Reviewed by Colleen Turner
2011: When Leah Hickson is called to Belgium to help identify the 100 year old body of an English soldier for the War Graves Commission, an organization working to identify the large number of unearthed English soldiers and give them a proper burial, she isn’t sure she should take the assignment. Her contact with the Commission just happens to be her ex-boyfriend, Ryan, the one she has worked so hard to get over. Still, her skills and natural curiosity as a freelance journalist may not only help her use the clues left behind on the body – a few dramatic letters the soldier made sure to keep safe and preserved – to identify the man, but the assignment might help her get her career back on track, something that has faltered in the wake of her damaged relationship. As Leah finds her feelings being stirred up again by Ryan she decides to take the case if for no better reason than to get her mind on something more solid than all she has lost.
1911: Reverend Albert Canning and his wife, Hester, live a quiet, uncomplicated life in the early years of their marriage at The Rectory at the village of Cold Ash Holt. While Albert has continued to keep his naïve wife physically distant, Hester is content for the most part in the love they have and the hope that more will come as their love continues to grow. When Hester’s uncle asks her to take in a maid from London that has had some issues with the law, she agrees. Her cook could use the help after all and it is always good to be charitable.
Shortly after this maid, Cat Morley, a fiery suffragette who has never been content in the servitude she was born into, comes to the rectory another visitor appears. Robin Durrant, a man who claims to be an expert in Theosophy, is invited by Albert to come examine their water meadows after hearing Robin speak on the subject of “elementals” and believing to see one such fairy near the rectory. As Robin continues to ingratiate himself deeper into the Canning’s lives, his true intensions become more apparent and uneasiness begins to seep into their small world. At the same time Cat tries desperately to find an escape from what she sees as a new form of imprisonment and a chance to not only live a life all her own but to atone for the wrongs she believes she has done. However, as the deceptions, lies and various passions surrounding them come into the light a desperate act leads to consequences that will leave no one at the rectory unharmed.
As the alternating storylines continue to unravel Leah not only uncovers who her mystery soldier is but what connection he had to the rectory and what devastating tragedy occurred there. Befriending the living relative of the Cannings living at the rectory, she begins to feel a need to find out what really happened and let that truth be known. Through her discoveries Leah is able to not only put to rest the mysteries of the past but put her own present back into order.
The Unseen is a remarkable combination of historical and mystery that works to slowly untangle the various threads of the story and keep the reader guessing. Going back and forth between the timelines helped build the suspense, making me guess as to what would happen in 1911 and what that had to do with the dead soldier in the contemporary story line. While I was able to guess at some of the mystery the big discoveries came as a complete shock. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a story that mixes the past and present together or a good mystery slowly revealed.
Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow Paperbacks. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.