"Quietly annoying and tenacious" Sheriff John Le Brun has earned a reputation for solving wickedly complex crimes, from his home town of Brunswick, Georgia to London, England. Now retired, he finds himself mysteriously hired to solve the 1908 murder of the owner of a high-priced Manhattan brothel. The client's letterhead indicates J. P. Morgan. The Titan of Wall St. denies its validity but himself hires Le Brun to not only solve the crime but also expose the impostor.
As John peels away layer upon layer of facts, he realizes that he is exploring the police-protected vice of prostitution, which is a source of livelihood for one out of every three hundred women in New York City. Le Brun discovers a connection on St. Simons Island, where he holds a membership to an exclusive club. The island was the locale of the last illegal U.S. importation of African slaves. Now history may be repeating itself, for the purpose of sex slavery.
Set in 1908 and early 1909, Monahan's fourth John Le Brun mystery (after 2003's The Manhattan Island Club) starts with a clever art theft. Thirteen valuable paintings have disappeared from a crate in a locked warehouse in Brunswick, Ga. The warehouse's owner, Merriweather Gooderly, is desperate to avoid liability. When the 60-year-old Le Brun, who has resigned as the sheriff of Glynn County, quickly solves the puzzle, Gooderly offers him membership in an exclusive club headquartered on Georgia's St. Simons Island. Back in New York City, where Le Brun has opened an investigative agency, he receives an unsigned note on J.P. Morgan's letterhead asking him to find out who fatally stabbed Herbert Moore, the owner of over a dozen buildings in the city. Though Le Brun doubts the note is really from the financier, he decides to pursue Moore's killer. Unfortunately, the main plot line follows a predictable course that comes as a letdown after the novel's imaginative opening.