This is the nineteenth book in Todd's historical mystery series set in the aftermath of World War I, as the survivors of the trenches and the families of the dead struggle to deal with their lingering guilt, horror and loss.
Ian Rutledge's promising career with Scotland Yard was interrupted when he volunteered for military service in France; but no one, himself included, was prepared for the brutality of the first modern, mechanized war. Rutledge barely survived, and suffers from what was then called shell shock but we now know as post traumatic stress. He returns to Scotland Yard, but finds investigating crimes intensifies the struggle to conceal his mental vulnerabilities.
In this novel, Rutledge is called in to investigate a motor car accident that killed the rector of St. Simon's in East Dedham, Sussex. The accident occurred on a dangerous rural road during a lashing rain storm. The driver lost control, the car rolled, and the driver was ejected. But there are some odd circumstances. The rector's housekeeper says he left the rectory that afternoon on his bicycle to visit a dying parishioner. That house was in quite the opposite direction to the road where his body was found. The parents of the dying man report that the rector never arrived there. The car that the rector was driving belonged to Captain Standish, and was taken without permission; neither then Captain or his servants were aware the car was missing until the police informed them. And the local bobby who was first on the scene found evidence that another car was involved in the wreck.
Rutledge discovers that Captain Standish also had a hard war and returned home changed by his ordeal. Just before the Somme offensive, Standish and six other young officers had made a pact: if any of them survived (which was doubtful) they would meet one year after the end of the war, to race their motorcars from Paris to Nice.
Five had beaten the odds and survived the war; they met a year later in Paris and set out for Nice. But on the dangerous mountain road descending toward Nice, Standish had been stalked and run off a cliff by another car. He had barely survived, and had become a virtual recluse as a result.
Rutledge suspects that Standish, not the rector, was the target of this attack. But why would anyone want Standish dead? The answer lies in the past, and begins with that chance meeting of seven young officers in June 1916.
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