In The Spanish Diplomat's Secret, award-winning author Nev March explores the vivid nineteenth-century world of the transatlantic voyage, one passenger’s secret at a time.
Captain Jim Agnihotri and his wife Lady Diana Framji are embarking to England in the summer of 1894. Jim is hopeful the cruise will help Diana open up to him. Something is troubling her, and Jim is concerned.
On their first evening, Jim meets an intriguing Spaniard, a fellow soldier with whom he finds an instant kinship. But within twenty-four hours, Don Juan Nepomuceno is murdered, his body discovered shortly after he asks rather urgently to see Jim.
When the captain discovers that Jim is an investigator, he pleads with Jim to find the killer before they dock in Liverpool in six days, or there could be international consequences. Aboard the beleaguered luxury liner are a thousand suspects, but no witnesses to the locked-cabin crime. Jim would prefer to keep Diana safely out of his investigation, but he’s doubled over, seasick. Plus, Jim knows Diana can navigate the high society world of the ship's first-class passengers in ways he cannot.
Together, using the tricks gleaned from their favorite fictional sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, Jim and Diana must learn why one man’s life came to a murderous end.
Anglo-Indian private investigator Jim Agnihotri and his wife, Lady Diana, have their 19th-century ocean liner journey from the U.S. to England interrupted by theft and murder in March's convoluted sequel to 2022's Peril at the Exposition. With only a week until the ship reaches port and no plausible way on or off, guests are rattled when the Spanish ambassador to the U.S., Don Juan Nepomuceno, is found murdered and missing a case of jewels. A short time later, young Alice Fry also turns up dead, an apparent suicide—though some traveling with her insist she was the victim of a supernatural curse—and Jim and Diana decide to investigate. March provides a classic locked-room mystery setup, but fails to winnow down the suspects early enough, causing the plot to drag—Jim reiterates his purpose ("My mind returned to my present conundrum; who'd murdered the Spanish don, and why?") one too many times as he wades through a sea of red herrings. He's an amiable hero, with a rich backstory as a soldier in the British Indian army, but Diana is unevenly drawn, by turns an overeager partner ("We have to catch this maniac!") and a woman prone to "dark malaise." Still, historical mystery fans will relish March's well-integrated maritime research and echoes of such Christie classics as Murder on the Orient Express. Despite this lackluster entry, there's hope for the series yet.
This is the third story in this series and having read the other two before this one, I’ve enjoyed all three of them immensely. I enjoy the way that history and fiction are woven together. There are a lot of twists and turns, and suspense around every corner. I can’t wait to read more about Jim and Diana.
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley. This is my honest and voluntary review.