Little did they know that The Archers was destined to become the world’s longest-running drama, an icon of British popular culture with millions of listeners tuning in to every episode, and listed by a panel of broadcasting industry experts in 2019 as the second-greatest radio programme of all time.
Partly established with the aim of educating farmers following the Second World War, The Archers quickly captured the hearts and minds of the population at large with its warm and cosy stories about the lives of families in the fictional rural village of Ambridge.
And now to mark the programme’s recent landmark anniversary, novelist Catherine Miller is bringing us an enthralling and revealing series following the lives, loves and dramas of the families of Ambridge starting in 1940… eleven years before it all began.
In the second book of the series, it’s 1941 and the war rumbles on. Nowhere is immune to the effects of war, not even Ambridge. But in England’s favourite village, something else is occupying the residents.
When a prominent villager dies, the main beneficiary’s name is a mystery, and no one knows who is set to inherit the estate, cottage and all. The name is hidden within a locked box and the villagers much uncover the password to find out the name of the beneficiary.
So when five people are each sent a packet of seeds, the mystery deepens… could the seeds be part of a clue? And can they all work together to unlock the mystery and to discover who is set to inherit?
Archers fans will adore meeting some of the programme’s most familiar and best-loved characters in the years before they became household names. From Walter Gabriel and Jack Archer to the Pargetters, this is a fascinating portrait of Ambridge at war.
With a mystery at its heart, intriguing back stories for some of the star players, and lots of rich period detail to bring to life the challenges facing the villagers during the dangers and privations of the war years, Miller remains faithful to the spirit and eternal charm of Ambridge.
Well plotted, sympathetically written, and with plenty of humour and heated drama to keep the home fires burning, this is ideal for both Archers aficionados and lovers of wartime sagas.
(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £8.99)