In Banks’s unusual story of the Middle East, Elsa Schluss, daughter of an Austrian brewer and former war nurse, is now a doctoral student in the office of a prominent Vienna psychiatrist. A British government representative brings a patient to the psychiatrist’s office in a straightjacket. He was a decorated member of the military suffering from ‘shell shock’ and must be rendered sufficiently ‘sane’ to perform another task for the government in the Middle East.
Prior commitments keep the psychiatrist from taking the case, but he insists Elsa assume the patient’s treatment, believing success would assure her gaining the doctorate, a near impossibility for a woman of the era. The representative is not pleased but accepts, and the journey begins, with chaos quickly ensuing due to native armed revolt against the conquering powers. Elsa and Henry, Lord Sonnedy, the patient, must use all of their combined physical and mental powers to survive and attempt to defeat the powers behind the unknown underlying agenda for the trip.
The plot is interesting, involved, and credible and the characters and action for the most part satisfying. It is an enjoyable historical thriller with a romantic thread from an unusual viewpoint.