Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Fiction World War Ii

Someday I'll Find You

by (author) C.C. Humphreys

Doubleday Canada
Initial publish date
Jun 2023
World War II, War & Military, 20th Century
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2023
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


This instant national bestseller, for readers of The Nightingale and Lilac Girls, is a dazzling novel about a spy and a pilot who fall in love but are wrenched apart during World War II, and must find their way back to each other.

When Billy Coke steps onto the streets of London one December evening in 1940, he has no idea he is stepping to his fate. As Hitler's bombers come close to burning the city down, Billy meets the woman who will change the course of his life: Ilse Magnusson, a musician from Norway, but also something more--a spy in training.

Escaping the Blitz for three days, she and Billy drive, quarrel, conceal, reveal . . . and fall finally, fully, in love.

Now they must part, each to fight the war their own way. Billy, a Canadian Spitfire pilot, to duel with the Luftwaffe over North Africa and the Med. Ilse to return to her conquered country, ingratiate herself with the Nazi elite--which includes her beloved father--and send vital intelligence back to Britain.

They know that the odds of both of them surviving are poor. All they can hope is that the other does survive--and that someday they find each other again.

From decadent pre-war Berlin to the atrocity at Guernica, from dogfights over Sicily to an Oslo ground under the German jackboot, through small victories and bitter losses, this is the story of a man and a woman at war. A tale of causes and compromises, heroism and betrayal. Of choices made, with consequences unforeseen. And finally, how sometimes . . . love can give you a second chance.

About the author

C.C. Humphreys was born in Toronto, Canada and grew up in Los Angeles and London. A third-generation actor and writer, his roles have included Hamlet and the gladiator Caleb in A.D. Anno Domini. His plays have been produced in the UK and Canada. A schoolboy fencing champion and fight choreographer, he has turned his love of swashbuckling towards historical fiction. He is married and lives in London.

C.C. Humphreys' profile page

Excerpt: Someday I'll Find You (by (author) C.C. Humphreys)

When he slammed the front door of his boarding house and stepped onto Carter Lane, Billy Coke had no idea he was stepping to his fate. He didn’t hear its beating wings, just the shriek the slam drew from his landlady, Mrs. Slade. The pleasure that noise gave only lasted him as far as the postbox. There he stopped, looked down, and shook his head.

There’d been a time when his enemies had held guns, not dish­cloths. When he’d fought for freedom, not a denied extra spoonful of reconstituted egg. “What a hero you are, Billy,” he muttered. “What a bloody hero!”

He looked up, tasted the air. The sky was that streaked and sooty grey only London, in his experience, seemed to offer: a low ceiling of thick cloud, smothering the earth. Studying that, Billy concluded that it was foul weather for flying, and no Huns would be coming this night. They had come for fifty-seven in a row, from the 7th of September to the 2nd of November. Sporadically since. There’d been one small raid on December 22 and an even lighter one on the 27th—that one hadn’t even made the front pages of most newspapers.

4:45 p.m., the light almost gone and people scurrying everywhere, seeking sanctuary. Ten minutes or so till the blackout, when it would be harder to get about. Less so for him; his eyesight was good and not much compromised by night. Besides, every third lamppost was painted with broad white stripes, beacons in the dark; and his feet knew this path by themselves. They had beaten it often enough in the last few weeks, since he had discovered the Globe Tavern by Moorgate station.

It was a pub that shouldn’t be open on a Sunday but was, filled with those who shouldn’t be above ground when the Huns came, but chose to be. Who knew, as Billy did, that even if the odds were lower of dying in Anderson shelters, brick cellars and Tube stations, lots of the unlucky were still buried in them. Which was why many, like him, decided to take their chances behind a pub’s thick velvet blackout curtains—for if they were to die, at least they’d do so with a pint in their hands and a song on their lips.

It was his ability with the latter that led to Billy’s right hand being kept occupied with the former. Once the Globe’s landlord, McGovern, knew that Billy had trodden the boards and had the repertoire of songs and the pleasing baritone to prove it, he welcomed him back every night he chose to come, keeping his glass filled with mild-and-bitter and slipping him the odd pork pie, chicken leg or plate of eels that required no ration book—for McGovern ran a profitable sideline on the black market.

When Billy reached the corner of Cheapside and Bread Street, he looked up at St. Paul’s. It would only be moments before they turned out the lights on it. For now, it stood brightly, its dome a pearl against that grey ceiling of cloud. He dipped his head at it, then walked slowly on in the gathering dark as the last city lights winked off around him. It was just past 5 p.m. when he turned onto London Wall. The Globe was about twenty painted lampposts away.

It was then he heard it, just before the sirens started and he could hear little else. His ear was more attuned to the sound of a plane engine than most Londoners’, being as it was a sound he loved, that he craved, a tune he thought better than any of the songs he sang, especially if he could listen to it within the cockpit of a plane he was piloting.

But this engine’s sound did not bring him joy. It was out of synchro­nization, deliberately so, to throw off anti-aircraft tracking equipment.

I was right and I was wrong, he thought, speeding up, risking a tumble on the darkened street. The Huns aren’t coming. The Huns have come.

* * *

As it happens, Ilse Magnusson was also thinking of fate just before the bombs started to fall. She’d been led there by a complex trail of thoughts—almost as complex as the music she was playing in the church of St. Giles’ without Cripplegate. The building itself had started her down the trail, when the man who’d brought her to it, Petr, had excit­edly shown her around.

“And this is the tomb of the English poet, John Milton,” he’d said. “Do you know him?”

“I do.”

She did. Her father, Wilhelm Magnusson, was obsessed by poetry, and Milton was a favourite, only one rank below the incomparable Goethe. So, when she looked at the tomb, a quote came easily to her, in her father’s voice.

. . . Necessity and chance
Approach not me, and what I will is fate.

She spoke the words only in her head. She really did not know so much about this Petr, only that he was thirty-five years old, that he had fled Czechoslovakia a week before the Germans invaded, and that he played the viola. They’d shared a table at the Lyons Corner House by Charing Cross, and when he discovered that she was a flautist, he’d invited her to play in this church with him, another exile on violin and the church’s rector on cello. She recognized that he desired her and since she thought it a possibility she might sleep with him, part of her restraint in not quoting Milton aloud was that she’d found a lot of men were frightened by her intellect. If she did decide to take him as a lover, the last thing she’d want him to be was frightened.

The main part of her restraint, though, was the memory Milton had brought of her father, whom she had not seen in three years but whom she might be fated to see soon enough in their hometown of Oslo if, as in Paradise Lost, necessity and chance did not approach, and she kept exerting her will. She would always love her father but he had become her enemy, though he did not know that yet and, with fortune, would not for many years. As soon as she saw him, she would lie to him. It would pain her to do so, even though it was vital that she did.

It was a relief to escape such thoughts in music. It had been a long while since she’d played with others; yet if she’d been a little nervous, so had they. The priest, complete with collar and robe, was named Sandy and proved solid if uninspired on the cello. Petr was a good viola player, while his friend, a Slovak called Janos who had no English, was an excellent violinist. So good in fact that Ilse was sure he was, like her, a professional, and that he probably resented having to play second vio­lin—for, of course, the flute replaced the first violin in a flute quartet. It put extra pressure on her. Which pleased her, as she brought metal to lips for the first time.

The best quartets took years to coalesce but the four of them did well enough. They eased into it with some Haydn. Yet, in a London where death came for some each night from the skies, she’d discovered that people chose to move quite swiftly to their greatest pleasures—one reason she was even considering Petr as a lover. It was Janos who suggested the next piece, grunting it in German at Petr. She spoke the language fluently, even better than she did English. But her handlers, those who were so carefully considering her fate, had urged her to cultivate the habit of revealing almost nothing of herself, in any cir­cumstance. She practised that now, looking both surprised, which she wasn’t, and pleased, which she was, when Petr translated.

“Janos has suggested Mozart. Flute Quartet No. 1, D Major. Shall we?”

Petr had known where this would lead. He’d brought the music for the four parts in a battered leather portmanteau. He produced them now and they arranged the sheets on their music stands. As Janos counted them in, he lifted his eyebrows, looking straight at her. It was a challenge. She took it up, joyfully.

She was fair on the Allegro. But on the Adagio she soared, along with her notes which rose in the glorious acoustics created by the ribbed vaulting of the church’s ceiling. Though each movement highlighted her instrument—it was a flute quartet after all—the Adagio had only the violin underneath it, which was not even bowed, but plucked.

There was another reason she loved the piece—it was based on an old troubadour song. The pinnacle of medieval romance, perfect for this setting. Yet now, even as she took the music and let it take her, she recalled that troubadours sang of an ultimate love that was, at its heart, unattainable, unfulfilled . . . unrequited. And so, when she glanced again into the yearning eyes of Petr, she knew suddenly that his love would remain all of those. It was neither her fate nor his, she decided, for them to be lovers. Or maybe, she thought with an inward smile, it was Mozart who had decided for both of them.

So caught up was she, in her thoughts, in the music, that she was the last to hear the sirens—she became aware only when Janos stopped plucking, and Sandy stood up. “Air raid,” he said unnecessarily. “You must all go to the crypt.” They’d been playing right in the centre of the nave, and he walked quickly to the entrance of the church under the tower, re-emerging with a metal helmet and an ARP armband. “Swiftly all. I must get to my post and watch for incendiaries.”

“The crypt? Is it . . . good?” Petr asked, his Adam’s apple bobbing.

“This church, sir, survived the Great Fire of London in 1666,” Sandy said, firmly ushering them towards the altar and the steps down behind it. “I doubt that Herr Hitler will have any more success now than the devil did then.”

They collected their instruments, moved down the nave. It was when Ilse was at the head of the stairs that she remembered something. It froze her and she stopped. “I must go,” she said, turning back.

“No.” Petr took her arm. “Do you not hear that?”

“That” was the ack-ack-ack of the anti-aircraft batteries starting up. It was one of the worst sounds in the world, remorseless, relentless, a drill bit driven into the brain.

“I hear it,” replied Ilse, laying her hand on top of his, “yet I must go.”

“Where, for God’s sake?”

“To my hostel.” She raised her voice, above siren and gun noise, to still his protests. “It is close. It will take me no time. Listen, the bombs are not falling yet.”

He swallowed. “I come with you.”

“No,” she said, sharper than she meant, lifting his hand away, then continued, softer. “It is my mistake. No need for both of us to risk it. Besides”—she smiled, squeezed his hand, released it—“it is the Young Women’s Christian Association hostel. They will not allow a man into their shelter. Not even Herr Hitler could make them.”

She moved away fast, down the nave to the church door. “Mistake?” she heard him call, but she lost his other words to the racket, which, as she stepped outside, went up so many decibels she ducked, stopped, suddenly hesitant.

Her instructors at the Special Operations Executive had given her a Morse code textbook to study in case they accepted her for training. They’d told her that it must never be out of her sight. “Hold it closer than any lover in the night,” they’d advised. “Bite the hand off anyone who tries to touch it.”

She’d put the book beside her flute to bring with her to the church. But she’d picked up the one and not the other.

Everything SOE did was a test. If the hostel took a hit or was partly burned out and the book lost—so was her career as a spy. She’d never be able to return to Norway to fight the Nazis.

Clutching her flute case tight to her chest, she set out, bending into the raid-roar as if into a strong wind. A dozen paces and she heard them—incendiary bombs falling. Hitting the roofs of buildings, punc­turing some and glancing off the sloping tiles of others to skitter down to the pavement. One exploded three paces in front of her. The bomb itself was small, one foot long, two circled hands wide. But it threw out an impressive fountaining of sparks in a ten-foot radius. Some landed on her foot, and she paused to rub the glow off with the sole of her other shoe. It would be a minute or so before the bomb would burn at its most intense—2,200 degrees Celsius, she’d been told. But since this one had landed on stone, it should burn itself out quite fast.

Milton, she thought, as she started running again, was both right and wrong. Sometimes necessity and chance approach whether you want them to or not. And my fate is no longer entirely in my own hands.

Editorial Reviews


"A fantastic double-whammy! An edge-of-your-seat war story
(well, two of them . . .) and a nuanced, intriguing romance. Totally immersive and impossible to put down." —Diana Gabaldon, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Outlander

"A nuanced portrait, tenderly drawn, of two devoted characters who do their part in the fight against fascism, their abiding love for each other sustaining them." —Toronto Star

"Unputdownable. . . . A beautifully written, riveting, deeply moving novel about a man and a woman at war. . . . Someday I’ll Find You has a very cinematic feel to it, I thought, the dialogue pitch-perfect and propulsive. . . . [Humphreys is] one of the best writers of historical fiction in the business." —The Humm
"Poignant. . . . A thrilling spy and love story." —AQUA Magazine
"Someday I'll Find You is an absolutely wonderful novel, rich with fascinating historical gems, driven by fast-paced adventures and intrigue that held me spellbound the entire way through—and, oh, it is so romantic! A story of survival against all odds and of true love despite it all, and one I shall read again and again." —Genevieve Graham, bestselling author of Bluebird and The Forgotten Home Child

"Based on his own family's history, Humphreys's newest novel is a beautiful, morally complex, and achingly honest portrayal of people caught up in the violence and uncertainty of war while trying—and sometimes failing—to do their best. So much comes alive on the pages of Someday I'll Find You: riveting aerial battles over the Mediterranean, cloak-and-dagger espionage, underground shelters during the Blitz, and a Canadian pilot and Norwegian spy falling in love in the midst of it all. The reader will be fully swept away by the romance, moved by each character's profound plight, and transported back in time. Someday I'll Find You is, simply put, Canadian historical fiction at its best." —Natalie Jenner, bestselling author of Bloomsbury Girls and The Jane Austen Society

"C.C. Humphreys has written the book of his heart, and it's a triumph. A soaring mix of action and emotion, this powerful novel of love and war is simply unforgettable. A definite keeper." —Susanna Kearsley, New York Times bestselling author of The Vanished Days and A Desperate Fortune

"The perfect balance of romance and intrigue, Someday I'll Find You is everything I want out of a historical novel: erudite and expertly researched, with a winning, wonderful voice, and deft characterization. One of Canada's finest historical authors proves yet again he can weave in and out of any time period effortlessly, and this beautifully rendered WWII canvas is no exception. Destined to delight long-time fans, Someday I'll Find You will also have those uninitiated clamouring for this talented author's backlist." —Rachel McMillan, author of The Mozart Code and Operation Scarlet

Other titles by

Related lists