One idyllic summer afternoon, Cambridge professor and former preacher Joseph Reavley gets the tragic news of his parents’ demise in a car accident. Joseph's younger brother Matthew, a Secret Service officer, then gives him the shocking news that their father had in fact been en route to London to give Matthew a mysterious document allegedly outlining a sinister conspiracy with the power to disgrace England. Further investigation reveals that the accident was a murder in disguise. After a futile quest for the document and its origins, they return to their normal lives, vowing to pursue all avenues to find the truth.
Once back at work, Matthew has a tough time trying to figure out the hows and whys of his father’s murder while at the same time attempting to do his regular job. It’s a time of restlessness everywhere, and abundant conspiracies and rumor leave Matthew feeling frustrated and futile.
Meanwhile, England finds itself buffeted internally by the ever-growing Irish rebellion and externally by the assassination of an Austrian archduke by Serb rebels that has left Europe teetering on the brink of a catastrophic war.
Joseph soon faces another tragedy when his favorite student is shockingly murdered on campus. As the investigation proceeds, Joseph finds himself brutally stripped of his naïve convictions about himself, the people around him, and the rapidly deteriorating world circumstances. But with a passion born of integrity and determination, he starts investigating both cases on his own. What he ultimately discovers leaves him -- as well as the reader -- amazed at the serpentine, staggering, treacherous enormity of it all.
Anne Perry is the famous author of two acclaimed series set in Victorian England. Now, with No Graves As Yet, the first book in a projected five-volume series, the author has started a new series set against the tragic backdrop of World War I.
This mystery/spy thriller begins when the unrest which eventually coalesces into World War I is a mere aberration -- nothing much for an England already torn internally by the Irish dispute to be much concerned about. But as the novel proceeds, it rapidly grows to ominous proportions until, toward the end of the book, it ends with the declaration of war. In this tense times, Joseph, his brother Matthew and their sisters have to contend with their parents’ sudden deaths, which may or may not be related to the growing unrest. The way Perry skillfully portrays the uncertainty and murder mystery growing deeper even as the European situation worsens makes the book exquisitely tense. The reader will also appreciate Perry’s seamless blending of the two situations, one personal (and from various viewpoints) and one nationwide, in such a way that they simultaneously complement and challenge each other.
The characterizations are especially effective since they are appreciably realistic. Politics, memories, small gossip, internal strife, academic life, professional and personal jealousies – all these and more are examined through the author's eagle eye. Perry has a decidedly vivid and individual turn of phrase and wit in describing people and situations. Many mysteries fill this one book, and while some of them are solved, the majority are tantalizingly left to be continued, adding a high level of anticipation for her forthcoming books in this series. All in all, Perry has another winning series on her hands – much to the readers’ delight.