She Came Back by Patricia Wentworth (J.B. Lippincott, 1945) is the ninth mystery featuring Miss Silver, former governess and now modestly successful private investigator. The family of Lady Anne Jocelyn is stunned when Anne appears unexpectedly in her country home, more than three years after she was believed killed by Germans while she, her husband, a cousin, and others were making a desperate bid to escape France just after the invasion. Anne and the cousin had a strong family resemblance. Anne contends that the cousin was mistaken for her in the dark and now lies buried in the churchyard under Anne’s name.
Sir Philip Jocelyn was on the verge of marrying someone else and he is reluctant to welcome his wife home. He agrees to her request for six months to try to re-establish their marriage but he is not convinced that he should. Their relationship had been shaky before Anne’s supposed death and he does not expect their differences to be easily resolved. Complicating all of this is the fact the money in the marriage belongs to Anne, not Philip. Unless she remains dead, he is more or less her pensioner. Then a former nanny of the dead cousin turns up dead herself, on a road no one expected her to be on and Scotland Yard is called in. In no time at all Sergeant Frank Abbott is consulting Miss Silver.
This is the third Miss Silver mystery I’ve read in which someone who is thought to be dead appears again, very much alive. The other two are The Case of William Smith and Miss Silver Deals with Death. All three are set during the confusion and upheaval of World War II, when communications, such as they were, were disrupted and people could disappear easily if they wanted to, and sometimes even if they didn’t want to. It’s hard to imagine doing that now, with DNA kits being sold by mail and international databases of fingerprints easily accessible to any law enforcement representative. These books are especially intriguing to me, as they clearly delineate a very different time and place that actually wasn’t that long ago. For fans of traditional mysteries and of mysteries set during World War II.