Title: No Graves As Yet
Author: Anne Perry
Genre: Historical fiction, mystery
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Michael Page
First line: It was a golden afternoon in late June, a perfect day for cricket.
Cambridge chaplain and professor Joseph Reavley is enjoying a cricket match on a hot summer Sunday when his brother Matthew arrives with devastating news: their parents, John and Alice Reavley, have been killed in an automobile accident. On the same day, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria is assassinated, throwing Europe into turmoil. Matthew works for the secret service, and he and Joseph become convinced that their parents were murdered to keep John from handing a document over to Matthew, a document that their father was convinced detailed a conspiracy of corruption that reached the very highest levels of government in Britain. Before Joseph has adjusted to the fact that his parents are dead, Sebastian Allard, his star pupil is murdered at Cambridge, and the suspect list is full of students and Joseph’s fellow faculty members. Joseph carries out his own investigation, hoping to stay one step ahead of Police Inspector Perth, but discovers that he didn’t know his favorite student as well as the thought he did – and he begins to wonder what his father possibly could have discovered, if Sebastian’s death could be connected to his parents’ murders, and whether or not Britain will be able to avoid the war the rest of Europe seems intent on starting.
My sister Marni has been a fan of Anne Perry’s historical mysteries for a long time – and has told me often that the audiobooks of her World War I series are superb. I really should listen to people’s book recommendations more often – especially people who know me was well as my sisters. While this book is a murder mystery, the mysteries play out against the backdrop of a Britain on the brink of war. Joseph has dedicated his life to the pursuit of knowledge and faith, and struggles with his inadequacies to explain grief and fear and war to his students, all young men whose lives will be profoundly effected – and possibly lost – when war begins.
Joseph is a complex character. While he is a minister, he does not cop out with easy answers or platitudes when talking to people who are grief-stricken or afraid or questioning the will of God in the face of devastation. He himself has suffered many losses – his young wife and now his parents. With the death of his father, he is now the de facto head of the Reavley family, a position he feels woefully inadequate to assume, especially when it comes to guiding his youngest sister, the single and headstrong Judith. All of the Reavley siblings have the potential to be interesting characters, and I’m hoping to get to know each of them better in the subsequent books in the series.
Perry deals not only with issues of faith, but also the costs of war, and the costs of peace. There are characters who believe that war is to be avoided no matter what; other characters believe that there are some things that have to be fought for. The contrast between the two points of view make for some of the most interesting conversations in the book.
While the murder mysteries are satisfyingly resolved, the books ending is only the beginning, as it concludes with Britain’s entry into World War I. I will be listening to the rest of the series on audio, following Joseph into the war as a chaplain, and pondering the deeper issues of war and love and faith and loss alongside him.
Audio notes: Michael Page is a terrific reader, varying his tone just enough for the various characters. He gives the characters words warmth and emotion without being over-dramatic or unrealistic.