1926, and Joe Sandilands is back from India, enjoying the frantic pleasures of Jazz Age London. Yet, there is a darkness behind all that postwar gaiety. A woman has been discovered bludgeoned to death in her suite at the Ritz. A broken window and missing emerald necklace suggest that it is a burglary gone wrong. But the corpse is that of a much-respected member of the British establishment, Dame Beatrice Joliffe, one of the founders of the Wrens, and so Scotland Yard send Joe to conduct a swift enquiry. Her companion, an ex-chorus girl, falls from Waterloo Bridge at twilight.
Two of the Dame's clique of eager young Wrens commit suicide. All these deaths make Joe suspect that Beatrice has been killed by someone close to her but suddenly he finds that the case is closed and he is asked by his superiors to surrender his files. Against the background of the looming General Strike, and pressure from unseen governmental presences he struggles on, picking his way through the political panic and rebelling against authority, through to a shattering solution to the killings.
Set in 1926, Cleverly's stellar fifth Commander Joe Sandilands novel finally brings the Scotland Yarder home to England from India. The empathy and shrewdness Sandilands showed in previous books (The Palace Tiger, etc.) is very much on display when he receives a late night summons to probe the murder of a prominent establishment figure, Dame Beatrice Joliffe, viciously bludgeoned to death in her room at the Ritz Hotel. Aided by a new pair of assistants, a former army subordinate, Sergeant Armitage, and Constable Tilly Westhorpe, the commander finds reason to believe that the crime was more complicated than a jewel theft gone bad. And though Britain is at peace, Sandilands can't ignore the anxious political undercurrents that suggest the murder may have ramifications for national security. As always, the author scrupulously plays fair, and the careful reader who puts the pieces together will be gratified with a logical and chilling explanation.