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At Some Disputed Barricade    by Anne Perry order for
At Some Disputed Barricade
by Anne Perry
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2008 (2007)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Though I've read and enjoyed Anne Perry's Thomas & Charlotte Pitt series, her William Monk books, and some of her Christmas novels, this is my first encounter with her World War I Reavley novels. This series features three siblings - Joseph is an army chaplain and Judith an ambulance driver, both serving at the front in France. Their brother Matthew is an Intelligence officer, whose primary target, the Peacemaker, was responsible for the deaths of their parents.

This episode begins in July 1917, the title deriving from an initial quote by Alan Seeger: 'I have a rendezvous with Death / At some disputed barricade.' Noncombatant officer Joseph gives what support he can to his mid-Cambridgeshire regiment in the trenches between Ypres and Passchendaele, where 'mutilation and death were everyday occurrences.' Judith drives her ambulance close to the front lines to retrieve the wounded, with the help of her friend, young American volunteer Wil Sloan.

Back in England, Matthew learns of a plot to discredit prominent politicians supportive of the war against Germany, and begins to fear that the Peacemaker, whom he believed to be dead, is active once more - and likely to be someone close to the center of power. In parallel with this, we see the misguided villain of the piece manipulating a journalist named Mason and sadly concluding that 'he had to destroy a good but stubborn man, as he had had to destroy Reavley's father before him.'

Back in France, the regiment's senior officer is killed and his replacement, Major Northrup, proves more dangerous to his own side than to the enemy. When he's shot, his father, General Northrup, pushes hard for an investigation, which Joseph very reluctantly takes on. It implicates twelve Englishmen in a kangaroo courtmartial, including two officers - Joseph's embittered ex-student Captain Morel and Captain Cavan, a heroic surgeon recommended for the V.C.. But how did the shooting happen?

These plot threads come together as the Peacemaker decides to exploit the arrests of British soldiers for the shooting of an incompetent superior, devastating to the army's morale at a critical time. Matthew has near escapes on assassination attempts, Joseph second guesses his own decisions, and Judith takes brave and risky action. Of course, the siblings save the day - and perhaps the war - leaving Joseph 'dizzy with hope and a searing promise of faith, a belief in the possibility of the impossible, even out of utter darkness.'

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