The Prince of Wales has asked four wealthy entrepreneurs and their wives to Buckingham Palace to discuss a fantastic idea: the construction of a six-thousand-mile railroad that would stretch the full length of Africa. But the prince’s gathering proves disastrous when the mutilated body of a prostitute turns up in a linen closet among the queen’s monogrammed sheets. With great haste, Thomas Pitt, the brilliant mainstay of Special Services, is summoned to resolve the crisis. The Pitts’ cockney maid, Gracie, is also recruited to pose as a palace servant and listen in on the guests’ conversations. If Pitt and Gracie fail to find out who brutally murdered the young woman, Pitt’s career will be over, and the scandal may just cause the monarchy to fall.
The detecting and diplomatic skills of Thomas Pitt, now assigned to the Special Branch, are tested as never before in bestseller Perry's solid 25th novel to feature the Victorian sleuth (after 2005's Long Spoon Lane). In 1893, the discovery of a prostitute's mutilated corpse in a Buckingham Palace cupboard after a stag party presided over by the prince of Wales could spell political disaster for the monarchy. Pitt soon eliminates the members of the sizable household staff as suspects, narrowing his focus to the prince himself and his close friends, who, it turns out, have been planning a major construction project in Africa "a railway that would run from South Africa to Egypt. Though the sensitive nature of Pitt's assignment precludes any active involvement by Charlotte, his wife and partner in earlier cases, he's able to place her maid, Gracie Phipps, on the palace staff to assist him. Perry does a nice job with some plot twists, even if most readers will quickly discount the heir to the throne of England as a viable suspect.