In 1928 a train crash and fire in Gloucestershire killed twenty people. Among the dead are two beautifully dressed children, a boy about ten years old and a girl of about eight. Despite massive local and national publicity no one comes forward to claim them. The engine driver, Jamie Thornton, survives the crash, and becomes intrigued by solving the identities of the children. He is questioned intensely by an Inspector Maguire about the details of the accident but appears particularly concerned with details concerning the children.
A young, questing reporter, Ron Charteris, interviews them, and finds he too cannot leave the case alone. Independently all three dig deep into the mystery and suspect that the children came from a charitable orphanage run by Lord Eastermain, a high-ranking government official who has bought and built upon lands in the Dominions of Canada and Australia. They think the children were to be transported there.
Delving into Eastermain’s past and his connections with the Wessex Yeomanry brings the men into danger as they unearth a conspiracy connected to the highest in the land. The conspirators will stop at nothing to conceal the identities of the two children.
Maguire dies in suspicious circumstances but Jamie and Ron ignore warnings and threats to delve deeper, only to find that the conspirators do their worst during the Blitz.
This was a good story once I’d adjusted to the temporal and character shifts in the earlier chapters. The characters are well drawn, and all except one of the plot details dovetail well: a detailed description of Jamie’s constructed job would have given more credibility. Careful editing would have eliminated a few other distractions, but the use of reported speech to relate the actions and events in the key scenes diluted the tension.