In 1916, at the height of World War One, came Verdun–considered by many to be the greatest and lengthiest in world history. Never before or since has there been a battle of such duration, involving so many men on such a small plot of land. The conflict, which lasted from 21 February 1916 to 19 December 1916, led to casualties estimated at over 700,000 killed, wounded or missing. The battlefield itself was not even 10 square kilometers in size. From a strategic point of view, there could be no justification for these atrocious losses. The battle degenerated into a matter of prestige and principle for two nations, Germany and France, who continued fighting simply for the sake of fighting.
After four years of horror The Great War has ended, and President Woodrow Wilson’s arrival in Paris in December 1918 unites the city in ecstatic celebration. Major Jamie Fraser, an army physician who has spent ten months tending American soldiers, is among the crowd that throngs the Place de la Concorde for Wilson’s visit. As an expert on the Spanish influenza, Fraser is also called in to advise the president’s own doctor on how best to avoid the deadly disease. Despite his robust appearance, Wilson is more frail than the public realizes. And at this pivotal moment in history, with the Allied victors gathering to forge a peace treaty, the president’s health could decide the fate of nations.
While Fraser tries to determine the truth about Wilson’s maladies, he encounters a man he has not seen for twenty years. Speed Cook—ex-professional ball player and advocate for Negro rights—is desperate to save his son Joshua, an army sergeant wrongly accused of desertion. Pledging to help Cook, Fraser approaches Allen Dulles, a charming American spy who is also Wilson’s close aide. Soon Cook and Fraser’s personal quest will dovetail with the dramatic events unfolding throughout Paris, as French premier Georges Clemenceau narrowly survives an assassination attempt and peace negotiations begin to unravel. Rivalries and hidden agendas abound. At stake is not only Joshua Cook’s freedom, but the fragile treaty that may be the only way to stop Europe from plunging into another brutal war.
With a cast of vividly drawn characters that includes T.E. Lawrence, David Lloyd George, and Winston Churchill, David O. Stewart’s fast-paced novel is a riveting and expertly researched blend of history and suspense—illuminating, deftly plotted, and thoroughly satisfying.