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'They want the biggest news story of the year? How about you give them the biggest news story of the decade instead?'
Harry Barnsley, an Australian newspaper reporter, faces the sack if he cannot produce a scoop. Problem is, he hasn't broken a story in more than five years. Then the paper's Anglo-Indian advertising director, Charmaine D'Souza, tells him to fly to Muskoka, north of Toronto, where her Indian-born aunt Serena lives. Serena had helped capture a German spy during the Second World War, but has remained tight-lipped about the affair. Will Serena reveal her secret to Barnsley?
Growing up in Marsdengunj, a tiny railway colony in eastern India, Serena Bracebridge-Rhode lived a protected life with her father, an engine driver, whose reputation was severely tainted after the mysterious disappearance of his wife and his subsequent problem with alcohol. Breaking free from the constraints of family and upbringing, Serena became a nurse and travelled to London, where, shortly after the Allied retreat from Dunkirk, she was secretly enlisted into 'Churchill's secret army' by a career soldier.
Sixty years later, she finally breaks her silence and tells Harry Barnsley her story, but the aftershock takes the incredulous journalist all the way to the Vatican.
David McMahon's atmospheric novel gives us a rare glimpse into the lives of ordinary Anglo-Indians in pre-Independence India even as it breaks the biggest story of the decade.