A Certain Darkness
Verity Kent Mysteries #6
By Anna Lee Huber
Author Website: annaleehuber(.)com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Set in Downton Abbey-era post-World War I England, this action-packed series from the USA Today bestselling author of the Lady Darby Mysteries is a treat for fans of Jacqueline Winspear and Susan Ella MacNeal.
March 1920: Life has turned unsettlingly quiet for former British Intelligence agent Verity Kent and her husband, Sidney. But even that false calm is about to end. As threats remain, the French authorities soon request Sidney’s help with a suspect who claims to have proof of treason—shortly before she is assassinated. And Verity, too, is called to investigate a mystery.
The murder of a Belgian lawyer aboard a train seems at first to be a simple case of revenge. But the victim was connected to British Intelligence, and possessed papers detailing the sinking of a gold-laden German ship during the war.
As Verity and Sidney dig deeper, they discover their cases are intertwined—and a lethal adversary persists. Officially, the Great War may be over, but this is a battle of nerves and wits they cannot afford to lose. (Goodreads)
This is an excellent and intriguing historical mystery! While it could be read as a standalone, I suggest reading the series in order or close to it for a greater appreciation of the engaging characters. The action is fast paced, and the setting and era are beautifully brought to life.
Verity Kent, a British intelligence agent during the Great War, and her husband Sidney, a veteran of British military service, are not average protagonists. Both have been highly trained with extensive understanding of politics, personalities, and strategies during and immediately after the Great War.
Verity’s career as a spy began while Sidney was serving in the war; he was unaware of those activities. He had been shot and left for dead by a friend and fellow officer over two years ago. When the war ended, Verity was grieving his loss, and she was no longer employed by intelligence agencies. She was called in at times, however, for jobs requiring her expertise. Sidney’s recovery was kept secret, even from Verity, until he needed her code breaking skills to accomplish a mission. Despite the toll the war took, they chose to work through the challenges of being very different people now than when they took their wedding vows.
Sidney was called to France when a woman he met while in the military had been arrested. Adele had learned to trade information to survive. She became enamored with a British lieutenant, James Smith, who turned against his country for his own gain. When Adele was arrested, she refused to talk with anyone except Sidney. He asked Verity to join him on the trip in part so she could assist with Adele.
While in France, Verity was asked to contact the Chief, for whom she did most of her intelligence work. He wanted her to investigate the murder of Jacques, a Belgian refugee and attorney who Britain had placed inside a Dutch agency to obtain information. His body was found on a train in the Netherlands, his portfolio emptied, and identification taken. Jacques was to bring back sensitive documents from the Netherlands, purportedly about a German vessel that had been sunk during the war. If they knew Britain had informants within their borders, it would have damaged their relations with the Netherlands so they wanted her to find the killer and the documents.
A link was discovered between their two investigations; however, Sidney was struggling with flashbacks from some of the worst fighting in Europe. During the many months he was thought to be dead, he had been on an assignment that eventually led him back to Verity when he needed her code breaking skills. In the few months they were back together, what they learned from their respective work during the war helped them go on new investigations together. What they found this time, though, made them question the integrity of those for whom they worked and respected, even the leaders of their country.
I was impressed with how well the characters were defined and developed throughout the novel. Watching Verity and Sidney together showed the success of their efforts to grow their marriage. Relying on each other for their cases and even their survival strengthened their love for and commitment to each other. Interviews they conducted demonstrated the asset of Verity’s phenomenal memory. When asking questions, they relied on her memory and wits to recall, in some cases word for word, verbal answers, facial expressions, and mannerisms.
The author describes the devastation of war on the people, cities, and countryside of France and Belgium. The loss of human life was incalculable. There was also the loss of centuries of architecture and works of art. The craftsmanship and history throughout Europe could never be recreated, including hundreds of thousands of homes, farms, and livestock.
This fascinating novel captured my attention and held it throughout. I appreciate the extensive research the author put into this novel, especially considering the trauma endured by soldiers and intelligence people alike. The mystery was puzzling and kept me guessing with every plot twist and turn. I was shocked at who the bad guy was. This novel left me wanting more of Verity and Sidney, their circumstances, and where their next adventure will take them as well as the earlier novels in the series. I highly recommend it!