In Helen Dunmore’s Greatcoat we meet Isabel, a young bride in 1952 Yorkshire, who finds an RAF overcoat in the spare, cold flat (complete with grim landlady) she shares with her doctor husband Philip. She uses it as a blanket and wakes up to a tap on the window: RAF pilot Alec is wearing the same kind of coat. She is lonely and unsure in her new circumstances and reaches out to him. She seems to know all the hardships he faces piloting a bomber crew over World War II Germany although she was a child during the war. As with any ghost tale, it calls for a certain suspension of disbelief. After a slow start, the coat’s story demonstrates the emotional toll of war on all involved.
Investigating the theft of a valuable painting that was supposed to be donated to the Scottish National Gallery, Isabel harbors a growing suspicion that the thieves may be close to the painting's wealthy owner. (Isabel is a philospher, a charming, idiosyncratic protaganist, and the city of Edinburgh is a vividly described backdrop. Morality and mystery in a readable mix.)