Pasted Graphic 1The Wall Street Journal’s Tom Nolan has named The Return of Captain John Emmett as one of his Top Ten mystery novels of 2011. He writes that: “Time will tell whether readers and writers are now living through a new Golden Age of crime fiction. But one needn't be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that there is an awful lot of great mystery and suspense work being published these days—2011 has been a notable year for the genre in all its permutations.”


US reviews of The Return of Captain John Emmett



Pasted Graphic“Ms. Speller unwinds her plot with skill, moving between a war-scarred peace and the misery of life in the trenches of France. . . there is deep sadness in recollections of the combat and the terrible toll taken on the British people . . . a war that savaged a generation and from which the nation had barely recovered when it was plunged into World War II. The author has done her homework on the attitudes of the time, and the problems of coping with the inevitably hidebound conventions of the military establishment. Bartram ultimately emerges to rejoin the world of those strong enough to cling to postwar life, yet it is his friend, the cynically humorous Charles, who comes close to stealing the book with his philosophical approach that embodies grim and accurate realism.” Muriel Dobbin, in The Washington Times.

Pasted Graphic 1 “In the early days of detective fiction, readers devoured mysteries to find out who-done-it. As the genre matured, why-done-it became just as important, and more mysteries came to read "like a novel," growing as complex as mainstream fiction, or life itself. Seeming even more "like a novel" is British author Elizabeth Speller's first book of fiction, "The Return of Captain John Emmett" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 442 pages, $26), which, with its elegant prose and naturalistic manner, draws the reader into a simple-seeming story of post-World War I England—a tale that turns out to be anything but straightforward and far from soothing. . . . Restrained and marvelous, "The Return of Captain John Emmett" is full of jolting revelations and quiet insights—and one last, subtle act of charity that echoes louder and longer than any gunshot.” — Tom Nolan in The Wall Street Journal.

Pasted Graphic “...a quiet, moving read. . . This elegant debut is written in the style of a Golden Age mystery and steeped in the themes of WWI poets like Wilfred Owen. Speller's novel is not only about a generation of doomed youth, it's also an anthem to the women who nursed them. Bartram's journey to discover why Emmett killed himself at first seems ‘quixotic,’ but it soon becomes a way for Bartram to face what Owen called "the old Lie" - that to die for your country "is sweet and right." Or as Bartram laments to Mary, ‘war is not a question of honors and decorations . . . it's just hell.’” — Carole E. Barrowman, in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.


Reviews of The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton


Pasted Graphic 1 “Elizabeth Speller’s novel works exceptionally well as an absorbing mystery story but it has a depth of characterisation and a psychological acuity that is rare in crime fiction . . . a highly convincing portrait of a small community still in thrall to the losses, cruelties and betrayals of its recent past” — Nick Rennison, BBC History magazine (June 2011).

Pasted Graphic 2 “It’s a pity that Elizabeth Speller’s new novel is categorised as a “historical mystery”. It should have a far wider appeal than that description might imply . . . Well-researched and written . . . a welcome addition to the Virago imprint . . . Speller’s Captain Laurence Bartram is a solid creation — observant, non-judgmental and all too human . . . a powerful sense of time and place . . . The current fascination for all things Downton should give it a loyal fanbase . . . Readers should buy The Return of Captain John Emmett as well. — Sarach Crowden, The Lady, 3 May 2011


images Easton Deadall, a picturesque village that has lost a generation of men to World War I. . . Ensconced in their dilapidated country pile, the family are in thrall to the past, a shadowy legacy of violence and dark secrets, and haunted by the unexplained disappearance of five-year-old Kitty Easton. . . . a tiled maze is uncovered, a young maid from the hall goes missing and a woman’s body is discovered under the church. . . . Bartram, reprising his role as amateur detective from Speller’s compulsively gripping debut, The Return of Captain John Emmett, begins to delve into the Easton’s sinister, labyrinthine history . . . incredibly moving, a sophisticated blend of compelling research and resonant emotion . . . the significances of mazes adds an intriguing level of erudite complexity to the familial mysteries at the heart of the novel.”Eithne Farry, 12 May 2011


Review of The Return of Captain John Emmett



Pasted Graphic From the Richard & Judy Summer Book Club: “Elizabeth Speller’s writing is captivating; her opening scene made me catch my breath.” (Richard) “I really appreciated the quality of the writing in this book – direct, haunting, and illuminating. My heart bled for Laurence Bartlam as he uncomplainingly tries to make sense of the bloody chaos he endured in France, and the heartbreak of losing his devoted wife and their baby. The Return of Captain John Emmet is, quite simply, gripping.” (Judy)

Pasted Graphic 1 ““In the early days of detective fiction, readers devoured mysteries to find out who-done-it. As the genre matured, why-done-it became just as important, and more mysteries came to read "like a novel," growing as complex as mainstream fiction, or life itself. Seeming even more "like a novel" is British author Elizabeth Speller's first book of fiction, "The Return of Captain John Emmett" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 442 pages, $26), which, with its elegant prose and naturalistic manner, draws the reader into a simple-seeming story of post-World War I England—a tale that turns out to be anything but straightforward and far from soothing. . . . Restrained and marvelous, "The Return of Captain John Emmett" is full of jolting revelations and quiet insights—and one last, subtle act of charity that echoes louder and longer than any gunshot.” — Tom Nolan in The Wall Street Journal.

Pasted Graphic “...a quiet, moving read. . . This elegant debut is written in the style of a Golden Age mystery and steeped in the themes of WWI poets like Wilfred Owen. Speller's novel is not only about a generation of doomed youth, it's also an anthem to the women who nursed them. Bartram's journey to discover why Emmett killed himself at first seems ‘quixotic,’ but it soon becomes a way for Bartram to face what Owen called "the old Lie" - that to die for your country "is sweet and right." Or as Bartram laments to Mary, ‘war is not a question of honors and decorations . . . it's just hell.’” — Carole E. Barrowman, in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

ZZ6EEF7973 “The New Birdsong—only better.” —The Independent

the_times_460It is 1920 and Laurence Bartram has come through the First World War but lost his young wife and son. He receives a letter from the sister of his old friend, John Emmett. Why, she wonders, did Emmet survive the war only to kill himself? Laurence begins to investigate . . . Speller’s writing is gorgeous, her research immaculate and lightly worn. Sheer bliss.” —Kate Saunders, The Times.

ZZ47016C35 “Corresponding with poets, visiting bereft mothers and desolate widows, Bartram gradually pieces together Emmett’s tragic experiences . . . Compelling.” — Marie-Claire

ZZ20BF4376Utterly convincing . . . One of the ultimate functons of a reviewer may be to put out a flag reading ‘This book is intelligent and moving. Enjoy it.’ And I do that for this novel.” — John Bowen, The Oldie.

ZZ6A0E79B3 “Speller’s skill in summoning up a past time, and the intensity of her writing in the evocation of place and emotion is remarkable . . . This is an involving and sensitively written novel . . . A fine achievement. Readers should look forward to Elizabeth Speller’s future work.” — William Palmer, The Independent.

ZZ1A6D7320 “A Christie-esque combination of solid plotting and ingeniousness. The Return of Captain John Emmett is a well-written mystery that expresses the horror and pity of war.” — Stephanie Cross, The Lady

ZZ4BC6B587 “A gripping first novel . . . A fast-paced literary thriller.” — Adrian Turpin, Financial Times

ZZ43DC331B “A tragic, sensitive mystery.” — Literary Review

ZZ50D0D1C5 “Speller is nicely at ease with the period and the unsettled nature of a world emerging from the fug of conflict.” — Catherine Taylor, The Guardian


What the reviewers say about The Sunlight on the Garden



“An
extraordinary, moving, beautiful book . . . like opening a jewellery box packed with beautiful, unusual gems”— Marian Keyes

“An
enthralling mixture of social history and intimacy, tragedy and humour.” — Victoria Glendinning

“I’ve never read a more terrifying description of depression and madness.: her
beautiful prose and ability to present scenes as vividly as if one was watching a film make this an intense and immediate book: I loved it, all of it, at once.” — Joanna Lumley

“Speller’s subtle, elegant family autopsy searches out the half-truths and hidden horrors which often lurk unnoticed . . . Darkness is always lightened by her
ruthless wit and poetic sensibility. There are echoes in The Sunlight on the Garden of Sylvia Plath’s ability to combine beauty with irony, and suffering with comedy, and to translate the opacity of madness into lucidity.” — Times Literary Supplement.