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The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing

The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing

Mary Paulson-Elllis
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
This is a very quirky but very enjoyable book. The eponymous hero is an Heir Hunter based in Edinburgh who is very down on his luck, owing money to some very dodgy people when he comes across a case, handed to him by his friendly local plod. This gives him a chance to get in front, identify the relatives, if any, and get the per centage fee which will pay off his debts. That is the background theme to the book, but it goes off on many tangents as Solomon digs further in to the case.

One of them, the most important, takes the story back to the last few days of World War 1 where a small group of men have been billeted in a farmhouse prior to an attack going in. By this time the men, especially their officer, who happens to be called Solomon Farthing and is the grandfather of the hero of the story, know the war has not got long to go so are less than willing to Up and At The Huns. There is a very keen young Second Lieutenant just arrived who is keen to see action. To keep themselves busy prior to the attack the section has a wee game of cards which the 2Lt joins in but welches on his bet. He bet a cap badge which holds special attraction to the men in the Section, again especially for their commander, but the 2Lt substitutes a Shilling (5p for you young whippersnappers and roughly a day’s pay in WW1) for the cap badge which annoys the men. All is revealed at the end, which of course I won’t do here. Anyway, this reneging on the bet causes bad blood within the section – I mean no soldier has ever fallen out over a bet have they! Then a new soldier arrives with orders, which the Captain keeps to himself and this soldier joins the section, bringing another thread to the mystery.

Slipping back to the present day in Edinburgh, the hero, young Solomon, is trailing round Scotland in search of the clues he has been given, a ticket with a number on it and an old photograph. The trail takes him to a home for orphan boys, a family that took in orphan babies until they were old enough to go to the school, then down to the National Archives in London to search soldiers’ records from WW1, the ones that survived WW2.

Solomon is now being chased by another Heir Hunter, the one he owes money to, who knows about the inheritance that is being chased. This is the sum of £50,000 in old notes found stitched into the suit the deceased person was wearing when he died.

So there we have it, a down at the heels Heir Hunter chasing an inheritance in the hope his fee will pay off his debts, a section of soldiers in late WW1 not really wanting to do or more likely, die in an attempt to take a bit of ground that nobody wants anyway, and a bit of a car chase round Edinburgh and the Border counties.

It took me a few pages to get in to the story and where it was going but once that was there it was a case of wanting to go on and find out what scrapes and troubles both Grandfather Solomon Farthing in WW1 and Solomon Farthing Grandson in present day get up to. A good read indeed, but there are a few bits that don’t quite gel with me; the gambling for instance. A 2Lt gambling with the men – I doubt that very much and would have been stamped on very quickly by the Captain in real life, especially after welching on the bet. The items being put forward as ‘important and meaningful’ objects to the men which they are prepared to lose: a walnut shell, a button, a bit of ribbon a cap badge. If it had been a real serious game then money either in their pockets or not yet earned would have been the staked. The items are explained later but I feel that this was a very poor reason for them. The Section were dysfunctional, which at that time of the War is understandable to a degree but I doubt any senior commander would have sent that group away from their guiding hand. Still it goes with the story and fits in at the end fairly well.

I know this is set in Edinburgh in the present day and Edinburgh is known as the Wee Village as everyone knows everyone else – so it is said (!) but there were just too many coincidences, especially as the Regiment from WW1 was not a Scottish one. I realise these coincidences are necessary to move the story forward, but they were stretching things a bit far at some points.

Now those are the moans and I have to say they are not anywhere near enough to put me off the book which is well written, moves along a good clip and is a bit a page turner, always looking to see where the story is going next. The ending was a bit weak for my taste, but it did tie up all the various loose knots.

4/5 Mr Mushroomheads for a good story.

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