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Reviews of Two Storm Wood by Philip Gray

Two Storm Wood

A Novel

by Philip Gray

Two Storm Wood by Philip Gray X
Two Storm Wood by Philip Gray
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  • Published:
    Mar 2022, 384 pages

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Book Summary

Three months after the end of the Great War, a young woman sets out across the wastelands of the Western Front to learn the fate of the man she loved.

A BBC Between the Covers Book Club Pick
The Times Book of the Month (Thrillers)

On the desolate battlefields of northern France, the guns of the Great War are silent. Special battalions now face the dangerous task of gathering up the dead for mass burial.

Captain Mackenzie is a survivor of the war, but still its prisoner. He cannot return home until his fallen comrades are recovered and laid to rest. His task is upended when a gruesome discovery is made beneath the ruins of a German strongpoint. Amy Vanneck's fiancé is one soldier lost amongst many, but she cannot accept that his body may never be found. Defying convention, hardship, and impossible odds, she heads to France, determined to discover what became of the man she loved.

It soon becomes clear that what Mackenzie has uncovered is a war crime of inhuman savagery. As the truth leaches out, both he and Amy are drawn into the hunt for a psychopath, one for whom the atrocity at Two Storm Wood is not an end, but a beginning.

After a single turn the road straightened out, vanishing into the distance like a strap pulled tight across the land. Scars of wire and chalky earth criss-crossed the terrain on either side. If there was anything living, man or beast, it lay hidden below the line of sight.

They walked for a way in silence, their boots heavy with mud. Mackenzie's men were still working around the burial pit. The khaki figures shrank into the distance and vanished in the mist. Soon the women were alone.

'They were bodies in those bags,' Kitty said, finally. 'Did you see them?' 'Yes.'

'It took me a while to realise. Then I saw the shape of one and it hit me: what was under the canvas.'

'It's what they do, Mackenzie and his men. It can't be easy.' 'I'd go mad. Why not leave those dead men in the ground?' 'Because they have to be identified, if possible. And moved.' 'Why?'

'The French want their land back.'

Kitty shuddered. 'They're welcome to it.'

The mist was thickening and it was starting to get ...

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Reviews

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Philip Gray's writing style and descriptions are powerful, and sometimes graphic, so you can almost feel the goosebumps and sodden discomfort of the cold downpour of rain, or the frightening echoes of those that were lost in the brutal trench warfare (Mary F). One thing that piqued my interest was the fact that Edward became addicted to cocaine and opium during his military life… This and other aspects of the book will prompt many discussion areas for book clubs (Virginia M). Having read many novels based on WWI, I had never read any dealing with the subjects raised in this title. I won't mention those that are spoilers, but I honestly had never thought about who was responsible for retrieving the thousands of soldiers lost in the war (Renee T)...continued

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Media Reviews

Malcolm Forbes, Star Tribune
Rather than tell a story of war with a soldier at its center, Philip Gray has crafted a historical thriller in which a gutsy heroine goes searching for answers on the empty battlefields of the Western Front.... Refreshingly different.

James Owen, The Times (London)
[A] splendidly realised historical thriller... Although the novel is deftly plotted and the atmosphere all distorting fog and claustrophobic dugouts, its achievement lies in Gray's finely worked portraits of the pity of war - those damaged by conflict and those who have to deal with its mind-altering consequences.

Nick Rennison, The Sunday Times (London)
Through a clever series of plot twists...Gray leads...his readers to the unexpected truth.

Booklist (starred review)
Immersive and eerily atmospheric, Gray's novel delivers vivid historic detail and gripping suspense.

Kirkus Reviews
Powerful historical fiction and a testament to war's insanity.

Publishers Weekly
Flashbacks to the war heighten the tension, and the mystery of Haslam's whereabouts remains tantalizingly unclear until the very end. But the central character—a sheltered woman who witnesses and experiences numerous atrocities alone—strains the boundaries of believability, as does the unnecessary closing twist. Thriller fans will be disappointed.

Author Blurb Abir Mukherjee
Atmospheric and meticulously researched, Two Storm Wood sheds light on the horrors and the trauma that continued even after the Armistice. It is that most wonderful of creations—a novel that informs while keeping you on the edge of your seat.

Author Blurb Virginia Baily
In this poignant, intricately plotted novel, Gray succeeds in entwining two powerful tales—a love story and a hate story—in a way that, right from the shocking start, is both convincing and enthralling.

Reader Reviews

Anne M. (Madison, WI)

An Unexpected Pleasure
Military battlefields are not my favorite scene for a novel. And I was expecting the story to focus more on Amy and Edward (I love a love story!) and less on the men and the fighting and the atrocities of war. Much to my surprise, the book kept me ...   Read More
Kimberly C. (Ypsilanti, MI)

Compelling and emotional
A compelling war drama that is part mystery, part thriller and part love story. The scenes of combat and wartime devastation are gripping. There are a number of military officers (perhaps too many) to keep track of, but the story is propelled by the ...   Read More
Bev C. (Latrobe, PA)

Two Storm Wood
This book with topic, time frame and genre seemed like a good fit for me. But truthfully I stalled in the first portion of the book. I am so glad I continued! As the story evolved on the battle fields of northern France, it became evident that the...   Read More
Roberta W. (Los Ranchos, NM)

An outstanding WWI story
This excellent book gave me a better understanding of the horrors of WWI. My grandfather came back from WWI, with what would be called PTSD now, and this book gave me a glimpse into what he might have endured. The descriptions of the trenches, the ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Cocaine Use in the British Military During World War I

Small glass bottle of Forced March cocaine tablets In his historical novel Two Storm Wood, Philip Gray portrays the reality of World War I mostly from the perspective of a young British officer, showing everything from the gruesome and harrowing details of war to lesser-known facts of everyday life for those serving in it. This reality includes substance use and abuse among troops. Drugs that are now heavily controlled, notably cocaine, were not only sought after by soldiers during the war but even encouraged and distributed by militaries, including the British Army.

In general, the intersection between mind-altering substances and war is an age-old phenomenon. According to Lukasz Kamienski, author of Shooting Up: A History of Drugs in Warfare, "Throughout history, intoxicants were ...

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Read-Alikes

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