Armistice

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Armistice by Nick Stafford, book reviewLike so many other young men, Philomena Bligh’s fiancé, Daniel, died on the battlefields of France in the First World War. But Daniel’s death is perhaps harder for Philomena to accept than for most women because Daniel died on the final day of the war and only seconds after the fighting was meant to have ended. Philomena needs to know whether Daniel’s death was merely the final action of the war, or whether for some reason the fighting had not ended where Daniel was. Armed with the names of three other officers Daniel had mentioned in his letters to her, Philomena goes to London to try to get some answers. When one of them, Jonathan, tells her that he believes Daniel was murdered over a gambling debt, Philomena is reminded of a letter of condolence she received shortly after Daniel’s death in which his demise was referred to as a crime; could the writer have meant it quite literally? Reluctantly, because he fears his career as a lawyer may suffer from being connected to the case, Jonathan agrees to help Philomena learn the truth.

This accomplished and entertaining novel crams a tremendous amount into its 336 pages. The war, and how it affected those who fought in it, almost becomes a character in its own right; it seeps into all parts of the story and Stafford has done well to capture its impact and how it has changed society. Many people, Philomena included, suddenly got the chance to build a different kind of life than the one they might have expected had the war not happened. Jonathan, like Daniel, was promoted to officer status in the field and now, back in civilian life, he hopes his officer status can help his legal career; he worries that Philomena’s determination to unearth the truth might do it damage. For Philomena the war has given her the confidence to go it alone, to travel to a strange city and fight for justice for her dead fiancé; the effect the war had on changing the lives and aspirations of women is reflected in Philomena.

When it comes to the plot, “Armistice” is a real page turner with plenty of twists; I must have changed my mind half a dozen times as Philomena’s enquiries brought fresh claims and allegations. The writing is slick and flows beautifully urging you to keep reading. The attention to detail really illuminates the story; the characters and dialogue are spot on but the setting and fine detail is exceptional. Philomena’s investigations take her into places she might never otherwise have dreamed even existed; what she thinks is a late night drinking spot turns out to be something much darker, brilliantly depicted in Stafford’s descriptive prose. Before she goes there, Philomena has to do some shopping to enable her to play the part of the confident vampish woman she believes will have a better chance than she of getting some answers; the descriptions of the outfits – the colours, the fabrics, the styles- really captured my imagination, cementing the story in its setting.

Armistice” is an absorbing thriller and makes some important points about how the war affected the men who fought there – those who did not come back were not, sadly, the only victims – and how, on their return, the men dealt with their horrifying experiences. A scene where Jonathan shows Philomena his own quite personal way of dealing with the stress didn’t ring true at all but overall this is a thought provoking and worthwhile read.


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Armistice
by Nick Stafford

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Written by Mary Bor
Mary Bor

Aspiring travel writer and avid Yugophile living in the UK and Slovenia. Loves (in no particular order) Scandinavian crime fiction, Indian food, walking, scavenging, Russian dolls

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