This book picks up straight from where The Valley of Bones left off. There is a slight joke at the start with Jenkins being mistaken for an actor who is about to go off and appear in a play entitled War but after that it settles down into the rhythm dictated by Widmerpool and the petty jealousies of command.
Jenkins does not appreciate being under Widmerpool’s command and is conscious that as his old school friend goes up the greasy pole he will be left behind to rot in a desk job in the no man’s land that is the transit centre.
The last book and the opening of this are some of the most pessimistic in tone because although still a rather detached observer things are not going well for Jenkins. It must have been difficult for those that wanted so desperately to prove themselves in the war to get over the age barrier into the army only to face the prospect of getting nowhere other than playing at solders in military camps.