One of the UK’s most underappreciated mystery writers, Eccles once again establishes her credentials for compelling period drama. Broken Music not only addresses the chaos of the Great War but also highlights the emotional detritus on the home front as Reverend Francis Wentworth and his family come to live in the picaresque village of Boughton Underhill.
The Wentworths are larger than life. Although they’re not that rich, willful Amy, Nellie, Marianne, and handsome William are aching to be free from the bonds of taciturn Francis and their Victorian grandmother, Eleanor, who decided to stay on to help the family out after their mother, Dorothea, unexpectedly died. Amy in particular longs for an independence considered out of reach for many women in this
time in history.
The Rectory at Boughton Underhill will be their new home while their distant relatives, the beautiful Lady Sybil and Sybil's daughter, Eunice, continue to reside in the grand Oaklands Park Estate. The family’s connections still mean a great deal: Dorothea was a cousin of Lady Sybil’s and
grew up in this privileged environment of house and tennis parties.
The Wentworths’ arrival is an opportunity for Aunt Sybil to once again cultivate a social life, now that the last convalescent soldier is about to be moved and Oaklands restored to pre-war grandeur. Unfortunately, after a tragedy that has nothing to do with the war, there is no question of the Wentworths returning to life as it
was. In August 1914, the family lost their beloved Marianne, when the world was "spinning crazily round on its axis."
The green Worcestershire countryside rolls towards the distant Welsh mountains, and Francis remains a walking prisoner of his dark thoughts. With Marianne’s image fading in his mind, only brutally scarred Detective Herbert Reardon can solve his daughter’s fate. It’s wrong that a young woman whose life had barely begun lies in her grave with her death unexplained. Although Marianne’s demise was officially recorded as an accident, the circumstances - alone on Oakland Lake one night and accidentally falling into the water - are just too bizarre for anyone to believe.
Eccles’ characters must learn to do battle with death, war, and family scandals. Maneuvering Reardon’s investigation of Marianne to include her sister Nella’s time as a nurse on the front lines, the party held by Lady Sybil on the eve of the outbreak of war to celebrate dear Eleanor Villier's seventieth birthday, and a series of notebooks pivotal to Reardon’s unraveling of the mystery, the author unfurls both pre-war and post-war periods with sinister, brooding, and gothic intensity.
Nella is thrown into maturity by her terrible experiences with the boys who were required to live through horrors that no human being should have to witness. Only handsome Duncan Geddes is a breath of fresh air in Nella’s life as she recalls the hitherto unimaginable horrors now peopled by sad ghosts and painful memories. Ella wistfully recalls that lovely summer of tennis, picnics, and carefree swimming while lives are irrevocably tied to a band of gypsies, a reclusive gamekeeper, and a duplicitous lady's maid.
Past events are just too upsetting for grown-ups who compound the follies of youth with the cruelty of middle-aged necessity. While the truth of Marianne’s fate shatters everyone, the world toils on, leaving a path of lost, deserted dreams and even murder in Eccles’ finely wrought, deeply moving tale.