Anne Perry's magnificent Victorian mysteries established her as one of the world's best known and loved historical novelists. Now, in her vividly imagined World War I novels, Perry's talents "have taken a quantum leap" (The Star-Ledger), and so has the number of her devoted readers. We Shall Not Sleep, the final book in this epic series featuring the dedicated Reavley family, is perhaps the most memorably enthralling of all Perry's novels.
After four long years, peace is finally in sight. But chaplain Joseph Reavley and his sister Judith, an ambulance driver on the Western Front, are more hard pressed than ever. Behind the lines, violence is increasing: soldiers are abusing German prisoners, a nurse has been raped and murdered, and the sinister ideologue called the Peacemaker now threatens to undermine the peace just as he did the war.
Then Matthew, the third Reavley sibling and an intelligence expert, suddenly arrives at the front with startling news. The Peacemaker's German counterpart has offered to go to England and expose his co-conspirator as a traitor. But with war still raging and prejudices inflamed, such a journey would be fraught with hazards, especially since the Peacemaker has secret informers everywhere, even on the battlefield.
For richness of plot, character, and feeling, We Shall Not Sleep is unmatched. Anne Perry's brilliantly orchestrated finale is a heartstopping tour de force, mesmerizing and totally satisfying.
The depth and passion of Perry's fifth and final volume in her acclaimed WWI series won't disappoint readers who have followed this engrossing and moving tale from its inception with No Graves as Yet. In the last days of the war, the Reavley family--Joseph, an army chaplain; his brother, Matthew, an officer in the Secret Intelligence Service; and their sister, Judith, an ambulance driver--find themselves together in the mud, blood and trenches of Flanders. Throughout the series, the three have been locked in a deadly struggle with someone they call the Peacemaker, who they believe is a high government official who had their parents murdered in his quest to involve England in an odious peace effort with Germany. A breakthrough arrives with a German officer who's willing to go to England and reveal to the authorities the identity and mission of the Peacemaker, though the family must first solve the mystery of a murdered nurse before unmasking the Peacemaker. At the finish, Perry neatly and satisfactorily ties up all the loose ends from the preceding novels. (Apr.) Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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April 10, 2007
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Excerpt from We Shall Not Sleep by Anne Perry
Home for Christmas this year, Chaplain?" Barshey Gee said with a wry smile. He turned his back to the wind and lit a Woodbine, then flicked the match into the mud at his feet. A couple of miles away in the gathering dusk the German guns fired desultorily. In a little while the shelling would probably get heavier. Nights were the worst.
"Maybe." Joseph would not commit himself. In October 1914 they had all imagined that the war would be over in months. Now, four years later, the situation was dramatically different. Half the men he had known then were dead; the German army was in retreat from the ground it had taken, and Joseph's Cambridgeshire regiment had advanced nearly as far as Ypres again. They might even make it tonight, so every man was needed.
They were waiting now, all around him in the gathering darkness, fidgeting a little, adjusting the weight of rifles and packs on their shoulders. They knew this land well. Before the Germans had driven them back they had lived in these trenches and dugouts. Friends and brothers were buried in the thick Flanders clay around them.
Barshey shifted his weight, his feet squelching in the mud. His brother Charlie had been mutilated and bled to death here shortly after the first gas attacks in the spring of 1915. Tucky Nunn was buried here somewhere, and Plugger Arnold, and dozens more from the small villages around St. Giles.
There was movement to his left, and to his right. They were waiting for the order to go over the top. Joseph would stay behind, as he always did, ready to tend the wounded, carry them back to the Casualty Clearing Station, sit with those whose pain was unbearable, and wait with the dying. His days were too often spent writing the letters home that told women they were widows. Lately the soldiers were younger, some no more than fifteen or sixteen, and he was telling their mothers how they died, trying to offer some kind of comfort: that they had been brave, liked, and not alone, that it had been quick.
In his pocket Joseph's hand tightened over the letter he had received that morning from his sister Hannah at home in Cambridgeshire, but he refused to open it yet. Memories could confuse him, taking him miles from the present and scattering the concentration he needed to stay alive. He could not think of evening wind in the poplar leaves beyond the orchard, or across the fields the elms motionless against a sunset sky, starlings wheeling up and out, black fragments against the light. He could not allow himself to breathe in the silence and the smell of earth, or watch the slow tread of the plow horses returning along the lanes after the day's work.
There were weeks to go yet, perhaps months, before it was over and those who were left could go back to a land that would never again be as they had left it.
More men were passing through the shadows. Allied trenches were dug more shallowly than the German ones. You had to keep your head down or risk being caught by sniper fire. The earthen floor was always muddy, though not as bad now as times he could remember when the ooze had been deep enough to drown a man, and so cold some actually froze to death. Many of the duckboards were rotted now, but the rats were still there, millions of them, some as big as cats, and the stench was always the same--death and latrines. You could smell the line miles before you actually reached it. It varied from one place to another, depending on the nationality of the men who fought there. Corpses smelled differently according to the food the men had eaten.
Barshey threw away the last of his cigarette. "Reckon we'll make Passchendaele again within the week," he said, looking at Joseph and squinting slightly in the last of the light.
Joseph said nothing, knowing no answer was expected. Memory held them together in wordless pain.