Anne Perry's gift for illuminating the heart's deepest secrets shines through in her bestselling series of World War I novels. With compelling immediacy, she depicts the struggles of men and women torn by their convictions and challenged by the perils of war. July 1917. Joseph Reavley, a chaplain, and his sister, Judith, an ambulance driver, are bone-weary as they approach the fourth year of the conflict; the peace of the English countryside seems a world away. On the Western Front, the Battle of Passchendaele has begun, and among the many fatalities from Joseph's regiment is the trusted commanding officer, who is replaced by a young major whose pompous incompetence virtually guarantees that many good soldiers will die needlessly. But soon he, too, is dead-killed by his own men. Although Joseph would like to turn a blind eye, he knows that he must not. Judith, however, anguished at the prospect of courts-martial and executions for the twelve men arrested for the crime, has no such inhibitions and, risking of her own life, helps all but one of the prisoners to escape. Back in England, Joseph and Judith's brother, Matthew, continues his desperate pursuit to unmask the sinister figure known as the Peacemaker-an obsessed genius who has committed murder and treason in an attempt to stop Britain from winning the war. As Matthew trails the Peacemaker, Joseph tracks his comrades through Switzerland and into enemy territory. His search will lead to a reckoning pitting courage and honor against the blind machinery of military justice. At Some Disputed Barricade is an Anne Perry masterpiece-brilliant, surprising, and unforgettable. From the Hardcover edition.
Fans of the first three books in this WWI series from Perry, best known for her Victorian police procedurals, will eagerly pick up this fourth volume to learn more of the ongoing saga of the three Reavley siblings: Joseph, a chaplain working with soldiers on the front line in France; Matthew, a British intelligence officer; and Judith, an ambulance driver. (Newcomers may struggle to understand the backstory.) Matthew continues his search for the traitorous mastermind-the "Peacemaker"-plotting to align Britain with Germany to end the war, while Joseph is working on a smaller mystery: was British officer Howard Northrop killed by one of his own men? Exposition slows down the pace in places, but the author vividly captures the unspeakable horrors of the Great War. Readers won't have long to wait for the fifth and final entry in the series, We Shall Not Sleep. (Reviews, Feb. 5). (Mar.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 12, 2007
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Excerpt from At Some Disputed Barricade by Anne Perry
The sun was sinking low over the waste of no-man's-land when Barshey Gee staggered up the trench, his arms flying, his boots clattering on the duckboards. His face was ashen and streaked with mud and sweat.
"Chaplain! Snowy's gone!" he cried, bumping into the earthen wall and stopping in front of Joseph. "Oi think he's gone over the top!" His voice was hoarse with helplessness and despair.
That morning Snowy Nunn had seen his elder brother sawn in half by machine gun fire in yet another pointless attack. It was now late July 1917, and this mid-Cambridgeshire regiment had been bogged down on this same stretch of ruined land between Pyres and Passchendaele since the beginning, those far-off days of courage and hope when they had imagined it would all be over by Christmas.
Now mutilation and death were everyday occurrences. The earth stank of three years' worth of latrines, poison gas, and corpses. But it was still different to see the brother you had grown up with reduced to bleeding jelly in front of your eyes. At first Snowy had been too stunned to do anything, as if the sheer horror of it had paralyzed him.
"I think he's gone over," Barshey repeated. "He's lost it. He's gone to kill the whole German army himself. They'll just wipe him out." He gulped.
"We'll get him back," Joseph said with far more certainty than he felt. "He might have been taken back to the first aid post. Have you--"
"Oi looked," Barshey interrupted him. "And in the cookhouse, and Oi looked in all the dugouts and the holes big enough for anyone to crawl in. He's gone over the top, Captain Reavley."
Joseph's stomach clenched. It was pointless to cling to hope they both knew was futile. "You go north, I'll go south," he said briefly. "But be careful! Don't get yourself killed for nothing!"
Barshey gave a bark of laughter so harsh it was almost a sob, and turned away. Joseph started in the opposite direction, south and west toward the place where a man could most easily go over the parapet and find the shelter of what was left of the trees--shell-torn, blackened, and mostly leafless, even now in full summer.
" 'Evenin', Chaplain," the sentry said quietly from his position on the fire step, peering forward into the gathering gloom. The German guns were rumbling sullenly, starting the night's barrage, flashes from their muzzles red. The British answered. There were Canadian and Australian regiments up in this section, too.
"Evening," Joseph answered. "Seen Snowy Nunn?" He had too little time left to afford discretion. Grief had shattered all sense of self-preservation. Of course Snowy had seen men killed before: burned, drowned, gassed, frozen, or blown to pieces, some caught on the wire and riddled with bullets. But when it was your own brother, there was something that tore you in an inner way that nothing else could reach. Tucky had been his childhood friend and protector, the companion in his first adventures, the one who first told him daring jokes, the one who had stood up for him in the school playground. It was as if half his own life had been destroyed obscenely right in front of him.
Joseph had seen Snowy's face, and known that when the first numbing shock wore off his emotion would turn to rage. He had just expected it to take longer.
"Have you seen him?" he asked the sentry again, this time more sharply.
"Don't know, Captain Reavley," the sentry answered. "Oi bin watching forward."