The author of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir returns with another mystery set in World War II-era England, where Mrs. Braithwaite—the village busybody—resolves to find, and then rescue, her missing daughter
That's the beauty of Ryan's work: She treats angry, scraping characters such as Mrs. Braithwaite...with the care their own deep wounds desperately need ... This is a crisp and energetic book, a suspense story that explores our darker sides without drowning us. Ryan's use of language is grippy and plosive. There's just the right amount of tutting, snapping, clasping, grasping, sneering and snarling that, along with a tight plot, keep a reader gladly bouncing along. What truly stands out is the underlying tone of joy in Ryan's writing; there's warmth and care even in the darkest moments. Ryan has delivered a suspense story with high stakes, but nothing drops to sinister or degrading. It's a refreshing and rare quality when you've had enough of nonstop grim headlines, or other suspense novels that mine depravity to seize readers' attention. Rather, Shilling Lane gives us characters we all long to believe in; it tells us there is redemption and forgiveness in the world, that people do learn from their mistakes and make amends.
At first reading, this novel plodded rather than flowed. The introduction lagged with so much time spent on Mrs. Brathwaite’s flaws that the reader found her unpleasant and hardly worth rooting for. On second reading, the theme of the novel presented more clearly—that Mrs. Brathwaite’s redemption lay in her own self-forgiveness and redemption ... Yet the encounter that Mrs. Brathwaite had with the burn patient did not make sense in the context of the whole novel, and the repeated encounters with the spy ring and rescue attempts appeared to rehash rather than advance the plot. One likeable feature of the novel, however, was the self-reflection of Mrs. Brathwaite in her recognition that motherhood is more than raising a child—it also entails establishing and maintaining a lifelong bond of mututal trust and support. A reader willing to look for that thread will not be disappointed.