Shoulder the Sky
April, 1915, in Ypres, Belgium. That was not a place and time any sane wanted to be is Ypres. But England had a treaty with Belgium. Germany had invaded Belgium. The British young men were at Ypres trying to prevent German domination of western Europe in the early part of World War I. Joseph Reavley is an older chaplain who has volunteered to be there.
The sights he sees tries his soul and his faith in God. But it strengthens his faith in his fellow human beings. These young men should have been beginning students at Cambridge where Joe teaches in peacetime. Now they are fighting for an ideal. They see the horrors of war first hand. Yet they stand by their comrades, form close friendships, and laugh and joke in between battles.
Joe's sister, Judith, has also come to Belgium as a volunteer driver. She begins driving ambulances, then is drafted into becoming General Cullingford's temporary driver. She learns the problems a general has keeping up the facade of authority and strength when at times he feels as helpless as the men fighting under him.
Matthew Reavley, their brother, is back in England. He is working in the intelligence service. His own private mission, known only to him, Joe, and Judith, is to find the Peacekeeper. The Peacekeeper is willing to accept peace and avoid the war deaths at any cost. Unfortunately, these costs include a possible treaty with Germany that would ultimately split the Occidental world between the two countries. The Reavley's father, now deceased, thwarted the Peacekeeper's first plan. The children know the Peacekeeper is trying other methods. They need to stop him.
Besides the war front and the Peacekeeper, Joe has another concern. A young, despised reporter, weasels his way to the front line. He is killed. But it was not a German bullet that killed him. Someone held his head under in a puddle until he drowned. This was deliberate murder rather than the killing of war. Joe also disliked the reporter. But he needs to know who killed him. He conducts his own private investigation.
Shoulder the Sky is a quiet read despite the topic. Anne Perry doesn't gloss over the realities of the battles, the deaths, the body retrievals, or the conditions. Yet all those conditions are the background of the people involved. Joe is a front line chaplain who feels it is his responsibility to go out after a battle and retrieve bodies. Judith sees the wounded soldiers and tries to make them comfortable. When Matthew leaves London, he is looked upon with scorn. He is a young man in England, not out where he should be fighting with the others of his generation. The jacket describes this book as mesmerizing. Whoever wrote the description is right. This is the second book in the series. I'll be watching for the rest.
Notice: Graphic violence
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