Towards the end of the 19th century the young Frank Gray sees his mother assaulted and killed. Though he and his father soon leave India, the scene of the crime, Frank is consumed with the need to return, to discover the truth of that half remembered night, to identify and punish the soldier he saw with her. His father is dismissed from the Dearborn trading company, and dies, but Frank, after having had his money stolen, finds his way to their country estate, where he and Grace Dearborn make friends, despite his being a lowly groom.
Grace has begun to question the morality of her father’s trading contacts with the Empire and is influenced by the socialist leaders, which results in her leaving home. Her passions are for Frank and against the Empire, and she is a most determined young woman unconstrained by the customs of the time.
Griggs is equally at home in India, an English country estate, London slums, and the Sudan. All are described in vivid detail, and the scenes of violence, whether on the North West Frontier or the deserts of Sudan, are related with stark reality. He portrays Victorian society, of whatever class, with ease and conviction.
Frank is single-minded in his desire for revenge, though has no such desire against the man who robbed him, an easier target. Grace deplores the manner in which her family wealth is obtained, yet has no hesitation in using it for her own ends. These minor quirks in characterisation do not detract from a gripping story. The times and locations have been well-researched, and incorporated seamlessly into the plot. It’s a compelling read, far more than just a love story or a war novel.