Perry trades the stately homes of Selbourne St. Giles for the rat-infested trenches of Flanders in this foursquare sequel to No Graves as Yet (2003).
The Reavley family, still devastated by the assassination of their parents, are now scattered as well. Judith and Joseph are in Belgium, Judith driving General Owen Cullingford’s car and falling hopelessly in love with him, Joseph serving as a chaplain who manfully dispenses comfort to the remnants of the British Expeditionary Force. Back in England, Hannah and her tykes are anxiously keeping the home fires burning for her absent husband Archie, and Matthew, working with the Secret Intelligence Service, is trying to uncover the identity of the Peacemaker, the peace-at-any-price activist on whose orders the senior Reavleys were murdered. Matthew’s assignment may sound the most deadly, but it’s Joseph who sees the most action and has to deal with the most piercing moral problems. Joseph’s troubles, already considerable because of the difficulties of persuading his wounded and shell-shocked fellow–Cambridgeshire villagers that God loves them despite everything they’ve seen and felt, are multiplied when he finds the body of Eldon Prentice, a correspondent whose pushy tactlessness had made him universally disliked—even by Gen. Cullingford, the uncle he blackmailed into giving him preferential treatment. Prentice has clearly been murdered by someone he trusted, and Joseph vows against stiff resistance to find out who. But how can he pick out the killer from a landscape that includes so many killers? And will Matthew ever identify the Peacemaker?
An absorbing tale, ranging from Flanders fields to Gallipoli, in which the visceral horrors of war provide a better balance for the plummy periods of Perry’s high-flown dialogue than Victorian England ever did (Seven Dials, 2003, etc.). Be warned, though: She’s evidently saving the Peacemaker’s identity for the third, or the thirteenth, entry in this new series.