Lieutenant Bret Taylor doesn't remember that he was married once, or that his wife was murdered -- but once he finds out, he sets out to find the killer, no matter what. Taylor has been in a sanitarium since he finished his tour in the Second World War. He's got post-traumatic stress disorder, and the only person who seems to understand is his fiancée, screenwriter Paula West. She's with him every day, discussing his case with his doctors, patiently talking with him about the things he can remember.
But Paula has a secret. She knows that Bret was married once before, and that his wife was murdered. She doesn't want to tell Bret the truth, because she's worried the tragic memory might damage him in his fragile state. His therapist, Dr. Klifter, thinks the opposite: that Bret can only deal with the traumas that have crippled him by facing them.
The story comes out in flashbacks. Bret and Paula were an odd couple at first, she the Hollywood libertine, he the straitlaced military man with a strict, Puritan code of personal ethics. They stayed true to each other while he was overseas, writing letters daily. But they had a fight when he came back, and in a one-night bender he slept with and married a sometime prostitute named Lorraine. Sober the next day, he knew it was a mistake, but he'd made a sacred vow, and he intended to keep it. Except shortly after, he came home and found Lorraine dead. Then his PTSD came on.
Back in the present, it was Dr. Klifter who revealed the story of Lorraine to Bret, who had repressed the memory. Against all reason, he sets out to find the killer. He hangs around the bar Lorraine used to frequent and latches on to Larry Miles, a shady character who knew Lorraine and has shadowy dealings with Paula. Bret begins to suspect it was Miles who killed Lorraine, and he confronts him at his home. The two fight, and before Bret can kill Miles, the police show up and do it for him -- called by the apartment manager, who spotted Bret with a gun when he arrived.
Bret returns to Paula, knowing that she's been hiding the truth from him. At last, she reveals what she knows: that it was Bret who killed Lorraine, in a rage when he caught her cheating on him. Paula had been trying to protect him all along. Miles was only involved in that he found out and blackmailed Paula. Bret is crushed by the revelation, but he finds solace with Paula, who still loves and forgives him.
Best part of story, including ending:
The Three Roads offers an unusual twist on the who-done-it story, taking us deep into the wounded psyches of the traumatized warrior and the woman who bore everything to be with him.
Best scene in story:
Larry Miles is such a schemer that he sought out Bret when Paula told him to stay away, even bringing Bret home after he got falling-down drunk, cleaning him up, letting him spend the night, and loaning him a suit while his uniform gets repaired at the tailor. All this for a man he'd effectively been blackmailing!
Opinion about the main character:
Bret has such rigid morals that it's hard to see him as a person at all, more like a bible-programmed robot who won't drink or curse or look at a woman who's not his wife.