Virginia Aspinall, an 18 year old wartime auxiliary in 1943, is recruited to the Special Operations Executive and becomes a pivotal but secretive figure in WW2 history destroying factories in France. Forty years on, against a backdrop of austerity and the Falklands war, Gin’s daughter, disenchanted fund manager Alexis, is distributing her mother’s ashes when she meets Aidan, son of Gin’s close friend Jack. Both Alexis and Aidan make their own discoveries about the ghost village Gin and Jack worked in, but does Alexis have enough of her mother’s spirit in her to overcome her own past and move on?
Read the opening here.
Gin, a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and a trained radar operator, is billeted in Temple Lucy, Dorset, in 1943, and recruited by the cryptographer, commanding officer Leon Gold, to the Special Operations Executive’s mission in France: Baking Cakes for Winston Churchill, singlehandedly destroying the Peugeot factory at Sochaux with grenades. She’s captured and interrogated by the Gestapo, surviving a death camp by sketching camp guards.
In 1982, Gin’s daughter, Alexis, is a fund manager at City firm Conduit & Walsh, forced to take compassionate leave when her mother dies, leaving her clients in the hands of an intern. It’s up to Alexis to fulfil Gin’s last wishes, travelling to Dorset hamlet Temple Lucy to scatter her ashes, only to discover it’s a ghost village, occupied by the Army since WW2, and she walks into a live firing range.
She meets Aidan, son of Gin’s close friend, Jack, who is obsessed with the mystery of the continuing occupation of Temple Lucy, but a shell explodes nearby causing Alexis to spill Gin’s ashes. She returns to London, but is told her bonus has been reduced in comparison to male colleagues, ‘to punish poor performance’. Consequently, she wins a sex discrimination case.
The Ministry of Defence respond to her request for information, and reveal Gin’s secret war. She returns to Dorset to tell Aidan, but he’s not home, and a mysterious American doctor calls and tells her Aidan’s searching the live firing range for the location of chemical weapons. She races there, and puts herself between Aidan and a soldier who shoots him dead. Alexis finds herself with a new miscarriage of justice to fight – one she knows she must take on, to honour her mother, Aidan, and the people of the lost village of Temple Lucy.