A series of murders roils suffragists in Cambridge, England.
DI John Redfyre, a member of an upper-crust family, survived the horrors of World War I to become a valued police officer. Having grown up nearby and a Cambridge University graduate himself, he’s especially sensitive to the gown side of town-and-gown problems. When his eccentric Aunt Hetty offers him tickets to a Christmas concert at St. Barnabas College, he agrees to go even though he’ll be sitting with Eadwig Stretton, the youngest of a wild family whose members tormented him as a child. The concert is more memorable than he could have anticipated. One of the musicians is beguiling female trumpeter Juno Proudfoot, a first at Cambridge, where women still cannot obtain degrees. And Eadwig is an attractive woman instead of a grown-up version of Redfyre’s male tormentors. During the interval, as they trade barbs and family history, he learns that her oldest brother, Wulfie, fought for the Germans in the war. As she exits the concert, Juno is almost killed in a fall down the stairs in what turns out to be the first in a series of attacks on women. The nasty poison pen letters Eadwig says Juno’s received are the harbinger of an attack on another upper-class woman who’s strangled and thrown in the river. The victim, Louise Lawrence, is another friend of Eadwig’s who, after having left her unconventional school, took a job with one of her father’s friends for a suspiciously high salary. At length Redfyre realizes that the work Eadwig, Louise, his aunt Hetty, and a shadowy group of women are doing on behalf of universal suffrage has enraged a misogynist with deadly intent, leading Redfyre to question his own feelings on the subject.
In this new series kickoff, Cleverly (Diana’s Altar, 2017, etc.) provides the requisite period detail, adds a cunning mystery, and acknowledges that the fight for equality continues to this day.