by its cover – I really love this one!
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Madalyn Morgan has been an actress for more than thirty years working in Repertory theatre, the West End, film and television. She is a radio presenter and journalist, writing articles for newspapers and magazines.
Madalyn was brought up in Lutterworth, at the Fox Inn. The pub was a great place for an aspiring actress and writer to live, as there were so many different characters to study and accents to learn. At twenty-four Madalyn gave up a successful hairdressing salon and wig-hire business for a place at E15 Drama College, and a career as an actress.
In 2000, with fewer parts available for older actresses, Madalyn taught herself to touch type, completed a two-year correspondence course with The Writer’s Bureau, and started writing. After living in London for thirty-six years, she has returned to her home town of Lutterworth, swapping two window boxes and a mortgage, for a garden and the freedom to write.
Happy to be an Indie Author, Madalyn has successfully published six novels. Foxden Acres, Applause, China Blue and The 9:45 To Bletchley are set before and during WW2 and tell the wartime stories of Bess, Margot, Claire, and Ena Dudley. Foxden Hotel and Chasing Ghosts are both post war. Chasing Ghosts is a sequel to China Blue.
Madalyn’s books are available on Amazon – in paperback and all formats of eBook.
Author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Madalyn-Morgan/e/B00J7VO9I2
Madalyn’s Blog: https://madalynmorgan.wordpress.com/
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