Max Rydal and Tom Black (Dutch Courage, 2008, etc.) investigate the disappearance of a singularly unpopular soldier.
John Smith is a tough man to like. His sergeant, Eric Miller, considers him the worst excuse for a soldier in all the West Wiltshire Regiment. His mates in 3 Platoon say he’s a sneak who tries to wheedle his way into their good graces with bribes. Even Dan Farley, his patient platoon commander, has little good to say to Rydal and Black, 26 Section, Special Investigation Branch, when Smith disappears after a particularly grueling exercise intended to train the West Wilts for an upcoming stint in Afghanistan. Someone with a West Midlands accent calls to say that Smith is dead, having got what was coming to him. But Rydal, Black and especially Farley withhold judgment. Farley even goes out to look for Smith in the stark German countryside and gets caught in a torrential downpour. The same downpour knocks over a tree on Max’s car, leaving him to the mercies of Clare Goodey, the new medical officer. As Farley and Rydal ponder their relationships with women who may not be comfortable as army spouses, Tom tries to help his wife Nora tame their three contentious adolescents. The investigation stalls until Farley disappears too, prompting the SIB to consider whether the disappearances may be part of a scheme bigger and scarier than discontented soldiers going AWOL.
Domestic complications trump criminal complaints, which are weakened by an inconsistency you could drive a personnel carrier through.