With no shred of evidence to clear the accused, Rutledge must plunge deep into the darkest secrets of a wild, beautiful, and dangerous place if he is to find a killer who may—or may not—hold the key to their fate. A society wedding at Ely Cathedral becomes a crime scene when a guest is shot.
After a fruitless search for clues, the local police call in Scotland Yard, but not before there is another shooting in a village close by. Inspector Ian Rutledge can find no connection between the two deaths. One victim was an army officer, the other a solicitor standing for Parliament. Is there a link between these murders, or is it only in the mind of a clever killer? As the investigation presses on, Rutledge finds memories of the war beginning to surface.
Struggling to contain the darkness that haunts him as he hunts for the missing link, he discovers the case turning in a most unexpected direction. Now he must put his trust in the devil in order to find the elusive and shocking answer. On the eve of the bloody Battle of the Somme, a group of English officers having a last drink before returning to the Front make a promise to each other: if they survive the battle ahead—and make it through the war—they will meet in Paris a year after the fighting ends. They will celebrate their good fortune by racing motorcars they beg, borrow, or own from Paris to Nice.
In November , the officers all meet as planned, and though their motorcars are not designed for racing, they set out for Nice. But a serious mishap mars the reunion. In the mountains just north of their destination, two vehicles are nearly run off the road, and one man is badly injured. No one knows—or will admit to knowing—which driver was at the wheel of the rogue motorcar. Back in England one year later, during a heavy rainstorm, a driver loses control on a twisting road and is killed in the crash.
Was it an accident due to the hazardous conditions? Or premeditated murder? Is the crash connected in some way to the unfortunate events in the mountains above Nice the year before? If it was foul play, was it a case of mistaken identity? Or was the dead man the intended victim after all? Standing beside the vehicle is a woman with blood on her hands and a dead man at her feet.
A stranger stepped out in front of their motorcar, and without warning, fired a single shot before vanishing into the night. But there is no trace of him. But is he seeking justice—or fleeing painful memories in London? In the weeks to come, as summer moves on toward the shadows of August, he will set out to right a wrong, and Rutledge will find himself having to choose between the Yard and his country, between the woman he loves and duty, and between truth and honor. Bess Crawford, a nurse on the doomed hospital ship Britannic, grows fond of the young, gravely wounded Lieutenant Arthur Graham.
Something rests heavily on his conscience, and to give him a little peace as he dies, she promises to deliver a message to his brother. As she frets over the delay, that simple message takes on sinister meanings. Neither his mother nor his brother Timothy seems to think it has any significance. Unsettled, Bess is about to take her leave when tragedy strikes. She quickly discovers that fulfilling this duty to the dead has thrust her into a maelstrom of intrigue and murder that will test her courage as not even war has. One of her patients, a young pilot, has clung to a photograph of his wife since he was pulled from the wreckage of his plane, and Bess sees the photo every time she tends to him.
After the patients are transferred to a clinic in Hampshire, Bess is given forty-eight hours of leave which she plans to spend in her London flat catching up on much-needed sleep. She is bidding a very emotional farewell to another officer. The woman had been murdered the very evening Bess glimpsed her at the terminal. Bess asks for leave to report what she knows to Scotland Yard.
And what she learns in England leads her to embark on the search for a devious and very dangerous killer—a search that will put her own life in jeopardy. When Bess Crawford returns from France for a well-earned Christmas leave, she finds a bruised and shivering woman sheltering in the doorway of her London flat. Realizing that the woman, who eventually reveals that her name is Lydia, has nowhere else to turn, Bess takes her in.
Lydia is fleeing from her husband, who struck her after a terrible quarrel, and she refuses to return home unless Bess accompanies her. Concerned for her, Bess puts aside her visit to her own family and goes with Lydia to Ashdown Forest in Sussex. Shortly after they arrive, one of the guests, recovering from wounds, is found murdered, and Bess is not only in the center of the hunt for a killer but is under suspicion herself.
The Spanish Flu epidemic has spread, killing millions of soldiers and civilians across the globe. Overwhelmed by the constant flow of wounded soldiers coming from the French front, Bess Crawford must now contend with hundreds of influenza patients as well. However, war and disease are not the only killers to strike. Bess discovers, concealed among the dead waiting for burial, the body of a murdered officer.
Before she can report the terrible news, Bess falls ill, the latest victim of the flu. By the time she recovers, the officer has been buried, and the only other person who saw the body has hanged himself. Or did he? Bess begins to piece together what little evidence she can find to unmask the elusive killer and see justice served. But she must be as vigilant as she is tenacious. With a determined killer on her heels, each move Bess makes could be her last.
Ten years before, when Bess and her parents were in India with the Regiment, five people were brutally murdered, and the finger of guilt pointed to a Lieutenant serving under the Colonel-Sahib. But the man escapes before he can be arrested, and later evidence indicates that he died while trying to cross the dangerous Khyber Pass. And now in France, a dying Subadar tells Bess that he has seen this same man serving in the British ranks.
But what she discovers as she searches, could have been her own fate as a child, and the shocking truth behind a string of murders lies in the present as well as the past. On leave in London, Bess is ordered to escort one of her former patients to a ceremony at Buckingham Palace where he will be decorated by the King. Or does it? The morning after the ceremony, the Sergeant is missing. The Army is summoned, but it is Scotland Yard that discovers the first clue to his whereabouts: he has just killed a man in the middle of a bridge in Shrewsbury and disappeared into the shadows again.
It is Bess is faces severe reprimands from the Army and her Nursing Corps for dereliction of duty in losing this decorated hero. To ever return to her duties in France, she must find this killer before the Army hangs him for desertion, so that he can stand trial for murder and she herself can be cleared of all charges.
The answer she stumbles upon is unexpected and deadly. An explosion and fire at the Ashton Gunpowder Mill in Kent has killed over a hundred men. Indeed, someone is out for blood, and the household is all but under siege. The only known witness to the tragedy is now at the Front in France. Bess is asked to find him. When she does, he refuses to tell her anything that will help the Ashtons. Realizing that he believes the tissue of lies that has nearly destroyed a family, Bess must convince him to tell her what really happened that terrible Sunday morning.
But now someone else is also searching for this man. To end the vicious persecution of the Ashtons, Bess must risk her own life to protect her reluctant witness from a clever killer intent on preventing either of them from ever reaching England. Jewett Lester. Built to Last. Daniel Carroll. Into the Silence. Dennis Cummins.
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