The nice men at P&O are worried. A succession of jewelry thefts from the first-class passengers is hardly the best advertisement for their cruises. Especially when it is likely that a passenger is the thief.
Phryne Fisher, with her Lulu bob, green eyes, cupid's bow lips, and sense of the ends justifying the means, is just the person to mingle seamlessly with the upper classes and take on a case of theft on the high seas - or at least on the S.S. Hinemoa - on a luxury cruise to New Zealand. She is carrying the Great Queen of Sapphires, the Maharani, as bait.
There are shipboard romances, champagne cocktails, erotic photographers, jealous swains, mickey finns, jazz musicians, blackmail, and attempted murder, all before the thieves find out - as have countless love-smitten men before them - that where the glamorous and intelligent Phryne is concerned, resistance is futile.
Set in 1928, Australian author Greenwood's enjoyable 15th Phryne Fisher mystery (after 2004's Queen of the Flowers) finds the intrepid sleuth with her Dutch Boy bob, Cupid's bow lips, and fabulous wardrobe sailing on a luxury cruise liner from Melbourne to New Zealand, accompanied by her faithful maid Dot, "a plain young woman of stern moral principles." The P&O shipping line has hired her to look into a rash of jewel thefts aboard their vessels. To aid her in her mission, the company has allowed her to wear the Maharani Sapphire, "a blue stone as big as a doorknob." While Phryne dines with the nobs in first class, Dot picks up gossip from the crew. At a costume party, one of the guests is murdered. Is the death connected to the thefts? While memories of the Titanic linger among the ship's passengers, readers are treated to descriptions of sumptuous meals and snippets of Maori lore, along with a tantalizing mystery. Those who long to revel in a glamorous if imperfect past will be satisfied.