World War II comes to Farleigh Place, the ancestral home of Lord Westerham and his five daughters, when a soldier with a failed parachute falls to his death on the estate. After his uniform and possessions raise suspicions, MI5 operative and family friend Ben Cresswell is covertly tasked with determining if the man is a German spy. The assignment also offers Ben the chance to be near Lord Westerham’s middle daughter, Pamela, whom he furtively loves. But Pamela has her own secret : she has taken a job at Bletchley Park, the British code-breaking facility.
I do love me some historical fiction when it’s been done well and despite some minor things, this was done well. From the description, I was a little worried the book would focus too much on romance but that was fortunately not the case.
World War II has come to Farleigh Place and affects everyone, whether they like it or not. Lord Westerham can’t help but complain about the lack of decent food and petrol. His wife seems to have the uncanny ability to pretend nothing has changed at all. Unbeknownst to them, middle daughter Pamela is working at Bletchley Park. Their other daughter Margot is in Paris, involved with a member of the resistance. And youngest daughter Phoebe stumbles upon the body of a soldier whose parachute failed.
Meanwhile Ben, the son of the local vicar, is working for MI5 and the neighbours’ son, Jeremy, has been captured by the Germans.
At the heart of it, this story is all about solving the mystery of the dead soldier. His uniform is all wrong, he has no papers on him, nobody knows who he is. But the village rumour mill soon settles on the idea that he was a German spy. If so, who was he supposed to meet with and why? Ben and Pamela are on a race against the clock to foil a plot that may change the course of history.
I had an inkling relatively early on who the “baddie” was going to be so in that respect, it was a bit too predictable. But I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the characters, even if they were somewhat stereotypical. There’s such a contrast between life in London and life in this little country village and also between the aristocrats and the villagers. I found that to be quite authentic and realistic.
I would have liked to have learned more about what went on at Bletchley Park but since nobody was actually allowed to talk about any of it, maybe that was asking too much.
This isn’t going to set your pulse racing or mess with your mind. It lacks the depth for that. But if you’re looking for an entertaining mystery, this might be for you. For me, it was a nice change of pace and I enjoyed it.
In Farleigh Field is out now.