Monday, May 23, 2022

She Came Back by Patricia Wentworth

Title: She Came Back (UK title The Traveller Returns)
Author: Patricia Wentworth
Publication: Coronet Books, paperback, originally published in 1948
Genre: Mystery
Setting: WWII Britain
Description: After serving in Egypt and Tunisia, widower Philip Jocelyn was wounded and sent back to England. Soon he will begin working at the War Office but in the meantime, he is recuperating at his home, Jocelyn’s Holt, and is on the verge of falling in love with Lyndall Armitage, a quasi-cousin. When his deceased wife Anne appears and says she spent the past three years in France hiding from the Germans, Philip is sure the woman is really an illegitimate cousin who closely resembled Anne but is reluctantly convinced when the woman knows intimate details of their troubled marriage. Lyndall, who had always admired Anne, hides her devastation that Philip is not free and tries to rekindle the old friendship but when she sees Anne keeping a mysterious appointment and an old lady dies suddenly, it is time to consult Miss Maud Silver.

My Impression: Lady Anne Jocelyn left to visit family in France before the war broke out, quarreling with her husband who advised against the trip. When he went to rescue her and the other family members, the Germans shot at the boat and Anne died, while her illegitimate cousin Annie Joyce was lost in the confusion. Philip is sure the woman claiming to be Anne is really her cousin but Annie had lived in France for many years and it is impossible to seek people who knew her in Occupied France. As the returned Anne points out, his reluctance to admit she is Anne highlights the fact that he left her behind and buried her cousin in Anne’s place, which could damage his reputation if he persists, given he inherited Anne’s fortune.
Anne said, “Very well. I didn’t want to say it – I don’t ever want to think it, Philip – but the other possibility is that you buried Annie Joyce as Anne Jocelyn because you would be pretty sure I was dead, and if you had to admit that you left me behind, it wasn’t going to look too well, and the death wasn’t going to be easy to prove. It might have been years before the legal question could be cleared up. There would have been a strong temptation to take a short cut – wouldn’t there?”
This was the first Patricia Wentworth I read, ninth in the Miss Silver series, lent to my sister by her friend Beth Mullen when they were in junior high, then packaged as a gothic. It was written and set during the war, which is relatively unusual, and in the first chapter when Anne returns she is standing in line to get a new ration book. The reader does not know if Anne is telling the truth or not for the first half of the book; Philip is reluctantly convinced she is Anne although keeps his distance from her.  He is very conscious of the fact that his wife was impetuous and fond of her own way while the returned Anne is "easy, charming, and extremely efficient."  Then Philip learns that Anne kept a detailed diary which her cousin might have used to convince him of her alleged identity.   Even worse, Garth
Albany, protagonist of The Key, tells Philip that Military Intelligence suspects Anne has been sent by the Germans to spy on him once he begins work at the War Office.
Gareth lifted a frowning gaze to Philip’s face and said, “Then you don’t believe she is Anne?”

Philip said, “Last night I’d have said, ‘I don’t know.’”

“And to-day?”

“At the moment I’m inclined to think I’ve been planted with Annie Joyce."
Collector’s Item: I just noticed that my copy says The Traveller Returns on the front cover and it has the correct text inside but the back cover copy is for Out of the Past, the twenty-third Miss Silver book.
Source: Personal copy.  This is my twelfth book for Carol's 2022 Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge.   Click here to read my other Patricia Wentworth reviews.


Katrina said...

I quite enjoyed this one a while ago but somehow managed to forget about it and bought another copy recently. Oh well, it'll find a good home with a friend.

Lex @ Lexlingua said...

Oh, I see you are participating in Cloak & Dagger again! (It's a fun challenge, might just jump back on the bandwagon myself -- assuming I can get past this strange reading block...) I haven't read Wentworth's mystery books but I do find it strange that no one has adapted them into a TV show yet? I definitely like the title She Came Back much more -- it has just the right amount of gothic creepiness! ~Lex