The Great War is over and young French Captain Conan, a fearless killer loyal only to his own men, is redeployed to Bucharest on the Bulgarian front to protect the area against a possible attack from Russian forces. Andre Norbert, a young French conscript who is “grossed out” by the behavior of Conan and his men, is appointed the army’s judge-advocate to oversee cases of men who break military law. He befriends Conan, but it is a difficult and unusual relationship because Conan believes there are no rules in combat or between soldiers. They are eventually placed into a position whereby only one of them can win.
Originally published in 1934, French writer Roger Vercel’s novel is part of the Joseph M. Bruccoli series of fiction and nonfiction stories of World War I. Except for a battle at the end of the story, the book is focused primarily on Norbert and Conan, the continuing conflict between them, and life behind the lines at the end of the war. The writing in this enjoyable book did not seem at all dated. Vercel did a commendable job in drawing out the characters. I highly recommend this book for those who are interested in reading about war and how it affects men who led normal lives beforehand, but who had to adjust to the daily killing to survive.