An invitation to dine turns deadly as DI John Redfyre returns for his second investigation.
Cambridge, 1924 in early summertime. May Balls, punting on the Cam, flirting and dancing the tango are the preoccupations of bright young people, but bright young Detective Inspector John Redfyre finds himself mired in multiple murders.
One morning, his dog discovers a corpse neatly laid on a tombstone in the graveyard adjoining St. Bede’s College. An army greatcoat and well-worn boots suggest the dead man may have been a former soldier, though the empty bottle of brandy and a card bearing the words “An Invitation to Dine” on the victim ring a discordant note. Even more unsettling is the autopsy, which reveals death by strangulation and unusual contents in the stomach from the man’s last meal. Redfyre learns that this murder is one of several unsolved cases linked to a secretive and sinister dining club at St. Bede’s.
Redfyre, himself an ex-rifleman, becomes caught in a dark tale of revenge, betrayal and injustice—a lingering mystery from a long-forgotten war. With the unlikely assistance of his lead suspect, he gradually unearths the dead man’s story and fights to right an ancient wrong.
A third of the way into Cleverly's undistinguished second mystery set in 1920s Cambridge, England (after 2018's Fall of Angels), Det. Insp. John Redfyre is walking his dog when he stumbles across a body behind his home. The coroner determines that the dead man, who had a card in his pocket inviting him to "break bread with" a dining group calling themselves Amici Apicii, was throttled. The killer's m.o. suggests a military connection to Redfyre, which, in turn, suggests to the reader a link to an earlier section of the book recounting the discovery of diamonds by a small group of British soldiers during the Boer War. The card from Amici Apicii also hearkens back to the book's opening, in which a member of Cambridge University's medieval history faculty seeks out a transient to invite to that group's intimate gathering. The underwhelming plot is slow to unfold, and Redfyre is colorless compared with the author's first series lead, Joe Sandilands. Cleverly has done much better in the past in concocting intriguing murder puzzles.