Scotland Yard Detective Joe Sandilands is caught off guard one night in 1933 by a phone call from a distressed boy named Jackie Drummond, who just might be the illegitimate son Joe never knew he had. Jackie is in trouble at his Sussex boarding school, where a teacher has been murdered. When Joe gets himself assigned to the investigation, he learns the boarding school case is more complicated than it appears: A frightening number of boys, all from wealthy families, have gone missing over the school’s history, and by some coincidence none of the families have followed up on their sons' whereabouts.
Cleverly s suspenseful 10th Joe Sandilands mystery (after 2011 s The Blood Royal), set in 1933, makes the most of its intriguing setup. After Jackie Drummond, a nine-year pupil at St. Magnus School, in Seaford, defends a classmate from a bullying form master, Mr. Rapson, he s sent to Rapson s office for caning, but the brute fails to show up. On Jackie s way back to his room, Rapson grabs Jackie, who pushes his attacker down the stairs in self-defense, with apparently fatal results. Jackie flees to London to seek help from unorthodox Scotland Yarder Sandilands, a friend of his parents, who are in India. Sandilands soon learns that a stabbing, not an accidental fall, was the real cause of Rapson s death, but his efforts to get to the bottom of the matter draw the unexpected interest of some members of the government. The surprisingly horrific truth behind the murder helps to make this one of the better recent installments.