* Prices may differ from that shown
No Graves As Yet by Anne Perry is the first novel in her First World War or Reavley Family series. I didn't choose to read this exactly - the author was coming to talk to my reading group, so we were given a pile of her books to choose from and the war setting of this appealed to me most. She has written, I think, 54 novels, mostly crime and detective stories, and I have to be honest and say I would never have picked up any of her books if it hadn't been for the reading group.
No Graves As Yet follows the story of the Reavley siblings following the death of their parents in a car accident in summer 1914. War is threatening, and given their fathers message that he had urgent information for them, brothers Joseph and Matthew can't believe that the crash was in fact an accident.
The book opens with idyllic sounding descriptions of a cricket match at Cambridge University, but I immediately felt a little disoriented. I can only assume that the research and details of Cambridge in 1914 are correct (although I did learn at our event that Perry does not do her own research), but something just didn't seem right. I felt that the setting was too good, too historically accurate - so much so that I could not relate to it and felt a bit lost. There was no easy breaking in, no setting the scene like you often find with historical novels. It was straight into this (to me) alien world, and then within a couple of pages the story had kicked off with a bang.
The story itself quickly became confusing. The suspects veered between involvement with Matthew's secret service work in London, and friends in Cambridge and rural England, in a hazy summer where intrigue just didn't fit in. Joseph finds himself involved in conspiracies at the university which he somehow links to his parents deaths, and Matthew can't trust anyone at work. Except then all of a sudden he does. I've now returned the book to the library, and I actually can't remember what happened at the end, having only finished it very recently. I think there were more deaths. But I might be wrong. It was confusing and easily forgettable.
The characters weren't bad, but they were hardly exciting. Joseph is a rather prissy university lecturer in theology, and there are veiled references to a dead wife, but overall he came over as a very boring man. I didn't feel I learnt much about Matthew at all. The novel is in the third person, and mostly focuses on Joseph, but Matthew has his share of the novel, and I don't think I could tell you much about him. His sections mainly centred on not being able to trust anyone.
There are also sections which are clearly about the "bad guys", whoever they may be. Even by the end of the novel, I was confused by these. They didn't entirely seem to fit into the story or the conclusion, so I can only assume that they make sense in the bigger picture of the full series. Either that or they're a complete waste of space.
No Graves As Yet wasn't completely bad, but it's not a novel I would hurry to recommend, and neither is Anne Perry as an author in general. She's a lovely lady, but I didn't come away from meeting her with a terribly good impression of her as a writer. She has people to do her research, she doesn't do her own typing, and to have written 54 novels seems like an awful lot, especially when they are all in series featuring the same characters, so are surely repetitive.
I won't be bothering to read the remainder of the Reavley series, although part of me wants to see if it makes more sense as a whole, and I'm not going to bother trying any of her other novels.