With war finally coming to an end, leaving millions dead and the landscape of Europe forever changed, Anne Perry concludes her World War I spy/mystery saga. This five-book series paints the themes of honor, loyalty, betrayal, heroism, good and evil on the large canvas of world war, but it also develops storylines of daily life on the battlefields and at home.
It is now November 1918, years into a war that was only supposed to last months. And the war is coming to end. Members of the Reavley family --- Joseph, the army chaplain; his brother Matthew, the Secret Intelligence Service officer; and their sister Judith, the ambulance driver --- are together under dire circumstances as they strive to unmask the Peacemaker. They now have the means to find out exactly who he is and bring him to light. The Peacemaker has already cost them their parents, friends and others of importance to England.
A messenger dressed as a Swiss priest comes to see Matthew with news. They now have an ally against the Peacemaker in Germany. This man, Manfred von Schenckendorff, is willing to come across enemy lines to London and expose the Peacemaker to tell the Prime Minister. His own country will be betrayed by this decision, but he hopes his defection will help with the peace process. When Matthew is asked where Manfred should come through on the Western Front, Matthew sends him to Yrpes where Joseph is stationed. When Matthew tells Joseph what he knows, Joseph can hardly believe it and questions if it's true.
The Peacemaker has big plans for England, Germany and Europe. He has argued that the greater end justifies the smaller ugliness of his means. And he reminds the war reporter Mason of just that point when he visits. Mason takes this philosophy to mean that the Peacemaker had used means that he despised, which allows Mason to continue to sympathize with him.
Mason has been a supporter of the Peacemaker's plans because of the horrors they both experienced in the Boer War. Mason returns to the Western Front to report on the end of the war and renews his acquaintance with Judith Reavley. He has come to realize that the Peacemaker is an armchair warrior using other people's blood for his own purposes. In this case, the Peacemaker's plan is one of domination of the Western World by governments who believe as the Peacemaker does.
Meanwhile, Manfred arrives in Ypres with a bayonet injury to his foot. As Joseph and Matthew wait to take him to England, a nurse is murdered. She was a flirt and not well liked; anyone could have killed her. Was it a German prisoner? Or one of their own soldiers?
A civil policeman investigates, and the commanding officer requests Joseph's help. However, when Matthew is arrested for her murder, Joseph and Judith work together to find the real killer. In their race against time to get Manfred to London, they find evidence that frees Matthew --- only to have Manfred arrested. As they dig deeper, the private lives of the nurses and troops lead them to uncover the murderer.
With the murder solved, the three Reavleys, along with Manfred and now Mason, borrow an ambulance in order to catch a boat for London. Perils await them as they make the trip, but they arrive to see the Prime Minister. They have the necessary evidence, testimony and knowledge to identify and make their case against the Peacemaker.
Anne Perry has honored this time in history with her series. The struggles portrayed by the characters --- both those of impeccable character and those who are flawed --- are memorable. The overall series mystery of the Peacemaker's identity keeps readers on the edge of their chairs all the way to the end. The underlying tensions of a world at war bring to the audience an awareness of the costs of war, government decisions during chaotic times and the toll on humankind. WE SHALL NOT SLEEP (along with the entire series) will stay on this reviewer's shelf and is definitely worth a yearly read.
--- Reviewed by Jennifer McCord