This is a fine debut novel by Toombs. It’s more than just another WWI trenches story; there is enough history to keep it real plus vivid characterisation to hold the reader in suspense.

The story begins in Whitby in 1913 as we enjoy the tangled lives of three young best friends, one of whom, Howie, is a keen runner. The outbreak of war brings with it separated friendships, and the horror of life in the trenches. Toombs provides much in the way of lice, trench foot and mud but spares the reader too much blood and gore.

There are plenty of touching and heart-warming cameos for the reader, and reflections on friendship, fatherhood, romance and destiny. Toombs would have been well-served by a rigorous editor to keep the plot threads tighter but this is an altogether good read.

MIRANDA THRELFALL-HOLMES is vicar of Belmont and Pittington in Durham, and a writer and historian