Published: February 2018 by The British Library Publishing Division
Category: Classic Crime, Police Procedural, Historical, Book Review
The Second World War is drawing to a close. Nicholas Vaughan, released from the army after an accident, takes refuge in Devon renting a thatched cottage in the beautiful countryside at Mallory Fitzjohn. Vaughan sets to work farming the land, rearing geese and renovating the cottage. Hard work and rural peace seem to make this a happy bachelor life.
The first few chapters build characterisations, mostly through dialogue, giving a good indication of people’s personalities and viewpoints. This approach means the main point of the story is reached with fairly well fleshed out characters, which worked well.
Colonel St Cyres is determined that the tenancy of Little Thatch and its adjoining land should go to someone who loves the country and working the land as much as he does. Little Thatch, part of St Cyres’ estate, has been vacant for a good while and needs renovating, just as the land needs care to bring it back to full productiveness.
St Cyres’ son has been taken prisoner of war and, feeling obligated for his son’s sake, St Cyres has persuaded his daughter-in-law to stay at Manor Thatch with himself and his daughter, Anne. June is a Londoner through and through and finds the country extremely boring. After six months both she and St Cyres have come to dislike the arrangement. June wants her father-in-law to let the cottage to Mr Gressingham, a friend from London, so she could invite people down to liven things up. St Cyres refuses and instead lets the cottage to Nicholas Vaughan, who has been invalided out of the Navy and is looking to work on a small holding.
When Colonel St Cyres first saw Nicholas Vaughan leaning patiently on the gate of Little Thatch, the older man said to himsef, “Fine big chap: he ought to be able to dig. Shoulders like a bull…”
When Vaughan turned towards him, the Colonel had a shock of surprise, for one of Vaughan’s eyes was covered by an eye-shade, and the livid unlovely line of a recently healed scar marred the left side of his face. One grey eye looked steadily at the Colonel.