Four French families claim relationship to a shell-shocked soldier. Complications ensue.
Mireille Desforges contends that the soldier, a survivor of World War I, is her married lover and describes a birthmark in his nether region to prove it. The Tellancourts, insisting that he’s their son, identify the same mark. Madame Langlois identifies him as the child from her first marriage. Aline Houdart, swearing that he’s her husband Clovis, adds peculiar earlobes to her description of him, although her son Georges and her husband’s cousin Charles-Auguste demur. Matters are complicated because the few words the unidentified (or over-identified) soldier speaks are English, not French. So Joe Sandilands of the Yard is called in to investigate. Accompanying him is his sister’s adopted charge, precocious Dorcas (The Bee’s Kiss, 2006, etc.). As they sort through the various stories, yet another person appears to claim the man: Didier Marmont, a mayor from the Ardennes, who fought at Chemin Des Dames in 1917. After further revelations of amours, wartime billets and executions for desertion, Sandiland is able to put the right name to the soldier and return him to his home, where yet another plot twist awaits.
There’s a bit too much of the smart-mouthed Dorcas, but puzzle-lovers will be appeased by the tale’s crafty convolutions.