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ANGELS IN THE GLOOM
By Anne Perry
Ballantine, September, 2005. ($25.95)
Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel
It is March, 1916, and chaplain Joseph Reavley, bringing a badly wounded soldier back to camp from the battlefield, receives a "blighty" wound, an injury serious enough to send him back to England. After spending some time in the hospital, he returns to his family home near Cambridge to recuperate. His sister Hannah is staying there, keeping the home fires burning for her husband, an officer in the Royal Navy, and she and her children help Joseph with his recovery.
This book, the third of five in Perry's WWI series, leaves the bloody battlefields of Europe and centers around the intrigue, danger and hardship those at home have to deal with. Sister Judith, still driving ambulances on the Western Front, is mentioned only in passing. The story focuses on the three Reavley siblings in England. We learn much more about Hannah, with her worries about her husband's safety, her fear that the war will last long enough for her son to enlist, and her feelings of inadequacy as she tries to help other wives and mothers in the village who have lost loved ones. Matthew, a member of the Secret Intelligence Service, is involved in a game of cat and mouse with a beautiful Irish double agent whose firebrand father just might be the shadowy Peacemaker. As Joseph slowly recovers, he finds himself trying to help the new vicar, who is inept and on the brink of losing his faith, to minister to his flock. He struggles with the question of whether to stay in the village when he is fit again, continuing to assist the vicar, or return to the battlefield to do what he can for the young men he has grown close to over the past two years on the front.
When a top scientist at a local top-secret factory is brutally murdered, all three of the siblings get involved in solving the crime. Rumors have it that the man was on the brink of completing a secret weapon that would end Germany's dominance on the seas. Was the murder an act of espionage by someone close to home, or was it something more personal? And can the remaining scientists, led by a man who was the Reaveley's father's dearest friend, complete the weapon and turn the tide, perhaps even end the war?
The climax of the story takes place during a sea battle, as Matthew, acting undercover to find the man he believes to be the Peacemaker, joins the crew on his brother-in-law's ship, witnessing firsthand the perils the Royal Navy face against the dreaded U-boats.
Perry provides details of the horrors of warfare on the seas that are as vivid and heart wrenching as those on the Western Front.
Once again Perry has masterfully depicted the horrors of war and the effect it has on those who fight and those who wait, woven into an intriguing mystery.
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