Book Review: Eternity Ring by Patricia Wentworth (1948)

Mary Stokes swears she saw a woman with her head bashed in, blonde hair matted with blood, wearing a black dress, a black coat, and one beautiful, distinctive hoop earring set all around in diamonds in the beam of her flashlight as she walked through Dead Man’s Copse on a cold January night. She also saw a murderer frantically rummaging on the ground for the other Eternity ring, lost amongst the forest floor. Before she’s caught spying on a murderer, she runs to the village of Deeping and tells her tale to every patient and practical Detective Frank Abbott, who is visiting his relations on holiday.

Frank Abbott follows Mary Stokes to Dead Man’s Copse, but there’s no body, blood, or Eternity Ring. Unsure of what to make of her story Frank Abbott returns to the village to gather information on Mary Stokes. Mary Stokes is a known flirt, a city girl stuck in a village; she’s greedy and will take easy money if offered. When Mary Stokes is found with a broken neck, in a way soldiers used during World War II, which doesn’t narrow the field for Detective Abbot since almost every man served in the war, Detective Frank Abbott knows she saw something, even if she didn’t tell him the whole truth.

When a French lodger goes missing from her boarding house wearing a black dress, and a black beret with two beautiful and distinctive eternity rings, Detective Abbott knows that the missing woman must be who Mary Stokes saw on the fateful January night. When a young French man hears of the woman’s death with the eternity rings, he finds Detective Abbott and tells him about a harrowing crime perpetrated on the girl during her evacuation from France. She had tracked the perpetrator to Deeping and was last seen with Grant Hathaway.

Grant Hathaway is an affable country farmer married to Frank Abbott’s cousin Cicely Abbott. Their marriage- complete bliss for the first three months- has disintegrated. Cicely has returned to the Abbott ancestral home, ignoring her husband and begging him for a divorce. She believes he married her for money and never loved her; he is cruel and refuses to divorce her, so she has an emotional affair with the dreamy songwriter in the village.

When Grant Hathaway is implicated in the murders, Cicely Abbot returns to their home and catches the murderer planting the missing eternity ring in a potpourri bowl. Cicely confronts the killer and solves many crimes back in worn-torn France.

This is a great book with an very easy mystery. In fact, the mystery is not even the main attraction of the book, instead this is an exploration of village gossip, love affairs, the long shadow of war, and how greed corrupts everything.

Miss Silver is barely in the book, but her presence adds a sense of calm and moral center, and she provides a way for characters to monologue about their deepest innermost feelings. This book about big feelings is sweet, tumultuous, and gripping. I loved this deep dive into village life and the fascinating people living in Deeping. If you’re looking for an easy and entertaining read with lots of romance- this will be up your alley. Get a copy of Eternity Ring from Amazon here.


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