Wrapped up warmly, she walked briskly down the neat frosty path of Nevile’s Court and away from the golden building of Trinity College. As she scurried along in the early-morning silence Posie thought she caught sight of a woman walking up ahead of her on the gravel path, just visible through the mist; a dark-haired woman in a vivid red coat, who turned once or twice at the sound of Posie’s hob-nailed walking boots.
Who was walking around at this early hour in the Christmas holidays? And a woman too, in a place where they were certainly few and far between.
The sun was growing stronger now and the mist was lifting a little, and Posie heard the Chapel bells begin to ring. Perhaps the woman would stop and talk? Posie hurried on ahead, on over the neat little brick bridge over the Cam and on through the further set of lawns. She lost sight of the figure in red walking ahead of her.
Someone appeared in front of Posie, emerging suddenly through the ribbons of thin white mist rising off the river. It was the bowler-hatted Porter from yesterday, Simpkins. He was wearing the same uniform as the day before, a thick black waistcoat over rolled-up white shirtsleeves. His lack of a coat or scarf made Posie, who always felt the cold despite her permanent insulation, shiver profusely.
“Miss Parker? Good morning! Looks like we’ll have more rain today, more’s the pity. Doesn’t look like it’s be a white Christmas, does it? Shame!”
Simpkins did a half-bow and passed Posie a brown envelope.
“Your photograph, Miss,” said Simpkins brightly. “The one of the fella you were asking about? It’s in the envelope.”
“Ah, yes.” Posie had almost forgotten about Felicity Fyne and the case of Dr Winter; she was os immersed in her own thoughts about Richard. “Thank you. Any joy?”
“Well, yes, actually.” Simpkins looked pleased with himself and drew himself up to his full height, which wasn’t much.
The Vanishing of Dr Winter by L.B. Hathaway is the fourth instalment in the Posie Parker mystery series but it works perfectly also on its own. There is a sense of a bigger picture, since the cast of clearly recurring characters all have a history, which is moving and will probably bring some development in future instalments. Posie herself has an ongoing search for the truth about the mysterious sadness of her brother Richard before he left Cambringe for WWI. But all in all this one instalment dealing with Posie’s past on the French front sustains itself perfectly.
The story follows two different plots, the one about this one novel, regarding the disappearance of dr Winter during the war, and a separate one regarding Richard’s mysterious last years in Cambridge before he too left for war, where he lost his life. These are both interesting plots, though I think that Richard’s is a bit more involving, maybe because it’s more personal to Posie.
Dr Winter’s plot is straightforward enough and it presents a couple of repeated ideas that made the events a bit more predictable. But I still enjoyed both threads.
Richard’s thread then offers a supernatural twist at the end that I really never saw coming in a story that – though starting with discussion of ghosts – never seemed to go down that way. Still it didn’t jerk me because the overall atmosphere of the story was very ethereal, with a great working into the mood of that particular British winter atmosphere of rain and darkness and mist. I really like that, and I think it set out the possibility of a supernatural twist even if the story was not supernatural at all.
Overall, it was a very nice Christmas read. I found the recurring cast endearing. I think I’ll read more if I’ll have the chance.
In post is part of the Thursday Quotables meme. If you want to discover more about this meme and maybe take part in it, head over to Bookshelf Fantasies