First Line of Prologue: "South Deven, England, 11:15 a.m., 3 September 1939. The mistress of the house was at work on the mayonnaise when the kitchen wireless began to speak of war."
Summary: Bridget Kelly, Bridey, is in nurse's training at St. Prisca's Hospital in London. After making a terrible mistake, her matron gives her an assignment to help care for children evacuated from London. That assignment takes her to Greenway, the country home of Agatha M. C. Christie Mallowan and her husband.
Bridey is terrified that someone will discover she is not really a nurse. But as the other nurse, Gigi, doesn't seem very capable, Bridey finds herself relying on the training she has. Gigi often leaves the care of the ten children to Bridey. As frustrating as that can be, Bridey finds herself desiring Gigi's friendship. When a body washes up near the estate, Bridey and Gigi are called for to examine the body until the doctor can arrive. Gigi holds back, but Bridey approaches the body. It is plain to her that this was no accident. It is also evident that this man is no stranger. Bridey remembers seeing him on the train talking to Gigi. Suddenly, this place that was meant for safety feels dangerous and uncertain.
My thoughts: Lori Rader-Day excels at creating a character with a past. She then places this character right in the middle of a situation. Next, she begins revealing the past layer by layer. This creates an atmosphere of mystery. That is definitely the case in this story.
Bridget Kelly, Bridey, has a past. At first she is timid and uncertain of herself. But as the story goes on she gains confidence. She becomes less afraid of questioning things and of asserting herself. I am not quite sure what I think of Gigi. Initially she seems to be someone who just lives for fun and sees nothing but drudgery in the events of daily life. However, as she and Bridey become more acquainted with one another, there is a bit more depth to her.
The other supporting characters are all interesting in their own way. Some become suspects, others are definitely not suspects. Mrs. Christie only makes a couple of appearances, but she is talked about regularly as are her books.
Once the body washes up on shore and Bridey realizes who the man is and that he didn't die accidentally, there is a mystery to solve. However, the reader doesn't hear much about an investigation of any sort. It is more a mystery that comes up in conversation around the estate or in the thought life of Bridey. If you begin to daydream while reading, you may miss something. This made a few of the things revealed even more shocking and I found myself going back to make sure I had read correctly.
Best of all is the setting. Reading about daily life for those who stayed home during the war was fascinating. I have always thought of how difficult it must have been for parents to send their children away from London. Not knowing when or if they would see them again. That aspect is brought into play in this story. Also, the attitudes regarding serving or helping the war effort were eye-opening. In some peoples' minds, there was a right way to help and anyone not helping in that way was looked down upon.
I have read one other book by Lori Rader-Day and that book left me feeling the same way this one did. I find myself thinking about the characters and the story for some time after reading it. Death at Greenway is a great historical mystery with well-written characters. It left me eager to read more by this author.