The Return of Captain John Emmett

The Return of Captain John Emmett

Book - 2011
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Damaged but not broken by his service in the Great War, and living a solitary widower's life in a London attic, accidental detective Laurence Bartram looks into the suspicious death of an old friend and discovers much more than he wishes to.

London, 1920. In the aftermath of the Great War and a devastating family tragedy, Laurence Bartram has turned his back on the world. But with a well-timed letter, an old flame manages to draw him back in. Mary Emmett’s brother John—like Laurence, an officer during the war—has apparently killed himself while in the care of a remote veterans’ hospital, and Mary needs to know why. 

Aided by his friend Charles—a dauntless gentleman with detective skills cadged from mystery novels—Laurence begins asking difficult questions. What connects a group of war poets, a bitter feud within Emmett’s regiment, and a hidden love affair? Was Emmett’s death really a suicide, or the missing piece in a puzzling series of murders? As veterans tied to Emmett continue to turn up dead, and Laurence is forced to face the darkest corners of his own war experiences, his own survival may depend on uncovering the truth. 

At once a compelling mystery and an elegant literary debut, The Return of Captain John Emmett blends the psychological depth of Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy with lively storytelling from the golden age of British crime fiction.

Baker & Taylor
When an old flame asks for his help in finding the truth about her veteran brother's alleged suicide, detective Bartram uncovers a link between a group of war poets and a feud in the victim's regiment before more veterans are discovered dead.

& Taylor

Mary Emmett's brother John, an officer during the recently ended World War I, has apparently killed himself while in the care of a remote veterans' hospital, and Mary needs to know why. She contacts an old flame, Laurence Bartram, who has turned his back on the world to help her find answers.
Drawn back to the Western Front when an old flame asks for his help in discerning the truth about her veteran brother's alleged suicide, detective Laurence Bartram uncovers a link between a group of war poets and a bitter feud in the victim's regiment before additional veterans are discovered dead. 20,000 first printing.

Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011
ISBN: 9780547511696
Branch Call Number: Mystery Speller
Characteristics: 442 p. ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

Try Speller's "Return of Captain John Emmett" while you're waiting for Charles' "The Gate Keeper."

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Aug 23, 2017

Nicely written convoluted tale that unfolds slowly. Underscores the horror of war, in particular the terrible tragedy of what happened to soldiers fighting in France in WWI. Similar in vein to the Inspector Rutledge stories by Charles Todd but without the annoying presence of Hamish.

Dec 21, 2016

(The first book in the Laurence Bartram series)

Jun 06, 2014

I love mysteries set in WWI and one with a physiological aspect had to be read.
The damage of war is not always in the physical wounds but the emotional and mental wounds that were not understood by either the medical field or the friends and family at home. The author does a wonderful job of portraying this in the story and most especially in the main character of John Emmett.
The mystery wasn't stunning though it was an integral and vital part of the story. The conclusion of this story took far too long after finding out the answer to the mystery but it was a good book for the most part.

Library_Dragon Jun 10, 2013

Well-written, lyrical mystery filled with many remembrances of the war. As someone who's read a lot of soldiers' and nurses' memoirs from this period, I can say that much of Speller's descriptions and sentiments of wartime experiences are spot on, particularly regarding the treatment of soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder--what they called "shell shock." A little slow-moving at parts, but the writing is worth it. Infinitely better than anything by Charles Todd!

Feb 20, 2013

It is a couple of years since the end of WWl and Laurence Bertram is living a comfortable life --- without meaning. A visit from the younger sister of an old school chum sets Laurence on a quest to answer some quesions about the chum's life, and death. Memories of the great war figure strongly in this novel. Fans of Maisie Dobbs will likely enjoy his new series.

debwalker Aug 20, 2011

"1920. The Great War has been over for two years, and it has left a very different world from the Edwardian certainties of 1914. Following the death of his wife and baby and his experiences on the Western Front, Laurence Bartram has become something of a recluse. Yet death and the aftermath of the conflict continue to cast a pall over peacetime England, and when a young woman he once knew persuades him to look into events that apparently led her brother, John Emmett, to kill himself, Laurence is forced to revisit the darkest parts of the war....."
Richard and Judy

sjmitra Jul 23, 2011

I love the works of Owen, Sassoon and Brooke, and was really looking forward to this book. Speller's prose is crisp, clean and simple, but her characters are remote and the plot is unsurprising.


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