In Farleigh Field: A Novel of World War II
IN FARLEIGH FIELD is a novel of World War II, set in the English countryside in the early 1940s. Aristocrats in the English society were known to have supported deposing the king and in favor of making peace with Germany. An hour from London in Kent, a parachutist falls to his death at Lord Westerham's estate. Lady Phoebe, the youngest of his five daughters, along with Alfie, an orphan boy living with the gamekeeper, discover the mangled body of a soldier who is wearing a Kentish uniform but is deemed to be a German spy. A regiment of Kent soldiers is billeted at The Lord's estate but does not claim him. He may have been sent to deliver a message to a German sympathizer.
At the same time, a local aristocrat's son, Jeremy Prescott, a pilot with the RAF, has escaped from a German prison and made it home to recover from his war wounds. Jeremy is the childhood friend of Lady Pamela Westerham and Ben Cresswell, the local vicar's son. Both work in London for the intelligence services decoding messages. Pamela has been in love with the flamboyant Jeremy for years, and Ben has loved her in secret.
"Family dynamics, personal and public relationships, and local politics play out in this well-crafted espionage thriller.... IN FARLEIGH FIELD will be one of my top historical suspense reads of 2017."
Family dynamics, personal and public relationships, and local politics play out in this well-crafted espionage thriller. A reminder of the ever-popular chronicles of the English gentry, “Downton Abbey,” IN FARLEIGH FIELD portrays the plight of former wealth downsizing to accommodate a meager lifestyle during wartime. Lady Diana, at 19, yearns for the "coming out" parties she is denied and acts out girlish whims to justify her worth, but her father will not allow her to leave home for work in the war effort.
Lady Pamela and Ben are the co-protagonists here. Both are dedicated to jobs that will be significant means to solving the mystery of the dead parachutist, who landed with only a photograph in his pocket. Ben will identify the locale pictured and discover its significance in a plot designed to wreck the British government. Pamela will work with him to uncover details that will bring them both back to Kent.
A welcoming party for Jeremy organized by his parents brings back a vestige of the opulence formerly enjoyed by the local gentry. Jeremy's father has no trouble obtaining the finest food and beverage for the occasion. Neighbors welcome the change from a dull lifestyle that has become ordinary. Will Ben be reminded of the injury robbing him of military service? Will Pamela fall more deeply in love with Jeremy?
Minor characters remain true to their personalities in the panorama that author Rhys Bowen expands. Exhibiting well why her over 30 mystery novels have been successes, Bowen has a penchant for using a select red herring or two to stimulate curiosity. But she skillfully weaves the plot to a surprising solution that is not earlier anticipated.
Preceded by a helpful list of characters and an introductory prologue, IN FARLEIGH FIELD will be one of my top historical suspense reads of 2017.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on March 31, 2017