Broken Music by Marjorie Eccles is a murder mystery set in the aftermath of World War I Britain. It’s a cozy mystery but with the murder having taken place years in the past. Herbert Reardon, our detective, is determined to solve the murder despite its having been declared a suicide.
Eccles does an excellent job of portraying the village and the era in Broken Music. It’s got a definite sense of place and time and is very vivid in that respect. I think fans of Downton Abbey would very much like Broken Music as it has the same sort of relationships portrayed as on the show.
Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy Broken Music very much for a couple of reasons. First, it jumps around in time a great deal and that is something that regular readers of this blog will know bothers me. I’m fine with the occasional flashback but I want stories to be told mostly in a linear fashion. Second, I didn’t really feel anything for any of the characters. I didn’t particularly like any of them or hate any of them. If I don’t feel deeply about the characters, then I’m not invested in the story. Third, I want a murder mystery to be a murder mystery and Broken Music is more of a solved cold case being re-investigated rather than a murder mystery to me.
If you don’t mind jumping around in time and are a fan of Downton Abbey, Broken Music just might be for you.
The year is 1919 and the population of Great Britain is still struggling to its feet after being hit by the atrocities of the First World War. Progress is slow, even in quiet spots like the village of Broughton Underhill, on the edge of the Black Country. Gradually soldiers return, wounds begin to heal, and people try to move on with their lives. Former police sergeant Herbert Reardon has returned to the village, determined to solve an old murder--a woman was found drowned in the lake when the war was just beginning.
However, as Reardon begins to investigate, it becomes clear that secrets still abound and lips are staying sealed. When Edith Huckaby, a maid from Oaklands Park, is found murdered in exactly the same spot, Reardon is convinced that the two cases are linked. As he endeavors to discover the hidden truth, his suspects and witnesses are painstakingly trying to rebuild their lives, in a world that has been changed and scarred forever.
Broken Music is a masterful portrait of the horrors of the front line and the anxiety of the home front, as the loves and losses of wartime Britain are woven together and the truth slowly dawns on a local tragedy.