Thursday, February 23, 2017

In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen

There are WWII-era planes flying over the British estate on the cover of In Farleigh Field, so it should come as no surprise that I wanted to read the book. I am hard-pressed to ever say no to a WWII book of any kind.

In Farleigh Field is a story that takes place partly in Kent, home to the Sutton family's large estate, Farleigh; Bletchley Park, where one of the Sutton daughters translates German messages; and London, where the son of the local vicar and friend to the Sutton daughters, Ben Cresswell, works for MI5.

There's a prologue that takes place in 1939 at a cricket match on the grounds of the village. While prologues are something I can take or leave, I think the author did a nice job of introducing the characters in the prologue: Jeremy, the daredevil aristocrat, his more mild-mannered friend Ben, and the woman they both adore, Pamela "Pamma" Sutton. After Jeremy lands his plane on the cricket field and spirits Ben away, the real story begins.

In 1941, Jeremy is an RAF pilot who has been captured by the enemy. Ben has a metal knee that he acquired in a plane crash, and Pamma is working a night shift at Bletchley Park. There's a child named Alfie, an evacuee from London, who discovers the body of a man whose parachute didn't open on the grounds of Farleigh. The Sutton family now lives in a single wing of their estate while soldiers have taken over the rest and are billeted in their home. The dead parachutist wears the uniform of one of the soldiers on the estate but the billeted soldiers don't jump from planes and there's something off about his uniform. The only clue as to why he may have arrived at Farleigh is a single photograph.

Without interacting, a number of different people and agencies are set to work solving the mystery of the soldier who died in Farleigh Field. Will they figure out the mystery in time to stop a nefarious plot?

There is a large cast and a number of other minor storylines, but the heart of the book is the story of the deceased parachutist and what he may have been up to with young love as a secondary storyline.

Recommended - Unfortunately, there were some plot holes and I don't think the ending quite worked, apart from the romantic storyline. But, I liked the main characters (a few of the more minor characters were a little too stereotypical) and enjoyed the interaction between them, so I didn't mind the book's flaws. As is often the case with mysteries -- and I would not call this a mystery novel but a novel with a touch of mystery -- I didn't always understand how those investigating came to their conclusions or even why they felt obligated to pursue a particular line of reasoning. But, since I thought of the dead body as only one strand of the story, which was a mix of mystery and romance as well as a family story set during a short stretch of WWII, I just went with the flow and enjoyed it. If you're a WWII fan, you may find the book flawed, as I did, but I still found it an enjoyable read and well worth my time.

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  1. My book club always reads way too many WWII stories. At our last meeting where we started coming up with books for the next 12 months someone said no more WWII books!! :) We do read a lot of them I guess.
    This one sounds interesting. I like when a story is good enough that you can easily overlook its flaws.

    1. I think we've read about 4 - at least in the past 3 years. All have led to great discussions (Life After Life - not really a WWII book but we all thought the WWII bits were the best, The Nightingale, Crooked Heart, and All the Light We Cannot See). We mix up our reading pretty well, I think. I thought In Farleigh Field was a good read. I liked the large cast of characters. There was always a lot happening, at any given time. The mystery itself was a bit weak but I'm not a mystery fan so I was fine with that. I was more interested in the everyday life and work of people in England during WWII and the backdrop of aristocracy that might want to overthrow the king was interesting because it was based on fact.


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