“There is only one thing worse than fighting with allies, and that is fighting without them!”
– Winston Churchill
After witnessing the bombing of his English relatives at the height of the Battle of Britain, Jake West goes AWOL from the American Air Force to take up the King’s Commission in the RAF. On a cold rainy day in January of 1942 his former American commander, General Harlan, arrives on West’s English base. In the midst of the reunion, a cry of “Scramble!” sends West scrambling into his Hurricane fighter and over the English Channel to fight his way out of a Luftwaffe trap.
Under Harlan’s new command West begins training in a semi-ruined Buckinghamshire country house. West uses his RAF experience to help the Americans to understand the British use of women in combat, country house culture, and the subtle attempts of the Imperial High Command to twist the Americans to their will.
As he settles into his new role away from combat the Luftwaffe kills West’s best friend, Squadron Leader Jaime Wiliston, in a trap eerily similar to West’s earlier fight. RAF Air Commodore John Perry-Wilkes, a friend of Harlan’s from the Great War, calls upon West to take temporary command of Wiliston’s old squadron. During the emotional funeral West is able to piece together the German plan to first test, then use targeted assassination as a terror weapon.
But before he can act, the Germans attempt to shoot down Harlan on a visit to a British commando unit in Scotland. West, flying escort in his trusty Hurricane IIC, manages to save Harlan from the Luftwaffe’s assassination attempt, but is shot down and wounded. During his recovery West learns from a cryptic British intelligence agent that a Nazi officer and confidant of Reichsmarschall Goering, Colonel Otto von Schnetzenhausen, is in charge of the assassination missions.
Harlan and Perry-Wilkes send West and an American officer, Robert Jenkins, into Northern France to meet with the Resistance, uncover the leaks in the Allied forces that have allowed von Schnetzenhausen’s raids, and kill the Nazi. The Resistance leader, Madeline Navarre, a dark self assured Frenchwoman leads her force behind West’s overwhelming violence to free the captured and tortured Jenkins, overcome the French fear of German reprisals, and deliver the critical intelligence to Britain. In the course of the final scenes, West rescues Jenkins and discovers Navarre as his soulmate even as he leaves her running in the night from the Nazis.
The disappearance of both Harlan and von Schnetzenhausen and West’s promotion to command the Allied operation in Buckinghamshire in the Epilogue hint at the story for Book II of the Jake West’s chronicles.