Through a Darkening Glass

Written by R. S. Maxwell
Review by K. M. Sandrick

In winter 1910, Phineas Greenwich sees a girl floating face-down in the murky water of a kiln in Wolstenholme Park on the outskirts of Martynsborough, but no one believes him when the body disappears. In 1940, Ruth Gladstone joins her grandmother and great-aunt in Martynsborough as an evacuee after a bombing run makes it unsafe for her to continue residing and studying at Girton College. Ruth soon becomes captivated by the 30-year-old story and recent sightings of a wraithlike figure on the Wolstenholme grounds. She decides to find out about the ghost and solve the village mystery.

Through a Darkening Glass is a mystery-romance set among the casualties of war—a young boy who has been separated from his family, a man and wife who must deal with both physical and psychological war wounds—and men who take advantage of the turmoil to further their own interests or bolster their egos.

The mystery wends its way through some often-tantalizing tendrils, but the unraveling and subsequent resolution take too long, getting hung up on side-tracks that do little to propel the story along. The romance is also slow-moving as several characters tentatively test one another and possible relationships.

While the ending is inventive and satisfying, the storytelling path is often jolting as obstacles pop up and then just as quickly are cast aside, conversation mires in irrelevant discussions of classic literature or art, and description takes the place of action and dialogue. As a result, the reader does not see or feel the story but is told all about it.