Detective Sergeant Wesley Peterson, amateur archaeologist, finds that his interest in the past isn't simply academic. A recently murdered American named Norman Oppenheim turns up at a dig in the seaside town of Bereton. Oppenheim belongs to a group of WWII veterans visiting for a reunion. In 1944, Bereton was evacuated so American troops could rehearse D-Day landings. Local feeling ran high against the forced evacuation and subsequent destruction, aggravated by the fact that the local girls dated handsome GIs. Though a letter from his local former sweetheart is found in Oppenheim's hotel room, his wife doesn't seem to mind. But then Peterson's colleague discovers a rape charge filed on the eve of D-Day. Has someone been nursing vengeance for 50 years? Or maybe 500 years? In an even deeper plumbing of the past, archeologists discover graves of murdered sailors from the wrecked Spanish Armada, one young Spaniard buried, most unusually, inside the church. Meantime, a trio of juvenile delinquents skulk around present-day Bereton led by a skinhead named Rat brandishing a knife, perhaps the one used to stab Oppenheim. Rat grew up in Bereton and says he wants to see his eccentric grandmother, but his aunt won't let him. What to do? The cops, with little help from the passive Peterson (The Merchant’s House, not reviewed), untangle all the Bereton crimes, recent and historic; Peterson's wife has a baby; and the Americans go home.
Ellis's writing isn’t up to her ambitious triple plot, but she writes with a nice sympathy for ordinary people caught up in the forces of history.