Set in 1948 with the aftermath of the Second World War still affecting everyone’s lives, Ruth and her mother are trying to make sure she has a job to pay the rent after the divorce. While she is waiting for her mother at the British Museum where her mother is being interviewed for an archaeology post by Mr Knight, Ruth answers a telephone call in his empty office. This leads to a farm in Norfolk where a mysterious archaeological discovery has been made and Ruth and her mother travel to the farm where things are not quite as they may seem, particularly as the silver discovered leaves questions unanswered. Ruth stays on at the farm and begins to unravel the secrets of the family and the land girl who helps them.
The wetness and cold of a fenland winter steals into every page of this exciting story, filled with the war just finished, leaving people with power cuts, rationing, and bomb sites. Ruth, 12, is upset about her parents’ divorce but finds Joe too has lost his father and is about to lose the farm as a loan cannot be paid. Their growing friendship allows them to trust each other is well drawn, and the mysteries surrounding the eel man Lenny, Uncle Gordon Audrey and Terry her fiancée, keep the reader guessing until the very end. The last chapter ties things up very neatly if a bit hastily, but all ends well.
Books about the Second World War are many nowadays but the years immediately afterwards are in many ways just as interesting and this story paints a good picture of how difficult life was for so many people, not least those returning from many years away to a family from whom they have grown apart. The position of women, many of whom had worked throughout the war in men’s jobs, in these post war years is clearly pictured in Mr Knight’s attitude, and the archaeological background adds an unusual aspect to the story. There is a map and small illustrations by Rachel Corcoran which add interest throughout the story. This book enhances A M Howell’s growing reputation as a writer of stories with an historical background.