Through a Darkening Glass

Lake Union. Jan. 2023. 336p. ISBN 9781662501067. pap. $14.95. M
DEBUT It’s 1940, and Ruth is working on a degree in literature at Cambridge. A nearby unexploded bomb pushes her to evacuate to her grandmother’s home in the remote village of Martynsborough. She imagines long days filled with productive writing of her first book. Instead, Ruth finds herself doing busywork to help Britain’s war effort while slowly falling for her married coworker. It doesn’t help that she’s engaged herself, but she has no real desire to marry her fiancé. Add in a ghostly figure haunting the town, a young boy evacuee separated from his brother, a quirky college friend who comes for a visit, and there’s a lot happening below the surface. Maxwell does a nice job creating a gothic flavor, with a feeling of inevitable doom for the flawed characters. However, after a great deal of buildup, several key scenes are inexplicably set off camera, which cheats readers. Copious amounts of telling rather than showing do not help.
VERDICT Maxwell’s debut novel is definitely not your traditional “murder in a quaint village” historical mystery; an optional purchase might be of interest to fans of Daphne du Maurier.
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