Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Recently divorced Grace finds a mysterious tackle box in the attic. The box contains her grandfather’s diaries written while he served in World War I, a cryptic letter addressed to her in which her grandfather expresses regret over a past deed and some memorabilia. Grace and her grandfather, Martin, had always loved puzzles and this is just the diversion she needs at this point in her life. Once she decides to solve the mystery her next stop is France, where she will visit the places Martin served in during the war. Grace is sure that Martin kept this secret from his wife for a reason, so her true reason for travel is veiled in her conversations with her grandmother.
The book then becomes a blend of Grace’s travels and excerpts from Martin’s diaries. Grace finds a new love early in the story which I kind of expected, yet at the same time I hoped that this would be a more personal journey for her. Martin’s chronicles of wartime are raw and brutal as I expected. He meets his wife during the war and, unfortunately, even that love didn’t seem to have any redemption for Martin as Grace’s grandmother is never a very likable character. I never felt as if I understood Martin in his later years and would have liked to learn how he made peace with himself after the horrors he experienced, as well as what his marriage held for him. Was he happy? As for Grace, I found myself liking her at times, but really couldn’t seem to connect with her. There was a strange dichotomy between her going out during the day to learn about her grandfather’s experiences then coming back to dinner with her new lover, which just didn’t work for me.
The writing is solid, and the transitions between Grace’s and Martin’s narratives are smooth and skilfully done, but the plot just didn’t work for me. If it was so important for Martin to have his wrong righted, why did he hide a puzzle in the tackle box? How about a “do not open until my death” letter? Once you learn the mystery, it seems even more implausible that Martin would let something of such importance and value be left in a puzzle, in a tackle box, in an attic.
My overall opinion is that the book moves very slowly and is repetitive at times, but a good story nonetheless because of the excellent writing.