In the wake of World War II, a Frenchwoman learns to live for vengeance
In Zurich, a frail young woman sits down in a café. On her arm is a tattooed number—a souvenir from her time in Bergen-Belsen. As far as the French government is concerned, she is a dead woman, a casualty of the concentration camps. But after a narrow escape, Lily de St-Germain is back, and ready to take revenge on everyone who buried her. When the war started, Lily fled the countryside for Paris, hoping to convince her husband to abandon his work at the Louvre and help get their children to safety in England. There she found him in the arms of her sister, a betrayal that pushed her into the ranks of the Résistance—that fearful band of partisans who taught her to kill, and forced her to survive. The war may end in 1945, but Lily’s battle will have only just begun.
With this so-so stand-alone historical, Janes takes a break from his St.-Cyr and Kohler WWII series (Bellringer, etc.), which teams a Gestapo man with a Surete investigator in Occupied France. After the war, Lily Hollis is guilt-ridden over having survived Bergen-Belsen when her sister and two children did not. In the confusion of the camp's liberation, it's assumed that she perished as well, a mistake that enables her to assume the role of avenger, sending "little black pasteboard coffins" to her intended victims (apparently valuing instilling fear over making her mission easier). Her targets include a corrupt French inspector who worked hand-in-glove with the Germans, but who seeks to avoid her wrath by noting that he was "cleared" of wrongdoing by the Resistance. Soap opera-ish elements before the war, Lily's husband slept with her sister detract from the drama. The prose is also not up to Janes's usual standard, as shown by some florid love scenes.