Surviving World War I is no guarantee of survival.
John Emmett’s sister Mary can’t understand why he committed suicide. Yes, he descended into madness following service in the Great War. Yes, he had to be banished to Holmwood, where difficult cases of shell shock were sequestered. But she thought he was making progress. Why kill himself now? When Mary calls for help on Laurence Bartram, an old school friend of John’s, Laurence, wrestling with an apathy that has consumed him since his pregnant wife died and his war service ended, tentatively noses around, then becomes fixated with finding out the truth. And no wonder, since it looks as if someone has killed four other members of John’s regiment linked by their participation in the duly sanctioned execution of a British officer. There are also glimmers of a wartime rape atrocity that preyed on John’s mind and enough suspects to populate one of the mystery novels beloved by Laurence’s friend Charles, who steps forward to help. Doomed love affairs come to light. Fathers are mired in grief over the loss of their sons. And war and its aftermath truly are hell, leading to yet more tragedy and a plot twist surely no one will see coming.
Historian Speller (Following Hadrian: A Second Century Journey Through the Roman Empire, 2003, etc.) uses the Dyett and Poole executions in WWI as a springboard for this elegantly written antiwar saga.