World War I is still wreaking havoc on Britains solders when young Francesca Hatton must leave her Red Cross work in London to return to her childhood home to tend to her ailing grandfather. With his death, his extensive wealth and properties are now hers, her five beloved male soldier cousins having been killed, one by one, during the war. Both she and her cousins, all orphans, had grown up in the isolated Exe Valley under the loving protection of their grandfather. But now, Francesca slowly and unrelentingly is presented with evidence of secrets kept by her grandfather which begin to reveal a possibly sinister past.
Todd is a master of subtle suspense. At times the back story is told through the first person views of the now dead male cousins. But mostly it is Francescas story as she perseveres in uncovering possible past murders and unpleasant truths. The book provides top notch insights into life at the home front during the war, particularly the struggles of older folks left behind in their isolated valleys while the young leave to serve the war, or come back both physically and psychologically damaged. The depressing events of 1916, from the heavy casualties of the July Somme offensive to the bloody Easter Rebellion in Ireland, weigh on everyones minds. There is anger. As Francesca says, None of us will ever see what the dead might have accomplished with their lives. What sons and daughters would have grown up to do. Its the waste, not the dying, thats so horrid.
This is a stand alone book.