Captain Matthew West has just been honourably discharged from the army after twice being wounded during l8 months of service in France during World War I. Feeling restless and not yet ready to return to civilian work, he is browsing a paper at his club and decides to answer a personal ad running thus:
"Wanted: Young man of education and daring for service involving some personal peril. Good pay, and unusual reward if successful. May have to leave city. Purpose disclosed only in personal interview."
As it transpires, truth in advertising certainly applies to the warning.
Instructed to bring his evening clothes -- and a good job he has them! -- he is soon off to a rendezvous with orphaned heiress Natalie Coolidge. She does not explain what task she requires him to undertake but Captain West agrees to help her even so, and is whirled off in her limo to the family mansion, where he is astonished to be introduced to the house guests as her fiance.
One of those in attendance is Natalie's uncle and guardian Percival Coolidge, and the two men dislike each other on sight -- in fact, Uncle Percy accuses Captain West of being a fortune hunter, the cad. It is not until next morning that the gallant captain is able to have a private chat with Natalie and learns someone is impersonating her but nobody believes her story because the responsible party is so like her she fools even Natalie's friends, not to mention the servants and bank clerks who know her well.
Is Natalie telling the truth, mistaken, or demented? Well, despite doubts at times, natural enough in the circumstances, West takes it on faith and agrees to try to solve the mystery. There are a couple of odd happenings, statements made don't quite check out, and then a death occurs and West is plunged into an adventure with enough twists and turns to make a scriptwriter swoon. The detective work is partly deductive and partly wearing out shoe leather and when it comes to action, West usually wipes the floor with his opponents, yet in a manner that shows he is not a super hero unlike some modern protagonists we might mention.
My verdict: Apart from the fact Captain West is a bit slow on the uptake at times -- at one point I was muttering *don't* go in there, usually reserved for women who are alone in the house and yet insist on going to investigate odd noises in the cellar after both the phone and power mysteriously fail -- this was a rollicking read and kept the interest to the end. I particularly admired a sequence towards the close of the novel, in which West and Natalie are trapped in...but no, I will not ruin the suspense although I will say it gave me the creeping heebie-jeebies.