A battle of wills between two British captains in World War I France escalates into outright conflict in this thriller.
Capt. Quinn is the new intelligence officer for the 10th (Service) Battalion in France. He’s in temporary charge of the C Company manning the front line in Capt. Michael Cody’s absence. Despite military orders to avoid initiative, Quinn takes men out of the trench for a patrol, prompting the heretofore quiet enemy to spray them with machine gun fire. This is followed by the Germans bombarding British soldiers back into the trench. Quinn, whom others already despise for his arrogance, receives scorn from superiors and troops, save for Cody, who refuses to hold a grudge against a colleague. But this changes after Cody goes on leave to see his family. It’s clear upon his return that Quinn has turned things around, somehow garnering the support of numerous officers, including Col. Wilkes. Quinn furthermore seems to have his eyes set on Cody’s command of C Company. Delving into Quinn’s life reveals to Cody potential deceit, both on the front and at home. There’s a likelihood of danger as well, as Quinn could use his influence over quite a few people against Cody. Crutchley (Hummingbird, 2017, etc.) establishes a tense setting immediately, with a relentless rain flooding the trenches. There are constant reminders of the ongoing war; even at home, Cody’s wife, Kate, and their young daughters have such a perpetual dread that conversations consist “of anything but war, injury or funerals.” Although Cody is a likable protagonist, his gradual distrust of others believably ushers in the prospect of paranoia, which he acknowledges in the effectively subdued tale. Readers will nevertheless likely root for him, especially in the final act when his predicament becomes decidedly more dire. While the author drops in a couple of shocking moments in the story’s latter half, he skillfully retains a slow burn all the way until the smashing conclusion.
An exceptional, edgy tale with convincing plot turns and a well-incorporated wartime setting.