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by Anne Perry
Ballantine Books, August 2003
339 pages
ISBN: 0345456521

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

June 28, 1914. Cambridge professor and chaplain, Joseph Reavley is peacefully watching a cricket match when his brother, Matthew, comes with the news that their parents had just been killed in an automobile crash. Their father had been a member of Parliament until 1912. He called Matt, who is a member of the Secret Intelligence Service, the night before telling his son that he had come across a document that told of a conspiracy that could disgrace England.

Matthew, the younger brother and Joseph, the 35 year old widower, drive to the family home, only a few miles outsode of Cambridge, to tell their youngest sister, Judith, who still lived at home. Their other sister, married to a Naval officer and living in Portsmouth, was to be notified by telegram. Upon investigation, the men realize that their parents had been murdered. But what kind of document could be so toxic as to cause someone to kill to retrieve it.

Then one of Joseph's students, Sebastian Allard, is found dead in his room, shot in the head. The young man had been a favorite and Joseph is devastated. Things get worse when it turns out that Sebastian was not the golden boy to all, but had a darker more objectionable side.

The dire happenings on the continent seem far away to the privileged Cambridge faculty and students, but by the end of the book, sometime in August, the fact that war is imminent begins to impinge on the self-absorbed denizens of this lost world.

This is the first in a projected 5 book series about a family, perhaps Perry's family ("Dedicated to my grandfather, Captain Joseph Reavley, who served as chaplain in the trenches during the Great War") and the effects of war on the upper classes of England, a war that would forever change their world. The only problem is, I think the book is written in real time. It is very slow moving and we never really do learn who was behind the murder of John and Alys Reavley. I shall not be bothering with the other 4 books in the series.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, August 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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