In the aftermath of World War I, a surgical nurse tries to help a wounded officer who insists his cousin tried to kill him.
As the Great War is winding down, Bess Crawford, a member of Queen Alexandra’s army nursing corps, meets handsome Capt. Alan Travis at a hospital in France. Travis, who grew up in Barbados, is from a cadet branch of a wealthy Suffolk family, and he’s passing through on his way to rejoin his men as they fight the retreating enemy. Shortly after Bess is transferred to a forward aid station, she encounters Travis again, this time as a patient who claims he got his head wound from a fellow officer who looks like his own great-uncle. Bess means to help when she asks if any cousins in Travis’ generation have the same look, and Travis immediately thinks of his cousin James, whom he’d met briefly a year ago. Travis’ wound is minor enough that he returns to the front and is shot again—again, he says, by James. Bess feels responsible for making Travis think of his cousin, especially when she learns the captain’s been sent back to an English clinic for head-wound patients and is considered hopelessly insane. No one believes his obsession with James, who, it seems, was actually killed in battle a year earlier. As Travis’ only advocates, Bess and Sgt. Maj. Simon Brandon, her trusted family friend, travel to the ancestral Travis home and into a tangle of contested wills, imposter claimants, and a murder charge that ensnares Capt. Travis, who arrives after escaping from his clinic, and even Bess herself.
In their ninth installment (The Shattered Tree, 2016, etc.), the authors writing as Todd move from a poignant description of Armistice Day—when soldiers drop to their knees at the sudden cessation of gunfire—to one soldier’s plight back in England. Although the action includes a couple of perilous scenes too many, readers will love the heroine for her courage and determination.