Martin Heath returns from World War II a broken man, psychologically damaged by the wartime horrors he experienced fighting in Europe. After struggling to return to his old life, he is offered the opportunity of a new start as chauffeur to elderly Mr Godley, who lives in a rambling house in the Devonshire countryside with just a couple of servants. The house has a sombre, haunted atmosphere, in part stemming from the death of Godley’s son during the Great War and the subsequent suicide of his wife. He is frail and in poor health. He sees very few people. In his garage sits a beautiful Rolls Royce Phantom, which Heath dearly coverts…    

This is the first book of Mal Peet’s that I have read and based on how much I enjoyed the experience I will definitely be looking out for more from the same author. It’s a really neat, genre-defying novel, published posthumously following his death in 2015. I always (obviously incorrectly) thought he wrote YA fiction. However this short novel (it’s almost a novella) features themes and events of a rather more adult nature, touching on mental illness and murder, and featuring mild sex scenes and hints of the paranormal. It’s beautifully written, and has a wonderful sense of place. The prose is haunting and evocative, and Peet had a superb ear for dialogue. The characters are honestly drawn. There’s a real sense of claustrophobia to the story, which unfolds at a nice pace.

Part ghost story, part murder mystery, part police procedural, this book effortlessly blends genres to create an intriguing story that works on many levels. Recommended.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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