There are no white shrouded spectres here, no wailing ghouls. Just the echoes of those who have passed, whispering that history is set to repeat itself.
The Cotswolds, Christmastime 1946: A young widow leaves behind the tragedy of her wartime life, and returns home to her ageing aunt and uncle. For Lucy – known as Mrs P – and the people who raised her, the books that line the walls of the family publishing business bring comfort and the promise of new beginnings.
But the kind and reserved new editor at the Kershaw and Kathay Book Press is a former prisoner of war, and he has his own shadows to bear. And when the old secrets of a little girl’s abandonment are uncovered within the pages of Robert Underhills’s latest project, Lucy must work quickly if she is to understand the truth behind his frequent trips away.
For a ghost dwells in the record of an orphan girl’s last days. And even as Lucy dares to risk her heart, the grief of her own past seems to be whispering a warning of fresh loss…
Mrs P’s Book of Secrets will be published in the US as The Book Ghost.
I received a copy of this book from One More Chapter via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
1946 is such an interesting time in British history. The immediate post-war years were very hard on the people. Rationing of food and other essential goods, men returning from the war changed both physically and mentally. Women, who had kept the country’s farms and industry running in the WW2, forced back to their former lives. This led to inevitable adjustment and unrest, after the relative freedom of wartime, for women, in terms of employment. Then, there were the men who didn’t return from the war and the widows who had to carry on.
Lucy, known as Mrs P, is one such widow, who finds herself unemployed in 1946 and bereft of the husband who was hers for such a short time. Returning home to her aunt and uncle and their Cotswold printing business is the only viable alternative, but even here things are not the same. They have a lodger and new employee, and Lucy struggles to fit in. The historical setting of this book proves to be the perfect backdrop for this story, and the details of life at the time and the intricacies of the printing and publishing world are absorbing.
This is Lucy’s story of coming to terms with her loss, accepting her world as it is now, and learning to live again. As the story progresses, events from Lucy’s past illuminate her present unsettled feeling, and her search to belong. The mystery of the missing girl, she discovers in a book, entangles itself with her childhood and loss, making her question everything, doubt those she should trust, and obsessively search for what happened to the young girl.
There is also a lovely friendship, which flowers into romance for Lucy. Slow-burning, because even though she feels physical attraction, feelings of guilt and fear of loss, push any thoughts of life beyond her single state, away for Lucy initially.
The echoes of her childhood, recent bereavement and the strange events that occur serve to haunt Lucy’s already emotionally unstable mind. The reader experiences this first hand, as the story is told in the first person. Sometimes, this is an uncomfortable place for the reader to be, the emotions are raw, and realisation slow to arrive, but the ending makes the angst worth suffering.
The conclusion of the mystery is not what you might expect, but it is believable, poignant, and shows how much Lucy has healed. There are still unexplained events, which you may interpret as you please. I am sure that we do not understand everything in this world, and choose to accept Lucy’s explanation.
A gently paced, historically detailed, romantic literary adventure. A young woman’s struggle with widowhood, as she explores an unusual mystery and experiences a few occurrences that defy explanation. Something original to enjoy that demands your ability to concentrate and become part of the story.
Lorna Gray was born in 1980 in Bedfordshire. Her relationship with the glorious countryside of the Cotswolds began many years ago when she first moved to Cirencester. She has been exploring the area through her love of history, adventure and romance ever since.
This is Lorna’s fourth post-WWII mystery. Her three previous novels are In the Shadow of Winter (2015), The War Widow (2018) and The Antique Dealer’s Daughter (2018). She lives in the Cotswolds with her husband.